May, 2014

Nunsense A-Men : Toto Too Theatre is as talented as ever.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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The nonsense of Nunsense has been habit-forming (pun stolen from one of the show’s numbers) since 1985, when it first played off-Broadway. Since then, an estimated 25,000 women around the globe have portrayed the good sisters of Hoboken in the show, which originated as a line of greeting cards, before moving to the stage. Nunsense has also given rise to numerous spin-offs. One of these is Nunsense A-men — the original script, presented by an all-male cast — first performed in 1998.

As delivered by Toto Too Theatre in their most recent production, Nunsense A-Men is as funny as ever. In fact, it is sometimes funnier and certainly even more irreverent than its female counterpart.

The main reason this production is never a drag is that the cast seems to be having such a ball. (Red high-top sneakers go so well with a black and white nun’s habit and a brightly coloured tutu and pink satin ribbons on ballet shoes really enhance a novitiate’s look, don’t you think?) The fun and frolic transmit to the audience immediately.

Even when the occasional number is sung with less than maximum punch, the joy remains front and centre. Spattered with double entendres and puns, the series of cabaret numbers presented by the nuns are a desperate attempt to raise the cash to bury the nuns who died after supping on vichyssoise made by the convent cook, Sister Julia, Child of God. (The last four of the 52 who died are stowed in the convent freezer and the nuns have just been given word that the health inspector is on his way…)

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Oil and Water: Its own Shipwreck

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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Photo by Barb Gray

Oil and Water by Robert Chafe doesn’t really get off the ground until about two-thirds of the way through its hour and twenty-five minutes, (with no intermission), running time. It purports to be the story of Lanier Phillips, a black American sailor who was rescued in 1942 along with 40-some white sailors from a shipwreck off St. Lawrence, Newfoundland. His non-racist and benevolent treatment by the villagers, who had never seen a black man, was a pivotal event in his life. He became an activist for civil rights and also maintained his connection with the people of St. Lawrence.

Sounds like a great story, but most of the details never make it to the stage. The many scenes with Lanier and his daughter 30 years later during the school riots in Boston intercut with those of the miners’ families in the village dealing with mine safety and lung disease, hijack the play and the shipwreck story. The script tries to follow too many characters. When the audience has no idea what’s going on unless they’ve read the program notes, something’s very wrong. With the shipwreck, the play finally gets on track, but by then we don’t much care.

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The Projet Turandot by Marc LeMyre: Théâtre du Tremplin’s production raises a lot of questions.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Turandot2300_8483  Photo. Martin Cadieux.

The play, written by the Toronto based author Marc LeMyre and directed by Benoit Roy who is the current director of the Théâtre Tremplin in Ottawa, was  loosely inspired by Carlo Gozzi’s fable (Turandotte – 1762). Puccini’s opera was adapted from Gozzi’s version about the cruel Chinese princess, who beheads her suitors to avenge herself on men for killing an ancestor but actually the legend of Turandot has nothing to do with China. It was originally Persian. As for the Théâtre Tremplin, it is one of the rare Francophone community theatres in the Ottawa area, based in Ottawa east. It is a training ground for francophones who later move on to become involved in the established professional franco-ontarian companies in the area. They usually invite a well-known director from outside the company and their work has been extremely good in the past.

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Tactics: New Theatre Collective Appears at Arts Court.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Counterpoint Players’ Corpus launches

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a new collaborative theatre series

On May 2nd, Counterpoint Players launched the innovative new theatre series, TACTICS – Theatre Artists’ Cooperative: the Independent Collective Series. The lineup for the 2014-2015 TACTICS season was announced at the post-show reception on opening night of Darrah Teitel’s award-winning play Corpus. Corpus is the pilot project for the series, which will be in residence at Arts Court Theatre.

TACTICS’ collaborative model of theatre gives local independent artists a chance to showcase their work in an affordable venue, and brings quality stories to the Ottawa stage. TACTICS is a series of independent Ottawa theatre productions that will run from November 2014 to April 2015 at Arts Court Theatre.

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Mauritius : “Betrayal and treason and poor behaviour.”

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo. Maria Vartanova

That’s how Theresa Rebeck once described the things that interest her as a playwright. And she certainly delivers them in spades with her 2007 comedy-thriller, Mauritius, which has romped onto the playbill of the Ottawa Little Theatre in a confident and entertaining production.

