November, 2016

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: A joyful production of a less than amusing play!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

 

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Photo. Courtesy of  Indie women productions.

The world has changed since this Tony Award winning show (book by Rachel Sheinkin, music and lyrics by William Finn) was created in 2005  but  somehow, in spite of Kodi Cannon’s exciting  Broadway style energy and classy choreography, this Spelling Bee grated on my nerves. The Indie Women are noted for some fine productions and we loved their recent fund raising event Next to Normal featuring Skye MacDermid and Wendy Berkelaar’s  group that did justice to Rebecca Feldman’s music, giving a highly professional touch to the evening. As is their custom , the Indie Women  bring us this show as a  fundraiser for the “Do it for Daron”  foundation, linked to the  Royal Ottawa Hospital and its ongoing research into  the devastating effects of mental illness .

This event at the Gladstone  features  six actors as the young constestants all driven to win the  spelling contest for many different reasons, all of which are played out  in flashbacks and choreographed moments of excellent theatre  as the troubled backgrounds of each of the contestants are  intertwined with the funny improvisations produced by  each of the four randomly selected guests who are added to the chorus of spellers. These guests are thrust on stage as the  outside spellers  who do their best to hold their own  spontaneously, while the scripted spellers have to take on a character and explain their choices.

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Capital Critics Circle announces seventeenth annual theatre awards (2015-16 season)

News from Capital Critics Circle

The winners are:

Best professional production:

Belles Soeurs: The Musical, based on the play by Michel Tremblay, book, lyrics and direction by René Richard Cyr, music by Daniel Bélanger, English book adapted by Brian Hill, English lyrics, musical adaptation and additional music by Neil Bartram, a Copa de Oro Productions Ltd. (Montreal) and the Segal Centre for Performing Arts (Montreal) production.

Best community theatre production:

Love! Valour! Compassion! by Terrence McNally, directed by Chantale Plante, with musical direction by Paul Legault and choreography by Jasmine Lee, TotoToo Theatre.

Best student production:

Pool (No Water) by Mark Ravenhill, directed by Pamela Feghali, University of Ottawa, Department of Theatre

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National Theatre Live in cinemas from December 15: No Man’s Land.

News from Capital Critics Circle

No Man's Land

 

★★★★★
‘Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are unmissable’  Daily Telegraph

Take a first look at No Man’s Land on stage


In one of Harold Pinter’s most entertaining plays, two ageing writers, Spooner and Hirst, meet in a Hampstead pub and continue their drinking into the night at Hirst’s stately house nearby.  
As they become increasingly inebriated, their conversation turns into a revealing power game, further complicated by the return home of two sinister younger men. Watch the trailer >
In cinemas from December 15. 

No Man's Land on stage

Equivocation: Solid production of a problematic play

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Image courtesy of Kanata Theatre

Image courtesy of Kanata Theatre

Equivocation by Bill Cain
Kanata Theatre
Directed by Alain Chamsi

Kanata Theatre’s production of Equivocation contains so many fine moments that you’re left saddened by the fact that it ultimately doesn’t work.

Director Alain Chamsi and his colleagues have worked with diligence and discernment to bring shape and substance to a play that uses an imagined crisis in Shakespeare’s life as a platform for an examination of the fragility of truth in a hothouse political climate.

But ultimately the centre does not hold. Playwright Bill Cain, a Jesuit priest whose moonlighting activities including scripting an episode of House of Cards, has solid credentials, and this 2009 play has been acclaimed in many quarters. But it’s overly ambitious in scope, thematically cluttered, structurally uncertain and at times painfully glib and facile.

Furthermore, when it comes to tone, it attempts to have it both ways — expecting the audience to go along with moments of serious drama, which include a pair of gruesome public hangings, while also expecting them to revel in episodes of comic buffoonery as well as bits of more subtle satire. It’s an uneasy fusion. (more…)

A well-performed play too clever for itself

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Image courtesy of Kanata Theatre

Image courtesy of Kanata Theatre

Equivocation

By Bill Cain

Kanata Theatre

Directed by Alain Chamsi

Equivocation is a multi-layered celebration cum mockery of Shakespeare, combined with a questioning of the accuracy of the accepted version of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot to blow up the English Houses of Parliament and assassinate King James I. It also attempts to answer the perennial question about the nature of truth.

