August, 2017

Tartuffe is not the star in this Stratford revival

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Tartuffe :Tom Rooney, Orgon: Graham Abbey
Photo: Lynda Churilla

STRATFORD, Ont. —   Let’s get down to the basics. The Stratford Festival’s new production of Moliere’s Tartuffe has company mainstay Graham Abbey delivering one of the best comic performances in  this  venerable theatre’s history. And no, he’s not playing the title character — he’s not the oily religious hypocrite and con-artist who ingratiates himself into a wealthy Parisian household and causes mayhem.

On the contrary, Abbey has the role of Orgon, the gullible head of the household and a man bewitched by Tartuffe’s bogus odour of sanctity. (more…)

A Comedyof Errors: a new adaptation of Shakespeare in Gananoque

News from Capital Critics Circle

The Comedy of Errors. Photo Stephen Wilde

 

Thousand Islands Playhouse opens a Shakespearean farce with a vaudeville twist.


The Comedy of Errors is a madcap adventure of mistaken identity and the chaos that ensues. “The Comedy of Errors was produced in the Playhouse’s first season in 1982, so we’re looking forward to reviving it for our 35th anniversary,” says Artistic Director Ashlie Corcoran. “Five of the Playhouse’s favourite performers are back to take on one of history’s funniest plays full of magic, slapstick, and many quick changes!”

Thousand Islands Playhouse
185 South Street, Gananoque
www.1000islandsplayhouse.com 

Burn: a good natured horror mystery that keeps us glued to the stage!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Zoe_photo by Lawless

Photo:  by Venetia  Lawless. Zoe Georgaras

An evening that begins in Geoff Gruson’s cozy sitting room design with enormous wooden bookcases, a warm fireplace, posters and paintings coming to life under David Magladry’s soft lighting that heats up the room in its friendly glow. A writer’s paradise. Three friends, David, (Michael Thompson), Sam (Tahera Mufti) and Robert (Chris Torti) are gathered in Roberts sitting room discussing the life and death of Paul, a successful writer friend, author of horror fiction who recently passed away. Robert also laments the death of his own wife Tara Waters, a talented writer whose memorabilia is spread out over the walls and around the house and whom, according to Robert, is not really dead! What kind of presence does he sense in the room?

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Stratford’s Breathing Hole is one for the memory books.

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

The Breathing Hole - On The Run 2017

Photo: Cylla Von Tiedemann

STRATFORD, Ontario — Our first encounter with the mythic polar bear dominating the Stratford Festival’s stunning production of The Breathing Hole comes at the very beginning when a widowed Inuit woman takes an orphaned one-eared cub into her care.

Our last sighting of of Angu’juaq — for that is the name bestowed on this creature — comes 500 years later, and the moment is heartbreaking.

By the end of the evening, we’re aware that Colleen Murphy’s remarkable play is making an ecological statement. But unlike The Madwoman Of Chaillot, another late-season Stratford offering with the environment on its mind, it radiates genuine heart when it comes to environmental matters. The self-congratulatory aren’t-we-being-clever flavour of Jean Giradoux’s satirical fantasy has no place in the sensibility of The Breathing Hole. It is an intensely human play tinged at the end with a melancholy that is palpable.

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Stratford tries to make a revival of Madwoman Of Chaillot take flight

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

The Madwoman of Chaillot - On The Run 2017

Seana McKenna as the Madwoman. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

STRATFORD, Ont. — The stage of the Tom Patterson Theatre has become a fantasy place — of colourful jugglers, exultant wordplay and somersaulting paradoxes, of imaginary dogs, lifeguards who can’t swim, cops with a weakness for cribbage — and a madwoman who isn’t mad.

Seana McKenna, who has the title role in the Stratford Festival’s new production of The Madwoman of Chaillot, gives us a character who confidently exists in her own reality — or is it her own unreality?

The flamboyant costumes designed for her by Teresa Przbylski certainly reflect a certain dotty elegance, but it is ultimately McKenna herself who really brings this quality into topsy-turvy focus with her performance as Aurelie, the Madwoman of Chaillot.