The words fly like bullets in Rebeck’s script. And they’re laced with profanity — lots of profanity — which we quickly discover is essential to the rhythms and cadences of the dialogue. One could be churlish and suggest that much of Mauritius sounds like warmed-over Mamet, but that would be unjust, particularly since we’re enjoying the company of its assorted schemers and low-lifers so much. So let’s assume instead that Rebeck — who served an impressive apprenticeship writing television scripts for the likes of N.Y.P.D. Blue — has penned an affectionate homage to David Mamet, with a special nod to his play, American Buffalo

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Albertine en cinq temps: Une mise en scène qui ne rend pas justice aux possibilités du texte.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo. Yves Renaud.  Scénographie de Michel Goulet

Albertine, un des personnages mémorables de la grande famille montréalaise créée par Michel Tremblay,  refait surface en 2014, après sa création  en 1982,  mise en scène à l’époque par André Brassard.
La pièce est un dialogue entre deux personnages, Albertine et sa sœur Madeleine,  assumé  par six voix dont chacune s’inscrit dans un espace/temps différent.  Chaque discours produit le fragment du récit  concernant la décennie représentée par la comédienne; cinq voix représentent Albertine à  30 ans, à 40 ans, à 50  ans, à 60 ans et à 70 ans.
La somme de ces fragments résonne comme une partition musicale où la superposition des lignes mélodiques distinctes constitue une construction musicale en contre-point comme dans une fugue de Bach.

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Mauritius: A Double-edged thriller And An Attention-grabbing Experience

News from Capital Critics Circle

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Reviewed by Kat Fournier . Photo by Maria Vartanova

Mauritius, presented by the Ottawa Little Theatre and directed by Chantale Plant, is a double-edged experience. While the first act is plodding and weak, the second act more than makes up for it. Overall, audiences can expect a play that lives up to its promise of plot twists, big revelations and of characters with hidden motivations. Mauritius delivers on all these fronts, turning stamp-collecting into a vicious game where the spoils will go to the most cunning.

Writer Therese Rebeck – winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award and known for such writing credits to such TV dramas as Law and Order: Criminal Intent and L.A. Law, among others –crafts a story whose premise sounds rather dull: five characters vie for ownership of two rare stamps. And in fact, Act 1 does not do much to dispel this impression. Initially, the real strength of the play lies in the broken relationship between two step-sisters, Jackie (Laura Hall) and Mary (Cindy Beaton), who have reunited after their mother’s death.

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Huff: life on the edge!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo of Cliff Cardinal courtesy of NAC English Theatre

An extremely talented young performance artist, Cliff Cardinal, a true theatre warrior, is clearly committed to an art form that makes a difference, an art that builds social relevance and social awareness. In his own words, he is exploring a world that has been neglected by theatre practitioners in Canada, one that addresses “Canada’s most taboo subculture: First Nations youth abusing solvents, at high risk of suicide.”

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Corpus: an intriguing play that plunges into the heart of the matter.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo, Andrew Alexander.

This is an intriguing play that makes a serious effort to work through the complex questions dealing with survivors of WWII death camps and all the associated issues of racism, anti-Semitism, survival guilt, as well as the working of abjection, oppression and domination that are not at all easy to flush out on stage. It is clear that author Darrah Teitel is a talented playwright who plunges headlong into the heart of the matter with much post structuralist theory in her bag. One does have the sense that she might have taken on too many issues at once but she still has succeeded, for the most part, in capturing the contemporary sense of what those past events mean to today’s younger generation.

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Mauritius : A musical chairs of con artists is fast moving and absorbing.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo. Maria Vartanova

You don’t have to be an avid philatelist to be entertained by this drama about stamp collecting.

Essentially, Mauritius is a caper story with two legendary error-laden stamps as the treasure at the end of the rainbow. Conceived as musical chairs of con artists and propelled by the greed of all the participants, Mauritius is fast moving and absorbing. However, in focusing on the well-researched, main theme of a grab for rare stamps, playwright Theresa Rebeck chooses to allude to dark secrets and previous conflicts among the characters, without giving more than a hint of the back stories, a ploy that works only some of the time. Why, for instance, are the half-sisters who claim ownership of the family’s stamp collection so hostile to each other? What happened eight years earlier between the knowledgeable owner of the store and the psychopathic philatelist who craves the stamps? And did the third crooked philatelist have a connection with the younger sister before the con game began or did they simply come together because of the similarity of their goal?

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Past Reviews