October, 2015

Flare Path at the OLT: More Fizzle Than Flare

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo:  Maria Vartanova

War dwarfs personal relationships. Set against the sense of duty to country, an extra-marital affair seems “tiny and rather cheap,” says the woman at the centre of the love triangle in Terrence Rattigan’s Flare Path. This is particularly so when her husband is a serving RAF officer, risking his life on every bombing mission, and her lover is an aging matinee idol.

Rattigan wrote the 1942 drama while he was an air gunner, flying Coastal Command during the Second World War. Thus, stiff-upper-lip dialogue that makes light of the constant danger, through jolly, matter-of-fact conversations and silly nicknames for the flyers rings true. So does the sense of dread hanging over the women who are left behind. One drinks and pretends not to worry. A second is irritable and withdrawn. The third struggles with her moral dilemma between passion and duty, trying to decide whether her husband or her lover has the greater need of her.

The emotional restraint of most of the characters in Flare Path, reflected in the understatements in the text, can and should heighten the emotional connection and anguish with the threat of death always at hand.

Sadly, the insipid Ottawa Little Theatre production does not do this. Instead, as directed by Klaas van Weringh, the emotion is so suppressed that the result is frequently awkwardness as two characters preserve their distance from each other and keep their voices level. The latter may be partly an attempt to maintain the appropriate accents, but much of the time it seems to be at the director’s behest.

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Jake’s Gift: A gift to the audience at the GCTC

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

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Photo:  Tim Matheson

Grumpy old man meets charming, precocious 10 year old girl. The two strike up an unlikely friendship. Girl, generally sunny but with a sensitive side, helps man deal with a burden from his past. Man enriches girl’s life. Each goes their separate way.

In the hands of a lesser artist, such a tale could be twee and trite. In the hands of playwright/actor Julia Mackey, it’s rich, true and deeply moving, a solo show that runs just 65 minutes but leaves you replete, wanting neither more nor less of the gift you’ve been handed.

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Theatre Criticism in the Changing Digital World. Theatre Department, U of Ottawa. OPEN DISCUSSION….all are welcome.

News from Capital Critics Circle

Today theatre criticism faces many challenges: in the era of open internet writing the practice of theatre criticism in Canada and worldwide is rapidly changing. It becomes more experimental, reflecting the style of journalistic blogosphere not mainstream criticism currently published in official newspapers and magazines. Who is a true benefactor of such criticism – is it general public,  theatre companies, individual artists, or writers/bloggers/critics themselves, who often use digital writing to express their personal opinion in public, often not in the forms of professional theatre criticism but as self-promotion? 

TIME AND LOCATION / HEURE ET LIEU

November 20, 2015, 11:30am to 1p.m. ; Room 310 / Le 20 novembre 2015, de 11h30 à 13h, local 310.

Theatre department at the University of Ottawa/Département d’Études théâtrales, U d’Ottawa. .

Participants:

•             Patrick Langston (The Ottawa Citizen)

•             Brianna McFarlane (New Ottawa Critics, an association of emerging theatre journalists)

•             Kat Fournier (Capital Critics Circle)

(This debate will be in English.)

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Newsies: A Visual Powerhouse.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo: Deen Van Meer

The hottest news about Newsies is the excellent choreography and terrific dancing, closely followed by the striking high-tech design enabling fluid set changes that become part of the action.

The 2011 musical, based on a 1992 Disney movie — and, according to the program, inspired by the book Children of the City by David Nasaw — is a romanticized version of the 1899 newsboys’ strike against the papers owned by Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. The poverty-stricken boys were forced to buy the newspapers they then hawked around the streets of New York City. When Pulitzer and Hearst hiked the price to the newsies, they could not make anything approaching a living wage. Their strike, which included forming a human barrier across Brooklyn Bridge, eventually forced the newspaper tycoons to back down and is credited with laying some of the groundwork for future unionization of labour.

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Newsies Shines in Southam Hall.

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Ottawa Citizen, Octobert 28, 2015   Photo. Deen Van Meer.

Newsies shines in Southam Hall.

 

Maybe Ontario’s disgruntled public school teachers should take up dance. It sure helps the put-upon workers in Newsies express their collective will when battling their dastardly overlord.

Mind you, the teachers would have to log a few hours of practice to be as nimble and emotive as these dancers. Splendidly choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, the newsies – those young, persistent men who once hawked newspapers on the mean streets of many cities – leap, flip and tap their way through some terrific routines as they tangle with Joseph Pulitzer, the heartless publisher of the New York World.

