February, 2013

Diana Krall at the Nac: Over production is a concert spoiler

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo from The Ottawa Citizen. Diana Krall at the NAC

A fine jazz pianist and singer with terrific timing and a great backup quintet. Isn’t that enough for a first-class concert?

Apparently, Diana Krall’s handlers do not think so. Rather than trusting their star, they clutter the show with a constant backdrop of irrelevant, distracting and often ugly visuals. Old movies are fine in their place, but when the sense of relief at the sight of a plain red curtain during the gaps between them is overwhelming, the clear indication is that this is not their place.

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The Audience: broadcast live across North America (and Ottawa) June 13

News from Capital Critics Circle

National Theatre Live to Broadcast The Audience Starring Broadway Vet Helen Mirren

By Bethany Rickwald Google+ Profile for Bethany Rickwald • Feb 22, 2013 • New York City

Helen Mirren in <i>The Audience</i> Helen Mirren in The Audience
(© Johan Persson) The world premiere of Peter Morgan’s (Frost/Nixon) The Audience, starring so-many-awards winner Helen Mirren (Dance of Death), will be broadcast from London’s Gielgud Theatre to movie theaters across North America on June 13. The filmed performance, presented by National Theatre Live, will also show on varying dates internationally and at encore screenings throughout the summer.

Directed by Broadway’s Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot: The Musical, Creative Executive Producer of Ceremonies for the London Olympics), The Audience imagines a series of pivotal meetings between Britain’s Downing Street incumbents and their Queen. These encounters are based on the actual conferences Elizabeth II has held weekly with each of her twelve Prime Ministers for sixty years.

In addition to Mirren, who will be playing The Queen, the cast includes Michael Elwyn (The Iron Lady), Haydn Gwynne (Billy Elliot: The Musical), Robert Hardy (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), Richard McCabe (Yes, Prime Minister), Nathaniel Parker (The Merchant of Venice), Paul Ritter (The Norman Conquests), Rufus Wright (The 39 Steps), Geoffrey Beevers, Maya Gerber, and Nell Williams.

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Audience (Václav Havel) and Catoblépas (Gaétan Soucy): Two Student Productions at the University of Ottawa.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo of Paul Rainville by Wayne Cuddington.

Two candidates for the M.F.A. degree in directing with the Theatre Department of the University of Ottawa recently presented their first stage projects in the  Léonard-Beaulne Studio. The directing projects were supervised by  Kevin Orr who is a professional director and a professor in the programme.  In English, Martin Glassford directed Václav Havel’s play Audience, and in French we saw Catoblépas, a text by Québec novelist Gaétan Soucy, directed by Sariana Monette-Saillant. I found the evening so interesting I would like to comment on some of the more noteworthy aspects of these shows.

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Ubu sur la table: Jarry revu et corrigé par les acteurs de la Pire Espèce!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Compagnie de la Pire Espèce

Denis Marleau a déjà interprété des textes d’Alfred Jarry à sa manière . Ses productions extrêmement recherchées et étroitement chorégraphiées de tout Jarry ( Ubu Cyle ) présentés au Centre national des arts d’Ottawa  dans les années 1980-90 lorsqu’il était directeur artistique du Théâtre français, ont surement laissé leur marque sur ce théâtre d’avant-garde. Maintenant, une nouvelle génération de comédiens québécois frénétiques, bourrés d’énergie et très doués, tentent leur chance avec le même auteur. L’esprit ubuesque est presque le même:  le grotesque, le cruel, le vulgaire, et la stupidité destructrice y sont mais l’esthétique théâtrale a radicalement changé.

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God of Carnage: Third Wall delivers a solid production of Reza’s play – but is it really a classic?

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Set by Brian Smith. Photo: David Pasho

If you can believe James Richardson, artistic director of the happily resuscitated Third Wall theatre company, God Of Carnage is destined to become a classic.
Oh really? Worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as The Bacchae, King Lear, Tartuffe, The Importance Of Being Earnest, The Cherry Orchard? Let’s keep things in proportion — especially when it’s a script from a playwright like Yasmina Reza.

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God of Carnage: A smart comedy examines our own hypocrisy

Reviewed by Maja Stefanovska

Photo: Barbara Gray

Although we tend to make fun of ourselves and our attempts to behave in a civilized manner, deep down, we’d all much rather believe that politeness and civilization can and do prevail. To prove our civility, we take comfort in knowing that, while mere children and less fortunate countries struggle with the concept, the adults of the west have mastered the art of decorum. Then along comes a play like Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage and undermines the hypocrisy inherent in this self-congratulation. As director Ross Manson’s production for Third Wall so wonderfully points out, all it takes for total social unraveling is one glitch in the well-oiled machine.

