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

NAC Announces its 2015-2016 Dance season –

Reviewed by on    Arts News  


The 2015-16 season showcases the best dancers, choreographers, and designers from around the world, the line-up includes artists from 14 countries: Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Dada Masilo: Swan Lake


Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet: Going Home Star – Truth and Reconciliation January 28-30, 2016  A star-studded collaboration between the RWB, Canadian author Joseph Boyden, choreographer Mark Godden, and Canadian composer Christos Hatzis. Going Home Star was 10 years in the making, first envisioned by late Cree elder/activist Mary Richard and RWB Artistic Director André Lewis. Searing and sensitive, this powerfully emotional classical ballet is the deeply resonant love story of Annie and Gordon, a pair of contemporary aboriginal young people coming to terms with a soul-destroying past. Without truth, there is no reconciliation. Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet was last at the NAC in January 2015, performing The Handmaid’s Tale.

Hong Kong Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty March 3-5, 2016. Embrace the timeless enchantment of one of the world’s favourite fairy-tale, The Sleeping Beauty. This sumptuous production, staged by Cynthia Harvey, features technical brilliance and bravura dancing, stunning sets and costumes by Mark Bailey, and Tchaikovsky’s magnificently seductive score. This fast-paced ballet delivers family-friendly fun with all the essential fairy-tale ingredients: storybook characters, romance, fate, good versus evil— and of course, true love! Hong Kong Ballet makes its NAC debut.

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Intercultural conversations/conversations interculturelles : Nineteen local companies awarded grants for the upcoming seasons.

Reviewed by on    Arts News  


Photo: Amy Keith
Acteurs gauche à droit (left to right)
Cynthia Cantave, Charles-Smith Métellus, Vanessa Schmit-Craan  

Capital Critics Circle is happy to present this excellent news about Intercultural Theatre. We reviewed “The Other Theatre’s” production of Macbeth at the Segal centre and we are very happy this company received an award. Their production was excellent and gave us a new and unique vision of Shakespeare as seen through a group of Haitian professionals of the stage, based in Montreal. All our congratulations to the winners…(note  for a review of Macbeth.

Encouraging theatrical dialogue between the various cultures in Montreal
Nineteen local companies awarded invaluable grants for their upcoming seasons

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The Marriage of Figaro. This Opera Lyra Production Ranks High!

Reviewed by on    Opera  


Photo: Barb Gray. John Brancy and Sacha Djihanian

It’s pretty obvious that Opera Lyra is making a pitch to the Downton Abbey fan club by attempting an early 20th Century take on The Marriage Of Figaro.

Halfway through the overture, we get a glimpse of servants being assembled in front of the stately English exterior of “Highclere Castle” and inspected by a dignified butler. The scene is a somewhat tiresome contrivance, and not really in synch with Mozart’s music. And, let’s face it — the the music is what counts in this production, and, happily, the playing of the overture already has us appreciating the silken elegance of the National Arts Centre Orchestra’s contribution to the evening under conductor Kevin Mallon.

So when it comes to honouring the Mozartian soundscape, the delights the production provides are manifest. For the most part, this is a beautifully sung Figaro, featuring some stellar work from the principals, and in particular a notably engaging performance on all fronts from Wallis Giunta in the trouser role of the lovelorn pageboy, Cherubino.

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THe Best Brothers : Two Shining Performances at the GCTC

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  


Photo: Barb Gray

There’s no denying the pleasure of Andy Massingham’s performance in The Best Brothers, the latest offering from GCTC. His portrayal of Kyle, a twitchy gay realtor coping with the aftermath of his mother’s death, isn’t merely rich in comic detail: it also seeks to anchor it to psychological truth. And if this fine actor doesn’t entirely succeed, blame it on the ambushes inherent in Daniel MacIvor’s problematic play.

It would be easy for audience members to settle back and simply enjoy Massingham’s contribution to the evening as a “performance.” His Kyle is a jumble of emotions — anxious, impulsive, street-smart, capable of saying and doing outrageous things. We suspect that something hilariously awful will occur during the deceased’s funeral, and Kyle (or, rather, Massingham) doesn’t let us down. But even as he turns the moment of eulogy into chaos, Massingham also manages to remind us of Kyle’s essential kindness of heart — and his vulnerability.

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Big Fish Downsized by SpeakEasy Company Rises to the Challenge

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre  

BCA ResCo - SpeakEasy Stage Company - Big Fish

Photo: Craig Bailey, Perspective Photo. Aimee Doherty and Steven Goldstein.

Big Fish now playing at Boston’s Calderwood Pavilion is the third dramatized version of Daniel Wallace’s magical realist novel, all adapted by John August over many years. As a movie, directed by Tim Burton, its whimsy appealed to a certain audience base. August, a playwright as well as a script writer, decided it had the makings of a musical and teamed up with composer Andrew Lippa. Ten years later, Big Fish opened on Broadway to mixed reviews. Critics found it lavish, opulent and, in some cases, overdone. Despite its fans, the production closed within a few months.

August and Lippa’s belief in the show’s possibilities brought them to Boston and SpeakEasy’s artistic director Paul Daigneault, known for his skill with musicals. All three artists were committed to simplifying the show, emphasizing its Alabama roots, deemphasizing the Broadway pizzazz, and making Edward Bloom (Stephen Goldstein) more understandable, and his son Will (Sam Simahk) more sympathetic.

