January, 2012

Blood on the Moon: Pierre Brault Returns With his First Historical Drama That Has Travelled the World.

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Ottawa playwright and actor Pierre Brault has, over the past dozen or so years, established himself as a singular and important figure in theatre both in Ottawa and beyond. One-man shows like 5 O’Clock Bells, about jazz guitar legend Lenny Breau, are wonderful pieces. So it feels heretical to say that Blood on the Moon is no longer the startlingly compelling piece it was when, after debuting at the 1999 Ottawa Fringe Festival, it was expanded and mounted at the National Arts Centre, toured extensively and, in 2007, was adapted as a Gemini-winning film for Bravo television.

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Sugar:Author Robbie McCalauley Traces her Own Life

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

For a number of years, actress, director, performance artist, teacher, and writer Robbie McCauley has been creating socio-political works, which draw on her family history, as in Indian Blood and the OBIE winner Sally’s Rape.  In Sugar McCauley traces her own life, beginning in childhood in a still segregated Georgia.  Life revolved around family, community, cooking, eating, and the garden which supplied the family with healthful food.  A happy and seemingly fit child, her cuts and bruises healed slowly. She was told that she must “have a little sugar,” code for diabetes.

McCauley tells us: “Sugar is complicated” – and it is in this play.  It connects to love, pleasure, illness, pain, suffering, overcoming, and slavery.  She wrote Sugar to rid herself of the shame she felt about the stigma of diabetes and to bring attention to the growing problem of the disease in the African American community.

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2 Pianos 4 Hands, A “one-of-a-kind” Theatre Piece That Still Enchants the Audience

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

 

By traditional definition, 2 Pianos 4 Hands doesn’t qualify as a play — or even as a musical. On the other hand, its lack of pretension rescues it from the category of performance art. Let’s just call it a one-of-a-kind theatre piece — an international success story which came about purely by chance.

Watching Richard Greenblatt and Ted Dykstra — fine actors and impressive musicians — revisiting their 15-year-old triumph, you’re struck again by what an exhilarating, hilarious and truthful entertainment this is.

Many of us can relate personally to this warm and witty odyssey as we accompany two youngsters on their journey from childhood to adolescence when they were studying to be classical pianists. Their travails are marvellously evoked — coping with demanding teachers, parents and examiners, howling with frustrated boredom when confronted with pesky scales and bewildering time signatures, freezing with fear when exposed for the first time to audiences and adjudicators at the local Kiwanis Music Festival.

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2 Pianos 4 Hands, the International Success Story, Returns to Ottawaa.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

The international success story of 2 Pianos 4 Hands began with a casual conversation between Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt about their experiences as classical music students.

They found many similarities in their journey along the way from early music lessons, weird and weirder teachers, competition success and the ultimate failure of their dream to become professional musicians.

And those parallel experiences became a cross-genre theatre piece that has entertained audiences worldwide for 15 years. Now, in their farewell (?)/anniversary tour of the show, Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt revisit their days from musical scales to concert recitals —once more with feeling.

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Balanced Direction by Chantale Plante, makes Lost in Yonkers Both Comic and Genuinely Moving.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Elements of Neil Simon’s life often appear in his plays. While his 1991 drama Lost in Yonkers is not as closely autobiographical as the earlier written Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound trilogy, his family is clearly a good part of the source material for this memory play.

Yonkers, which won the Pulitzer, several Tony awards and a Drama Desk award, ran for 780 performances on Broadway and became a successful movie in 1993, has been revived on a number of stages across North America recently. Once declared Simon’s best play, current responses have not been universally positive.

Perhaps this is in part because it is set in the early 1940s and fewer members of today’s audiences have as clear an understanding of the era and the hardships it presented for so many. The play itself, in combining serious issues of family dysfunctionality, mental health and poverty with comedy and Simon’s signature one-liners, is harder to categorize.

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2 Piano 4 Hands- a visual and musical treat that has been held over at the Panasonic Theatre in Toronto.

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

 

I’ve always looked on Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt’s marvellous love affair with the piano as a valentine to everyone who ever studied those 88 keys, to everyone who ever endured the same fusty commands to  "curve your fingers," "lower your wrists, " and especially to everyone who had to live through a piano recital with a churning stomach and an audience full of beady eyes just waiting for you to slip on a flat when it should have been sharp.
Back again and better than ever, 2 Pianos 4 Hands with Dykstra and Greenblatt is right on key, a visual and musical treat that’s so popular it’s been held over at the Panasonic Theatre until  Dec. 4. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. It’s played all over the world since its premiere in 1996 at the Tarragon Theatre, the brainchild of two childhood would-be prodigies who started comparing notes about their experiences studying piano while appearing at Chamber Concerts Canada’s So You Think You’re Mozart.

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