January, 2017

Mary Poppins: Lively production works well with script

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: Ain’t Seen Noth’n Yet

Mary Poppins
Music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
Book by Julian Fellowes
Additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe
Ain’t Seen Noth’n Yet (ASNY) Production
Directed by Jennifer Fontaine

By any standards, Mary Poppins is a complex project. Originally, she was the ideal nanny imagined by the British-born, Australian writer Pamela Lyndon Travers (aka Helen Lyndon Goff). Conjured up in her 1934 stories, she represented a form of escape from a difficult childhood. Then, the flying nanny became the sugarcoated heroine of the 1964 Disney movie, starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.

In the 2004 stage musical, Julian Fellowes (of Downton Abbey fame) bases his book on a fusion of the Travers’ stories and the Disney movie, while George Stiles and Anthony Drewe added new songs to the original group by brothers Richard and Robert Sherman. (more…)

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: The Heart and Soul of the Rock

News from Capital Critics Circle

Guest reviewer Jim Murchisson

Photo: Victoria Wells

The opening night of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams at the National Arts Centre was attended by a who’s who of Newfoundland artists, Canadian politicians and journalists. It was appropriate of course as the play is an adaptation by Robert Chafe of Wayne Johnston’s novel that imagines what early influences might have created a character as enigmatic and colourful as Joseph Smallwood, the last father of Confederation and an enduring symbol of Newfoundland.

A work of fiction that speculates about the heart and soul of a very real character in Canadian history by blending history with invention makes for a compelling evening . It worked on every level. The characters both real and imagined are spellbinding. The dialogue crackles with the wisecracking wit that you find in the best of 40’s cinema. Chafe’s play makes me want to both read Johnston’s novel and discover more about this significant piece of history.

The staging of the play is mesmerizing. Director Jillian Keiley drops the audience smack dab in the middle of a film noir piece. The pinpoint lighting of Leigh Ann Vardy allows the dialogue to pepper the stage. Characters pop up in one spot and then another creating the illusion of watching a series of newsreel clips. We are captured in the tide of the Confederation movement. Brilliant! (more…)

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: Brilliantly performed, directed, and adapted

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Photo: Paul Daly

In the Playwright’s Notes, the playwright, Robert Chafe, writes: “The history buff will have no trouble calling me out. But I made my primary task to reflect the spirit and heart of this magnificent book within the often-confining demands of a stage play.” That is exactly what he does. Hard, cold facts about Newfoundland’s first premier Joey Smallwood, and the role he played in bringing the Dominion of Newfoundland into Canada’s confederation can be found in any number of books. Chafe’s adaptation of Wayne Johnston novel Colony of Unrequited Dreams brings much more to the stage than that. It brings back the time, the place and people during a time of great change in Newfoundland.

The play spans over 25 years of hard and turbulent times in Newfoundland, showing that if the period preceding confederation was troubling, the transition from dominion to confederation was anything but smooth. The results (fifty-two per cent of people voted in favour of joining Canada in the 1949 referendum; 48 per cent voted against) split the nation on many levels – from political to personal. What makes the play universal, regardless of its local content, is its focus on human experience rather than on political events. (more…)

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: A fractious relationship

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Photo: Colin Furlong as Joey Smallwood. Credit: Paul Daly

Joey Smallwood, the diminutive guy who led Newfoundland into Confederation in 1949:  with a subject like that, audience members for The Colony of Unrequited Dreams could be forgiven for fearing an evening of excruciating boredom.

They would also be proven dead wrong.

Adapted by Robert Chafe from Wayne Johnston’s celebrated 1998 historical novel of the same name, the play is an enthralling glimpse into the heart of the earnest and tenacious Smallwood, into the soul of his beloved Newfoundland, and into Smallwood’s complicated relationship with a caustic newspaper columnist named Sheilagh Fielding.

Directed here by Jillian Keiley (herself a native Newfoundlander) with especially thoughtful attention to pacing, the story hums along so fluidly that you’re scarcely aware that three hours have elapsed when Smallwood finally attains his dream, Fielding reaches a goal of a different kind, and issues of identity, family, love and loneliness settle into their ultimately unresolvable conclusion.

Politics and the personal are inextricably woven together in this show’s vision of Joey Smallwood, played with a buoyant sense of mission, principle and rabble-rousing fearlessness by Colin Furlong. We meet Smallwood when he is a young man determined to carve out an influential place for himself in a Newfoundland where the old boys’ network and corruption are endemic in government. Doubtless partly in reaction to his father (Steve O‘Connell), an alcoholic whose life is a string of might-have-beens, Smallwood never meets a challenge that he won’t wade into like an up-and-coming welterweight. (more…)

Hand to God – Coping with Angst and Puppets

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin


Photo Glenn Perry    Tyrone scares Timothy

Hand to God is both a farce and satire of religion and suburban life in Cypress, Texas. First produced off-Broadway in 2011, its writer Robert Askins was an unknown working as a bartender with a few unsung off-off Broadway plays to his credit. Hand to God went to Broadway, became a tremendous hit, and received several Tony nominations. Now as it makes the rounds of the regionals, Boston’s SpeakEasy Stage Company is presenting its New England première.