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The Best Brothers: A brilliant piece of dramaturgy that speaks as much about theatre as it does about grieving.

Reviewed by on    Photo by Barb Gray, Professional Theatre  


bestDSC_0032 Photo, Barb Gray:  featuring John Ng and  Andy Massingham.

A frontal set made up of overlapping rectangles that establish an endless depth, glowing with interesting colour as the two men standing on either side of the stage, note our position in the audience and prepare us for what is to come. These are the Brothers. On one side Kyle (Andy Massingham), a flamboyant real estate agent trying to convince us and his clients to buy his condo, intoxicated with words as he praises the qualities of his product. The other brother, on the other side of the stage is Hamilton, (John Ng) cool and calm, exceedingly rational, dressed in a suit, an architect who is explaining his recent project to potential buyers. Their phones ring simultaneously. . Reactions on both sides are immediate except that the reactions are not the same. “Just something…” I can take care of it…says Kyle, “a tragedy…” says Hamilton the cool architect who tries not to appear upset but is very moved. Lights down then back up as all the rituals that accompany death and its closure for the family, structure the rest of the show. What we see emerging , under the stress of their mother’s campy accident is a the whole grieving process which underlies both the comedy and the strained relationship between the two sons, where jealousy rears its ugly head more than once and where the extraordinary Bunny (or Mommy) is recreated as the focal point of their lives.

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The Best Brothers at GCTC IS the Best

Reviewed by on    Photo by Barb Gray, Professional Theatre  

Photo: Barbara Grey

John Ng and Andy Massingham
Photo: Barb Gray

GCTC has a hit on their hands with their production of “The Best Brothers” by award-winning Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor.  MacIvor’s plays are so tightly woven that they’re difficult to write about without giving away quirky plot surprises and wonderful jokes.

“The Best Brothers” is a play about family and family relationships.  Hamilton Best, played by John Ng, and his younger brother Kyle, played by Andy Massingham, are faced with coping with the sudden death of their mother.  She was killed in a bizarre accident at a Pride Parade – one of the surprises I won’t give away.  They have to deal with long-buried resentments, sibling rivalry and what to do about their “other brother” Enzo, another surprise.

These two are very good actors and are well matched. John Ng’s Hamilton, almost always appearing in a suit, is an uptight architect whose wife is about to leave him.  Andy Massingham’s Kyle is more of a free spirit whose current boyfriend is a sex worker.  They bump heads over the obituary and Kyle’s proposal to have their Mother’s visitation catered.  Andy Massingham’s impeccable comic timing is on display in a hilarious scene at the visitation.  Each actor at times dons white gloves and gives us poignant and funny glimpses of their Mother, Bunny. (Continue reading » )

Tough! A solid and enjoyable production

Reviewed by on    Theatre Schools / University Theatre  

When George F. Walker wrote his 1993 play about three 19-year-olds battling a life stacked against them, he imbued it with passion, anger, intelligence and a hedged faith in the future. This Algonquin College Theatre Arts production does all those elements proud.

Set in a garbage-strewn inner city park (design by Attila Clemann), the play focuses on sharp-tongued Tina (Cynthia Guard) and her perpetually befuddled, self-absorbed boyfriend Bobby (Mitchel Johnson). She’s pregnant, he’s the father, and neither one is exactly ecstatic over the situation.

The difference between the two: Tina has the smarts and self-awareness to make the best of a bad deal whereas Bobby – self-pitying but with a sensitivity and a vague desire for a better life that appeal to Tina – falls apart anytime anyone looks at him sideways.

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Tough: George Walker’s battle of the sexes becomes electrifying theatre

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

George Walker’s Tough, presented by the students of the Algonquin College Theatre Arts programme was an impressive evening that allowed three talented young people, under the excellent direction of Mary Ellis, to bring extremely sensitive performances to the stage! Originally produced in Vancouver but written in 1992, Tough involves  Tina and her 19 year old boyfriend Bobby, who are in the middle of an energetic confrontation in a playground littered with garbage. The set emphasizes the confusion and material difficulties of these individuals. Tina is accompanied by her tough talking and aggressive girlfriend Jill and together, both women verbally assault Bobby, always controlling their tempers so they won’t go completely overboard and “kill” him. They bully the young man, accuse him of being a coward, a wimp and a cheat, while Bobby, appearing to be in fragile health, tries to defend himself. As we quickly learn , he did have a moment of indiscretion with another girl at a party that set off the fight but the discussion takes on a new urgency when we learn that Tina is pregnant and she is hoping Bobby will react in a kinder more responsible way.

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Best Brothers: A clean fluid production that is rewarding and lucid.

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre  

best2DSC_0022(1) Photo by Barb Gray.  John Ng and Andy Massingham.

Enzo is a dog who makes his presence felt. He destroys a $250,000 kitchen. He attends to female dogs with joyous enthusiasm. He teaches, through sheer dint of being a canine, his human owners much about clarity, simplicity, open-heartedness.

Thing is, we never see this Italian greyhound. But then Daniel MacIvor’s The Best Brothers, in a rewarding and lucid production at GCTC, is, in part, about what we don’t  see[…]

Suit-and-tie-wearing Hamilton (John Ng) is the elder brother. An architect who knows more about designing the world than living in it, he speaks in perpetually clamped-down fashion, as though words, which if let off their leash could lead to the articulation of deeper things, are the enemy.

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