Dealing with depression, abuse, suicide and drunk driving, Alain Chauvin’s Life takes on many of the heavy and important issues youth deal with every day. While the play did have some good elements – its use of music, lyrics and audio-visuals were quite touching- it ultimately did not achieve the depth needed for an exploration of such disturbing and ever-present issues as it strove to explore. The story of Jacob, a high school student dealing with the death of his mothers as well as questions of his own sexuality and place in the world, seems to be a run-through of problems that could affect a 17-year-old. The play bites off too much and, as such, the ultimate message is lost. Does the story deal with grief? Does it deal with questions of sexuality? Or does it deal with the perils of drunk driving? All are mentioned to some extent, but none are really explored. The play would have been better served by a more focused topic which would have allowed for more depth of feeling. The acting also left something to be desired. However, the topics Life deals with are all worthwhile and the play does hold potential for growth. The set in particular, was very well used and there was an believability to the script, even if it did lack subtlety at times. There was also a passion that came out of the play- it was evident the project meant a lot to all those involved. However, ultimately, the project did lack focus and subtlety which would have connected the story with the emotions.
Ryan Gladstone is quite amazing because he doesn’t seem to fit into any accepted categories. Part stand up comic, part mime, part professor of comparative literature, popular culture and theories of Narratologie, and he is also a very smooth actor. You cant beat that.
On stage, he saunters out with his hands in his pockets, like some cocky lecturer in front of a whole auditorium of young adults who aren’t sure what they have signed up for. Then, he begins telling stories. In fact he tells all the stories that exist (according to him) by condensing them down into their basic plot structures and then inserting the characters from many many novels just to show us how many of these writings have similar origins. He did hilarious capsules of War and Peace, of Great Expectations – the fatter the novel the juicier the performance – , of Cinderella, of Carmen, of Greek classics, of the Tales of the Arabian nights, of the Bronte sisters, and the Walkürie, as well as the really horrible authentic versions of Grimm¹s fairy tales which you don’t what your children to read! He had us all in stitches.
A highly entertaining study on the very process of theatre itself, that shows how a single script can be given multiple interpretations and come to mean something totally different, as long as the director remains in control! .
We see a small bar centre stage with a few tables and chairs on either side. We hear a machine like grating sound as a male character pushes the door and enters. There is a barmaid waiting to greet him. He gets a whiskey, makes conversation about the dark stormy sky, as he lapses into an apparent depression. A couple arrives. The conversation is tense, the girlfriend arrives and their conversation is also focussed on the depressing weather and she suddenly leaves, exasperated by the darkness of their conversation. Lights out.
The tandem Tanya Levy and Nancy Kenny obviously works well together . It took a rather good script and turns it into something that shows off Nancy Kenny’s excellent talents as a comic actress. Together, they gave the material a lot of comic and emotional depth and a show that certainly did speak to a lot of people. That is what caught my attention here.
There is our heroine, still single at 30, watching TV, munching on popocorn and wondering what she has been doing with her life? Nothing much really, except dreaming of strong female superheroes.
Then, because of her sports oriented sister, whom the actress mimics with great precision, our heroine has an epiphany. She discovers the roller derby sport and enters a world of real female superheroes on roller blades. And even though she has never skated in her life, the fantasy life becomes real, and she blossoms into a new person with the help of a super Hip Hop chroegrapher from Montreal apparently who did a great rhythmic number with her as she dons her "superwoman" Derby Uniform for the first time. Such precision and finely tuned work is perfect escapism and purely satisfying entertainment.
Who in this world is sane? This is the question Kainz Players’ dark comedy Preshrunk asks. Five psychiatric patients who arrive for their usual Tuesday meeting with their psychiatrist. When he does not show up, mild chaos ensues as each of the patient’s problems are revealed both through their discussions with each other and monologues. Soon, it is revealed by a detective posing as a grief counselor that the doctor was killed, and the most likely suspects are those in the room.
