April, 2014

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

News from Capital Critics Circle

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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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Oil and Water: Notes after seeing the production at the NAC.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

This is not a finished review because I was off to a  theatre conference in Trois Rivières but this is a play that deserves a comment. Oil and Water is an important narrative that brings much to Canadian contemporary history but the play and especially the staging of the performance are terrible disappointments. How can one find a parallel between  the oppression of miners in Newfoundland the poverty created by the end of the fishing industry, with racism in the United States?. There is no earthly way one can make any kind of serious comparison. I find that in itself a source of real embarrassment for Canadian scholarship. Certain actors were not up to the demands of the roles and that kept the performance sliding between various levels of professionalism and unprofessionalism- except for the scenes when the women were treating the near drowned sailor, a trio of actors which worked beautifully but that came at the end. Too bad,.
There were some interesting lighting effects, especially when the figures in the background froze against the blue sky in the second part of the show and the contructivist sextant makes an impressive scenic presence that adapted itself to multiple moments of the play. Nevertheless one felt most of the way through that the director was trying out various forms of Brechtian Verfremdung’s techniques that were not put into play in the most effective way. All the stage elements came under that category- the music, the way the actors ambulated around the stage, the background movements, the way the scenes cross cut into each other and rolled into each other., the episodic nature of the sketches which should have worked in a more dialectially organized fashion. The contrast between the various historical times and the social problems that created parallels in different geographic spaces and the specific organization of history. All very commendable but as a theatre production they did not work at all here because the techniques were not mastered by the director. They just created confusion and clutter and Brechtian stagings are precise, clear and anything but confused. !! I am sorry to say that because the story is an important one.
Alvina Ruprecht, Ottawa, May 22, 2014

Oil and Water: Clear the Clutter and You Have a Great Story

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo. Barb Gray. Anderson Ryan Allen as the young Lanier.

Clear the clutter and you have a great story. The problem is that the debris is not out of the way until the last section of the show. That is just too long to wait for the many threads introduced in Oil and Water to come together in a meaningful way.

Built around the true story of the rescue of Lanier Phillips, a black sailor whose ship, the USS Truxton, ran aground in a remote Newfoundland community in 1942, Oil and Water moves between past and present. It parallels the experiences of Phillips’ grandmother, a slave, and his teenage daughter, who faces the violent prejudice associated with racial integration in the U.S., with the harsh life faced by Newfoundland coal miners in the1940s.

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À toi pour toujours ta Marie-Lou: une belle production qui confirme toute la modernité de Tremblay.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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A toi pour toujours ta MarieLou

Richard Bénard en gros plan.

À toi pour toujours ta Marie-Lou de Michel Tremblay, actuellement au Théâtre de l’île à Gatineau (Québec) est un petit chef-d’œuvre de mise en scène. Ce quatuor de voix, les deux filles (Carmen et Manon) et les parents (Léopold et Marie-Louise), mènent simultanément deux dialogues parallèles, dans deux espaces/temps différents où le décor symbolise le drame qui a déchiré cette famille par le passé, et continue à la ruiner. Marquée par les éclairages ingénieux et un paysage sonore puissant qui nous transporte bien bien au-delà de la réalité québécoise, cette représentation cerne un paysage cauchemardesque où tous les personnages arrivent sur le plateau comme des revenants, baignés d’une lumière bleuâtre d’outre-tombe, avant de s’installer dans leurs fauteuils où ils seront relégués pendant tout le spectacle.

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Une vie pour deux: le spectacle le plus durassien d’Evelyne de la Chenelière

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo. Caroline Laberge,  Evelyne de la Chenelière,  Jean-François Casabonne, Violette Chauveau

Une œuvre troublante dont la trame s’inspire du roman de Marie Cardinal (Une vie pour deux), mais dont le style théâtral semble nous renvoyer à l’univers langagier et dramatique de Marguerite Duras. Un couple, Simone et Jean, passe leurs vacances en Irlande, pays des brumes, des fantômes, des revenants. Ils découvrent le cadavre d’une inconnue sur la plage, encastrée dans le sable, comme un fossile qui cache des secrets. De beaux effets de lumière aquatique transforment le sable en tombeau liquide et installe une étrange magie sur ce monde d’obsessions. . Tout d’un coup, nous voilà en pleine relation triangulaire tâchée de transgressions qui hantent le couple « durassien »  (le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein, L’amante anglaise).

