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

« Le serviteur de deux maîtres » renouvelle le jeu corporel sans trahir l’esprit de Goldoni. Une très belle soirée dans le parc Strathcona.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,


Photo: Barb Gray.   Zack Counsil (Brighella)  et Jesse Buck (Truffaldino)

La compagnie Odyssey qui fait revivre le théâtre de la Commedia dell’arte au Canada anglophone depuis trente ans, remonte aux sources de la troupe en présentant cette nouvelle version de Le serviteur de deux maîtres de Carlo Goldoni.

L’intrigue et les sous intrigues sont d’une grande complexité. Truffaldino, le serviteur du titre, est au service de Florindo, l’amant de Béatrice, et de Federigo le frère de Béatrice. Tout se complique lorsque nous apprenons que Clairice (la fille de Pantalone) qui aime Silvio (le fils du Docteur Lombardi) est promise à Frederigo , le fiancé décédé depuis longtemps. Celui qui se présente à sa place est sa sœur Beatrice travestie , ce qui ajoute du piquant aux relations tempétueuses qui bouleversent ce microcosme de la société vénitienne. Le tout devient rapidement une accumulation de malentendus, de jeux d’identités, et d’intrigues secrets. Truffaldino qui a juré de respecter l’anonymat de ses deux employeurs, provoquent des rencontres spectaculaires, rocambolesques, chaotiques qui frôlent la farce la plus pure. Le rythme de ces orchestrations physiques qui font courir les serviteurs, les maîtres et tout le personnel de l’hôtel, coupent le souffle, surtout lorsque  Zack Counsil (Brighella) s’envole avec la legerete  d’une plume. Le masque a fait vivre son personnage!  Une belle prestance .

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Sparkling “Into the Woods” at Gananoque’s 1000 Islands Playhouse

Reviewed by on    Musical Theatre, Professional Theatre, summer 2016  



A very good production of the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical “Into the Woods” is running at the 1000 Islands Playhouse. The cast, with a couple of exceptions, is strong and the actors can all handle the complex score. Drew Facey’s set, featuring an upper level walkway, 3 birdcage-like playing areas and, of course, woods, is excellent and his wonderful costumes cleverly fanciful. I loved the Prince’s high-top sneakers. The choreography by Shelly Stewart Hunt is good, especially for the Princes, although I felt it began a bit too early in the opening number and we lost some lyrics. Michelle Ramsay’s lighting is evocative and William Fallon’s sound first-rate and well balanced.

Speaking of sound, Musical Director Stephen Woodjetts has done an expert job with the complex vocals, especially the diction. When the show first opened in New York in 1987, the pit musicians called it “Into the Words.” He’s also done a great arrangement that allows only 5 musicians to convey the flavor and color of the original orchestration, with himself on piano, Greg Runions on percussion, David Smith on reeds, Bob Arlidge on bass, and the excellent Erin Puttee on keyboard.

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A Robust Arms and The Man at Perth

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  


Logo: Classic Theatre Festival, Perth.

George Bernard Shaw sub-titled Arms And The Man an “anti-romantic comedy” when he wrote it in 1894. His intent was serious — to challenge romantic illusions about the glory of war. But his methods were playful as he set up farcical situations to make his point and created a memorable gallery of comic characters who continue to delight audiences more than a century later.

Perth’s Classic Theatre Festival has mounted a robust revival that declares its purpose immediately when we’re introduced to Raina, the romantically inclined heroine whose heart begins fluttering at the very thought of the heroic Balkan war happening around her. She — fantasizing with schoolgirl fervour about the stalwart conduct of her betrothed, Sergius Saranoff, on the battlefield — is actually bursting into song as the stage lights go up. To be sure, there’s no singing in the text of the Shaw play, but director Laurel Smith has cunningly chosen to launch the evening with a few bars of the aria, My Hero, from The Chocolate Soldier, the 1909 Oscar Strauss operetta based on Arms And The Man. That’s sufficient for actress Lana Sugarman, an ongoing delight as Raina, to start giving shape to a character addicted to head-in-the clouds romantic nonsense until she’s brought down to earth with a resounding thud by the Swiss mercenary who seeks sanctuary in her bedroom.

