February, 2013

God of Carnage: Third Wall Theatre’s comeback kid

Reviewed by Jeunes critiques

Brianna Mcfarlane is a student in Yana Meerzon’s course on  Theatre Criticism, being offered at the University of Ottawa.

Photo by Barbara Gray

You might be wondering why Third Wall Theatre Company would choose to perform a script like God of Carnage, written by Yasmina Reza and famously adapted into the Roman Polanski film Carnage, after an eighteen month hiatus when their mandate pertains to presenting shows from the classical canon: Shakespeare, Shaw, Beckett etc. In the show’s program James Richardson, Artistic Director and founder of Third Wall, states that the company is looking to produce shows which he defines as “classics to be”. In my opinion, I thought that this script was a great choice for what many people are calling their “comeback”.

The script explores the struggle to remain refined in an uncivilized world through the interactions of two married couples, the Vallons and the Reilles, who are meeting for the first time in regards to a playground fight involving their respective sons. Try as they might to remain above the situation, the palpable pretense quickly deteriorates and the characters find themselves acting no better than the children they intended on reforming. Throughout it all, the audience is left wondering if it is better to stand and fight for civilized society or to just accept that we are nothing more than Neanderthals ruled by this god of carnage. (more…)

Metamporphoses: A change would do you good.

Reviewed by Jeunes critiques

Ian Huffam is a student in the course on Theatre Criticism taught by Yana Meerzon, U. of Ottawa

It’s ironic that a play about change and transformation would have problems with consistency. Despite this unexpected issue, Jillian Keiley’s production of Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses is often enjoyable and at points even worthy of a satisfied sigh.

Metamorphoses is based on the Roman poet Ovid’s book of the same name, which serves as a compendium of Greco-Roman myths involving supernatural transformations. Metamorphoses uses 10 of these stories, ranging from the well-known (Orpheus and Eurydice) to the more obscure (Myrrha and her incestuous love for her father), and sets them in and around a swimming pool. Few of these myths have happy endings, and most scenes are no longer than 10 minutes.


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.


Pride and Prejudice: OLT’s Page to stage of a classic novel is a major challenge

Reviewed by Iris Winston



Photo: Maria Vartanova

Condensing any novel into a two-act stage play is a challenge. Many have tried to present the key aspects of Jane Austen’s best-known classic, Pride and Prejudice, on stage and screen. In general, the screen versions have been more successful because they offer broader scope for conveying both the atmospher and content of Austen’s rich novel.

Ottawa Little Theatre selected the Helen Jerome version for its 100th season as the 1930s representative (which it also included in its 1995-1996 season). Jerome is fairly faithful to the text of the novel, although she has removed two of the Bennett daughters and added a maid in the Gardiner household. However, in 2013, the wordiness of her adaptation creaks more than a little.


Pride and Prejudice at the OLT. Like a Realistic and Funny Buffet

Reviewed by Jeunes critiques


Yuening Li is a student in Yana Meerzon’s class of Theatre Criticism

Photo: Maria Vartanova

If you don’t know about Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, it tells the story of the Bennet family, with the mother seeking opportunities for her daughters to marry, young, rich, handsome men in early 18th century England. The play focuses on the second oldest daughter, Elizabeth, and her prejudice against Mr. Darcy. Interestingly, the upper-class Darcy falls in love with Elizabeth, yet carries enormous pride himself. Elizabeth then realizes her misjudgement on Mr. Darcy and accepts his second proposal.


The Glass Menagerie : The American Repertory Theatre Takes a New Look at Tennessee Williams

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin


Zachary Quinto, Cherry Jones, Celia Keenan-Bolger. Photo: Michael J. Lutch.

In his preface to The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams wrote that since it is a “memory play, [it] can be presented with unusual freedom of convention,” advice which director John Tiffany followed in his American Repertory Theatre production. The set, which represents the claustrophobic apartment of the Wingfield family, is composed of two hexagonal platforms that appear to float above a reflecting pool. The effect of this metaphor is to denote the family’s isolation. Stage right is the dining room, stage left the living room; both are furnished sparely, but, for the most part, realistically. The living room is dominated by a red patterned couch and matching rug.