Ottawa, June 19, 2011
Jack Callaghan- international adventurer and seeker of justice. What will he do next? That’s entirely up to you in this hilarious improvisational, audience-centric comedy. Although there were minor things to be worked on- the music was slightly too loud for the classroom space and sometimes the blocking could have been just a little bit better- overall this performance was a delight. The Toronto comedy troupe Sexual Tyrannosaurus (Sex T-Rex) does a great job of presenting a funny sketch based on the exciting life of Callaghan. Particularly impressive was their ability to keep the play from rambling, as so often happens in improv. The actors really came together with just enough self consciousness to do away with any possibilities of pretentiousness. A great comedy that had the audience cracking up in their seats.
First of all read this note from the Banff school web site:
Maureen LaBonté is a dramaturge, translator, teacher, and program coordinator. She was named head of the Banff Playwrights’ Colony in 2006, after working there as resident dramaturge since 2003. From 2002 to 2004, she was literary manager overseeing play development at The Shaw Festival. From 1993-2001, she worked at the National Theatre School of Canada where she developed and ran a two-year pilot Directing program and then coordinated the NTSC’s Playwriting program and Playwrights’ residency. She has translated more than 30 Québécois plays into English
Who in this world is sane? This is the question Kainz Players’ dark comedy Preshrunk asks. Five psychiatric patients who arrive for their usual Tuesday meeting with their psychiatrist. When he does not show up, mild chaos ensues as each of the patient’s problems are revealed both through their discussions with each other and monologues. Soon, it is revealed by a detective posing as a grief counselor that the doctor was killed, and the most likely suspects are those in the room. Disbelief soon turns into more revelations, this time with the spotlight turned on the doctor. As more information is disclosed, one truly begin to question just who in this world actually has it together or, in fact, whether this hallowed state exists at all. Directed by the New Ottawa Repertory Theatre Artistic Director Paul Dervis, the play is masterfully put together. The transitions from scenes and monologues are seamless and infuse the production with flow. One of the best performances came from Jerome Bourgault, who portrayed a patient, the sarcastic but insecure Len, with a precision that made it possible to hate and pity him at the same time. His skill was closely followed by Charlie Ebbs’ with his portrayal of narcissistic and hilarious patient Antoine whose monologue had the room in stitches. As more of us succumb to depression, anxiety and the like, questioning our own state of reason has become an increasingly common activity. Preshrunk helps put this sentiment into words and reveals the complexity not only of our own psyches but the nature of our relationships with each other.
Fiona (Stephanie Halin), who likes her sex slightly rough, is itching to have an extramarital affair. She has her sights set on co-worker Dan (Tim Anderson), and he’s game. Fiona’s husband Alex (J.P. Chartier) wants to be accepting of his wife’s hankerings — in fact, they’ve even done a workshop on how to do it (how to have an extramarital affair, that is) so that no one gets hurt. Also in the picture is Maggie (Ellen Manchee), the hypochondriac boss of Fiona and Dan who appears occasionally to nudge the plot along. Jenn Keay plays the workshop facilitator; seated behind a semitransparent curtain, she reads a few passages from a textbook about the ins-and-outs of extramarital sex.
Ryan Gladstone is a very funny man. He’s also talented: he has to be, to try telling every famous story ever written – from the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh to War and Peace to Rocky (including the five sequels) – in a single hour. George Orwell’s Animal Farm takes about 10 seconds, Romeo and Juliet less. That leaves more time, maybe a whole minute or more, for big numbers like Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung. Heck, he even squeezes in a semi-improvised tale based on audience suggestions. Friday night, when he debuted his new show, that improvisation with input from a sold-out audience had something to do with alien romance, chocolate and a plot to destroy Earth. Gladstone has the energy of a hyperactive youngster and the nerve of a stand-up comic, and it’s hard to tell whether he or the audience is having more fun. Even the rough edges of his brand-new show (on Friday, he consulted a cheat sheet more than once) fit his gonzo performance style. The show’s destined to be a fringe favourite.