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Arms and the Man in Perth: A Delight from beginning to end!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  


Photo: Jean-Denis  Labelle

Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw, directed by Laurel Smith. A Classic Theatre Festival Production

A comedy of manners, bordering on farce, George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man pits romance versus realism, idealism versus pragmatism and flamboyant foolishness versus clockwork precision.

One of Shaw’s earliest and funniest scripts, Arms and the Man is set in a wealthy Bulgarian household during the 1885 Serbian invasion and subsequent peace between Bulgaria and Serbia.

The comedy revolves around two overlapping love triangles: the first involving Raina, the Bulgarian heiress engaged to the empty-headed exhibitionist officer Sergius Saranoff, and more attracted to the efficient Swiss mercenary, Captain Bluntshli, whom she helps to escape capture; and the second amongst household servants Louka, a maid with ideas above her station, manservant Nicola, content with his role in life, and Sergius.

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Julius Caesar at the Saint Lawrence Festival: this youthful staging highlights an excellent Richard Sheridan Willis in the leading role.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,


Photos: Drew Hossick

Julius Caesar  by Shakespeare, directed by Rona Waddington,

During the first moments of the play, the Roman tribune admonishes the silly  people of Rome for wasting their time rejoicing about Caesar’s triumph over Pompey : “You blocks you stones, you worse than senseless things!” Especially since the same crowd recently cheered Pompey when he came to Rome. In this first tableau, Shakespeare and director Rona Waddington make several points. The Tribune , a male role, is played here by a woman so we know we are in a contemporary world of theatrical fun (never mind Brecht) , especially as the carnival atmosphere bursts joyously onto the stage. The audience is seduced immediately . This first contact also emphasizes the important notion that the fickle Roman crowd is easily manipulated by any talented orator such as Mark Antony, Brutus or Cassius whenever it serves their purpose, and this is one of the important strategies of Shakespeare’s text which clearly appears to be indestructible, no matter what one does in the acting space.

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Odyssey Theatre’s The Servant of Two Masters a rolicking good time

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region.  

First published on: July 22, 2016  in the Ottawa Citizen. 

Zach Council and Sean Sullivan from Odyssey Theatre perform for the media at Strathcona Park in Ottawa Friday July 15, 2016. Odyssey Theatre is performing The Servant of Two Masters under the stars at Strathcona Park from July 21 to August 21.

Zach Council and Sean Sullivan from Odyssey Theatre perform for the media at Strathcona Park in Ottawa Friday July 15, 2016. Odyssey Theatre is performing The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, directed by Andy Massingham. at Strathcona Park from July 21 to August 21.  Photo: Tony Caldwell

You’d be hard-pressed to find profound insights in it, but Odyssey Theatre’s production of Carlo Goldoni’s 1745 comedy The Servant of Two Masters sure is fun.

Jesse Buck plays the titular servant Truffaldino, a wily and perennially famished fellow who lands himself in the absurd situation of serving two masters at once. One of them is the stylish, self-admiring Florindo (Joshua Wiles). The other is Beatrice (Sarah Finn) who is Florindo’s lover and has come to Venice to be with him.  Except Beatrice is disguised as her pompadour-proud brother Federigo. And Federigo is actually dead, killed by Florindo. Beatrice, meanwhile, is owed money by a wealthy miser, whose daughter …

You see where this is going, right? Down the rabbit hole of a plot so deliciously convoluted that to summarize it would leave your head spinning faster than governor Chris Christie trying to defend Melania Trump’s plagiarized convention speech earlier this week.

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Much Ado About Nothing. A lively production set in the Jane Austin Period!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  


Photo.David Baker

Much Ado ABout Nothing by Shakespeare. Directed by Craig Walker. A production of the  St. lawrence Festival, Prescott

I recommend reading the excellent synopsis in the program, as this is one of Shakespeare’s most confusing comedies.  Set by Director Craig Walker in the period of Jane Austin’s “Pride and Prejudice,” the plot twists through multiple misunderstandings, plotting, and eavesdropping.

