Reviewer: Iris Winston

Iris Winston
A writer, editor, reporter and theatre reviewer for more than 40 years, Iris Winston has won national and provincial awards for her fiction, non-fiction and reviews. A retired federal public servant, she has seven books in print and writes regularly for local, regional, national and international newspapers and magazines, including Variety and the Ottawa Citizen. Iris lives in Almonte.

Ottawa Little Theatre: Pardon Me, Prime Minister. Good performances out of weak material.

Reviewed by Iris Winston


Pardon Me, Prime Minister, directed by Josh Kemp. Photo: Maria Vartanova

Should you think about going to see Pardon Me, Prime Minister, currently playing at Ottawa Little Theatre, be warned.

This weak and dated farce by Edward Taylor and John Graham, first performed in 1979, is not connected to the fine television comedy series Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister — except by trying to force a link through its title.

The plot — if that is not too strong a word for the creaking storyline — is transparent and the climax (again too strong a word for something that is more fizzle than sizzle) is discernible well before the end of the first scene.

In the tradition of British farce, cast members rush through assorted doors and females strip to their underwear, on at least one occasion for absolutely no reason. Sadly, the OLT production features some of the ugliest and most unflattering undies that do nothing to enhance the appearance of the three young women who must wear them. And, while considering the costuming, it might also have been a good idea to spring for three similar dresses in three different sizes, instead of making do with one, for the three actresses of different body types, who must wear them. Along the way, this would also set up an amusing replication of outfits for the curtain call.


Same Time Next Year: A delightful opener for this year’s festival

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Poster: Classic Theatre Festival, Perth

Same Time Next Year
By Bernard Slade
Classic Theatre Festival
Directed by Laurel Smith

Adultery has never been more respectable than it is in Same Time Next Year by Bernard Slade.

Written in 1975, the award-winning romantic comedy is as amusing and gently charming in 2017 as it was 42 years ago. Then, it was topical, as well as funny. Today, it is a period piece about social change, as well as being an appealing look at a relationship that begins as a one-night stand and evolves into an enduring connection. (more…)

Old Love: Just the right mix of heart and humour

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo courtesy of Ottawa Little Theatre

Old Love
By Norm Foster
Ottawa Little Theatre
Directed by Venetia Lawless

For two friends in their 60s who just celebrated their third wedding anniversary and say that love in later life is especially rewarding, Old Love is a play to identify with and enjoy.

Probably one of the most charming of Canadian playwright Norm Foster’s 55 scripts, Old Love, while containing many of his signature one-liners, is more romance than comedy. First performed in 2008, Old Love traces an undeclared love that has lasted for 30 years, unspoken until he — now divorced — invites his former boss’s widow to dinner at the funeral reception. (more…)

Ragtime: Lasting images and musically very attractive

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Ragtime. Photographer Alan Dean

The insistent syncopation of the ragtime motif, stylized patterns and defining colours form lasting images as the stories emerge in Ragtime: The Musical.

The award-winning show opens with a presentation of three different perspectives in the years leading up to World War I. We meet the privileged whites of La Rochelle, New York, safe in their separation from the difficulties faced by the others. Next, we are introduced to representatives of those groups — the black Harlem community with the music that makes their difficult lives easier and the immigrants facing even greater hardship as they try to establish themselves in their new land. (more…)

Sister Act: Suzart Productions Puts on an Entertaining Show

Reviewed by Iris Winston


Photo: Suzart Producttions

Book by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Glenn Slater
Suzart Productions
Directed by Ellen Seguin

From gangster’s moll to cop’s heartthrob, Deloris leaves seedy discos and bars for the peace behind convent walls — almost.

Based on the 1992 movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, Sister Act is set in 1970s Philadelphia, where nightclub singer hopeful Deloris Van Cartier sees her gangster boyfriend commit murder, so putting her own life in danger. Her police officer admirer arranges for her to spend time in protective custody in a cash-strapped convent — a location as uncomfortable for her as it is for the Mother Superior who must keep her under wraps. But, as the sisters soon discover, the Lord works in mysterious ways, especially when Deloris turns the catastrophic chorus of nuns into a powerhouse choir worthy of performing for the Pope. (more…)

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Offers Thoughtful, Flamboyant Fun

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: Maria Vartanova

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (The Musical)
Book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott
Musical arrangements and orchestrations by Stephen ‘Spud’ Murphy
Developed for the stage by Simon Phillips
Based on the movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
TotoToo Theatre
Directed by Michael Gareau

It’s camp, caring, charming and costumed — Oh boy! Is it costumed!

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (The Musical) is a highly entertaining jukebox musical that shoehorns 27 pop and disco favourites — especially drag performance favourites — from the 1970s and 80s into a rickety bus (Priscilla) traveling across the Australian desert from Sidney to Alice Springs. (more…)

Treasure Island: Mediocre production with great technical elements

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: Kanata Theatre

Treasure Island
By Ken Ludwig
Adapted from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson
Kanata Theatre
Directed by Wendy Wagner

The treasure to be found in the Kanata Theatre production of Treasure Island is its design and technical achievement.

But much of the rest of Ken Ludwig’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure story — written to entertain his stepson, with “no need of psychology of fine writing”— is boring, repetitive and noisy in the KT production, directed by Wendy Wagner. (more…)

Ghost of a Chance: Production offers some uneven pacing

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo courtesy of Rural Root Theatre Company

Ghost of a Chance
By Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus
Rural Root Theatre Company
Directed by Valerie Jorgensen

The three most annoying things about Ghost of a Chance are: its heavy borrowing from the Noel Coward classic Blithe Spirit early on; the unreasonable return of one thieving character, simply to engineer a happy ending; and the misdating of deer hunting season by a character who is supposed to be a hunting/shooting/fishing macho type.

There is also an issue with the 1996 comedy by husband-and-wife writing duo Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus being cluttered with too many complications and silliness. Even so, this ‘spirited’ sit-com includes a number of funny lines. But, unless a production of this type moves at a consistently fast pace, it stands more than a ghost of a chance of falling flat. (more…)

Towards Zero: True to period production would have benefitted from some editing

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo courtesy of Ottawa Little Theatre

Towards Zero
By Agatha Christie and Gerald Verner
Ottawa Little Theatre
Directed by Sarah Hearn

You know the drill of a classic whodunit: A small group of people, most of them with a grudge or a secret, gathers in an elegant country or seaside house, probably on a dark and stormy night. At least one among them is murdered (usually off stage) and it seems that the killer is an insider. (more…)

Outside Mullingar: A pleasant evening’s entertainment

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: Black Sheep Theatre

Outside Mullingar
By John Patrick Shanley
Black Sheep Theatre Company
Directed by Dave Dawson

It is no surprise that a romantic comedy set in Ireland should focus on a land dispute between neighbours and begin on a rainy night in the aftermath of a funeral. Neither is it unusual for the talk to center on death: Tony, the professional curmudgeon on one side of the fence, predicts that Aoife, the widow next door, will die within the year and adds that he does not expect to live more than two more months.

Both predictions are correct (yes, this is a comedy — Irish style). Before the two months are up, Tony delivers his zinger: he does not intend to leave the family farm to his only son, Anthony, because he fears that the young man will never marry. (more…)

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