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

Thomas Ostermeier’s Richard III is a loveable, evil monster.

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre  

Yana Meerzon reviewing from the International Shakespeare Theatre Festival in Craiova, Romania. Richard III is  the opening feature of the XV edition of the Europe Theatre Prize held in that city.



Lars Eidinger as Hamlet. Photo:
Arno Declair.

Richard III is one of the most famous villains of the Shakespearean canon and thus it would appear that any interpretation other than that of a manipulator of people’s emotions, a cunning and purely evil  murderer  or a monster obsessed with power, would not be possible.  Yet, German director Thomas Ostermeier  who often finds exciting ways to think through the classics, takes such an unexpected turn here . His Richard is someone who can be likeable, charming, open, and simple in his own evil ways. Pretense is the rule by which Ostermeier’s Richard lives; he even becomes a victim, someone with whom we can sympathize.

Although  opposing a long-standing  tradition is a difficult task,  Ostermieier does not shy away from  having his  his leading actor  project good in the evil of  his character. 

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Janet Wilson Meets the Queen: Performances outstrip the text.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

A feel-good title and a few members of the audience wearing white gloves and other accoutrements in preparation for a royal meeting give the impression that Janet Wilson Meets the Queen is going to be light and fluffy.

In fact, this world premiere by Beverley Cooper is a depressing look at one woman’s sad little life. Set in Vancouver in the late 1960s, at a time of massive change around the world, Janet Wilson continues with her mundane routine surrounded by her surly teenage daughter and grumpy mother, while trying to cope with her frequently absent unfaithful husband and her American draft-dodging nephew. Also thrown into the cluttered mix are news of Janet’s wife-abusing brother-in-law and a view of her daughter’s sexual experiment with a pencil, plus having Neil Armstrong in spacesuit dropping into her kitchen. Only the thought that, as the representative of the local IODE chapter, Janet is to present a bouquet to the Queen helps her to maintain her equilibrium.

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GCTC’s Janet Wilson meets the Queen a workmanlike effort

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre  


Photo: Andrew Alexander  

Few things are more distressing in a theatre reviewer’s daily round than a show that excites neither wild praise nor outright condemnation. When a play is “OK” — to wit, Beverley Cooper’s Janet Wilson Meets the Queen now making its world premiere at the Great Canadian Theatre Company — it’s tough to know what to say about it.

This show should have traction. As we know from Innocence Lost: A Play About Steven Truscott  that played the NAC in 2013, Cooper can write in an empathetic, trenchant style as she confronts complex social issues through compelling characters.

In the case of Janet Wilson Meets the Queen, both the characters (all confronting their own, intertwined crises) and the issues (they are multiple) kind of resonate, but not really.

Janet (an appropriately stiff-limbed Marion Day) is a late-1960s Vancouver housewife whose chipper manner and fixed smile cover a growing anxiety as the world shifts beneath her knitted-slipper clad feet.

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The Sound of Music: Maria Connects but tempered voices are tedious

Reviewed by on    Uncategorized   ,

If you’re a nun suffering from insomnia, just book a berth in the cavernous abbey depicted in this production of The Sound of Music. The place is so immensely boring, so circumscribed by tempered voices and looming, dark spaces, that you’ll be snoozing in seconds.

In fact, one suspects that the real reason Maria abandons a career in a wimple for life with the von Trapps is to avoid death by tedium.

You already know the storyline of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s famous musical — Maria Rainer, a postulant at an Austrian abbey in the dark days of the advancing Third Reich, takes a temporary job as a governess with the von Trapp family, falls in love with the adorable but emotionally undernourished children and their rule-loving widower father Captain Georg von Trapp, teaches them all to sing again, marries the captain, and flees the Nazis with her new family.

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Reading at the Acting Company Studio :Judith Thompson’s work comes to Ottawa

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre  

a reading, of Judith Thompson’s award winning play
featuring: Mary Ellis, Chris Ralph & Norah Paton

directed by Laurie Fyffe

WHERE: Acting Company Studio
WHEN: Saturday, May 7, 2016
TIME: 7:30 PM
Admission: PWYC – suggested minimum $10.
This is a Canadian Actors’ Equity Association Production, under the Artists’ Collective Policy. 
All proceeds will go toward the Knox Church Refugee Sponsorship Fund to support a refugee family from Aleppo, Syria.
Such is the power of Thompson’s talent that even the chest-thumping newshounds who see the show may find themselves recalling that the earliest reports of man’s inhumanity to man took the form of poems, recited beside a crashing sea. – The New Yorker
Compelling, often shocking, riveting. – The Associated Press
Powerful! Three pitch-perfect …scalding monologues.” – The New York Times
Winner of the 2008 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize
Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New play, 2008
Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award, 2009

Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia Still a Funny Clever Think Piece

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage  

Thomasina and Septimus2

Photo: A.R. Sinclair.

The Nora Theatre Company and the Catalyst Collaborative at MIT are presenting Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia (the 1993 Critics’ Circle Award winner) at the Central Square Theatre in Cambridge. MIT and the company collaborate yearly to bring plays to the public which promote a greater understanding of science, technology, and theatre.

Arcadia, like other plays in Tom Stoppard’s considerable oeuvre is primarily a comedy, dealing with intellectual topics in witty, stylish language. This play has a little magical realism thrown in for good measure. As is often the case with Stoppard, it is difficult, but entertaining to untangle the plot. Science, math, poetry, landscaping, history are the scholarly issues covered. Although you can enjoy the show without much comprehension of chaos theory, you might want to prepare by checking it out.

