July, 2013

Maid for a Musket. A Rollicking Good Time in Prescott

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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Photos courtesy of the Shakespeare on the Saint Lawrence theatre.

MAID FOR A MUSKET currently running in rep with HAMLET at the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival is, to quote director Ian Farthing, “a wonderfully silly mix of local history and Shakespeare.” Very loosely based on Shakespeare’s LOVE’S LABOURS LOST, playwright Lucia Frangione has set the play in Prescott itself during the war of 1812. As well as literary allusions from that period, she has used local figures and historic events to tie it together, including the British raid on Ogdensburg.

Basically the plot revolves around three British soldiers who swear off women and frivolity for a year in order to study the art of war and glory. Of course their vows immediately begin to crumble when the attractive American widow Farnum turns up with two eligible daughters in tow.

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Arms and the Man: Massingham gives the show a telling commedia dell’arte twist

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

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Photo. Wayne Cuddingham, Ottawa Citizen.

Did George Bernard Shaw ever envision Arms and the Man staged like this?

Seizing on the themes of duplicity, self-deception, and confusion of fantasy and reality that underpin Shaw’s biting comedy about love, war and class, director Andy Massingham has given the show a telling Commedia dell’arte twist.

Actors appear in mask or with faces richly painted, many of their costumes big and bright. Characters – at least the worst dissemblers or the most deceived among them — move with exaggerated physicality. And those characters break down into servants, masters and lovers, which is how Shaw wrote the play but is also the classic structure of Commedia.

What Shaw may have envisioned is, in the end, idle speculation. What’s not speculation is that this production — funny, fast and furiously satiric — works.

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The Star-Spangled Girl

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo courtesy of the Perth  Classic Festival

The Star-Spangled Girl has never been considered one of Neil Simon’s stronger plays — even by Simon, who is reported as saying that he “knew it didn’t have the body” to be “a powerful comedy.”

The 1966 script contains a number of the playwright’s trademark one-liners, but is tentative in stepping into political waters, despite the fact that the storyline supposedly focuses on two radicals publishing a protest magazine in San Francisco.

Any radical views have little punch mainly because Simon is really writing a cute love-triangle comedy in which the only near-political comment is when Sophie, the southern-belle patriot, says she would fight for freedom of speech, no matter how wrong the views expressed.

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Hamlet: Violent and Contemporary. An Ensemble Piece That Opens The Way To Jacobean Vengeance Tragedies.!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo Courtesy Saint Lawrence Shakespeare Festival

Alix Sideris (Gertrude), John Koensgen (Claudius)

This cleverly snipped, tightened and neatly arranged script which clarifies the most vital moments of Hamlet’s descent into raging anger after the death of his father, keeps us on our toes from beginning to end. I almost had the impression I was watching a new reading of Hamlet as performed by that volcanic young actor Eric Craig, so aptly directed by Rona Waddington. The play is set in a contemporary world  of smooth, minimalist  forms and modernly saturated colours, while the characters speak Shakespeare. Even so, there is no sense that this language is archaic, or misplaced. It all sounds perfectly in place, a testimony to Mme Waddington’s clear taste for precision, for choreographed gestures, for clearly articulated speech, that goes beyond the brooding troubled, enigmatic youth of the title.

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Calme de Lars Norén: Scènes de la vie de famille suédoise au Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers, février, 2012.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Lors d’un entretien avec l’auteur dramatique suédois[2], Jean-Louis Martinelli, directeur artistique du théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers et metteur en scène de Calme, évoque sa découverte des pièces de Norén, une vingtaine d’années plus tôt : « J’avais lu tout le cycle de ses premières pièces où il parle de la famille bourgeoise suédoise, de la névrose familiale, des mères absentes qui communiquent avec leurs enfants par téléphone, du rapport à l’inceste. Quelque chose me frappait déjà dans cette écriture : le sentiment qu’elle procède par accumulations successives, par couches, [mais] qui ne nous donne jamais de résolution mais plutôt l’épaisseur d’un conflit interne et interpersonnel. »

Calme (Stillheten, 1984), déjà la troisième création d’une œuvre de Norén par Martinelli[3] tirée de ce premier cycle de sa dramaturgie, constitue la dernière pièce d’une trilogie[4] qui décortique et expose les couches problématiques des relations familiales et nous montre surtout que le metteur en scène a un rapport très intime avec ce monde troublant de l’auteur.

