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

Rocky Horror Show: The Cult Musical Comes to Ottawa

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

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Photo Allan Mackey. Centre stage Tim Oberholzer as Frank’n Furter..

When Tim Oberholzer leaves Ottawa later this year, we will have lost one of our most versatile actors. No one but Tim could play Dr. Frank’n Furter, the snarling, emoting, transvestite glamrock vampire , the ultimate genderbender body that moves like a sinewy snake, that sings like David Bowie and draws the eye towards his/her person in spite of the overwhelming crowd of girating sexy creatures with flashy wigs, stripped down costumes and timeless lyrics. The music of Richard O’Brien is of course one of the backbones of this show. .

Very skilfully directed by Stewart Matthews who made it all look painless and so utterly high class in spite of the limited material means which were at times rather obvious, the show bounced along at a fabulous pace, carried by the voices and excellent acting by the main characters:

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The Hairy Ape:

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

The Hairy Ape Louis Lemire Donnie Laflamme

Photo: Glen McIntosh.  Louis Lemire and Donnie Laflamme.

Eugene O’Neil’s The Hairy Ape, written in 1921, appears extremely modern with its discussion, in Act II, about labour unions, the exploitation of the working class and the suppression of left wing discourses foretelling the Joseph McCarthy era even though the play appeared long before that communist scare decimated the artistic community in the USA. It even foretells the highly stylized visual techniques Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, created later in 1927, where the exhausted workers are transformed into automats as they stoke the engines of the Commercial liner in the first scenes of the play. Constructivist stage structures meet an expressionist atmosphere as the setting reflects the frustration, the anger and even the rage of the men toiling in the bowels of that huge commercial liner.

Director Lisa Zanyk has choreographed moments of the play that take us back to those episodes of silent film the dirty working body is fore grounded against the gentile dainty creatures of the upper classes who mimes as much as she talks, when she comes to see those men as “filthy beasts”. Thus Yank, the principal protagonist in this dramatic comedy, sinks deeper and deeper into his raging depths, coming close to his primitive origins as he feels more and more alienated from New York Society and those whom he assumes are making fun of him.

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City of Angels: A Musical Send-up of Film Noir

Reviewed by on    Musical Theatre, Professional Theatre  

Phil Tayler, Leigh Barrett 

Photo: Mark S. Howard.

City of Angels, currently playing at Boston’s Lyric Stage explores the limits of meta-. This musical is meta-theatrical, meta-cinematic, and meta-literary. Its intricate tale takes place in two worlds, the real and the “reel” or movieland during the 1940s. There are plots and subplots galore which, along with flashbacks, can confuse. The tone is intended to be parodic.

Stine (Phil Tayler), a detective story writer, is in the throes of adapting one of his novels as a film noir to be directed and produced by the egocentric, implacable, and manipulative Buddy Fidler (J. T. Turner). Stine struggles with the script, which is enacted before the audience as he writes. When he makes a change, the film’s actors, all of whom are dressed in black and white, begin the scene again. Stine’s constant rewrites are the result of his inability to please Fidler. Stine wants to express his social conscience; Fidler demands a hit.

Stone (Ed Hoopman) is the tough private eye of Stine’s opus and his alter ego. While Tayler plays Stine as something of a nerd, Hoopman is attractive and vibrant. All the other actors perform two characters. Although one is “realistic” and the other filmic, both of the characters share similarities. As for example: Leigh Barrett plays Stone’s hard-bitten secretary as if she had wandered out of The Maltese Falcoln and, as Buddy Fidler’s ironic girl Friday falls in love with Stine. Samantha Richert, Fidler’s sexy wife is also Alaura Kingsley, the “femme fatale” of the film noir.

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Take Me Back to Jefferson: Theatre Smith-Gilmour puts on a highly enjoyably production

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Photo: Katherine Fleitas

Photo: Katherine Fleitas

William Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying is a complex work of fiction. Part tragi-comedy, part scathing critique of American society, and a large part philosophy, the story is told in 59 chapters through no less than 15 characters, mostly through internal monologue. I consider myself a fairly open-minded person, but if you were to tell me that you wanted to stage this as a play told through mostly physical actions, I would likely send you to the nearest doctor. Therefore, it was with trepidation that I sat to watch Theatre Smith-Gilmour’s adaptation, Take Me Back to Jefferson. Luckily for me, I was in for a very pleasant surprise. While not flawless, the production grapples masterfully with the source material and shows an understanding of its own medium and strength that could enrich the story that is rare to see.