Pulitzer, faced with declining circulation and pushed by his own greed, has decided to up the price he charges to the newsies who must buy each paper they sell. Already living somewhere well short of the luxurious, the lads rally behind fellow newsboy Jack Kelly (played with cocky charisma and fine voice by Joey Barreiro) when he decides enough is enough and leads his comrades in a boisterous and risky walkout. Pulitzer has not only money but the force of law and municipal politics on his side. Fortunately, Kelly has the force of his own moral rectitude, not to mention slowly evolving social perspectives on the shame of child labour, behind him.

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Tomson Highway Wins 2015 Herbert Whittaker-CTCA Award: Cree Playwright Honoured For Distinguished Contribution to Canadian Theatre

News from Capital Critics Circle

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Tomson Highway, 2009 file photo “Northern Life.ca”. 

http://www.tomsonhighway.com/biography.html

Tomson Highway, playwright, musician, novelist and former artistic director of Native Earth Performing Arts, has been chosen as the winner of the 2015 Herbert Whittaker-CTCA Award. The award, which is given by the Canadian Theatre Critics Association, honours individuals for their outstanding long-term contributions to Canadian theatre.

Named after the distinguished Canadian theatre critic and author Herbert Whittaker (1910-2006), the award has been given out since 1975. Past winners have included playwrights Judith Thompson and George F. Walker, Shaw Festival artistic director Jackie Maxwell, director Robert Lepage and puppeteer Ronnie Burkett.

“Oh deer!” responded Highway by email when he learned he had won. He then hastened to add: “You have to understand that I do come from a hunting and gathering society.”

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Saturday Night/Sunday Morning: The Second World War as Experienced by Southern African-American Women.

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

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Photo: Glenn Perry.

Boston’s Lyric Stage is presenting Saturday Night/Sunday Morning which takes place in a Black neighborhood in Memphis during the final days of World War II. More specifically, the plot unfolds in a combination beauty parlor/boarding house for women owned by Miss Mary (Jasmine Rush), the play’s matriarch.

Men, with the exception of the postman (Keith Mascoll) and Bobby, a fantasy lover (Omar Robinson), are absent from the play, but not from the women’s minds. They await husbands and boyfriends whom they have not heard from in four years. The dramatist gives illiteracy as the reason. However, it is more a plot device than a sociological fact, since illiteracy among African Americans in the 1940s was roughly 10%, not the 90% found in Saturday/Night Sunday Morning.

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Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God at NAC Falls Flat.

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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Photo: NAC English Theatre 

The English Theatre at the NAC has opened their season with a production of “The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God,” written and directed by Djanet Sears. It’s the story of Rainey, a doctor, her husband Michael, a preacher, and her elderly father Ben. “Adventures . . .” deals with Rainey’s inability to accept her daughter’s death and Ben’s attempts to uphold the town’s black history.

We who live near the US/Canada border and go back and forth often tend to think of ourselves as pretty similar. However sometimes there are striking differences in cross-border sensibilities. One example is Newfie humor – Americans just don’t get it. The subject matter of this play is another. Americans have been seeing plays about race relations and black history since the 1970s, for example August Wilson’s brilliant “Century Cycle,” ten plays that chart the African-American experience throughout the 20th century. There’s also Alvin Ailey’s iconic piece “Revelations,” choreographed in 1960. In “Adventures . . .,” the cast marches to protest graffiti on their church wall. In the US Deep South, black churches are burned down. All this contributes to my viewpoint that “Adventures . . .” says nothing new.

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Adventures of a Black Girl: a fascinating retelling of Black Canadian History that feeds off the multiple elements of oral performance.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: NAC English Theatre.

This exciting coproduction of the NAC English Theatre/Centaur Theatre Company in association with the Montreal Black Theatre Workshop plunges us into a world where   choreographed singing bodies take over the stage and fill the space with a retelling of Black Canadian history.  Filtering the  main moments  into rituals of death fused with  Judeo-Christian and African origin, playwright and director  Djanet Sears has created an all-encompassing performance locating   the characters squarely in Canada but she creates an exciting dialectic by  correcting the ignorance the misconceptions, and the prejudices that  tainted white perceptions of  Black history in this country.

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THe Adventures of a Black Girl: an ambitious but unsatisfying struggle

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

 

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Photo: Black Theatre Workshop

The struggle to find and hold onto that hope, love and faith impels the action and characters of Adventures, an ambitious and, in the production that opens the new NAC English Theatre season, ultimately unsatisfying show that blends drama and comedy with song and movement, the ever-present spectre of death amid the bloom of life, and the story of a family and its community.

  • The play (its name comes from a George Bernard Shaw short story) premiered in 2002, launching Toronto’s black Obsidian Theatre company. It was then picked up for several months by Mirvish Productions. The current revival, directed by Sears as was the première, played Montreal’s Centaur Theatre before coming to the NAC.

    With its cast of 22, the play is set in a 200-year-old black community in southern Ontario. At its heart are Rainey, a young black woman played by Lucinda Davis, and her aging father Abendigo.

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