The cast helps with the clarity, especially Michael Man as Borachio, an easily persuaded villain, and as the Friar who, in Act II, clarifies various deceptions.  Sarah English gives us a nicely three-dimensional Hero, as does Audrey Clairman as the maid, Ursula, and Jesse Nerenberg is a satisfyingly nasty villain in Don John.  Oddly, the broad acting style of Gabrielle Lazarovitz seems more suited to her Dogberry rather than her Beatrice.  However, she sings beautifully and in the opening scene she and Melissa Morris as Balthasar sing a lovely duet of an Italian Art Song.

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Servant of Two Masters. Massingham’s staging of Goldoni is intriguing, engaging and funny from the first second! A Winner.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  


Photo: Barb Gray.Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni. Directed by Andy Massingham.  An Odyssey Theatre production 

Almost as a rule, plays start slowly and develop into something interesting as the story unfolds. Fortunately, director Andy Massingham forgot all about this, and instead made “The Servants of Two Masters” intriguing, engaging, and funny from the first second. The play starts with the characters presenting themselves. One by one, they come dancing on the stage, promising an evening under the stars (and sporadic rain) full of fun and delight. Odyssey Theatre premiered its “Theatre Under Stars” production with the adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s best known comic play, giving it a more contemporary twist (the play is set in late fifties), and so proving the old art form of commedia dell’arte to be timeless.

Of course, in commedia dell’arte, the narrative itself is not the center of attention. The outline of the story and characters is always a simple tale about love, error, and deception. In this case, a young couple, Clarice (based on Isabella) and Silvio (based on Flavio), celebrate their engagement, when Truffaldino (based on Arlecchino) enters and announces that he has come with his master Federigo, Clarice’s former fiancé who was presumably dead. While Clarice tries to whimper her way out of her predicament, hot headed Silvio to fight it, master Federigo (in reality Beatrice disguised as her brother) attempts to get his hands on Pantalone’s (Clarica’s father’s) money. Florindo Aretusi (in love with Beatrice) comes looking for his love. Sly and capable Truffaldino (who has no idea that his master is a woman) seizes the opportunity to double his income. Now as a servant of two masters (Beatrice and Florindo) he juggles his duties masterfully, except for a few unfortunate errors, which lead to unexpected and hilarious developments.


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Creative “Julius Caesar” at the St Lawrence Shakeskpeare Festival at Prescott.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  


Photo by David Blake.  Richard Sheridan Willis as Julius Caesar. 

Julius Caesar by Shakespeare, directed by  Rona Waddington.

The St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival has opened their season with a strong and creative production of “Julius Caesar.”  Director Rona Waddington, with special permission from Actors Equity, has recruited 18 volunteers to play soldiers, senators, and citizens along with the 12 professional actors.  These volunteers do a fine job with the complex staging, as well as making some very nippy costume changes.

There are two real stand-outs in this generally strong cast.  Ash Knight as a wonderfully nuanced Brutus and Richard Sheridan Willis as the complex Caesar are both expert at handling the language.  My companion said for once she didn’t have to translate in her head. Jesse Nerenberg’s Cassius tends to be on a single note of anger till Act II, when we see more of his wiliness.  As Octavius Michael Man does a nice job, also doubling as the timid Cinna.

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The Stratford Festival scores with its two Breath of Kings plays

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Canada  

Breath of Kings Redemption – On The Run 2016

Photo.David Hou. With Geraint Wyn Davis and Ayala Mengesha

The first point to be made about the Breath Of Kings duo, now at the Stratford Festival, is that they bring Shakespeare’s history plays to renewed, freshly burnished life.

The histories can be a hard sell these days, despite the fact that they contain some of Shakespeare’s finest writing. Richard lll, with its irresistible villain, is of course the exception. But in general the history plays, although indispensable parts of the canon, can often seem problematic when it comes to attracting audiences.

One immediate virtue of Graham Abbey’s masterful distillation of four major works — Richard ll, the two parts of Henry lV, and Henry V — into two epic evenings of entertainment is that they should win over the must reluctant playgoer. That’s because they provide narrative clarity, honour some of the greatest moments of Shakespearean verse,  and bring immediacy to a particularly turbulent period in English history. They also make for exciting theatre, thanks to a powerful ensemble cast, which includes Abbey himself in a crucial role, and to the incisive direction of Mitchell Cushman and Weyni Mengesha.

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