Not to equivocate — that is not to use ambiguous language to conceal the truth or to prevaricate — this 2009 script by Bill Cain (who happens to be a Jesuit priest) is muddled rather than subtle, and, while packed with information, too complicated in format to be entertaining. (There were numerous walkouts at intermission on opening night.)

It begins with Sir Robert Cecil (the king’s beagle) commissioning Shagspeare (a.k.a. William Shakespeare) to dramatize a story that King James has written, delivering the true (or is it the propaganda version?) of the Gunpowder Plot. Refusing what seems to be an impossible task is not an option. (more…)

Playwriting contest winners to appear in highly regarded reading series, The Pipeline

News from Capital Critics Circle

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Mark The Pipeline 2016 in your late fall calendar

Friday, December 2 – Sunday, December 4, 2016

 

Every year Infinithéâtre looks for innovative, challenging and exciting new works by dedicated Québec playwrights. Plays developed by Infinithéâtre have been performed all over the island of Montréal and beyond, in Stratford Ontario, Toronto, British Columbia, in Ottawa at the NAC, New York, Tokyo, Cairo and Edinburgh. 

For the past eight years, Infinithéâtre’s annual Write-on-Q! Québec playwriting competition has been the major source of original plays for its seasons’ repertoire, including recent successes Battered by Arthur Holden; Michael Milech’s Honesty Rents by the Hour; Progress! and Trench Patterns by Alyson Grant; and Oren Safdie’s Unseamly. This year’s jury, chaired by Kent Stetson, with Gerry Lipnowski and Anana Rydvald, is excited to announce the 2016 winners, whose plays will be read in early December’s The Pipeline. Infinithéâtre offers the biggest English literary prize in Québec. 

Write-On-Q! First Place, Pam Dunn Prize, $3000: The Nutritional Value of Anger by Michael Milech

From the Jury, “An accomplished and excellent play with characters that are grounded in reality; whose dialogue and interaction feel genuine and compelling. A chance encounter between a profoundly damaged homeless girl, a hard-working depaneur owner and a privileged millennial spotlights people that are overlooked and deemed insignificant in our society. Written with wit, compassion and an unwavering eye for the truth, The Nutritional Value of Anger is contemporary theatre at its best.” (more…)

Imaginary Lines isn’t as clever as it thinks

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo courtesy of Linden House Theatre Company

Photo courtesy of Linden House Theatre Company

Imaginary Lines by Reggie Oliver

A Linden House Theatre production

Directed by Robin Bowditch

The premise of Reggie Oliver’s comedy, Imaginary Lines sounds promising. It proposes to explore the often turbulent waters of personal relationships by examining  two layers of communication. The first exposes us to what people are saying out loud to each other. The second lets us in on what they’re actually thinking — or, more specifically what they wish they had said in attempting to find empathy with a member of the opposite sex.

Unfortunately, the Linden House Theatre Company’s production fails to find justification for the play’s surprising popularity among community theatre groups. Despite a strong cast and an excellent set design from Rachel Hauraney, Imaginary Lines seems no more than a feeble attempt on this playwright’s part to emulate the audacious structural  mind games for which his  mentor, Alan Ayckbourn, is renowned.

Indeed, the script is not even consistent in allowing us into the repressed thoughts of every character. This may partially explain why director Robin Bowditch has difficulty in establishing a sustained comic rhythm for this play. It keeps disconnecting. (more…)

Imaginary Lines: One joke does not make a compelling script or production

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo courtesy of Linden House Theatre Company

Photo courtesy of Linden House Theatre Company

Imaginary Lines

By Reggie Oliver

Linden House Theatre Company

Directed by Robin Bowditch

There are the words you say, the words you wish you had said and the enhanced version of events resulting from the imagined conversation.

This is the theme of Reggie Oliver’s 1987 comedy Imaginary Lines. At times, the format, combined with the breaking down of the fourth wall as characters address the audience directly, works well. More of the time, the device is tiresome and slows or confuses the action. But, the miscommunication and replays of conversations are apparently needed to pad the action in a script with a thin and somewhat unappealing storyline.