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Not by Bread Alone: The Nagala’at Acting Ensemble Company, World’s only Professional Deaf-Blind Theatre Company at ArtsEmerson

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

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Photo: Avshalow Ahraron.

Not by Bread Alone may be the most unusual theatre experience I have ever undergone. It is a devised piece created by the professional director Adina Tal and the blind and deaf members of the Israeli Nalaga’at Acting Ensemble Company, none of whom had ever appeared onstage before undertaking Light Is Heard in Zig Zag, first performed in 2004 after two years of rehearsal. The Nalaga’ at, whose name means Do Touch, is the world’s only professional deaf-blind acting troupe.

Light Is Heard in Zig Zag, attempted to bring the spectators into the performers’ world, i.e., a world of only three senses. The company’s talent and the work’s uniqueness made it a success that prompted the group to develop their second production, Not by Bread Alone. The eleven performers and their director built on the techniques they had acquired during their first undertaking.

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ERIC COATES takes to the mainstage to present new plays and new partnerships for the GCTC season 2014-2015

News from Capital Critics Circle

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Eric Coates. Artistic Director of the GCTC

George Walker, Company of Fools, Danviel MacIVor, Nightswimming theatre, and several Ottawa premieres are the highlights of next seasons GCTC Theatre programme.

The 2014-2015 season offers an all-Canadian line up with three world premieres and three Ottawa premieres. Two of the plays were developed in association with GCTC and are world premieres. They are The Boy in the Moon, written by Emil Sher based on the book by Ian Brown and A Company of Fools and GCTC co- production of Pomme and ‘Restes: Shipwrecked! On the Tempestuous Lost Island of Never. GCTC presents Nightswimming Theatre’s double bill of Fish Eyes (Ottawa premiere) & Boys with Cars (world premiere) written, choreographed and performed by Anita Majumdar. From Vancouver, Green Thumb Theatre’s production of Moss Park is written by George F. Walker (Ottawa premiere). In February, the comedy keeps coming with The Best Brothers by Daniel MacIvor (Ottawa premiere). To complete the season, GCTC produces The Public Servant written by Jennifer Brewin, Haley McGee, Sarah McVie and Amy Rutherford, and co-developed with Toronto’s Theatre Columbus. The Public Servant is presented in association with the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. The plays are listed below.

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The Anger of Ernest and Ernestine: Vacant House Theatre presents a fun staging of play

Reviewed by Maja Stefanovska

The-Anger-of-Ernest-and-Ernestine-PosterBeing in love with someone and love are two very different things. The first is a breathless kind of Bora that awakens in you a temporary madness. It’s a volcano of sweet emotion that sweeps you off your feet and prevents you from thinking straight, especially about the object of your emotion. Their every quirk is endearing and every second spent apart from their lips is the worst kind of torture. Love, on the other hand, is what’s left over after this temporary madness subsides. You are suddenly left with a person, annoying quirks, terrible taste in music, and all. (more…)

Seeds Spins Some Unsettling Variations On the David-Versus-Goliath Story

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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^Photo. Courtesy of the NAC

L.to R. Christine Beaulieu, Tanja Jacobs, Eric Peterson.

here’s a memorable moment in Seeds when Eric Peterson, superb in the role of embattled Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser, delivers a passionate defence of farmers’ rights against the overwhelming powers of the genetically modified food industry.

It’s not an elegant moment. Indeed, there’s more than a glimmer here of Oscar Leroy, whose cantankerous presence once enlivened the Corner Gas television series. But in its mingling of anger, despair and futile defiance, it carries its own rough-hewn eloquence. The polemic works but — this is important — only for the moment.

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Hedwig and the Angry Inch: Extraordinary!!!

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

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Photo. Gladstone

Let’s cut to the chase: Tim Oberholzer as Hedwig, the title character in the rock opera about a transgendered person whose life and sex change surgery have both gone horribly wrong, is nothing short of extraordinary.

Hard to say what deep well of inspiration Oberholzer pulled this performance from, but he’s a joy to watch as he gives us a big-wigged, drama queen Hedwig who is, in one fell swoop, angry, hurt, curiously hopeful, cynical and one heck of a singer with all the rock star moves.

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Past Reviews