July, 2016

Cuisine and Confessions: A New Take on Dinner Theatre by Les Sept Doigts de la Main

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

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Photo Alexandre Galliez. Performer Anna Kichtchenko

Boston welcomes back Les Sept Doigts de la Main (the Seven Fingers of the Hand) in their latest production Cuisine and Confessions, the fourth circus show that the company has brought to ArtsEmerson. The seven fingers (as the performers are referred to) have grown to nine for their current production. Cuisine and Confessions, like their earlier works, combines acrobatics, dance, song, storytelling, juggling, aerial silks, and occasional live music. Most of the Cuisine and Confessions performers trained at Montreal’s National Circus School, which gives a particular unity to their style.

As often the case in contemporary theatre, the immersive show tries to break down the barriers between performers and audience. At the opening, some of the artists play catch with the spectators using props such as balls and eggs, while other artists approach a few spectators to ask if they would like to participate. Those who agree are brought on stage at various junctures, perhaps fed a bit of food, get a few laughs, and return to their seats.

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Barefoot in the Park: OLT offers believable characterization of a rather dated play.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo: Maria Vartanova

Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon. Directed by Richard Elichuk. A production of the Ottawa Little Theatre.

When Barefoot in the Park premiered on Broadway, it was an instant hit, running for more than 1,500 performances — a record run for a non-musical play. In 1967, the movie version starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, was also a success.

That was half a century ago. And in the 50 years since the mid-1960s, attitudes towards marital roles have changed massively. This means that the play frequently creaks along, particularly when it is presented as a three-act show.

Unless the comedy — which Simon wrote as a tribute to his first wife — is given a stellar production, we are more likely to notice that it is a dated piece than to appreciate the core of the story: that opposites attract and that there is a steep learning curve in the early days of any marriage. In addition, the play relies heavily on the oft-repeated, and now stale, joke about the location of the overpriced, walk-up apartment where newly weds Corie and Paul Bratter are enjoying their first taste of marriage and near-divorce.

As directed by Richard Elichuk, with assistance from Dianna Renée Yorke and Susanna Doherty, the Ottawa Little Theatre production is at its best when focusing on character definition.

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A Woman of No Importance: The Shaw Festival lays an Egg with Oscar Wilde play.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Photo: David Cooper. A Woman of No Importance.

It seemed welcome news when the Shaw Festival announced that it would be tackling Oscar Wilde’s A Woman Of No Importance this season. One hoped that the festival would be redressing the  wrong done this play in a previous production in 2004. After all, this current revival would be in the capable hands of Eda Holmes, a director responsible for some of the finest moments in the festival’s history.

How quickly can one’s high expectations be dashed. The production now on view at the Festival Theatre seems intent on baring the play’s weaknesses and diluting its strengths. It’s hard to be believe that the same director who unveiled a brilliant production of Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession in May could follow up with such a mish-mash.

To be sure, A Woman Of No Importance has long been considered the slightest and most problematic of Wilde’s plays. It begins with an extended upper-class gathering,  the sort of situation that allowed the playwright to indulge himself with barbed and witty epigrams about society. But it’s a scene fraught with hazards — the most immediate of which is the challenge of keeping the endless talk, talk, talk from turning static.

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“Assassinating Thomson”: A Unique Perspective at 1000 Islands Playhouse (Firehall Theatre)

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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  Photo. Stephen Wild

The Firehall at the 1000 Islands Playhouse has opened their season with the fascinating solo show, “Assassinating Thomson,” created and performed by Bruce Horak. Those of you who saw him play three characters, sing, and play the guitar in last season’s “Dear Johnny Deere” will be surprised to learn the Mr. Horak is legally blind. Due to a childhood illness, he has only 9% vision – what he describes as extreme tunnel vision.

Mr. Horak appears in brown pants and a brown paint-spattered t-shirt on a simple platform covered by a drop cloth and backed by a black curtain and three of his large painting. (There are others on display in the lobby.) There’s also an easel and a small table with paints, brushes, and water.

Unlike most solo shows, “Assassinating Thomson” is basically a conversation between Mr. Horak and the audience. The house lights remain on, since during the performance he paints a picture of the audience. I loved it, since I could take notes without mistakenly writing on my white pants. His personality is charming as he weaves together his personal story, with how he sees shapes, and his theories about the death of Tom Thomson.

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Past Reviews