Reviewed by Iris Winston
Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Suzart After Dark
Directed by Kraig-Paul Proulx
Dark and difficult but never dreary, Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street is recognized as extremely complex musically and very demanding technically. The massive challenge of the 1979 Tony award-winner was made even greater for Suzart Productions when the female lead dropped out just two days before the show opened.
This is the second time that this has happened to Suzart. The company had to deal with a similar last-minute crisis when mounting Hello Dolly last year. On that occasion, the musical director stepped into the title role a week before opening. At least, she had been present during the show rehearsals. For Sweeney Todd, the time frame was much shorter and the rescuer had not been involved in the lead-up to the production.
You would hardly know it, however, watching Jennifer Fontaine’s strong characterization of Mrs. Lovett. The only clue was the score she carried as a safety net. But she made time to have fun with the role of the meat-pie maker, whose baking became tastier, with the fruits of Todd’s murderous labours.
Neither was there any indication from the rest of the cast of any change of dynamic. Joseph Stone, in the title role, is strong both vocally and in his delivery of the tortured demon barber. Jay Landreville, as the simple Tobias Ragg, Mrs. Lovett’s protégé, relates to her effectively and their Not While I’m Around duet is one of the most touching moments of the show. (more…)
February 25, 2017 Saturday at 8:41 pm
Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska
In his play “Les Passants,” Luc Moquen is, to put it simply, presenting us to us. This play has no classic storyline – there is no beginning or end, nothing develops and nothing happens in succession. It has no real solution – only a hint that maybe love, a simple hug can help us – but nobody seems to see it. The play implies many things, and one of them is the fact that we do not want to listen to reason or to nature. “Les Passants’ is a series of vignettes from average people’s lives. The author observes them, captures their thoughts, misadventures, anxiety, and confusion. Although these sketches seem to be random when taken out of context, put together they make a powerful testimony by capturing the essence of today’s life, which is filled with crazy rush through a myriad of meaningless tasks causing a detachment from everything and everyone around us. The leitmotif of the play is death – not so much physical, but a death inside us, caused by total alienation. Dante’s Inferno, killings on the streets, or killing the human inside of us – all these deaths have the same root – displaced values as the result of a disconnect from our true, natural existence. (more…)
February 25, 2017 Saturday at 7:47 pm
Reviewed by Patrick Langston
If everyone feels like an outsider, then is anyone actually an outsider? Les Passants – an engagingly adventurous, vignette-based co-production by GCTC and le Théâtre la Catapulte – doesn’t address that question directly, but in presenting its cavalcade of funny, poignant and vulnerable characters, people whose inner lives are constantly at odds with the outer world, it certainly suggests we are all together in this messy, often unhappy business of modern-day alienation.
Wobbly at the outset, the production soon enough gains traction as playwright Luc Moquin’s script unrolls in French with English surtitles. Four actors – Mélanie Beauchamp, Benjamin Gaillard, Andrée Rainville and Yves Turbide – play multiple characters, with Keith Thomas’s soundscape often becoming a character itself. That soundscape can be intensely disquieting, becoming at times a kind of howling white noise that underscores Moquin’s concern with the clamour of distraction that smothers our ability to think, judge and communicate about anything outside the ephemeral.
Caught up in this universe of fevered inconsequentiality, Moquin’s characters ricochet about, trying to connect with each other, with themselves, with anything that would provide a quiet, safe harbour. They fail to do so, of course, sometimes in exceedingly funny fashion. Such is the case when a couple, having attended some kind of flaky get-in-touch-with-yourself-and-each-other session, performs an interpretative dance meant to express the emotions they’ve long kept tamped down. It’s an absurd exercise in self-absorption, a cure that’s worse than the illness, but also the kind of lazy solution to a deep existential calamity that’s so appealing precisely because it entails little real effort or risk. (more…)
February 25, 2017 Saturday at 3:14 pm
Reviewed by Jamie Portman
It doesn’t take long to realize that there’s something terribly wrong with Ottawa Little Theatre’s misbegotten production of To Kill A Mocking Bird.
It’s there in the forced, stilted acting, in the lack of fluidity in the staging, in the clumsy handling of the expository passages in Christopher Sergel’s adaptation of the classic Harper Lee novel about a black man’s trial for rape in the small-town Alabama of more than 80 years ago.
John Collins’s direction is so flaccid and the performances so perfunctory that it takes a while even to be conscious of the hothouse emotional climate that is supposed to be taking hold of this racially-scarred community. Yet you keep hoping that matters will improve. Surely, you think, they won’t botch that first big dramatic moment when Atticus Finch, the accused’s gentle defence attorney, stations himself in front of the jail to stave off an attempted lynching by a blustering mob of rednecks.
