May, 2012

International Children’s Festival: Emmanuel Zeesman returns to Ottawa.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

A prehistoric, prelinguistic fantasy where Moitié la francophone (Emmanuelle Zeesman) and  Please the Anglophone (Sharmila Dey) , wander around  in a world of brightly coloured chaos. They  grunt, and growl  snarl,  grab and roar. They have no inkling of civilised behaviour. Most of all they do not possess langauge, at least at first they don’t appear to,  and they don’t even know what it is to communicate. They express their basic instincts…like cave people.  They are hungry -  they grab food and stuff it in their mouth;  they are frightened – they protect themselves. They feel threatened – they draw territorial limits. they attack. They freeze they find what they can to cover themselves.   They have something they like, they  keep it. They have no concept of sharing of helping.

Then the situation evolves.   When it gets cold they need to exchange clothes. They are attracted to the other’s toys so they feel the desire to exchange toys.  The need for reciprocal comforts makes them try to communicate and eventually to share: Moitié in French, Please in English.  Little by little it works.

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International Children’s Festival: Mummpitz from Germany hits Monty Python on the Head!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

The Terrific Adventures of  Brave Joan Woodsward takes us away on an initiatic trip through the imagination of an intense little girl called Joanna who loves to read about witches and knights and devils and dragons and all the mythology of the Middle Ages.

However it all plays out essentially  as a  comedy with three musicians who fill the space with the nostalgic sounds of guitar, melodica and drums. There is also a  wide eyes actress who becomes the little Joanna. She is  fed up with school and wants to escape into her imaginary world of books.

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The King and I: A Challenging Musical for a Community Theatre Company

Reviewed by Iris Winston

The title of The King and I is a clear indication of the viewpoint of the 1951 Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein’s musical. After all, it is a first-person account of the experiences of a Victorian widow teaching in Siam.

The story educator Anna Leonowens told in her memoirs is still regarded as unfair and distasteful in Thailand (previously known as Siam). The characterization of the king — a Buddhist monk before he ascended to the throne — as presented in Margaret Landon’s 1944 book, Anna and the King of Siam, the fictionalized account of Leonowens’ The English Governess at the Siamese Court (1870) and Romance of the Harem (1872) is also disputed.

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Circle Mirror Transformation: A Well-Crafted Crowd pleaser

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Circle Mirror Transformation

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht.
The Circle Mirror Transformation is one of those plays that is very deceptive.  Until the intermission, you wonder where it is all going because it appears to be nothing but a series of funny moments in an adult drama class taking place in a Community Centre in Shirley (Vermont) where five adults have come for different reasons. The exercises and games which are supposed to be related to a form of theatrical training that acts upon the mind by first acting on the body- a psychophysiological approach according to Richard Schechner – can be amusing, or boring, or silly or whatever you want to think, depending on your relationship with the material.  Of course it is a parody of those counter culture encounter groups that became so important in the 1960s and 70s.  It takes us back to the “communitas” of the peace and love era where the characters here are caricatures of those for whom theatre is a pretext, because individual therapy is the real motive behind all these gyrations, these exercises, these touchy feeling encounters that came out of the anti-psychiatry movement of the hippy period. “When are we going to do some real acting?”  yells the  sullen young Lauren  ( Catherine Rainville) who never really gets into the spirit of the class as it unfolds in a series of short sketches  separated by Marc Désormeaux playful but disquieting music, and by quick blackouts, or interrupted by the arrival of various class members during  delicate moments of intense conversation.

Circle Mirror Transformation

Circle Mirror Transformation - Sarah McVie, John Koensgen, Andy Massingham and Mary Ellis. Photo by Barbara Gray

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Romeo and Juliet : relocated into the uprisings of 1848, the cast did not seem comfortable in their roles.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

 

Even the rare person who has never seen a production of Romeo and Juliet knows the fate of the young lovers from the outset. In the first place, William Shakespeare tells all in the prologue. Then, the young lovers’ names are frequently used as a metaphor for love and for a tragic ending to a love story.

In addition, it is one of the Bard’s most frequently performed plays. Not surprisingly, directors often try to insert a fresh take, offering a different time, place or even linguistic view. For example, in one of the most memorable versions that I have seen, Romeo stood on the back of a truck in the famous balcony scene, members of the warring families spoke either French or English and the rumbles (rather than token fights) between Montague and Capulet supporters were really intense.

