October, 2011

Whispering pines : can the past be reconstructed?

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Whispering Pines is a story that tries to connect the present and the past. Starting in East Berlin towards the end of the Soviet Era and ending in present day Canada, it tells about two German artists (Bruno, a poet and Renate, a painter) who dream of freedom and a better future for their native country. After Thomas, a Canadian academic, comes into their home and their reality with gifts from across the wall and the promise of a free world, things change and become chaotic. Thomas falls in love with Renate, Bruno turns into an informant, and Renate’s brother is taken a prisoner. Years later, at Renate’s initiative, the three of them meet in Canada and attempt to reconstruct the events of their past.


Whispering Pines. Re-evaluating the past and dealing with the present.

Reviewed by Iris Winston


Whispering Pines is a tale of personal and political betrayal — before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. A layered mix of poetic language, set against a stark background, realism interspersed with symbolism, time shifts and disparate locations, this drama attempts to pack in a great deal but remains unnecessarily obscure.

In part an attempted justification of espionage and lies, in part the age-old revelation of an eternal triangle, Whispering Pines declaims rather than whispers, and demands rather than touches the emotions. While a number of interesting ideas are on offer in Whispering Pines, their weight drags any passion out of the production, as does Brian Quirt’s direction.

In Act I, set in East Berlin before the fall of the wall, playwright Richard Sanger seems to be trying to draw a picture of innocence through art and music, personified in Renate, a painter, and her lover, Bruno, a singer. The third member of the group is a Canadian academic, Thomas, apparently searching for truth (or love).


Salt Water Moon, this five-part saga of the Mercer family is not totally involving.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

On  a moonlit night in 1926, a young man returns from the city to claim his girl after a year of separation.

That would be a romantic beginning if Jacob had not run off to the mainland without a farewell and Mary had not settled for a secure future for herself and her younger sister by getting engaged to the relatively well-off but boring Jerome, the local schoolteacher.

Then there is the issue that Jerome is the son of the man who humiliated Jacob’s father and stealing the son’s fiancée would help to reset the balance against the father.


NAC revival of Salt Water Moon is too often acting at it most self-conscious.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

The National Arts Centre’s revival of David French’s Salt Water Moon certainly offers a display of “acting” — but too often it is acting at its most self-conscious and studied.

That flushes away spontaneity and wreaks havoc with the emotional truth which should drive this play.

Set in a Newfoundland outport in 1926, Salt Water Moon was French’s enchanting prequel to Leaving Home and Of The Fields, Lately — the two plays he had earlier written about the troubled fortunes and shattered dreams of an expatriate Newfoundland family, the Mercers, in contemporary Toronto.


NAC English Theatre’s fulfilling production of David French’s play Salt Water Moon about reunited sweethearts in Newfoundland.

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Ottawa Ctizen, October 24, 2011

Jacob Mercer and Mary Snow, when first we meet them in the NAC English Theatre’s fulfilling production of David French’s romantic comedy Salt-Water Moon, look small, almost lost on what seems an enormous set.

Not only do they look small, they sound that way too, their voices audible but initially distant, as though battling the vastness of the sea that laps at the shores of Coley’s Point, the Newfoundland outport where they’ve been raised and where the play takes place.


Ira Levin’s punchy Melodrama, Dr Cook’s Garden, stands the test of time.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

A different take on the apparent perfection of another of his dramas, The Stepford Wives, playwright Ira Levin exposes the weed killer Dr. Cook uses in his garden, the village where he has been the sole physician for more than 30 years.

In Greenfield, the sun seems to shine all the time. Here, only the undeserving and imperfect die young. The rest are nurtured into a peaceful old age by the caring Dr. Cook — the man who has been a second father to Jim Templeton.

But, when Jim returns to celebrate his graduation from medical school, he discovers a problem in Greenfield that could have dire consequences.


Dreams of Whales: opening production of New Theatre of Ottawa’s first full season is a script with strengths and weaknesses.

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

For the Ottawa Citizen.

It sounds so mealy-mouthed to say a show is all right. But that pretty much describes Dreams of Whales, the opening production in New Theatre of Ottawa’s first full season and its debut presentation as one of Arts Courts resident companies.

A new play by Ottawa-based playwright Dean Hawes, the show features a script and performances that are the sources of both its strengths and weaknesses.


The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi: Larry Tremblay revises English in this ground breaking play

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Gaston Talbot, an elderly man from Chicoutimi, tells the story of his childhood the way he remembers it. Only, as he digs deeper into his past,  the story keeps on changing.

So does the leit-motif of the play “I travel a lot,” and with it,  Gaston’s motto, ”To keep in touch.”

As a sixteen years old boy, in search of friendship and a need to fit in, Gaston somehow lost himself. His childhood, spent in the nearby woods, ended in a terrifying experience, which left him unable to speak. He fell into a complete silence. Years later, a strange dream liberated him, so that he could finally tell his story. In doing so, he discovered that the self-alienation was so strong that he, who never knew a word of any language but French, could speak only in English, or, rather, in a French structure  expressed in English words.


Goya marks its tenth anniversary with a retrospective of its own musicals stirs up good memories.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

In A Tribute to the Canadian Musical, GOYA marked its tenth anniversary with a retrospective of the musicals it has presented over the last decade.

The tribute by Gord Carruth links excerpts from nine shows, interspersed with comments from behind-the-scenes GOYA members.

As with many shows in review format, Tribute has its highs and lows. In the highs department, the segment from Joey by Gord Carruth, GOYA’s first production, works particularly well. Among the most compelling individual numbers are Sharron McGuirl’s sensitive rendition of When he was my beau from Anne & Gilbert by Jeff Hochhauser, Bob Johnston and Nancy White, and Lesley Osborn’s powerful version of Coattails from Menopositive by J.J. McColl.

Jim Baldwin is very funny as the cocky pirate captain from The Princess & the Pirate by Gord Carruth and Jennifer Fontaine and Andrew Galligan are effective both in assorted roles and as the show’s anchors.


Speed the plow : a high-powered performance by Teri Loretto-Valentik and her team.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Chris Raplph, John Muggleton (seated) and Kyla Gray. Photo: Allan Dean. speed10072484_e5a07ad975_m David Mamet’s play, first produced in 1988 with Madonna playing the single feminine role, has lost none of its bite, its irreverence -  to put it mildly -  its  male capitalist energy, and the power of its dialogue that shoots back and forth as though the actors were riddling each other with machine gun spray. Director Teri Loretto-Valentik has captured  the high powered  rhythm of Mamet’s intense exchanges.



Past Reviews