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

My Brilliant Divorce. A one-hander that works brilliantly

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

DivorceBmGgqQGIYAA_wvW.jpg large

A one-person show works only if it is rich in content, has a fine dramatic arc, quality production values and, most of all, a first-class performer.

The SevenThirty/Pat Moylan production of My Brilliant Divorce by Geraldine Aron has all of the above.

Early on, it seems that it might be a lightweight comedy shrugging off the sadness of marital failure. But, Aron’s script moves on from the initial dismissal of the errant husband, through the gamut of emotions — anger, depression, loneliness, desperation — and actions ranging from the contemplation of suicide to the emotional suicide of trying to revive the dead marriage. Eventually, acceptance is followed by a new and healthier life after divorce.

Kate Hurman delivers a powerful and beautifully sustained characterization of Angela, the discarded wife who was once half of the world’s happiest couple, as well as throwing in cameos of a number of the people she meets on her journey towards survival with only her dog, Dexter, by her side and voices at the other end of the telephone to break the monotony of her life.

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My Brilliant Divorce : Kate Hurman upstages Geraldine Aron’s Text

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,



Kate Hurman is one of Ottawa’s theatre treasures who is not on stage as much as she should be. Here, Director John P. Kelly has given her Geraldine Aron’s juicy monologue where she can show us the great variety of her talents. The play is written in the form of a diary,  where a certain Angela Kennedy Lipsky, an Amercian living in the UK,  tells us the whole trajectory of her post-marriage life. It begins at the beginning, with the sudden announcement by her ex-husband that he wants to leave. “Round Head” as she so affectionately calls him, quickly packs his bag and clumps down the stairs of their London flat, making a quick getaway to join his “Rosy” from Argentina, leaving Angela more than stunned. 

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My Brilliant Divorce: Kate Hurman walks the balance between humour and poignancy

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  


Photo: Lois Seigel

Angela Kennedy-Lipsky can crank out shrewd and funny lines: “Smugly round,” she says of her ex-husband’s head. At the same time, she’s so lonely that she sends a postcard to herself from a disastrous resort holiday.

And that’s the real trick to Geraldine Aron’s comedy My Brilliant Divorce, a one-woman show here starring Kate Hurman: to walk the balance beam between humour and poignancy that makes Angela a full human to whom we can relate.

Directed by John P. Kelly, this production slips more than once in the first act, only to stride beautifully through the second.

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Mies Julie in the Karoo: a stunning metaphore captures the difficult transformation to Post Apartheid society

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage, Theatre in Canada   ,

Mies  Bongile Mantsai and Hilda Cronje.

Yael Farber is an extraordinary artist of the stage! Recognizing how Strindberg’s Miss Julie has established a brilliant framework for all forms of power relations, Farber transforms the play into a metaphor of contemporary post-apartheid South Africa where class, land rights, sexual tension, ethnic, social, political and cultural differences clash head on in a context of raging anger and  lust, setting the background for a drama of tragic self-destruction.

The site of Farber’s version of the play, is the kitchen of a Boer homestead, located in the desert region of Karoo, where generations of racial and class struggle have not yet come to an end , in spite of the new political situation in the country. On this farm, where Julie (Hilda Cronje) lives with her father, the master of this land, she and John (Bongile Mantsai) the son of the master’s housekeeper, perform an intense and sexually charged death ritual which tears apart any form of “truth and reconciliation” that one might hope for.

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Beatrice & Virgil at the Factory Theatre. Pierre Brault appears in this story adapted from the novel by Yann Martel (Life of Pie).