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Avenue Q by the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, a 2004 Multiple Tony Award winner.

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

Avenue Q, the long-running 2004 multiple Tony Award winner (best musical, best lyrics, and best book) opened at the Lyric Stage here inBoston on May 11 for an eight week run. Such is its popularity that the theatre’s management extended the show for an extra two weeks even before it débuted. The house was full, the audience enthusiastic and on the young side.

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Avenue Q from the Lyric Stage Company, Boston: a Tony Award winning Sesame Street Musical!

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

Davron S. Monroe,  Elise Arsenault, Phil Tayler.  Photo: Mark S. Howard

Avenue Q, the long-running 2004 multiple Tony Award winner (best musical, best lyrics, and best book) opened at the Lyric Stage here inBoston on May 11 for an eight week run. Such is its popularity that the theatre’s management extended the show for an extra two weeks even before it débuted. The house was full, the audience enthusiastic and on the young side.

Avenue Q draws its material from popular culture, most particularly the children’s television show, Sesame Street, which it sends up. It mocks its political correctness with songs like “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” “Schadenfreude,” and “The More You Ruv Someone,” sung complete with a clichéd and farcical accent by the Japanese-Korean character Christmas Eve.     As in Sesame Street, large hand puppets interact with human beings. Unlike the “real” Sesame Street, the puppeteers are visible, frequently giving the impression that the puppets are their alter egos. However, their human characteristics vary. Kate Monster is a Hollywood girl next door type while Treckie Monster – a spin-off of Cookie Monster – is a character out of a fairy tale, except for his obsession, watching porn on the Internet.  Strangely, the child star Gary Coleman of Diff’rent Strokes – now deceased – is a human character, the superintendent of a dilapidated apartment house.

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The Real World. Tremblay’s Play at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto.

Reviewed by Laurie Fyffe

A searing and emotional examination of the power of memory and writing, Michel Tremblay’s The Real World? is set in two separate realities, one the here and now, the other the imagined world written and conjured into existence by Claude (Matthew Edison), the youngest of two siblings.

Characters crisscross though time, acting out confrontations between Claude, his mother, Madeleine, sister Mariette, and father, Alex, in the present – which may or may not be ‘the real world’ – and a past Claude has embellished in his play, a work of fiction he has – perhaps mistakenly – given his mother to read. Weaving his way through numerous arches, set against the sky blue backdrop of Charlotte Dean’s so real-you-can-smell-dinner, middle class living room, Claude is an occupant of two worlds, the present and his own envisioned past, the world of his play that his mother insists he created in a vain desire to be ‘interesting’.

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La petite poule d’eau (The Little Water Hen). Strong Community Theatre Adaptation of the Novel by Gabrielle Roy .

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

 

This adaptation for the stage by Irène  Mahé and Claude Dorge, from the  novel by Gabrielle Roy, was first performed by the  Circle Molière in Saint Boniface in 1992.  It was then mounted at the Théâtre du Nouvel Ontario  in Sudbury. The story of the poor Tousignant family living on an isolated island on  the Petite Poule d’Eau River  takes place in 1937. Gabrielle Roy who then went on to write The Tin Flute (Bonheur d’occasion) became one of the important Francophone writers of her era. Here, her novel  has  captured  many apsects of the  life of the  French Canadians living in the Manitoba wilderness and it is clear that this stage version has retained much of the legendary perhaps even stereotypical quality of that life.

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Death and the Maiden,a study of Trauma Left by Torture

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

First produced in England in 1991, Death and the Maiden (named after the piece by Schubert that the doctor used to listen to as he was torturing his victims) feeds off personal testimonies and well published newspaper reports of the horrors perpetrated by the Chilean secret police (DINA) and the military after the takeover in 1973. In 1976, Orlando Letellier an ex-minister in Allende’s cabinet came to Ottawa to lecture at the University of Ottawa about the situation in Chile after the “golpe” and two weeks later he was killed by a bomb in Washington, another victim of the Condor operation that was so highly publicised. The DINA was therefore operating openly in North America hunting for its victims and one had to be willfully indifferent not to have seen those reports and or understood what was happening in Chile and elsewhere in Latin America at that time.

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