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

New and emerging artists showcase a medley of theatrical concepts at Fresh Meat 4

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre  


Ottawa’s Fresh Meat festival leads audiences through an evening of raw, risky and experimental theatre from new and emerging theatre artists. Over two weekends, and featuring two entirely distinct programs, this showcase of roughly twenty-minute trial by fire shows brings creativity to the foreground. Above all else, this is a testing ground for the next generation of artists.

Fresh Meat provides a rare opportunity for theatre markers. It is what a “staged reading” might be for non-text based theatre. And just like at a staged reading, while the shows may lack technical polish, they bring plenty of inspiration. From performances based off of found text, to poetic soundscapes, and even entirely improvised plays, Fresh Meat 4 is all about artistic variety.

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Next to Normal: Indie Women productions triumphs at Centrepoint!!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,


Photo: Mike Heffernan.  Skye MacDiarmid, Derek Eyamie, Jeremy Sanders.

Singer-actress Skye MacDiarmid, repeats her amazing portrayal as Diana, a bipolar mother suffering from a combination of affective disorders including depression and PTSD as the result of the early death of her son Gabe. MacDiarmid again takes over the stage this time in the Centrepoint studio, just as she did last year at the Gladstone theatre. Her strong acting skills, her dramatic voice, and her immediate burst of talent carries us off to a realm of theatre that makes the reality of the situation much easier to watch. The script is down to earth, the characters are down to earth, and we find great strength in watching this family drama, as it unfolds around a subject matter that is not easy to watch but that keeps us deeply involved.

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Menopause The Musical: A funny production celebrating the changes in life

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region.  

Janet Martin (Iowa Housewife), Nicole Robert (Earth Mother), Jayne Lewis (Soap Star), Michelle E. White (Professional Woman)

Janet Martin (Iowa Housewife), Nicole Robert (Earth Mother), Jayne Lewis (Soap Star), Michelle E. White (Professional Woman)

“Good evening, ladies. And you too, sir.”

The producer’s introduction acknowledges the target audience and underlines that the connection with Menopause The Musical is through common experience — past, present or anticipated. (For the record, there were four men in the capacity audience on the evening that I saw the award-winning show and they were laughing almost as hard as the rest.)

Menopause The Musical by Jeanie Linders premiered in 2001, and, according to the show’s official website, some 11 million people — mainly women, often of that certain age — have laughed their way through the 90 minutes celebrating the change of life, courtesy of the four types representing them all: a professional woman, a star of daytime TV, an ex-hippie and a small-town housewife.

The action begins at the lingerie sale counter in Bloomingdale’s department store in New York. The four women — never named to emphasize the universality of hot flashes, memory glitches, weight gain, frequent bathroom visits, mood swings and so on — sing about their menopausal experiences with melodies borrowed from the pop charts of the 1960s and 70s.

So, songs such as Puff, the Magic Dragon becomes Puff, My God, I’m Dragging and My Guy becomes My Thighs, as the housewife bemoans the heftiness of her nether regions. To the tune of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, we hear that “In a guest room, on the sofa, my husband sleeps at night.” Meanwhile, The Great Pretender is the vehicle for explaining the handling of forgetfulness. The clever parodies are very funny and the familiarity of the pop melodies increases the humour quotient at every well-orchestrated and well-choreographed turn and through each smooth scene change. (Continue reading » )

Love, Valor, Compassion – Toto Too Theatre Does Itself Proud

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

LoveValourCompassion-2773 (photo-Allan Mackey)

Photo:Allan Mackey

There was one unfortunate aspect to TotoToo Theatre’s recent production of Love! Valour! Compassion!

It deserved a longer run. Although focusing on the lives of eight gay men over three holiday weekends at an Eastern seaboard farmhouse, Terrence McNally’s award-winning play touches on universal truths that can resonate with a broad cross-section of theatregoers. That certainly happened on Broadway where it left many audience members in tears. And it was also a virtue of Chantale Plante’s sensitive, discerning production at Academic Hall.

McNally, whose output also includes the book for the hit musical, Ragtime, and Frankie And Johnny In The Clair de Lune, is a seminal figure in late 20th Century American theatre — a gay playwright who has managed to avoid ghettoization despite dealing with subject matter, that in earlier generations, and in a different cultural climate, deterred dramatists like Tennessee Williams and William Inge from confronting matters of sexuality to the degree that McNally does.

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Opera Lyra closes the curtain! The end of an era in Ottawa.

Reviewed by on    Arts News  

Rosemary Thompson.  14 octobre 2015 – OTTAWA (Canada) – C’est avec une grande tristesse que le Centre national des Arts a appris aujourd’hui la cessation des activités d’Opéra Lyra. Le CNA travaillait depuis plus de 20 ans en étroite collaboration avec la compagnie, qui s’était fièrement acquis la réputation de présenter d’excellentes productions dans la région de la capitale nationale.

« Pendant de nombreuses années, Opéra Lyra a connu des succès artistiques, particulièrement sous le leadership de son directeur général actuel, John Peter (Jeep) Jeffries. L’organisation a formé de nombreux jeunes chanteurs qui ont accédé à la scène internationale, et a connu certains succès au chapitre des ventes, en particulier avec la production de Carmen en 2013 », a déclaré Christopher Deacon, directeur administratif de l’Orchestre du CNA. «Nous savons toute l’ardeur qu’ont mis la direction et le conseil d’administration d’Opéra Lyra à maintenir la compagnie sur les rails. C’est un jour extrêmement triste pour les arts de la scène à Ottawa. »

Les clients qui

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“Love! Valour! Compassion! A fine ensemble production that is moving, amusing and brings one close to tears!