The central character is Wanda, a book illustrator, who tries to make her friends fit into her imagined scenarios. Involved with her and each other are: Howard, a shy bookstore owner looking for a girlfriend; Michael, a randy MP; Carol, an outspoken, unemployed teacher; and Olga, a gossip and writer of children’s books.

The Linden House Theatre Company production, directed by Robin Bowditch, delivers a group of characterizations that are true to type, but, mainly because of the one-note, single-joke nature of Oliver’s script, tend to have only one defining characteristic. Only Venetia Lawless makes her characterization as Carol rounded and interesting because she tempers anger with warmth and hope for a better outcome. (more…)

Burn: Muggleton and cast put on suspenseful, fun play

Reviewed by Maja Stefanovska

Photo: John Muggleton

Photo: John Muggleton

Burn
Written and directed by John Muggleton
Avalon Studio

Longtime friends Robert, Samira, and David meet after some time apart at the request of the daughter of their recently deceased friend, successful horror writer, Paul. None of the three friends know precisely why Eve, the daughter, wants to meet them, except to deliver something – whether it’s news, a portion of their friend’s will, or a package isn’t clear. When she arrives, she easily and somewhat aggressively inserts herself into the conversation. Thing start quickly falling off the rails when she insists on telling her own horror (or is it ghost?) story, peppering it with unsettling secrets from Robert’s and Paul’s past. It’s at this point that Robert, Samira, and David realize that there is something undeniably eerie about Eve. Although the script and directing needs some very minor fine-tuning, writer and director John Muggleton ultimately takes the audience from comfort and intimacy to the edge of their seats in suspense in, Burn.

It’s obvious that Muggleton knows a thing or two about people – how they love, how they doubt, and what and how they fear. The play opens with a rather lengthy exchange between Robert (Chris Torti), Samira (Tahera Mufti), and David (Michael Thompson) as they wait for Eve’s arrival. Although this section could be shortened a bit, there is a method to the seemingly slow pace. Muggleton, Torti, Mufti, and Thompson take the time to establish  characters and invite the audience into their private world. Empathy is a powerful drug and it’s this intimacy makes the suspense and horror, when it does come, that much more powerful. Having said that, the same effect could have been achieved in less time. (more…)

The Last Wife is an exciting and purposed reimagination of Katherine Parr’s history

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

Photo: Emily Cooper

Photo: Emily Cooper

There’s a bravery that sits at the heart of The Last Wife that caught me off-guard. Playwright Kate Hennig imagines the intimate conversations that may have occurred in the most private moments between Katherine Parr and her husband, King Henry VIII, and even conjures up an unexpected romance. A historical play, one might expect a dusty piece brimming with period costumes and old-school notions; to say that this production is anything but dusty is an understatement. This artistic team, with director Esther Jun at the helm, is exhilarating from start to finish. Yet, The Last Wife is also much more than a romantic yarn between an odd-couple—it’s a story that reimagines Katherine Parr as a woman who challenges the status quo of her role as a woman and as the king’s closemouthed wife.

The first scene in this play gives the audience no illusions that Henry is anything but an impenetrable wall of a patriarch, but there’s a notable shift that occurs in the second scene: Katherine concedes to marrying Henry, but demands autonomy over her body—even in the bedroom. It is the type of conversation that feels more at-home in the 21st century than in the 16th. Hennig’s text is marked by its use of modernity, ultimately crafting a piece of theatre that forces its audience to revisit an old story with a new lens. This shift of perspective is an established tradition that has roots in the Canadian theatre tradition. A modern example is Margaret Clarke’s Gertrude and Ophelia, written in 1993. Hennig, like Clarke, takes an approach to narrative that is a blend of post-structuralism and feminism and finds ways that female characters may be reimagined, to have them disrupt or dislodge the patriarchal structures of their histories. And is there a better historical figure than Katherine Parr, the sixth wife to Henry VIII, for whom we can imagine such liberation? Katherine was a published writer, a regent, and the only one of King Henry VIII’s wives to survive his supposed tyranny as a husband where all others were divorced, deceased or beheaded. What was it that made her unique? Was she simply a dowdy, complacent nurse-maid, and Henry, too old and gout-ridden to find occasion to have her killed? Hennig certainly doesn’t see it that way. (more…)

Past Reviews