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre  

Reviewed by Jeniva Berger for her site

You might call Beatrice & Virgil a play about a writer getting caught up in things beyond his understanding. At least Lindsay Cochrane’s adaptation of the central part of Yann Martel’s fourth book points in that direction. Not having read Martel’s novel, which apparently turned out to be a particular disappointment after the astounding literary and film success of The Life of Pi, I can understand the quandary that readers had. Part fantasy and part allegory with a realistic setting and a theme that isn’t pleasant, Ms. Cochrane apparently found something that was stage worthy in adapting his book. Her faith is admirable.
You can’t fault the director Sarah Garton Stanley who has given us a well paced production, nor the performers who make the story within a story close to heartbreaking. Damien Atkins is a crisp,  matter-of-fact  author named Henry who has suffered a dissapointing rejection from his publisher for his novel called The 20th Century Shirt (apparently mirroring Martel’s own dismay when his novel was rejected), begins the play at a lectern at a side of the stage, speaking to an audience about how he overcame his disillusion and turned instead to other interests like theatre and books. Well and good. But then, Henry tells us of a a strange note from another person named Henry, who would like his help about a play he is writing.

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Madama Butterfly: Soprano Shuying Li shines brightly in this very uneven production of Puccini’s opera.

Reviewed by on    Opera  

butterfly6MB and Pinkerton wedding night - photo by Sam GarciaPhoto Sam Garcia. Cio-Cio-San(Shuying Li)  and Pinkerton (Antoine Bélanger).

Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, one of the three most popular operas in the Italian repertoire, was inspired by the true story of John Luther Long which Puccini discovered during a trip to London and which David Belasco turned into a play. The opera opened in Milan in 1904 where it was a resounding failure. However, after some changes, it successfully reopened three months later in Brescia, under the direction of maestro Arturo Toscanini. This story of a marriage between the American Navy lieutenant Benjamin Pinkerton based in Nagasaki and fifteen year Old Cio-Cio-San, foregrounds the romantic longings of the young girl caught in the grip of an underlying colonial relationship set up by Goro, the slippery marriage broker (tenor Joseph Hu)who had some good moments, and American naval lieutenant Pinkerton, seeking to spend his time with a local girl until he goes back to America to have a “real” marriage.

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Madama Butterfly: Shuying Li succeeds wonderfully in her multi-layered role.

Reviewed by on    Opera, Professional Theatre  

Butterfly5hrowing flower petals - Phots by Sam Garcia

Photo Sam Garcia. Shuying li as Cio-cio-San. Arminé Kassabian as Suzuki.

Can anything be as touching as a very young, innocent, and, consequently, naïve love? Giacomo Puccini’s timeless classic “Madama Butterfly” explores this simple, but tragic fact of life. A young geisha, only 15, falls in love with an American Lieutenant and marries him in the hope of everlasting, true love. The lieutenant, B. F. Pinkerton, lusts for his young and enchanting bride, but has no intention of staying with her any longer than the duration of his mission in Nagasaki, Japan. The year is 1905, and very traditional Japanese society does not give any guarantees to a woman; she is someone’s wife just as long as he does not abandon her. That is exactly what Pinkerton, seemingly a selfish and unfeeling sailor intends to do. After going back home, he marries an American girl, but after coming back to Japan, realizes what he has done to Cio-Cio-San (Madama Butterfly). Although he is guilt stricken, it does not help – his actions bring death to the woman who cannot see any escape from her situation other than an honourable suicide.

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The Diary of Anne Frank: Phoenix Theatre production of this contemporary classic hampered by weak acting.

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre  


Reviewed by Kat Fournier.

The story of Anne Frank, humanizing the Holocaust, is one of the greatest modern tragedies.

Director Tim Picotte has used the 1955 award-winning script by American writers Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett to present the dramatization of the young girl’s diary. Moving, yet funny, the play is, at its core, a work of naturalism. Minute, realistic detail is built into the setting, dialogue and character.

The script spans three years in Amsterdam, and opens with a scene three years after the Franks move into their hiding place, following the end of World War II and the evacuation of the concentration camps.

The set, designed by Annemarie Zeyl, is a worn annex of an office building in Amsterdam, now transformed into a small apartment for the Franks and Van Daans. The space comprises a raised “loft” upstage of a central living room, flanked by two closet-sized rooms. The rooms are separated by curtains only, so emphasizing the lack of privacy.

Picotte offers a straightforward interpretation of the script, faithful to the original staging. Unfortunately, the approach lacks the necessary subtlety, resulting in the loss of the richness embedded in the text. The characters, played without the requisite refinement, almost became caricatures.

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