King of Yees. Provided by the NAC English Theatre
So whats exactly happening on the stage of the Babs Asper Theatre at the National Arts Centre? Well now, let’s see. There are such ingredients as identity angst, the generation gap, urban politics, racial stereotyping, cultural dislocation, a search for “meaning” in life. We also get smidgeons of naturalism, surrealism, dada, Brechtian and absurdist devices glued together by low-vaudeville buffoonery — all hopefully stirred into American playwright Lauren Yee’s dramatic pot in expectation of a coherent whole. A picturesquely conceived lion occasionally makes a manic appearance along with a chiropractor who’s really a sadistic needle-plunging acupuncturist — or is he actually a herbalist? There’s a swaggering caricature of aTong gangster — Shrimp Boy by name — whose presence triggers a street shoot-out that manages to throw an already discordant offering even more off track. (Continue reading » )
King of Yee, courtesy of the NAC
King of the Yees is not the play that Lauren Yee set out to write — so says the character playing the playwright in the semi-autobiographical work. This is a hint that the comic drama could lack clarity. And it does. King of the Yees is about equal parts amusing and confusing and frequently seems to lack discipline.
The title character is the playwright’s father, Larry, a man steeped in tradition and committed to supporting his community, particularly through the Yee Fung Toy Family Association — a men’s club formed 150 years earlier — in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
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Photo: Maria Vartanova
A small glass of elderberry wine seems an appropriately genteel alcoholic drink for two kindly old ladies to serve potential lodgers — except when it is laced with arsenic and spiced with strychnine and cyanide.
Even those who have never seen a stage production or of Joseph Kesselring’s 76-year-old dark comedy Arsenic and Old Lace or watched the Frank Capra movie (shot in 1941 and released in 1944) are familiar with parts of the tale of the charitable Brewster sisters, who dispatched lonely gentlemen and then gave them a Christian burial in the basement of their home. (Continue reading » )
Photo: Maria Vartanova
We often make jokes about that which scares or hurts us the most. It’s a way many of us cope with a world that can often feel needlessly cruel and absurd. It’s because of this need to laugh in the face of darkness that a comedy such as Joseph Kesselring’s play Arsenic and Old Lace has such an enduring quality. After all, there’s something strangely captivating about discovering the layer of rotten silt under a veneer of respectability. The Ottawa Little Theatre’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace, directed by Brian Cano, is a delightfully relaxing romp, despite its dark plot. There are some minor issues with pacing, but its combination of adept directing, brilliant acting, and sumptuous sets make for a cozy evening at the theatre. (Continue reading » )
Ottawa Little Theatre’s second play of it’s 105th season is the enduring classic, Arsenic and Old Lace. If there is a better play to stage around the Halloween season I don’t know what it would be. It is dark and creepy enough, but peppered with humour and spiced with a little bit of romance. It is the pumpkin pie of theatre; both a trick and a treat.
The characters are already well known to fans of the the classic 1944 Frank Capra film with Cary Grant. The sweet little old ladies that bury lonely gentlemen in the basement have a nephew that thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt, another that is a menacing international criminal and a third that is a theatre critic in love with the preacher’s daughter. Add in some dim witted police officers and sure fire one liners and that’s how to construct a near perfect black comedy. Written by Joseph Kesselring in 1939 it first premiered on Broadway in 1941 and was a welcome distraction from the war that was occurring in Europe at the time. (Continue reading » )
Souvenir. A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins
Photo Mark S.Howard
Ten years after staging Stephen Temperley’s two-hander Souvenir, A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins Spiro Veloudos, the artistic director of Boston’s Lyric Stage, has revived it with the same cast. Not having seen the earlier production, I am unable to compare the two. However, both talented performers Will McGarrahan and Leigh Barrett are comfortable and believable in their roles.
Since Souvenir’s Broadway début in 2005, Florence Foster Jenkins has become considerably better known. Coincidently, Peter Quilter’s British iteration with an even longer title: Glorious!: The True Story of Florence Foster the Worst Singer in the World opened the same year. (Continue reading » )
Photo Alastair Muir.
Lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe, Book by Andreaw Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe, Based on the novel by Gaston Leroux A Broadway Across Canada presentation of a Cameron Mackintosh production, in association with the Really Useful Group.
In the three decades since Andrew Lloyd Webber’s blockbuster musical began breaking records in terms of box office receipts, audience numbers, awards and longevity — Phantom officially became Broadway’s longest-running showing when it topped 100,000 performances in 2012 — the show has thrilled millions around the globe. (Continue reading » )
Created by Helen Thai
Performed by Franco Pang and Helen Thai
Directed by Kristina Watt
Siblings, growing up in a family that didn’t talk a lot about the past, come to understand that Ma and Ba fled the war in Vietnam and the Cambodian genocide. As difficult as it is for the parents to speak about their experiences, it is even more difficult for the children to navigate the silences, and expectations, that hang over a family that once faced annihilation. Ghosts haunt the present, and even Ma’s reliable Eagle Balm curative can’t banish fearful memories. The language is poetic, effectively reflecting the difficulty of communication between generations with vastly different experiences. One is sympathetic to a husband and wife who sacrificed everything to escape their tormented homeland now raising their children in a country that has turned these same offspring, to some degree, into strangers. While the emotionally even delivery helps us absorb a narrative that covers a lot of historical territory, a little more exposure of the past would be helpful. During a day on the beach the sister suddenly panics while playfully burying her brother in sand as she realizes that this innocent act mimics a too common ritual of war. More such jarring juxtapositions between past and present would help us enter a story that is still keeping its ghosts hidden. I look forward to seeing more of this compelling play.
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— Par Michèle Bigot pour Madinin-art 16 octobre 2017
Comédie fantastique en 8 songe. Un spectacle de Macha Makeïeff,
La Criée, Marseille, création 2017, 6>20 octobre
Aucun spectacle créé par Macha Makeïeff ne témoigne autant que celui-ci de son double talent de metteure en scène et de plasticienne. La musique (avec une prééminence de l’accordéon) la lumière, les couleurs et les costumes ont fait l’objet d’une attention toute particulière. La scénographie digne d’un opéra, les lumières dont le jeu a été confié à Jean Bellorini, les évolutions chorégraphiques, dessinées avec la complicité d’Angelin Preljocaj, l’ensemble contribue à faire de cette comédie fantastique un spectacle total. (Continue reading » )
Poster: fresh meat theatre festival
Now in its sixth year, Ottawa’s Fresh Meat festival brings 12 short shows over two weekends to invariably enthusiastic Arts Court audiences. The following were reviewed during the first weekend.
Le Crip Bleu
Featuring brave, generous and very funny performances by Alan Shain and Frank Hull – both wheelchair-using actors who celebrate the “able” in disabled – Le Crip Bleu is a wordless burlesque show that reminds us that humour and the glory of the human body in all its guises matter far more than shallow, contemporary conventions of beauty. The two perform a mating dance using their chairs, taunt and tease the audience with stripteases (the show does count on hooting, cooperative viewers), and generally carry on in cheeky, envelope-pushing fashion. One suspects the show could touch the heart of even a die-hard Republican.
Marc-André Charette and Anie Richer blend words, movement and song with deep love and compassion in this textured tale of a mother sliding into fragility. Performed with English surtitles on a bare stage with hundreds of sheets of paper as props, La disparition (She’s Gone) is authentic, satisfyingly choreographed and – whether you’ve ever watched your mother slip away into the unknowable world of dementia or not – both powerfully resonant and oddly hopeful. (Continue reading » )