The final moment of Bear and Company’s production of Macbeth tells all. That’s when cast members assemble on the stage of the Gladstone Theatre and embrace sunny ways with a beautifully sung choral rendition of the sentimental Skye Boat Song. This as a climax to one of the bloodiest plays in the Shakespearean repertoire? Ironically, the lyrical musical interruptions — bizarre though they be — provide the evening with its best performed moments. Unfortunately, they have absolutely no relevance to Shakespeare’s blood-soaked tragedy. (Continue reading » )
The 1000 Islands Playhouse is closing out their season with an absorbing world premiere of “You Are Here,” a one-woman musical with music and lyrics by Neil Bartram and book by Brian Hill. It’s inaccurate in a way to call “You Are Here” one-woman, as Diana, in a splendid performance by Linda Kash, also has conversations with other people in her life such as a stoned Viet Nam vet and her friend Joan with her distinctively messy hair-do.
Diana’s story begins as she’s watching the first moon landing in 1969. Inspired by the adventurous astronauts, she decides to leave her home and explore the world outside her protective cocoon of habit and husband. As she says, “It’s amazing the years I spent teaching myself not to see.”
Dana Osborne’s simple and effective set has a low platform upstage for the musicians backed by a huge rising moon covered with draped and scrunched fabric. In front of the platform there’s a single park bench and a small moon is suspended over the audience. Jason Hand’s expert lighting takes full advantage of the moon backdrop and Miss Osborne’s costume for Diana is amazingly versatile. As for William Fallon’s sound, it’s first rate. (Continue reading » )
Spring Awakening: The Musical, Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik’s adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s 1891 German play, is about many things: coming of age amid sexual and other late 19th century bourgeois repressions; the chasm between generations; the sometimes dire consequences of challenging the prevailing social ethos.
As well – and this seems especially important in light of our own era’s cynicism and our confused sense of what’s real and what’s merely artifice (our digital lives, for example) – the show is about trust and authenticity. It’s about discovering and trusting who one really is, finding the determination to live authentically in the face of a social order deeply opposed to the individual’s need for self-expression, love, sexual connection.
You may know the storyline already. In a nutshell, a group of young people find themselves severely constrained by their society, their church, their families. Hypocrisy, cruelty and power call the shots, causing some of the young people to crumble but others to assert their individuality and pursue what they perceive as right. The narrative, with its rock/pop score, is fundamentally dark despite the unfortunate Hollywood ending tacked on in keeping with the tradition of musicals.
Orpheus’ rendering of this story is rewarding on many levels, but it is the sense of trust and authenticity permeating the show that shines most brightly. For that, choreographer Lola Ryan deserves special applause. (Continue reading » )
Disruption and reconstruction: That’s the experience of regular immigrants and refugees alike as their lives are first scrambled and then rebuilt in a new land. It’s also to some extent what those in the host country experience as the existence they’ve always known is challenged by people with different perspectives, beliefs and languages.
Now disruption and reconstruction come to the Ottawa Public Library’s main branch thanks to How iRan, a site-specific iPod play – well, actually three plays – by Calgary-based playwright Ken Cameron. The Ottawa Fringe Festival is presenting the production.
Based on interviews with new Canadians and a prisoner of conscience, Cameron’s text is about an Iranian man named Ramin who leaves behind his wife and son when he comes to Canada. Once here, he lands a job as a security guard in a library where he meets the librarian Emily. Complications, some serious and some humorous, ensue including the eventual arrival of his son Hossein and Ramin’s wife.
Cameron, who also directs, has made an audio recording of the narrative, which is played out in 25 scenes. He’s put the play on three differently coloured iPods, each containing about one-third of the entire piece. Audience members get an iPod with the narrative order shuffled and then, prompted by the recording, go to different stations in the library to listen to scenes in a random order. In effect, each audience member hears a customized play. (Continue reading » )
Photo: The Orpheus cast and production team.
The original German version of the play was published in 1891 and then performed by Wedekind’s own company in 1906. Because of the subject matter where adolescents were concerned, it created much controversy and was not staged in German until after WWII while the American musical was first staged in 2006 based on a new English language translation that followed the one that appeared in 1917. Such a long and controversial history which also includes a movie, makes it difficult to keep track of this show which appears nowadays to fuse two time periods, two visions of the theatre, nevertheless producing a most stunning story and perfectly constructed scenario, built around a tragic vision of young people .