But they do botch the scene, which is so badly executed that it becomes almost laughable in its unintentional parody.
To be sure, there are moments when the production does yank itself into some semblance of credibility. (more…)
February 20, 2017 Monday at 10:38 pm
News from Capital Critics Circle
Guest Critic: Jim Murchison
To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic novel and known by many for the nearly flawless film version of 1962. The stage adaptation by Christopher Sergel is not in the same league, but the story is worth telling and OLT does a credible job of bringing it to life.
Many of us may have come to believe that we have evolved from the ugly racist world that was prevalent prior to the social upheaval of the 60’s and the election of the United States first black President. We now know after Brexit, the election of the 45th U.S. President and the horrifying shootings in a Quebec Mosque that we still have a long way to travel before we get to the point where we have attained equality. It is this simple. We need eternal vigilance to protect us from our prejudices and xenophobia.
It is what To Kill A Mockingbird is about and unfortunately it is as relevant as it has ever been. Klaas Van Weringh’s set design is equally effective as an Alabama neighbourhood and as a courthouse. The set worked most effectively when combined with Brian Cano’s lighting design in the scene at the jailhouse where we see a solitary bare light bulb revealing Atticus Finch (David Holton) sitting outside reading his paper. He steadfastly waits for the angry white mob that is inevitably coming from the shadowy streets. This scene captured the essence of the piece perfectly. (more…)
February 20, 2017 Monday at 10:32 pm
Reviewed by Iris Winston
To Kill a Mockingbird
By Christopher Sergel
Based on the novel by Harper Lee
Ottawa Little Theatre
Directed by John Collins
Let’s begin with a word to the several people who left the Ottawa Little Theatre production of To Kill a Mockingbird during the intermission.
Act II was considerably better than the turgid Act I. This is primarily because of one outstanding performance. Marcus Jones is totally believable as Tom Robinson, the innocent black man accused of raping an illiterate white woman.
Despite yeoman efforts by some of the other cast members, most notably Barbara Kobolak as Miss Stephanie, no performances other than Jones’ are anywhere near as moving as they should be given the subject matter.
Christopher Sergel’s 1991 adaptation of Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer prize-winning novel about racism in 1935 small-town Alabama (which he apparently took two decades to write) is true to the original. In fact, it frequently quotes Lee’s text. However, it is always a massive challenge adapting a dense novel to the stage. In addition, a large-cast, multi-race play is difficult to cast and ensure a consistently credible ensemble. Sadly, director John Collins has been able to stretch very few of the cast into powerful performances in this production.
The theme of the novel, timely when it was published during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S., remains germane today, especially since the last presidential election. But the format is heavygoing and many of the characters in the stage version come over as stereotypes or sketches rather than as individuals. (more…)
February 18, 2017 Saturday at 9:38 am
Avec « ERZULI DAHOMEY, déesse de l’amour » et après « Médée-Kali », le M’Acte démontre sa volonté de rapprocher les différentes cultures
News from Capital Critics Circle
Guest Critic: Scarlet Jesus
Avant la Martinique -où la pièce sera jouée au Théâtre Aimé Césaire du 16 au 18 février prochain-, dans le cadre d’une programmation mettant à l’honneur Karine Pedurand, le Mémorial Acte a donné une unique représentation d’« Erzuli Dahomey, déesse de l’amour ». Le texte de cette pièce, écrite par Jean-René il y a une dizaine d’années dans le cadre d’une résidence d’auteur à La Chartreuse d’Avignon et publié aux éditions des Solitaires intempestifs, a reçu plusieurs récompenses : le Prix SACD de la dramaturgie française en 2009, suivi en 2013 du Prix « Théâtre 13 Jeunes metteurs en scène ».
La pièce avait fait l’objet d’une programmation à la Comédie Française (salle du Vieux Colombier) du 12 mars au 15 avril 2012, avec une mise en scène d’Eric Génovèse. La mise en scène, pour la Guadeloupe et comme pour la Martinique, a été réalisée à l’initiative de la Compagnie Théâtre des Deux Saisons. Elle a pu être vue en Île de France, les 17 et 18 juin derniers, dans le cadre de la structure Arcadi (Plateaux Solidaires).
Erzuli ? Voici une pièce qui va évoquer le vaudou, pensez-vous! D’autant que vous connaissez l’origine haïtienne de Jean-René Lemoine.