The scene is modern day Paris. Two 11-year old boys have been in a fight. The son of Alain and Annette has broken two teeth of the son of Michel and Véronique, their hosts. The parents, all bourgeois courtesy and genteel grace, meet to discuss the matter and figure out a plan of action. Gradually, tensions emerge between and among the couples and the courteous visit descends into a hysterical, crying, projectile-vomiting mess.

At one point, Michel says, “Children consume and fracture our lives. Children drag us towards disaster, it’s unavoidable.” Indeed, they do reduce their parents to chaos, but what Yasmina Reza’s script, as translated by Christopher Hampton, does so well through its ingenious dialogue is point out just how thin the veneer of manners separating us from our true, “Neanderthal” selves is. (more…)

God of Carnage: the stylish destruction of the middle class

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Photo: Barbara Gray

Yasmina Reza, whose works have been translated and performed all over the world, is one of the most prolific playwrights in present-day France. And yet, her plays are easily accessible to any audience because they deal with people we recognize.  Essentially about middle class individuals who lead boring everyday lives, her plays unmask the rituals of a class-conscious society with a stylish ferocity that is “terribly” entertaining.

This Third Wall Theatre production  represents a new beginning for the Company after a year of absence from the Ottawa scene and this witty and intelligent play, even though it might pose some problems for a Canadian audience, is a good choice for their new season.

Director Ross Manson’s reading of Reza`s nasty little social satire respects all Hampton’s French references  translated from the original Parisian setting, quite unlike the American adaptations that set the play in New York. These changes might have made the production  more palpable for an American audience but I’m sure such changes would remove the satirical essence of this nasty play.  (more…)

God of Carnage: Actors take audience with them down vicious, emotional cul-de-sac

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Photo: Barbara Gray

OTTAWA — “Fess up. Aren’t you, beneath your comfortable middle-class trappings, a Neanderthal at heart?” The four folks in French playwright Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage, executed in savagely funny style by Third Wall Theatre, sure are.

Oh, they try to be genteel: two couples meeting to discuss a schoolyard dust-up between their sons. They drink coffee, eat pastry, chat about art. Soon, though, cracks appear in the civil discourse. By the time the evening staggers to a close, it’s not just the living room where they meet but, at least metaphorically, all of western civilization of which they believe they represent the peak — in a bourgeois sort of way — that lies in tatters.

Michel (John Koensgen), the conciliatory owner of a household goods company, and his book-writing, passive-aggressive wife Veronique (Mary Ellis) are the hosts and parents of the boy who has lost a couple of teeth in the fight. (more…)

God of Carnage: Third Wall production showcases barbaric side of human nature

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo Barbara Gray

A playground fight between two 11-year-old boys is the reason for a meeting between their supposedly civilized parents. But the veneer of civility and socially acceptable behaviour is paper thin and the two sets of parents are soon brawling with gloves off.

Christopher Hampton’s translation of French playwright Yasmina Reza’s social satire lays bare the insincerity and ugliness in the married couples’ relationships with each other and with their opposite numbers. Little wonder that their children are monsters with the example of their parents to guide them — or not.

In the Third Wall Theatre production of God of Carnage, director Ross Manson has chosen to retain the Paris setting, but other productions in the U.S. and UK have placed God of Carnage in their home countries — a recognition of the universality of the theme of savagery just below the surface. (more…)

Rabbit Hole : Kanata theatre at its best.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Rabbit Hole, offers a carefully-textured examination of how individuals, in their various ways, deal with grief and loss. It’s tricky material, a drama in which a moment of silence can be as powerful as a cascade of words and in which locked-in sorrow can be more palpable than an unfettered outpouring of emotion.

There is a cathartic process underway as bereaved parents Becca and Howie attempt to resume living following the accidental death of their four-year-old son. But as the play gently but firmly makes clear, their journey out of darkness is not an easy one — indeed, as is so frequent in such situations, their own relationship is in jeopardy.

It’s a measure of Brooke Keneford’s thoughtful, measured production for Kanata Theatre that the play’s final memorable moments do not slide into an easy, comfortable glibness. They are touching, but they don’t evoke closure: what they offer is hope and a continuation of the healing process.

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Past Reviews