November, 2012

Mr. Pim Passes By Delivers an Evening of Lighthearted Fun

Reviewed by Maja Stefanovska

Photo: Alan Dean

Milne’s Mr. Pim Passes By is a quaint and funny drawing room farce about the rules we all live by and their more often than not absurd nature. The play is quintessentially early 20th century British and is delightfully sharp. Joe O’Brien’s production for the Ottawa Little Theatre stays true to Milne’s fun, light hearted spirit and, despite some off-putting details about the set, provides the audience with an entertaining evening.

The situation is delightfully ridiculous: Mr. Pim, portrayed by a delightfully befuddled  Barry Caiger, comes to the Marden’s residence in Buckinghamshire with a letter of introduction. Through his confused, babbling stories, the Marden’s learn that Mrs. Olivia Marden’s husband, whom she thought dead, is very much alive, making her a bigamist and George Marden, her very conservative, proper current husband, a sinner in the eyes of, according to him heaven and society. Of course, this is a farce and things aren’t always as simple as they seem at first glance. The story unravels with a case of mistaken identities and misunderstandings to its pleasant conclusion. Add to this a subplot of two young lovers, Dinah Marden and Brian Strange, trying to convince Mr. Marden to let them get married and you have a both absurd and fun situation. Though not as biting as the likes of Noel Coward (whose play Hay Fever was also part of the OLT’s 100th season), this is a delightful, pleasant comedy of manners, perfect for chuckling and relaxing to. (more…)

November: Political drama centred around a stupid, racist American president, balances between credible and mere caricature.

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

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Todd Duckworth as The President. Photo David Pasho.

United States President Charles Smith, the centrepiece of David Mamet’s nasty and funny November, is stupid, venal, and a racist. Trailing badly in the last week before Election Day, he’d do anything to win a second term in office. If he loses the election, his one desire is a presidential libary although its doubtful he’s read a book in decades. Yet reprehensible as he is, like a train wreck you can hardly take your eyes off him.

That’s in part because playwright Mamet has created an oddly compelling character modeled to some extent on George W. Bush (the play premiered on Broadway in 2008, the year that Barrack Obama unseated Bush).

It’s also because Todd Duckworth, who plays Smith in this quick-footed production, has discovered enough tics and absurdities in this tempestuous, crude and wholly self-serving dud of a leader — he doesn’t know the difference between Iran and Iraq and equates the evils of slavery with the evils of disco music — to keep him buoyant, balanced between credible and mere caricature.

Smith, presumably through dumb luck, has a sharp-minded chief of staff named Archer Brown (Steve Martin, who makes the most of a thinly sketched character). Archer’s seen it all and, ruthless, does what he has to do to keep Smith mostly between the lines.

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Mr. Pim Passes By: Whimsical, delightful, perfect holiday entertainment at the OLT.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo: Alan Dean

Playful, fanciful, unpredictable — all synonyms for whimsical, the adjective that crops up frequently in reference to A.A. Milne’s comedy of manners, Mr. Pim Passes By.

Written in 1919 and first performed by Ottawa Little Theatre in 1922, it is a fitting representative of the decade during the 100th anniversary season.

It is also a remarkable example of how views on morality and proper behaviour have changed in the intervening 90 years. The crisis created by Pim (or his faulty memory) causes the Marden family much distress in the context of the times. Today, it would probably be shrugged off or, at best, shoved under the carpet. How worried would a 21st-century couple be to find that their marriage might be invalid and that they have been living in sin (gasp) even if they were the local justice of the peace and his spouse?

Appropriately presented as a period piece, the OLT production, directed by Joe O’Brien and costumed by Glynis Ellens, gives the sense of the early 20th century, although occasionally performances are a little too campy for my taste.

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Mr. Pim Passes By : Getting there is all the fun, something the artists dont always remember

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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It’s easy to dismiss Mr. Pim Passes by as a mere trifle, a 93-year-old relic of British theatre as it once was. But to do so would be to undervalue both the material and A.A. Milne’s cunning and craftsmanship as a popular playwright. Indeed, it’s should be noted that for much of Milne’s long writing career, his immense reputation was not defined by the world of Winnie The Pooh and Christopher Robin but by his success in live theatre.

Plays like The Dover Road, Mr. Pim Passes by and The Man In The Bowler Hat (a deft confidence trick which used to be a staple of one-act play festivals) remain worthy of attention. So does the engaging production of Mr. Pim Passes By now on view at the Ottawa Little Theatre.

Still, one feels that the OLT revival, directed by Joe O’Brien, could have been even more of a romp. The production certainly aims for the right note of whimsy, beginning with a playful set design from Robin Riddihough. And it does feature some solid performances. However, it also seems stylistically uncertain, and this occasionally reduces the laughter quotient.

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Mr. Pim Passes By: A. A. Milne’s engaging incursion into theatre!!

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

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Photo. Alan Dean

Yes, you can imagine the author of Winnie-the-Pooh writing this play. Inconsequential, unassuming and surprisingly engaging, A.A. Milne’s Mr. Pim Passes By is a gentle bit of entertainment that finds a generally befuddled Mr. Pim (Barry Caiger) accidentally throwing a spanner into the marriage of the ultra-conservative George Marden (Robert Hicks) and his more liberal wife Olivia Marden (Jenny Sheffield). There’s other stuff involving an evolving relationship between a couple of younger folks, a bluff aunt shows up, and all comes right in the end.

