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

“So This is Christmas” : Two Different Takes on the Christmas Spirit.

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre  

The two one-act comedies that make up Phoenix Players’ So This is Christmas, deliver two different takes on the spirit of the season.

In Sleeping Indoors by Jim Holt (retired artistic director of City Lights Theatre, Savannah, Georgia), a literary couple takes in a homeless man to provide him with a taste of the warmth of the season. As they learn more about him from his journal, they also learn more about generosity, individuality and his view of the world.

In The Christmas Tree by Norm Foster, two lonely people duel for the last scrawny tree available on Christmas Eve, using tall tales to engender sympathy as the weapon of choice.

The plays are light. The tone is pleasant and the style of presentation is gentle as director Jo-Ann McCabe leads her casts on their exploration of the Christmas season.

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L’Homme de décembre: Texte de Colleen Murphy, mise en scène de Sarah Garton Stanley.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Le 6 décembre 1989, un  homme entre dans un amphithéâtre de l’École polytechnique à l’Université de Montréal, muni  d’un fusil d’assaut, un Ruger Mini-14. Les étudiants sont priés de quitter la salle.  Quelques instants plus tard, les corps de quatorze étudiantes  jonchent  le sol.  La nouvelle se répand rapidement  et le  Canada  tout entier est en  état de choc.  Selon les témoins, le tueur, Marc Lepine, souhaitait se venger de  ces «féministes», qui voulaient occuper les postes  traditionnellement réservés aux  hommes.
Vingt-six ans après, le pays est encore hanté par ce drame et la question persiste.  Comment ne pas se poser des questions sur la manière d’aborder ce sujet-piège dont  les moindres détails de la tuerie tragique sont connus de tous, puisque l’événement fut décortiqué par la presse. Comment  construire un récit, cerner des  personnages, soutenir l’intérêt au-delà d’un voyeurisme réaliste  quand l’auteure refuse d’adopter une perspective historique, ou  d’approfondir la psychologie des acteurs d’un drame déjà trop connu?

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The December Man: Less Than Meets The Eye

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  


Photo: Andrew Alexander

Colleen Murphy’s play, The December Man, comes to the National Arts Centre with its credibility enhanced by a flurry of honours, the most significant of which is a 2007 Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language drama. It is a work of decency and integrity, and in its sensitive but lacerating portrayal of a middle-aged Montreal couple that finds no reason to go on living, it offers two rich acting opportunities.

Those excellent performers, Paul Rainville and Kate Hennig, meet their challenges superbly in this production from NAC’s English theatre. When we first meet them, we’re conscious of the delicate emotional interplay that can come only from the intimacy of a long-term relationship. It’s a dynamic that persists in an opening episode which sees them, carefully dressed for the occasion and with the gas turned on, arranging themselves on the sofa with simple dignity to await their deaths.

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CCC theatre awards for 2014-15.

Reviewed by on    Capital Critics Circle Awards  

Capital Critics Circle announces sixteenth annual theatre awards and adds Tartan award for technical excellence

OTTAWA, November 23, 2015 – The Capital Critics Circle today announced the winners of the sixteenth annual theatre awards for plays presented in English in the National Capital Region during the 2014-2015 season. The winners are:

Best professional production:

Stuff Happens by David Hare, directed by David Ferry, National Arts Centre English Theatre.

Best community theatre production:

Avenue Q, book by Jeff Whitty, music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Mark, directed by Michael Gareau, musical direction by John McGovern, choreography by Alison Szkwarek, Toto Too Theatre.

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Benjamin Britten’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in South Africa

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage  


Photo: Courtesy of the theatre company

Isango Ensemble, the South African opera company, which delighted Boston audiences in 2014 with their lively production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, recently returned to the city. Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was one of two operas – Carmen, the other – that they brought to ArtsEmerson’s Cutler Majestic Theatre. The performers, who hail from South Africa’s townships around Cape Town, perform classical operas that have been reconceived and reculturated. Although all the performers are Black, one of the principal goals of the company is to build a diverse audience representative of a unified, but multi-cultural South Africa. Therefore, since most libretti are written in European languages, the operas are translated into South African tongues with English predominating. Unfortunately, the multiple languages and accented English can make it hard to follow the show. Supertitles would help greatly.

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The December Man, Dont Miss It.