Il vous faut d’emblée éliminer cette fausse piste et noter que le titre ne fait pas référence à « Erzuli Dantor », mais à « Erzuli Dahomey ». A l’Afrique donc plus qu’à Haïti.A travers la référence à un royaume , le Dahomey, qui fut autrefois, avec Ouidah, un lieu majeur de la traite des esclaves atlantiques. Et d’où le vaudou, certes, tire son origine… La pièce semble faire le lien entre une réalité historique et la présence d’un imaginaire collectif dans lequel le merveilleux trouve place. (more…)
February 14, 2017 Tuesday at 6:25 pm
Reviewed by Iris Winston
By Leanna Brodie
Directed by Joy Forbes
One scene in Schoolhouse depicts an amateurish production of a Christmas play. The sequence would be more amusing if it were a greater contrast to most of the other episodic scenes in a non-drama that drags from beginning to end.
Part of the problem is with the production style of this 2006 memory play by Leanna Brodie and part of the issue is that the writing is simply not particularly interesting.
Certainly, the one-room schoolhouse of yesteryear is remembered with affection by former students, teachers and, indeed, the entire community surrounding it. In rural areas across Canada, the small school was a social as well as an educational centre and so almost as important as the main church in the vicinity.
Other plays — Anne of Green Gables, for example — have made the school a key part of a drama or musical. Most recently, Elmwood School presented Jean Duce Palmer’s Miss Bruce’s War. Like Schoolhouse, Palmer’s drama is a memory play. Unlike, the choppy, episodic Schoolhouse, Miss Bruce’s War has gentle charm and a believable flow and the high-school production was outstanding. (more…)
February 9, 2017 Thursday at 9:00 am
Director Lisa Zanyk balances the absurd and all-too familiar aspects of humanity in Albee’s At Home at the Zoo
Reviewed by Kat Fournier
Don’t we all have an inner Jerry? In so many ways, Edward Albee’s infamously volatile, transient character Jerry captures our frustrating inability to feel at home in a strangely formulaic world. He reveals the alienating sensation of being a human amongst other humans. Moreover, that I even left the Carleton Tavern with that in mind is a fine tribute to the work of director Lisa Zanyk and a nimble trio of actors who’ve taken on Albee’s At Home at the Zoo.
The double-bill features two one-act plays that have been careful sewn together by the playwright. The second act is a stand-alone play, Zoo Story, which he wrote while in his late twenties. Considering the piece well-formed but “incomplete”, Albee fleshed out Peter’s character in a prelude of sorts called Homelife when he was in his 70s. The two short pieces now play as a two act performance that exposes an uncomfortable portrayal of the middle class.
Critics have noted that the interplay of Homelife and Zoo Story reveal a portrait of the playwright at two distinct stages of life. Sequentially, the latter is Albee’s first play and captures youthful angst, anti-establishmentarian impulses, and nihilism. The former, written as a companion piece over 50 years later, delves into a more middle-aged mind set. The enemy there is complacency, disappointment, and repressed passions. Juxtaposed, these two one-act plays have an enthralling symmetry. In Homelife, Peter, a middle-aged textbook publishing executive, is flaccid, bored, and has a relationship with his work that borders on the absurd. Like Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hill, Peter hopes with all his heart that the textbooks that he pours countless hours of his life into have some intrinsic value. It is an unmistakable criticism of the complacency that fuels the middle class. (more…)
February 9, 2017 Thursday at 8:33 am
News from Capital Critics Circle
The 235-seat theatre at 910 Gladstone was home to the Great Canadian Theatre Company from 1982 to 2007. Since then, it’s been operated as The Gladstone, managed by Plosive Productions from 2011 till this past Fall. In 2016, a steering committee made up of members of the Ottawa theatre community, led by Plosive’s David Whiteley, the theatre’s volunteer manager, worked to create a new organization to run the theatre. On November 8, 2016 The Gladstone Theatre Inc. was founded as the new caretaker of 910 Gladstone avenue, a venue which has become a bustling hub for Ottawa’s independent theatre community. So far this season, over 10,000 theatre goers have attended shows at The Gladstone! AL Connors becomes the new corporation’s first Theatre Manager.
“Maybe the best thing about this job is that I’m going to get to meet everyone!” says Connors referring to the long list of artists and producers who regularly present shows at the venue. “These fantastic artists will all come to me. It’s going to make me a lazy theatre patron, having shows down the hall from my desk. I’m pretty excited.”
Theatre patrons may recognize Connors from his on-stage roles in Gladstone hits Noises Off, The 39 Steps, and as Norman in last season’s The Norman Conquests Trilogy. Other Gladstone credits include directing Much Ado About Feckin’ Pirates, a Company of Fools’ A Midwinter’s Dream Tale, and most recently Pierre Brault in Will Somers. (more…)
February 7, 2017 Tuesday at 2:50 pm