Directed by Joe O’Brien, the show is well-paced, its simple beginning slowly gathering complications that are absurd to all but those involved. And like a Winnie-the-Pooh story, the characters tangle with questions of loyalty, right and wrong, and other issues without Milne’s ever becoming heavy-handed about it.

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Zone returns to la Nouvelle Scène. A work that retains all its meaning for this young generation. (note English surtitles on Thursdays)

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Permission of the Théâtre La Catapulte

Marcel Dubé  is  one of those rare  playwrights   who left his mark on  Québécois  theatre in the 1950s, 60’s and 70’s  because of his tough  neo naturalistic  vision of the stage  that  was greatly influenced by American playwrights such as Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neil .  He was no doubt best known for  Un simple soldat (1958),  Les beaux dimanches (1968) and  Au retour des oies blanches  (1969).  Zone,  written in  1956 was first  translated into English is  1982. This version of Zone,  directed by Jean Stéphane Roy who is also the current artistic director of Théâtre La Catapulte has made some very minor changes in the text and  reorganized some scenes to correspond to his almost cinematographic vision of this production which is extremely powerful and   beautifully orchestrated from all perspectives.

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Terminus: Shakespearean feel for verse grapples with bloody images inspired by Catholic mythology in this brilliant production of Mark O’Rowe’s play.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Maev Beaty as A. Photo Mirvish Productions.

Since Mark O’Rowe’s Terminus made its debut in 2007 at the Abbey theatre in Dublin, it has turned into a theatrical tsunami, leaving audiences wondering what hit them

This is exactly the feeling I had leaving the Royal Alexandra where Terminus has just begun its run in the Second Stage Series, several months after its Canadian premiere at the SummerWorks Festival in August where it played at the Factory theatre. Not having seen that first production I can’t compare the two performance sites but there is no doubt that the larger space of the Royal Alex could only have enhanced this amazing piece while, at the same time, removing the intimacy of that smaller theatre.

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The Capital Critics Circle announced its Annual Theatre Awards last night in Ottawa at a glittering ceremony attended by members and friends of the theatre community

News from Capital Critics Circle

Mugindex.php  John Muggleton, winner of the Audrey Ashley Award.

Photo: David Pashko

During sparklingly classy ceremony hosted at Orpheus House by the musical theatre company,  The Capital Critics Circle today announced the winners of the thirteenth annual theatre awards for plays presented in English in the National Capital Region during the 2011-2012 season. The CCC instituted the awards in 2000 to honour the best in theatre on stages in the National Capital Region. The members of the selection committee for the 2011-2012 season English theatre awards were: Alvina Ruprecht, Patrick Langston, Jamie Portman, Rajka Stefanovska, Maja Stefanovska, Barbara Gray and Iris Winston.

The winners are:

Best professional production:

The National Arts Centre English Theatre/Belfry Theatre (Victoria, B.C.) production of And Slowly Beauty by Michel Nadeau, translated by Maureen Labonté, directed by Michael Shamata.

Best community theatre production:

The Orpheus Musical Theatre Society production of Titanic the musical, book by Peter Stone, music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, directed by Deb Miller-Smith, musical direction by Paul Legault and choreography by Val Keenleyside.

Best director (professional):

John Koensgen for The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare by Brian K. Stewart and The Extremely Short Play Festival, New Theatre of Ottawa.

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Pride and Prejudice: An audience friendly production that shows the difficulty of adapting novels to the stage

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

 

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Photo: Trudi Lee

This production based on an adaptation of the Jane Austen novel is essentially a crowd pleaser.  Judging from  the thunderous applause and the standing ovation it generated from the public of all ages when I saw it the other night, this version of the novel certainly did everything to be “audience friendly”.  The set showed us very clearly that  the play comes from a real book with  pages flying  around the stage, apparently ripped out of the manuscript as they were repossessed by the stage.  The production even had moments of broad almost vulgar comedy , especially with the overblown caricatures by a giggly Mrs Bennet (M. Elizabeth Stepkowski Tarham) and Pierre Brault as Clergyman William Collins.
I must admit that Patrick Clark’s costumes were stunning and Jock Munro’s lighting captured the atmosphere beautifully, especially in the bath scene, perhaps a nod to the work of Ingres, an Austen contemporary, and in the final scene where Elizabeth Bennet (Shannon Taylor) and Mr Darcy (Tyrell Crews) at last bring themselves to admit their feelings for each other.

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Pride and Prejudice: subtlety of Jane Austen’s text almost lost in this production.

Reviewed by Maja Stefanovska

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Photo: Barbara Gray

Jane Austen’s novels have become synonymous with passion and romance in genteel society, none more so than the legendary Pride and Prejudice. The novel is a love story, but it’s also a story about social ranking, wealth (or lack thereof), and moral as well as snap judgment. Many of us have seen ourselves as the spirited, intelligent Elizabeth Bennet and have pined over the seemingly proud yet really affectionate Mr. Darcy. The book is an example of simmering passion and subtle, yet powerful societal Austinian jabs at its best. Although there are many different adaptations, this subtlety is key to the story. Unfortunately, the NAC/Theatre Calgary co-production at the National Arts Centre took away much of this key element and, coupled with a thoroughly bizarre set, managed to transform a very complex and human story into one littered with stereotypes and cheap laughs.

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