As the play begins, Addie Bunden (Michele Smith) lays dying in her bedroom on the family farm in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County. Her carpenter son, Cash (Dan Watson), nosily building her coffin in the near vicinity. When she dies, the entire family – daughter Dewy Dell (Nina Gilmour); sons Cash, Darl (Julian de Zotti), and Jewel (Ben Muir); and husband Anse (Dean Gilmour) – set out in the family wagon to honour her death wish, to be buried in her home town of Jefferson. The family is confronted with almost every piece of bad luck possible on the nine-day journey, but they persevere, some out of a duty to their mother, but most for their own, not so considerate reasons.  (Continue reading » )

Take Me Back To Jefferson: More Show-Off Than Substance

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre  

DSC_0097 Photo: Barb Gray

Dean Gilmour as Anse, the patriarch of the family

The youth is engaged in a battle of wills with the unruly horse that he loves. And he seems to be straining every muscle as he’s thrown about the stage and into the air by the whiplash resistance of his steed. But, of course, there’s no animal on the stage of the NAC Theatre — except in our imagination.

However, we do have a determined young actor named Ben Muir in the role of Jewel, the fierce and haunted bastard son who is perhaps the most compelling character in Take Me Back To Jefferson — the title lately bestowed by Theatre Smith-Gilmour on its 2013 adaptation of William Faulkner’s great novel, As I Lay Dying.

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Take Me Back to Jefferson -Faulkner Lives at the NAC

Reviewed by on    Photo by Barb Gray, Professional Theatre  

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Photo: Barb Gray.

“Take Me Back to Jefferson” adapted by Michele Smith and Dean Gilmour from William Faulkner’s novel “As I Lay Dying” gradually draws one in and becomes mesmerizing. Played on a bare stage with minimal props, the cast of seven brings to life Faulkner’s gothic tale of a dirt-poor Mississippi family’s odyssey to bury their matriarch Addie in her old home.

This is true ensemble theatre and all the actors are both strong and physically accomplished. The patriarch Anse is powerfully played by Dean Gilmour with the slippery ease of an unconscious natural con man and terrific body language. His oldest son Cash, (Dan Watson), provides his own vocal sound effects as he builds his mother’s coffin, and we come to believe we see it. Next in line Darl, (Julian De Zotti), holds himself in tight control till he finally snaps. Jewel, (Ben Muir), gives a remarkable performance with his beloved horse as he becomes not only the rider but also the horse.

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Kanata’s The Lion in Winter: A Waste of Time?

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre  

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Photo: Wendy Wagner.

It’s astonishing that James Goldman’s The Lion In Winter continues to be revived. It may have seemed trendy and innovative half a century ago, but this fanciful attempt to use the turbulent 12th Century household of England’s Henry ll as some kind of metaphor for a 20th Century dysfunctional American family now seems trite and unfulfilling.

Director Jim Holmes has delivered many outstanding productions for Kanata Theatre over the years, but his affection for this play seems misplaced. His production does move smoothly, supplying some balance between character and situation and seeking a solid dramatic heft for the material’s climactic moments. But there’s only so much that even a good director can do with a script that suffers from an apparent mood disorder and revels in its own anachronisms — be they the resolutely modern colloquialisms or the presence of a Christmas tree in Henry’s French castle.

Goldman, younger brother of novelist and screenwriter William Goldman, no doubt took delight in all the snappy one-liners which he concocted — for example, the king’s estranged wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine mischievously observing that she and Henry shattered all the commandments during their first erotic encounter — but much of it seems pretty sophomoric now. The Monty Python crowd and the creators of BlackAdder also sought to glean laughs from bringing a 20th Century sensibility to historical events — but their subversive humour cut deeper and their social and political parallels were more successfully realized.

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