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre  

LoveValourCompassion-2773 (photo-Allan Mackey)

Photo: Allan Mackey

It is not surprising that a thread of anger runs through Love! Valour! Compassion! given that Terrence McNally’s award-winning play had its première in 1994. This was a time when the scourge of AIDs was felling many, primarily homosexual men, and being HIV positive was a death sentence.

Buzz and James, two of the eight characters in Love! Valour! Compassion!, are near death. By contrast, long-time couple Arthur and Perry have escaped AIDs and mark their fourteenth anniversary together in physical health, as they repair the health of their relationship. Meanwhile, aging choreographer Gregory must come to terms with his inability to dance as he once could and deal with a recurring speech impediment. His balance is restored when he is with his young partner, Bobby, who is blind but undaunted by his disability. Another regular member of the group that meets at Gregory’s home is the angry and bitter John. With him is Ramon — handsome, virile, passionate and promiscuous — the catalyst who upsets the equilibrium the rest have achieved over the years.

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Trisha Brown Dance Company: as fresh and contemporary as ever.

Reviewed by on    Dance  


Photo: NAC    Set and Reset from the Trisha Brown Dance Company

Ottawa audiences were treated to an exclusive Canadian engagement by the Trisha Brown Dance Company, presenting some of choreographer Trisha Brown’s seminal experiments in postmodern dance performance. Trisha Brown began creating work in 1960 and she formed her Dance Company in 1970 so the four short works we saw, ranging over a period of 28 years, from 1983 to 2011, actually represented important moments of most of her creative career. What stood out was the way they all spoke to each other, all echoing elements that appeared in each of the other performances, each one appearing so fresh, and contemporary, without the slightest hint that anything was dated or past its time. This form of dance-performance gives one the impression that her work represents  a constant process of intense research as it tries to position itself in relation to that which already exists but that is somehow insufficient and even stifling and has to be overcome.

. Take If You Couldn’t See Me, featuring a single dancer who faces upstage the whole time. Dressed in a flimsy orange dress that glowed in those strong lights, she kept finding positions that foregrounded her arms, her legs, her hips, her shoulders until one suddenly realized that this performance was in the process of changing the spectators gaze. We are watching a body with no face, no eyes, no expression, no emotion and no psychological points of reference. It erases the narrative totally, covers the head in brown hair and deflects our gaze to the back of the body. What dancer has ever had to dance from that perspective before? We watch the creation of a new dancing body, .one that performs from the back using its shoulders, its feet, its heels, its buttocks and the fluttering skirt, …and Robert Rauschenberg’s lighting and costumes helped transform this flittering bit of sparkling orange light into a new moving being… Enchanting!

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The Norman Conquests: A Historic Moment of Back to Back Theatre in Ottawa.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,


Photo: Julie Le Gal : Table Manners with David Whiteley, Margo MacDonald, Steve Martin.  (Apartment 613)

Robert Lepage’s (Les Sept Branches de la Rivière Ota) in Quebec city lasted six hours; the Belgian production Rwanda 94, at the Festival TransAmérique in Montreal went beyond 6 hours . These were both in French. In English Canada, such an event is almost unheard of and yet such a production has come to the Gladstone Theatre in Ottawa. Director John P. Kelly, is staging British author Alan Ayckbourn’s trilogy The Norman Conquests, based on a weekend in a middle class household in the British countryside where a family has come together because their aging mother is ill. Each of the 2 hour episodes which continue through the whole weekend, takes place at the same time but in a different room of the house, so the perspectives change and the audience is privy to different reactions and additional information which add depth and detail to this microcosm of British society that unfolds before our eyes. Thus, a great theatrical moment awaits you. Bring a sandwich and a drink and settle in.

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The Norman Conquests: Round and Round the Garden an absolute treat packaged in a good laugh

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region.  

AL Connors as Norman and Margo MacDonald as Sarah Photo by David Whiteley

AL Connors as Norman and Margo MacDonald as Sarah
Photo by David Whiteley

The Norman Conquests is a trilogy. It takes place in a family house in the British countryside, where Annie lives with her invalid mother. She plans to spend a weekend with her sister’s (Ruth) husband, Norman, in a hotel. Everything is set. Her admirer and neighbour Tom believes that she is to go alone, but actually wants him to come with her and Annie’s brother Reg and his wife Sara come to stay with their mother for that weekend. However, somehow things come askew, and they all  end up spending the weekend together as Annie’s guests. 

In the third part of The Norman Conquests, Round and Round the Garden, Ayckbourn still deals with the same domestic issues as in the previous two (Table Manners and Living Together). The characters are the same and it is the same weekend, but while Table Manners takes place in the dining room and Living Together in the living room, Round and Round the Garden is set in the garden. With the last part of the trilogy performed, this outstanding play wraps up in a meaningful way as a combination of a comedy of manners, domestic turmoil and above all, a fantastic character study.

Although comedy might seem to be a lighter genre of drama because of its humorous approach to reality, it is probably the hardest one to pull off. Because it is so easy to go overboard and make it a clownish non-artistic performance, it demands a huge amount of talent and innate sense of balance.     (Continue reading » )

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