Billy Bishop Goes to War: Not simply a replay of the Peterson version, a credit to actor Chris Ralph

Reviewed by Iris Winston

billybishopphoto credit Andrew Alexander Photography2

Chris Ralph as Billy Bishop. Photo: Andrew Alexander

Billy Bishop shot down a record 72 enemy planes in the First World War. John Gray’s show about the fighter pilot’s exploits has the distinction of being one of the most produced works in Canadian theatre history since its premiere 35 years ago.

The story of how the worst cadet at the Royal Military College in Kingston became a war hero resonates in part because Billy Bishop started off as such unlikely material to be destined for stardom.

In the original stage version, the movie and a recent revival (with revisions) Eric Peterson played Billy and the numerous other characters, male and female, that he converses with through the narrative, while Gray accompanied him on the piano. Because Billy Bishop Goes to War has been so closely identified with its originators, it has been difficult for other performers to ring many changes with the view of the scrappy pilot from Owen Sound.


Billy Bishop Goes to War: this Plosive Production is a pretty good trip

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

billybishop27932036 Photo: Jana Chytlova.  Chris Ralph as Billy Bishop 

This production of John Gray’s musical about World War One flying ace Billy Bishop is enjoyable if flawed.

Chris Ralph plays Bishop, who was born in Owen Sound, Ont., with gusto, empathy and humour. He captures both the times and the man including the innocence with which young recruits went off to that war and Bishop’s basic goodness as well as his penchant for running afoul of rules.

Over the course of Gray’s highly likeable script, which blends storytelling with acting and song, we follow the in-the-sky and on-the-ground adventures of the charming Billy. The former include vivid stories of dogfights with skilled German pilots while the latter spotlight some very funny incidents involving upper-crust Brits and dim-witted military officers to whom Bishop reports. Ralph plays these various characters, some 18 in all, convincingly and economically.

However, he also plays much of it too loudly. Less shouting (was the loud voice meant to convey Bishop’s youthful enthusiasm?) would have made for a more textured and, for the audience, less-wearying performance.

Turning down the volume would also have lessened the awkward contrast between Ralph and James Caswell, his much quieter pianist, co-vocalist and occasional narrator.

One other issue: both Ralph and Caswell have pleasant but limited singing voices. Their upper registers are shaky, and when they shoot for the high notes the results are less than stellar.

Bottom line: This Billy Bishop hits some air pockets but overall it’s a pretty good trip.

It plays at The Gladstone and is directed by Teri Loretto-Valentik


Hip-Hop Shakespeare Live Music Videos Fun Take on Original Text

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Photo: Andrew Alexander

Othello as a credulous homeboy? Richard III as the meanest, gangsta-rapping mutha you ever saw? Why not? Shakespeare’s characters are as real as any inner-city denizen. Besides, the Bard likely would have laughed his ass off at the sardonic, high-energy hip-hop spin that Melanie Karin and David Benedict Brown give to everyone from Hamlet to Romeo and Juliet by setting lines and plots from the plays to music by Kanye West, Tupac and others.

An award-winner when it premiered at the Ottawa Fringe Festival last summer, Hip-Hop Shakespeare is funny, fast and clever. (more…)

Houët’s Ladies of the Lake: An underwhelming production

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

photo: Lisa L’Heureux

There’s water. And there’s waterlogged. The latter describes this show which sets out, in only tangentially interesting fashion, to reveal the origin of the Lady of the Lake of Arthurian legend — you know, the gal who, in some versions of the legend, gave Arthur his sword Excalibur.

In this movement, music and text-based piece, a lady named Vivienne (Kate Smith), on a quest for she knows not what — which makes the searching kind of tricky — falls into a remote lake.

Ambrose, a mysterious seer/healer who lives in a nearby hut and is played by John Doucet, helps restore to Vivienne to good health once she escapes the lake. (more…)

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