Capital Critics' Circle
Le cercle des critiques de la capitale

Reviewing Theatre in Canada's Capital Region
La critique théâtrale de la région Ottawa-Gatineau

Peggy Laverty explains her choice of costumes after Alvina Ruprecht’s review of the Confessions of a Drag Queen.

Reviewed by on    Arts News, Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Regarding Toto Too’s recent Production , I would like to make a few comments.
It is always easy and satisfying to make a character look good. It is harder to allow oneself to make a character look relatively unattractive.

Barry’s clothing was not meant to be modern. The dresses, according to the script, had been in storage for 25 years while he was in jail. They are from the 80’s, and, as most were at that time, are somewhat frumpy and overdone. These are referred to by John as being “shit ugly frocks”.

Neither the Director or the Production people wanted blatantly flamboyant outfits for Miranda’s character. He was to be involved in a meeting with a serious straight man who would affect his life, not dressing for a night at a Drag Queen competition. I filled the two racks on stage with the more dramatic outfits which would have been used earlier in their stage shows.  He is living in an altered reality, delusional and living in the past, and he thinks he looks wonderful in his old clothes and overdone makeup.

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Confessions of a Mad Drag Queen: Script drags confessions down

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre, Summer Theatre 2013  


Photo thanks to Tototoo productions. POSTER.

Confessions of a Mad Drag Queen is the story of a deeply flawed human being told in equally flawed dramatic/melodramatic format.

Miranda Rights, the aging drag queen of the title, is not quite ready for her close-up when her visitor and would-be biographer, John Morgan, arrives on the scene. His role through the extended exposition — much of it a drag in the other sense — is to listen to the pathetic ranting of the campy Miranda, while attempting to keep her on track as she justifies the murderous rampage that landed her in prison for a quarter of a century.

With ruthless pruning, Miranda’s monologue might hold the attention more effectively, but, as written, it is too repetitive and periodically boringly circular. Little wonder that, in the Toto Too production, Barry Daley marred an otherwise excellent performance by needing several prompts that caused glitches in both rhythm and characterization.

The move from the comic and stereotypical sequences of Act I to the melodramatic twists and dialogue (Hallelujah!) of Act II gives natural impetus to conversation and character. Although Act II flows more naturally, the change of pace and tone jar at times. (Confessions started off as a monologue. Playwright David Blue is reported as saying that the second character was not added until the twelfth draft.)

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Confessions of a Mad Drag Queen: This Campy Mystery Hits the Spot!

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre, Summer Theatre 2013  


John Collins and Barry Daley. Photo by Bruce Ecroyd

Drag makes excellent theatre! Take for instance the ground breaking Hosanna (Richard Monette performed the title role in Tremblay’s play, in English, at Stratford many years ago), or La Duchesse de Langeais, that heartbreaking campy monologue by Michel Tremblay interpreted by that great actor Claude Gai who made the role his own. More recently there was that French production of the Changing Room at the NAC which delved more closely into the various possibilities of Drag identities which was extremely revealing as “real” drags and “phony” drags cohabited the stage and the audience was left totally perplexed t trying to figure it all out.

These performances are, after all, about the essence of theatre: dressing up and assuming various roles, even various identities while hiding other identities. David Blue, the playwright has clearly been reading a lot of theatre based on campy drag performance because his text is full of references to so many other similar plays and works by gay writers such as Tennessee Williams as well as female models of female impersonators, that this work almost becomes a compilation of all the stereotypical utterances one could imagine, especially in Act I. It therefore needs a lot of pairing down. I think this play could lose at least 20 minutes and still be just as effective, in fact it might even be stronger. Listening to Miranda Rights (an extraordinary performance by Barry Daley) extolling the virtues of Bette Davis and other icons of female impersonators has something almost pathetic about it when we see what a frump Mme Miranda has really become.

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The (Post) Mistress: Sweet but not sizzling!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,


Martha Irving as the Post Mistress. Photo: Jay Kopinski

The (Post) Mistress, playing at the 1000 Islands Playhouse in Gananoque, is clearly a culturally hybrid stage event that slowly works itself out through moments of story- telling, of singing, of music, of striking lighting effects (thanks to Paul A. Del Motte). Adapted from a Cabaret style that Highway has already produced in other one woman musical shows (The incredible adventures of Mary Jane Mosquito, and Rose) this one suffers from the inadequacies of the lone actress, Martha Irving who is not quite able to sustain the extraordindary and rapid changes in music and spoken word styles. To work well, this show needs a much stronger and more transformative dramatic presence.