Cube Gallery opens new exhibitions: Meet the Artists: Sunday, Feb 5

News from Capital Critics Circle


Jan 31 to Feb 26, 2017

Kathy Haycock, “Down on the Farm”

Meet the Artists: Sunday, Feb 5

from 2:00 – 5:00 pm

Home could be a burrow, a box, a deluxe mansion or four walls and a roof. Is home a place or a state of mind? How we define it is unique to each and every one of us.
See what these four artists think of when they think about “Home” – Doug Cosbie, Kathy Haycock, John Jarrett & D.H. Monet.
“Home” is where the art is at Cube Gallery, 1285 Wellington St. from January 31 to February 26, 2017

American Idiot: High-energy production saves the show.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

American Idiot, music by Green Day, lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong, book by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer

University of Ottawa Musical Theatre Society, directed by Storm Davis

American Idiot bursts onto the stage into the raucous noise of punk rock that one of the cast members says in her bio takes her back to her fifth grade grunge days.

The 2010 musical is based on the 2004 concept album of the same name — incorporating protest against the war in Iraq, anger with American society and disaffected and angry youth trying to escape (from what?) to find a purpose in life.

The book (if that’s not too strong a word) for the very slight story line by lyricist Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer focuses on three young men — one who joins the army and is blinded, a second who fathers a child and drowns in alcohol and a third self-destructive would-be rebel whose father predicted he would never amount to anything.

The sing-through (shout-through) musical about dead-end lives and disappointment is surprisingly upbeat as presented by the University of Ottawa Musical Theatre Society. (more…)

Our Secrets: Life in a dystopian world.

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

ArtsEmerson is presenting the American début of Our Secrets, written and directed by Béla Pintér. The widely acclaimed Hungarian troupe, appropriately called Béla Pintér and company, is taking Our Secrets to New York after its short Boston run. Performed in Hungarian with supertitles, the play addresses the power that the communist state had over its citizens. It takes place in the 1980s, a period when the government encouraged its citizens to revive Hungary’s folk songs and dances as an attempt to prevent the population from falling under the influence of Western popular music. Three musicians play a variety of string instruments and a synthesizer.

Photo: Cscaba Maszaros

The narrative revolves around a folkloric group who meet to dance and sing. One of their members is István Balla Ban (Zoltán Friedenthanal) a musicologist and a man with a secret that will interest the Hungarian intelligence service. He visits a therapist (Eszter Csákákanyi) for help with his sexuality. István is desperately attracted to his seven-year old stepdaughter Timike (Éva Enyedi) and because of this infatuation is no longer aroused by his wife. He claims that he has never done anything untoward with the stepdaughter. It is a lie. He has taught the little girl sexual games that involve his pleasure and that strangely she enjoys.

Having bugged the therapist’s office, Comrade Pánczél (Eszter Csákákanyi) head of the intelligence service, calls in István and gives him the choice between going to prison for pedophilia or becoming an informer who will be rewarded by the state. Weakling that he is, he agrees to spy on his friends. In developing István as an unhappy reprobate, Pintér casts a shadow over the society as a whole. The playwright takes this a step further by using a disconsolate would-be dancer (Szabolcs Thuróczy) in the folkloric group as István’s contact. He became a servant for the state to avenge himself on the other dancers who mocked his lack of talent.


The Ghomeshi Effect: Sexual assault results in something being broken! A cathartic encounter at the Gladstone Theatre.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht



Photo: Andrew Alexander . from left to right: Marc-André Charette, Emmanuel Simon, Gabriel Lalonde, Front: Annie Lefebvre, Leah Archambault, Mekdes Teshome.

How could one name this performance that is now running at the Gladstone?? It could be docudrama; it could be multi-disciplinary theatre; it could be corporeal theatre although the text is central to the event; it could be verbatim theatre, or even socially engaged theatre that goes for the jugular as it tries to transform our culture in the same way R. Schechner and J. Beck in the 1970’s hoped to do with their political and ritual performances. Perhaps, it also wants to make people aware that many individuals are living in a “war zone” when it comes to sexual violence in our society. In fact it’s a bit of all that. A huge agenda that might seem almost overwhelming for director Jessica Ruano who also wrote the script, for the choreographer who conceived the movement portions, and for the actors who had to shift moods, narratives and characters nonstop during 75 minutes!


The Ghomeshi Effect: Brilliant concept that needs more work

Reviewed by Maja Stefanovska

Photo: Andrew Alexander

In the Director’s notes of The Ghomeshi Effect’s program, director Jessica Ruano states: “…safety isn’t often what I’m seeking at a night out at the theatre…curiosity can be dangerous. Curiosity means: I’m prepared for anything, even if it’s not what I want to hear. Even if it upsets me. Even if I fundamentally disagree. Even if it challenges something I’ve believed for as long as I can remember.” The Ghomeshi Effect is a much needed addition to the conversation about sexual assault and has already sparked conversation over the treatment of survivors by the justice system. By encouraging discussion, Perspective Collective Theatre has already fulfilled its mandate. Is it theatre that provokes, upsets, or pushes its audience to confront uncomfortable facts? Not particularly, outside of the facts it presents. Other than a few emotionally charged moments, the verbatim dance piece fails to invoke intense emotion, considering the moving subject matter. The Ghomeshi Effect is a great concept and one that absolutely needs to be explored further. It’s empowering, as it gives voice to survivors’ experiences, told in their own words. Unfortunately, the gravity of the message gets lost amid the weak dramaturgy directing, lights, and choreography. (more…)

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