November, 2013

The Last of Jane Austen: Weak play and production down for the count

Reviewed by Iris Winston

The Last of Jane Austen

Bill Horsman as the boxing commissioner, Andree Benson as Sarah and Ellen Clare O’Gallagher as Margaret Stevenson. Photo by Ken Wood.

The Last of Jane Austen
By Shirl Hendryx
Phoenix Players

Appropriate pastimes for elderly ladies are attending readings of Jane Austen’s works at their church and playing quiet games of Canasta at home. But, when the sisters Stevenson become bored with such genteel behaviour and enamoured with the fine art of boxing, their world changes — especially when a needy young man knocks on their door and begs for work.

Finding a photograph of him in boxing mode is all the prompting Sarah and Margaret Stevenson require to go into the boxing business as his trainers/managers.

Such a fairy tale premise makes a believable production extremely difficult. In the Phoenix Players’ version of The Last of Jane Austen, director Jo-Ann McCabe and her cast try very hard to inject some credibility into the show, but they are fighting a losing battle. (more…)

Two plays stand out in The Extremely Short New Play Festival

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Extremely Short New Play Festival

Extremely Short New Play Festival. Photo by Andrew Alexander

The Extremely Short New Play Festival
New Theatre of Ottawa

Two plays stand out in the group presented in this year’s Extremely Short New Play Festival. And one speech in one of the two is particularly moving and alone justifies the need to sit through other less worthwhile pieces.

It is the widower’s words about his dead wife in Jessica Anderson’s Terminal Journey, as delivered by Brian K. Stewart, that create a lasting impression and confirm that Anderson (currently with a play premiering off-Broadway) is destined to make her mark as a playwright. (more…)

After Sixty Years Fresh as Ever: Waiting for Godot at Boston’s Arts Emerson

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

Waiting for Godot

Gary Lydon and Conor Lovett in Waiting for Godot.
Photo by Ros Kavanag.

Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot premiered sixty years ago as En attendant Godot in a small, run-down theater in Paris. Despite the play’s lack of traditional structure – exposition, story development, action, climax, and dénouement – opening night reviews were enthusiastic and the production ran for a hundred performances. Beckett translated and adapted it into English, Irish English at that, as a hearing of the excellent Gare St Lazare Ireland and Dublin Theatre Festival co-production at Boston’s Paramount Theatre demonstrates.

The two tramps who wait endlessly still fascinate. Loneliness, craving meaning in a meaningless world, savagery, longing for ways to make time pass faster remain part of the human condition. Director Judy Hegarty Lovett’s version is less vaudevillian than is often the case. Although Vladimir (Conor Lovett) and Estragon (Gary Lydon) wear the hats of English music hall and go by the clown nicknames, Didi and Gogo, given them by Beckett, there is a realistic element to their acting that is very moving. (more…)

Kanata’s Agnes Of God offers one Shining Performance

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Agnes of God, Kanata Theatre

Agnes of God, Kanata Theatre
Photo by Paul Behncke

John Pielmeier’s 1980 Agnes Of God is about a battle for a soul — the soul of an illiterate novice nun accused of strangling her new-born baby and depositing the body in a waste basket.

The protagonists are Dr. Martha Livingstone, an edgy chain-smoking psychiatrist assigned by the courts to assess Agnes’s sanity, and the convent’s formidable Mother Superior, a woman determined to protect this child from the outside world and those alien cultures, including shrinks and the courts, which fail to understand that Agnes “belongs to God.”
This is a troublesome play, one that is often vulnerable to its own excesses yet cunning enough in its structure to be able to engage us with a series of dramatic revelations and keep us wondering what will happen next. A superior production can achieve that end — but Kanata Theatre doesn’t quite make the grade. (more…)

Agnes of God: Pitting Faith Against Science

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Agnes of Godby John Pielmeier
Kanata Theatre

Based on a 1977 case in New York State, Agnes of God by John Pielmeier, first performed in 1980, tells the story of a young novice accused of strangling her baby. The movie version, released in 1985, starred Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft and Meg Tilly.