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I’ll Be Back Before Midnight : this set-up of the “thriller” genre succeeds

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Poster: I’ll Be Back Before Midnight

I’ll Be Back Before Midnight By Peter Colley. Classic Theatre Festival, directed by Laurel Smith

The big question surrounding I’ll Be Back Before Midnight is whether the audience is screaming with laughter or in terror as the packed story of this comedy/thriller unfolds.

Either way, playwright Peter Colley has been laughing all the way to the bank since Midnight premiered at the Blyth Festival in 1979. The play has been dubbed the most produced (and profitable) Canadian thriller in history. (more…)

Beneath: perfectly plausible horror! An excellent new work by Doug Phillips

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Beneath. Charlie Ebbs

This world premiere of a one act play by Doug Phillips  is a work of  futuristic hyper-naturalism that grabs us by the jugular because it seems perfectly logical and almost too plausible.

The remnants of a poor family sit around the table discussing family matters that almost seem banal.  In the first few minutes,  Phillips sets out  his clues.  The family is steeped in  misery, water is lacking and there are  fires in the area which has become a sort of agricultural waste – land managed by sharecroppers. Something  weird is happening in the barn behind the house,  as the scraping sounds ignite our curiosity. Then,  there is some terrible secret  hanging over them all.  We meet the family members at that point and it  doesn’t take us  long to see that sister Ellen is suffering the loss of a loved one,  that young Kelsie is waiting for her new date, that Charlie her father is also Ellen’s brother and he  is  the tortured head of this  “natural” family. The atmosphere suggests   Eugene O’Neil’s  grungy realism especially since the characters could possibly be  the actors themselves and we  wonder where this is going. (more…)

The Shaw Festival serves up a defanged Dracula

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE — You know there’s something wrong with the trendy 1985 version of Dracula currently available at the Shaw Festival when you quickly start yearning for the old Hamilton Deane-John Balderston stage adaptation of Bram Stoker’s celebrated vampire shocker.

To be sure the latter is somewhat creaky and happy to indulge in old-fashioned melodramatics. But it can still have a potent impact on stage and was still scaring the daylights out of playgoers in a 1977 Broadway revival starring Frank Langella. (more…)

Only Drunks and Children tell the truth: a tough-minded play fuelled by the author’s background in stand-up comedy!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Only Drunks. Taran Kootenhayoo, Joelle Peters. Photo by Stephen Wild Photo: Stephen Wild. Taran Kootenhayoo and Joelle Peters.

Drew Hayden Taylor is a prolific playwright, also well known for his stand-up comic routines which bring out his corrosive and provocative humor as well as ideas that stimulate much thought. Published in 1998 and winner of the 1996 Dora Mavor Moore Small Theatre award for Outstanding New Play, Only Drunks and Children tell the truth was first produced in Toronto (1996) by Native Earth Performing Arts. This new production in Gananoque gives us a chance to see the work of an author who has not yet had enough exposure on the mainstream theatre circuit in spite of his many plays that have already been published. .

Taylor raises delicate questions about stereotypes and racism and mistaken attitudes in the non-native community of Canada with regards to native people . Here, he takes a close look at Grace, a young woman of Ojibway origin, from Otter lake, who was removed from her family by the Children’s Aid Society when she was a child because the Society assumed the father had abandoned the family which was not true. She became “Janice” in Toronto where she grew up in a non-native family . As time passed, the cultural memories of her former life, slipped quietly away. The white set by designer Jung-Hye Kim shows us a symbolic place where all culture has been eradicated, as the invisible paintings and other objects that decorate the room only exist in the memory and the imagination of the owner or of those who are still in touch with her past.

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The Shaw Festival triumphs with Middletown

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Middletown, Photo: James Cooper

Middletown. Photo:David Cooper.

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. —  We seem to be entering a somewhat skewed universe when we attend the Shaw Festival’s production of American dramatist Will Eno’s Middletown.

For example, what’s with the conflicted town cop, played by Benedict Campbell, brutally throttling a mouthy good-for-nothing, played by Jeff Meadows, and commanding him to acknowledge the wonder and awe of life’s mystery? (more…)

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