Reviewed by on    NAC english, Professional Theatre  


Photo: Andrew Alexander

We tend to think of the phrases “collateral damage” and “PTSD” only in military terms. “The December Man” by Colleen Murphy that received the Governor General’s literary award for drama, currently running in a terrific production in the NAC Studio, examines them in the context of a university shooting.

In Montreal in 1989, 14 female engineering students were gunned down by a misogynist after he had sent the male students out of the room. Rather than re-tell the grim story of the shooting, the playwright focuses on a male student who was there. He suffers from extreme survivor’s guilt, which has a disastrous effect on his working class parents.

The story is told in reverse chronology and all the production elements work smoothly together to clearly tell this powerful story, beginning with the strong cast. Jean, the student, is believably and remarkably athletically played by Kayvon Kelly. Kate Hennig plays Jean’s mother Kathleen, a devout housewife who dreams of her son’s bright future and has only the church to turn to for help. Benoit, Jean’s father, is played by the always excellent Paul Rainville who finds some nice moments of humor. He paints a moving portrait of an uneducated working man trying desperately to understand and help his troubled son.

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The December Man: A Clear Depiction of Survivor Guilt

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  


Photo: Andrew Alexander

The December 6, 1989 massacre of 14 women — all engineering students at the University of Montreal’s École Polytechnique — was a tragedy with far-reaching proportions.

In her award-winning 2007 drama The December Man, playwright Colleen Murphy shifts the focus away from the murdered women and the mass murderer and on to a fictitious male student, Jean Fournier, and his parents.

Jean is presented as one of the males that murderer Marc LePine separated from the women before his killing spree. Jean’s guilt at living when they died and his remorse at not doing anything to save them destroys him as he succumbs to his survivor guilt. It also devastates his parents — blue-collar workers who had dreamed of their son becoming a successful engineer.

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Anne of Green Gables. The Young Girl from Prince Edward Island Charms Once More.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

casr12279166_954428337936580_1230455766227086717_n Photo. The cast on the Orpheus facebook

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know the story of Anne of Green Gables — the girl who was sent to the Cuthbert household instead of an orphan boy as requested?

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic novel, adapted for the musical stage by Don Harron and Norman Campbell, has been running in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island each summer for the last 50 years.

It was a hit in Ottawa when the Orpheus Musical Theatre Society presented its version in 1999 and it deserves to be a hit once more in the current production, as directed by Joyce Landry with musical direction by Terry Duncan and choreography by Debbie Guilbeault.

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Anne of Green Gables: Orpheus offers a spirited production of this musical adaptation of the novel

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,


Photo courtesy of Orpheus Musical Theatre.

Seems we just can’t get enough of Anne Shirley, that spunky young redhead who packs her overheated imagination and drama queen ways along with her clothes when she moves from a Nova Scotia orphanage to a PEI farm. This time around Anne is portrayed by Caroline Baldwin, and Orpheus couldn’t have asked for a better one in its production of the musical adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s beloved novel. Baldwin’s a skilled vocalist, her delivery easy, full and nuanced. Her acting is on par with her singing: the actress is a woman, but the character we see is a young girl and one who’s endlessly interesting and entertaining as she learns about herself, family and community.

While Baldwin shines in this spirited production, her fellow cast members for the most part aren’t far behind. Gilbert Blythe is played with conviction by Storm Davis who transforms himself into a youngster smitten with Anne and who, while easily cowed, inevitably pops back up for another go at whatever he’s after. Davis needs to let loose more when singing: his vocal constraint works against his ability.

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The December Man: a disturbing drama.

Reviewed by on    NAC english, Professional Theatre  

The shadow cast by great violence is a trap, invisible but as constraining as prison bars. Sentenced to that mental prison, you may find your only escape is self-destruction.

The latter is chosen by Kathleen and Benoît Fournier, the working-class couple in Colleen Murphy’s incisively disturbing drama The December Man (L’homme de décembre).

When we meet them, they appear to be preparing for a big event, perhaps a visit from someone important. They’re carefully dressed. Kathleen (Kate Hennig) has tidied the house and badgers Benoît (Paul Rainville) to clean the glass after he downs a shot of whiskey to calm his nerves. What they’re actually doing is preparing to commit suicide together, having seen their lives shattered some years previously when their only child Jean hung himself. Jean, as we learn, was a survivor of the Montreal Massacre, the 1989 slaughter by Marc Lépine of 14 female engineering students at the École Polytechnique, and guilt drove him to death.

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