In the actual trial, the nun, who, according to the evidence, had apparently been raped by a priest, was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

In Agnes of God, the situation becomes the starting point for pitting faith against science in the form of a battle of words between the Mother Superior at Agnes’ convent and the court-appointed psychiatrist, both of whom carry heavy psychological baggage. (more…)

Extremely Short New Play Festival: 2013

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Extremely Short New Play FestivalAn event like Ottawa’s Extremely Short Play Festival can often be variable in its pickings, and you must be prepared for the possibility of disappointment with some entries. On the plus side, the very nature of this event carries the promise that the disappointment will be short-lived as one 10-minute play gives way to another which may prove more compelling

A further plus factor — and the more important one — is the simple pleasure of discovery, which in the current edition of the festival can be applied even to those pieces which don’t quite make it. But, of course, the greatest pleasure lies in an encounter with an item like Pierre Brault’s Coach Of The Year, a beautifully realized play which zeroes in on an issue of growing concern — sexual abuse of young athletes by their coaches. Brault provides further evidence here that his mastery extends beyond the creation of one-man shows for himself. With this play, his fresh and unsettling insight into a sadly familiar theme is further bolstered by sterling performances from Brian K. Stewart as the coach whose appalling past is catching up with him, and from an anguished Eric Craig as a former victim now consumed by a pathetic need. (more…)

Visage de feu au Périscope: flambée onirique

News from Capital Critics Circle

Réjean Vallée (le père), Joanie Thomas (Olga), André Robillard (Kurt) et Diane Losier (la mère) dans Visage de feu. Photo by Gilles Landry

Réjean Vallée (le père), Joanie Thomas (Olga), André Robillard (Kurt) et Diane Losier (la mère) dans Visage de feu.
Photo by Gilles Landry

Critique par  Joanne Desloges.

(Québec) Montée en 1999 par Thomas Ostermeier, qui signait le mémorable Un ennemi du peuple au plus récent Carrefour international de théâtre de Québec, la pièce Visage de feu a été traduite et modelée par le Théâtre Blanc, qui nous offre une adaptation québécoise qui s’annonce aussi surréelle que percutante.

L’objet théâtral est entre les mains de Joël Beddows depuis quelques années déjà. Le metteur en scène et directeur du Département de théâtre à l’Université d’Ottawa a accroché autant sur la forme que sur le fond du texte de l’Allemand Marius von Mayenburg, auteur, dramaturge et traducteur depuis près de 15 ans pour la Schaubühne, compagnie dirigée par Thomas Ostermeier à Berlin.

Visage de feu relate l’éclatement d’une cellule familiale, mais aussi d’une société post-industrielle où la famille, le temps, l’espace individuel sont en mutation. Deux adolescents, Olga et Kurt, un frère et une soeur, se révoltent contre la cage dorée aux barreaux extensibles où leurs parents, surtout leur père, les maintiennent depuis l’enfance. (more…)

Princess T. – Imaginative interplay of tragi-comic grotesqueries

News from Capital Critics Circle

Princess T

Princess T, Photo by Annie Thomas

Review by Dimitri and Vildana Stanisic-Keller

University of Ottawa Drama Guild’s production of Princess T. that runs from October 29th to November 02nd (at 8:00pm) is a richly conceived and daring drama..

Tuesday, opening night, it was close to 7:40pm. when we approached the Academic Hall entrance. There was a sense of confusion due to a locked door with a sign “Silence! The show goes on”. People, spread around as cautious loners, were reading fliers and suspiciously gazing at newcomers. And before you could ask your partner “What’s going on?”, there is a storm of Czech cabaret style clowns (dressed and made-up for Halloween party) surrounding you and whispering “Are you here for Princes T.?”, pulling out some folded paper and thrusting it in your hands. We only glanced at ‘CENSORED’ stamped over the newspaper article with the heading “To ensure peace in the country”.

The psychology of conspiracy is in the air .We don’t say a word but follow them quietly around the building to the back door. The atmosphere of restricted solidarity, boosted by the descent into the catacombesque underground, continues after a door opens and we are back-stage. Quiet, because of the rehearsal that is apparently going on, we look for the next instruction that will tell us what to do. The auditorium is covered with some dirty sheets, except for the first two rows where most seats are marked ‘reserved’. (more…)

Past Reviews