Autant la mise en scène raffinée et délicate de Martinelli m’a charmée et étonnée, autant les propos de l’auteur m’ont bouleversée. Heureusement, la tension entre ces impressions antagonistes est résolue par le dialogue parfaitement maîtrisé entre le décor poético-hyperréaliste, le jeu passionné, et la névrose des personnages dont les rapports sont parfois comiques mais surtout d’une dureté insupportable. Il est certain que le travail de Martinelli et son équipe artistique a cerné toutes les subtilités psychologiques qui font vibrer les rapports difficiles entre ce couple âgé (Ernst et Lena) et leurs deux fils adultes (John et Ingemar), enfermés dans la solitude d’un hôtel sur une île isolée. Bergman semble tout à fait dans le paysage ainsi qu’Eugène O’Neill voire Tchekhov si on écoute bien les dialogues qui souvent font allusion à un texte qui n’est jamais assez explicité.

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Third Floor at 1000 Islands Playhouse (Gananoque) Disappoints

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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Photo. Courtesy !000 Islands Playhouse. With Taylor Towbridge and Craig Pike

THIRD FLOOR by Jason Hall, billed as a “rom-com with a thriller twist,” is neither romantic nor a comedy, although it does have some elements of a thriller. The play, including the title, is an attempt at an homage to Alfred Hitchcock. It’s set in the hallway of an apartment building, with the doors of four apartments visible. Although it’s never mentioned, I assume they’re on the third floor.

Jung-Hye Kim’s set is very workable and features panels above for Kevin Tanner’s projections of scenes from Hitchcock movies. These are used to cover what feels like at least 50 blackouts. Miss Kim’s costume for the woman is very good, providing constant variation from scene to scene. Adam Harendorf’s music between the early scenes is very repetitive and electronic, but improves as the play moves on.

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The Merry Wives of Windsor in the park: Falstaff overwhelmed by a solid team of Fools.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

 Merry2GetAttachment.aspx                                                                                 Katie Ryerson, ‘Matthew John Lundvall, Melanie Karin.  Photo: by Barb Gray. 

This production is probably one of the most successful Shakespeare adaptations the Company of Fools has ever done. Their comic style has solidified into a performance that exudes a coherent, maturely playful humour; the text is well articulated so every word is clear, but never stilted; the playful distance is always fore grounded by the actors themselves which is something that gives the performers a sense that they are in control, guiding the parody, thus making the humour all the more sophisticated, helped of course by Vanessa Imeson’s costumes that are both beautiful and appropriate for this lusty comedy.  I suspect that Catriona Leger’s work is behind this, which shows she is quickly becoming a local director to be taken very seriously. The Merry Wives of Windsor fore grounds that drunken rascal Falstaff who played an important role as comic relief in the King Henry IV series.

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Master Clown Jesse Buck is back with BUBKUS at the Gladstone.July 12

News from Capital Critics Circle

After nearly four years on tour with Cirque du Soleil, master clown Jesse Buck is bringing his innovative one-man hit show BUBKUS, back to his hometown, to celebrate the show’s ten-year anniversary. BUBKUS will be performed in Ottawa as part of the Gladstone Theatre’s One Night Only series, on July 12, 2013 (with Artbeat Theatre Group’s, Barely Even There).
The purpose of BUBKUS is to show the audience the beauty and possibility of a play without words. The word “bubkus” is Yiddish for “nothing”, and BUBKUS was in fact created out of nothing. Using only a blanket, a pillow and a toothbrush, Jesse’s clown takes the audience through an epic fairytale, featuring fearsome snakes, giants, and dark magic. It is a timeless story told only with play and imagination.

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L’Amour à l’Agenda au Théâtre de l’Ile. Ce Michel Marc Bouchard estival est surtout une question de goût.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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David Jenniss et Frédérique Thérrien …

Photo: Théâtre de l’Ile

Il est difficile d’associer le nom de Michel Marc Bouchard (auteur québécois d’œuvres aussi recherchéess que Les Feluettes)  à cette soirée de folie furieuse trempée dans le burlesque kitsch inspiré du cinéma comique hollywoodien. Mais, voilà ce à quoi Bouchard, le maître de l’écriture théâtrale, se dédie depuis un certain temps.

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NOISES OFF at the Ottawa Little Theatre – not quite on.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo. Maria Vartanova

Michael Frayn’s three-act backstage farce about farce has been called the funniest comedy ever written. For first-time viewers who love the genre, maybe so, but Noises Off is also notoriously difficult to stage effectively.

Lampooning a bad play-within-a-play, Noises off features a group of weak actors at war with each other, touring a traditional sex farce called Nothing On. All the usual attributes, primarily the shedding of clothes and the constant rushing in and out of many doors are highlighted. The fact that Frayn calls for a two-level set that must be viewed from the audience and backstage perspectives at various times during the three-acts complicates matters further. Added to this, the real drama takes place behind the scenes as the Noises Off reveal love triangles and sexual liaisons gone awry and the actors seek revenge by sabotaging fellow cast members.

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Past Reviews