The play shows how a society that represses young people, brings with it all forms of destruction, even after the moment when the central sexual taboo has been transgressed, the downfall of all those who have grown with a sense of guilt in relation to their bodies, cannot be avoided. Tragedy is inevitable because the evil worm has been planted too deeply in their minds. . This devastating critique of the stern bourgeois society at the end of the 19th Century, is represented by the way young people listen to the needs of their bodies, and their most natural desires , but this awakening of sexuality is repressed by parents who imposed a military-like regime on their young ones at that time. And this in depth analysis of sexual repression relies on Freud’s news notions of the psyche that started appearing at the same period. The performance becomes a fascinating mixture of sexual fantasy, and real confrontation with unyielding social institutions that wield their power over natural human instincts.
The best reason for seeing Kanata Theatre’s production of the 201l play, Last Romance, is the performance of Brooke Keneford as a lonely widower who strikes up a friendship with a stranger in a dog park.
Keneford communicates a rough-hewn charm as Ralph Bellini, an opera-loving Italian American who’s desperate for companionship — and maybe, just maybe, a late-flowering romance. He’s gregarious yet vulnerable. His social skills are rusty — and, in an era obsessed with political correctness, his initial overtures to the aloof dog-walking Carol could be seen as sexual harassment. (Continue reading » )
Critic Kenneth Tynan once famously remarked that the hallmark of any really effective drama required key characters caught up in desperate circumstances.
He argued that his definition encompassed Shakespeare’s Hamlet unable to make up his mind. But he also emphasized that it reflected classic ingredients of boulevard farce.
Marc Camoletti’s Boeing-Boeing, which romped exuberantly on stage at Ottawa Little Theatre last week, harvests one of the most durable of farcical situations — the womanizer whose philandering world starts coming apart. Bernard is a Parisien playboy who has three airline hostesses on the string — one American, one Italian and one German. Each considers herself his fiancee — and Bernard has come up with a masterful scheme for keeping them away from each other. He sees them only during their layovers in Paris — so, with the handy assistance of airline timetables, he’s able to make sure that once he has breakfast with Gloria, she’ll be on her way before Gabriella arrives at lunchtime. And, of course, if Gretchen arrives in town around dinnertime he’ll be able to accommodate her as well.
Boeing-Boeing : This record-setting contemporary version of a French farce is given an Americanized but very amusing production.
Photo: Maria Vartanova
A well-organized Lothario can handle three fiancées, as long as flight schedules do not change suddenly.
That might have worked in the 1960s, the time frame for Boeing-Boeing, but even then fight delays and airplanes being grounded in bad weather make the ride to infidelity very bumpy.
Marc Camelotti’s farce set records as the world’s most performed French play in the 1960s. The Beverley Cross translation ran for seven years in London’s West End. The version currently being staged by Ottawa Little Theatre is Francis Evans’ Americanized revision of the Cross translation. (It comes across as somewhat anti-American, particularly in its presentation of the New York feminist.)
Desdemona: A Play About A Handkerchief By Paula Vogel
A production of the Three Sisters Theatre Company
Director: Bronwyn Steinberg
What a waste of talent! Robin Guy is a fine performer. Élise Gauthier and Gabrielle Lalonde move well. But in Paula Vogel’s dated and unpleasant view of feminism, awkwardly directed by Bronwyn Steinberg, the three are simply part of a theatrical mish-mash punctuated by repetitive stylized movement that makes 90 minutes seem twice as long.
The purpose of Desdemona: A Play about a Handkerchief is apparently that control comes to women only through their husbands and independence only through prostitution. The three different accents used by the three characters are intended to define class and the way individuals are imprisoned by their origins. Presumably, the beige laundry that forms the bland set and much of the stage business is meant to underline the household duties assigned to women.
Photo: Stephen Wild.
“Das Ding (The Thing)” by Philippe Lohle and translated from the German by Birgit Schreyer Duarte is billed as “a sharp-witted social comedy.” I can only think that something got lost in translation as I found precious little comedy in the evening. This production originated in Toronto and moved intact to the Firehall with only one cast change. Luckily the technical production, which is terrific, moved too. “Das Ding” purports to span today’s globalized world by following the journey of a cotton fiber. I got this from the press release – not from the play.
It opens with a petulant King Manoel I of Portugal, (Qasim Khan), seated on a giant white cotton ball speaking with Magellan, (Naomi Wright). Magellan, after explaining his broken leg, requests backing for an expedition to sail west to find a route to the Indian Ocean. King Manoel refuses. The scene is mildly amusing, but the play goes downhill from there.