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The (Post) Mistress in Gananoque – Entertaining, but a Play?

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

Martha Irving

Martha Irving. The (Post) Mistress at the Thousand Islands Playhouse, 2013. Photo:  Jay Kopinski.

The second production of the season in the Firehall, “THE (POST) MISTRESS” written by Tomson Highway, has opened at the 1000 Islands Playhouse. A one-woman musical, it features Marie-Louise Faucon, a small town post mistress who seems magically able to read the letters from local friends that she sorts and files. Along the way we learn a little about Marie-Louise herself. Unfortunately we don’t learn enough to care much about her.

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The Marriage-Go-Round. Perth Classic Theatre Festival mounts a solid revival of this play.

Reviewed by on    Summer Theatre 2013  

Leslie Stevens’s 1958 Broadway hit is the sort of period piece that was once considered daring by both producers and audiences. So some may question the wisdom of reviving – more than half a century later – this comedy about a sexy young Swedish blonde who arrives in the household of a college anthropology professor and his wife, who just happens to be that institution’s dean of women, with an astonishing proposition.

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La Loi de Tibi: cérémonie bouleversante à la Chapelle du verbe incarné, Avignon “off”.

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage   , , ,

Compte rendu de  Sylvie Romanowski, Northwestern Universitytibi-1024x721

Au bord du plateau, Tibi, un grand homme nous accueille. Tout se passe quelque part ailleurs, peut-être Afrique, le lieu n’est pas clair. Voilà que nous des touristes, ayant donné notre offrande pour assister à un enterrement, sommes à la fois voyeurs de la souffrance des autres et spectateurs/voyeurs d’une œuvre théâtrale. L’ambiguïté s’impose dès le début, et même si on réalise bientôt que nous sommes en pleine représentation théâtrale, le texte nous rappelle cet instant de malaise de temps à autre.

La scène est presque vide sauf pour un amoncellement de choses cachées par une grande bâche gris clair. L’homme est un diseur traditionnel, maître de cérémonie pour les enterrements. Il est en train de chercher sa cape et il râle parce qu’il en a besoin pour faire ses enterrements avec la dignité nécessaire, et avec six enterrements qui l’attendent ce matin, la situation est urgente.

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The Marriage-Go-Round. A classic at Perth riding the merry-go-round of marriage again.

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, Summer Theatre 2013  

labellechachca2 copy Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle

Set up as his and her takes on marital values, The Marriage-Go-Round by Leslie Stevens was well received as a stage play in 1958 and bombed as a movie three years later.

The premise of the sex comedy is that college professor Paul Delville and dean of women Content Lowell hit the first rough patch in their 25-years of marital bliss in the form of a blonde, Swedish seductress, intent on Paul being the father of the child she plans to have.

On the brink of infidelity, he continues to lecture on monogamy, while Content seeks advice from her best friend on campus, a married man, who halfheartedly tries to seduce her.

In the Classic Theatre Festival production, director Laurel Smith maximizes pregnant pauses and focuses on the highly expressive faces of Rachel Jones as Content and Scott Clarkson as Paul as the two ride the marriage-go-round with aplomb. Meanwhile, Elisabeth Lagerhőf, as the Swedish siren Katrin, makes a concerted effort to reel Paul in and Kevin Hare, as Ross, delivers his insincere attempt to step up from platonic friend to lover.

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Spelling Bee at the 1000 Islands Playhouse is Fun and Funny

Reviewed by on    Musical Theatre, Professional Theatre, Summer Theatre 2013  

Photo: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The Thousand Islands Playhouse, 2013. Photography by Mark Bergin                          spellingPutnam(12)

A very entertaining and fast moving production of the musical THE 25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE has opened at the 1000 Islands Playhouse. With music and lyrics by William Finn and book by Rachel Sheinkin, Rebecca Feldman and Jay Reiss, the format is that of an actual spelling bee with six young contestants plus four volunteer contestants from the audience. It’s the only show I’ve ever seen where using audience volunteers really works. There’s also a female organizer, the Vice Principal as the judge and Mitch, who’s working out his community service sentence by offering comfort to those eliminated.

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