Arcadia takes place in two time periods, 1809-1812 and the present, in a room at Sidley Park, a luxurious British country house. In the first story, it is used as the school room for the inquisitive Thomasina Coverly a precocious mathematician and scientist, studying with Septimus Hodge, her brilliant tutor. However, Thomasina has a breadth of vision and imagination well beyond Septimus’s that allows her to reject Newtonian free will and grasp determinism as a result of stirring jam in her rice pudding.

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887 : Memory and history coincide in Lepage’s intimate portrait of Quebec! A Winner!!

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage, Theatre in Canada, Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Michèle lalonde reads her poem Speak White in 1970 …scrole down on the Quebec site.

Lets begin at the end! Alone on a darkened stage as the lights are dimming, Robert Lepage reaches the end of his emotional journey into the past. What am I doing here he asks us in his own voice? I have been asked to “remember”, but “remember what?” and his tone becomes angrier and more aggressive and he roars out a thunderous interpretation of Michele Lalonde’s unforgettable anticolonial poem Speak White. The play ends on this rousing high note but the evening’s journey has been full of personal and collective memories that Lepage has gathered together in a most intimate moment with the audience. That ending was hair-raising and even unexpected, because Lepage usually avoids political discussions so one wonders how he really locates himself in relation to this strong statement given Lepage’s career on the international stage, moving from one country to another as his works evolves according to his vision of theatrical process which imiposes constant changes on the event.

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Bach, Glen Gould and María Muñoz in perfect symbiosis at the National Arts Centre!

Reviewed by on    Dance, Performance Art  

munoz4451-05 15x20

Photo. María Muñoz, courtesy of the NAC

One would not be mistaken if one defined  María Muñoz as a  performance artist as much as a dancer. Her research with her collaborator Pep Ramis in the context of the production company Mal Pelo is clearly determined by the meeting of musical performance, by the creative links between lighting and space as well as by the transformative use of film that locates the dancer’s body on a screen at the back in a new mode of corporeal dialogue with these multiple elements.  Her moving presence on stage is fluid and beautiful to watch. It reveals baroque order juxtaposed with searing emotion, passages of strength and flowing romanticism. It appears to be responding to the rhythms of the allegro, the presto and the andante time signatures of the preludes and the fugues based on Glen Gould’s interpretation of portions of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier integrated into her work. In fact, we almost have the feeling Gould is really in the wings, mumbling over his keyboard as his fingers fly at a phenomenal rate.

It could be the way the dancer anticipates the arrival of a bass note reflecting the specific instrument style that Gould’s playing clearly imposes. During certain pieces, by lifting her hand in short clipped movements, she retrieves gestures of resistance or  gestures of a chef d’orchestre ready to interiorise the whole piano performance and retain the rhythmic and emotional energy of that event. It could also be the moment when the music fades and Muñoz is left on her own in the silence of empty space. Whatever takes place, Muñoz calls up the haunting softness of an ethereal being literally possessed by these multiple forms of expression who speak to each other and propel her body forward on the stage.

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Fun, games, and Woolfish cruelty at The Gladstone

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre  

Edward Albee’s biting social commentary hits its audience with full force in Bear and Co’s production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? directed by Ian Farthing. The dark comedy brings the infamous, unsparing duo of George and Martha to life. This darkly comedic story may be a classic piece of Americana, yet this production brings a fresh interpretation to this evening-gone-wrong. What starts out as a fairly naturalistic set-up quickly spirals into the realm of the psychological. The characters are tossed into an existential mess, fueled by personal stagnation and alcohol, that none of them can leave.

George, a history professor, and his wife Martha, the daughter of the college’s president, return from a party and the barrage of high-brow insults begins even as the play opens. Though it’s already 2 a.m., Martha announces the imminent arrival of two guests. Nick and Honey – a young professor, new to the college, and his wife—are unassuming and out of place in George and Martha’s den of despair. But the volley of cruelty has just begun and Nick and Honey have no idea what they’re up for.

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Under the patronage of the Embassy of Italy, Pellegrini Opera presents Verdi’s Rigoletto

Reviewed by on    Arts News, Opera  

The Capital’s only full-production opera company, Pellegrini Opera, brings its version of “Game of Thrones” to Dominion-Chalmers United Church on Saturday, April 16 at 7:30 pm with its one-time performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto.

The production, under the stellar creative direction of Vincent Thomas, stars internationally acclaimed baritone Jeffrey Carl as Rigoletto, local soprano Susan Elizabeth Brown as Gilda and Gatineau’s Andrzej Stec as the Duke of Mantua.  Kyle McDonald as Sparafucile, the cut throat, and Cassandra Warner as Maddalena, his sister, complete the main cast. Maestro Vito Lo Re, who is based in Milan, Italy, has returned to Ottawa to conduct the Pellegrini Opera Orchestra for the occasion.

This live and fully-costumed production with super titles in both English and French, features all the characteristics of a well-spun story of passion, revenge, espionage and murder where the innocent love of a court jester’s daughter is taken advantage of by the ruthless duke. The jester (Rigoletto) seeks payback but tragedy results in a setting where curses have the ultimate power. Such is the dark world that is Verdi’s masterpiece set further in mystery by Thomas with his intriguing tarot theme.

Advance tickets are available at both Compact Music locations, The Leading Note, Books on Beechwood, and through and range in price from $20 to $40.  Children 12 years of age and under are free. Tickets are also available at the door. Website:

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