Capital Critics' Circle
Le cercle des critiques de la capitale

Reviewing Theatre in Canada's Capital Region
La critique théâtrale de la région Ottawa-Gatineau

887: a shared collective history about the nature of memory itself.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Canada, Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

887   Robert Lepage,   Photo. Erick Labbé



887 Playwright, Designer & Director Robert Lepage

Like pinpoints of light scattered across the map of shows I have attended over thirty years, a Robert Lepage production always stands out as something special. His reach into the subject matter of any endeavor he conceives, develops, and then as much as embodies as performs, triggers all the receptors in the theatrical brain. (Continue reading » )

Building the Wall : The slippery slope of crimes against humanity!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Building the Wall at the Gladstone Theatre
Photo Andrew Alexander

Building The Wall, written by  Robert Shenkkan.

The swift march of folly can be the enemy of political theatre; by the time a playwright responds to events and a play reaches the stage, the world has moved on. Not so with Building The Wall by Robert Schenkkan. If you’ve had more than your dose of Trump inspired hilarity as served up by late night television, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre has the antidote. Lights up on grave misgivings. Walls actually come tumbling down in this production. (Continue reading » )

Ismene at the University of Ottawa : excellent work by a talented ensemble!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Ismène courtesy of the University of OttawaTheatre Department



A finely tuned production that shows off a talented ensemble and describes an enduring mystery, Michael Geither’s Ismene, directed by Daniel Mroz, takes us into the complex and precarious world of siblings Antigone and Ismene. As portrayed in Sophocles’ Antigone, Ismene is the saner sister who, while sympathetic to Antigone’s desire to do the right thing in burying their bother, is not prepared to endure the wrath of Uncle and King Creon for the sake of a corpse. Indeed, in both the original play, and in Geither’s text, Ismene is the one most anxious to cast off the mantle of the family tragedy for the pleasures of an ordinary life. But growing up under the shadow of incest and death places the normal out of reach. In this less than one-hour exploration of girlhood lived on the fringes of tragedy, the actors use singing, poetic encounters, movement, and a constantly shifting landscape of coffin-like boxes (courtesy of Paul Auclair) to express the isolation their parent’s fate has inflicted on their offspring. The poignant admission that it is Jocasta, their mother, who hanged herself, that they miss the most, rings particularly true. This chorus of actors, dancers and singers all deserve congratulations for excellent work. The uniform costumes of tank tops and shorts designed by Margaret Coderre-Williams contribute to a light and playful feel. While Mroz tells us that we really don’t know what Greek theatre might have looked like, one feels this play with its daring cast and well-balanced creative team has come awfully close.

Reviewed by laurie  Fyffe. Photo courtesy of the University of Ottawa theatre department.

Ismène ,  written by Michael Geither ,  directed by Daniel Mroz

Cast: With: Emily Bertrand, Emma Hickey, Jasmine Massé, Montana Adams, Zaakirah Chubb, Sophie McIntosh, Stefanie Velichkin, Kiara Lynn Neï.

Venue: University of Ottawa, Academic Hall.



Fresh Meat, Week Two: In-between, Holding Mercury, Folie, & InSight.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  


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.

(Continue reading » )

Laurie Fyffe Reviews from Fresh Meat Festival

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

 Now in its fifth year, Fresh Meat Festival is all about letting artists do what ever the thing is that they want to do. As evidenced by this set of five shows on Thursday, October 12, what artists in Ottawa want to do adds up to a heady mix of theatrical innovation and talent.

La disparition :  Opening the evening with La disparation (She’s gone) created & performed by Marc-André Charette and Anie Richer, en Français with English surtitles, the packed Arts Court studio was treated to a poetic meditation on a mother gone, or swiftly fading. Unsentimental, as they wield their spare, poetic text with keen precision, Anie and Marc-André tell us, “It’s with my mother I spent the most hours of truth.” Here we have a loving family suddenly conscious of a mother’s “budding fragility”. The stage is bare but the picture that emerges of the woman they are losing is beautifully vivid. She’s Gone is a well paced and tightly choreographed presentation that is both homage to love, and to the theatre as a medium in which the audience is pulled into the all consuming embrace of a shared experience. In both the writing and performances, She’s Gone is magical.

(Continue reading » )

More dragons, please! La Machine in Ottawa

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Guest reviewer Laurie Fyffe

Photo: Laurie Fyffe.

La Machine with its dueling dragon and gigantic spider has come and gone, leaving in its wake a flurry of excitement over what one can do with public space. Ottawa audiences came out in droves to witness two fantastical creates enact their fictional quest on Ottawa streets before discovering each other in a grand finale on Lebreton Flats. Given extraordinary license to tie up traffic, two mechanical beings transformed this city’s boulevards and multilane, downtown thoroughfares into scenic displays of awe and wonder. Kids were hoisted aloft to gaze at monsters that roared, spewed smoke and arrived in an array of wondrous musical accompaniment.

(Continue reading » )

Needles and Opium: The Paradox of Promise and Pain at the CanStage Bluma Appel Theatre in Toronto.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Canada   ,

Reviewed  from Toronto in December, 2013

Categories: Professional Theatre, Théâtre français


Lepage’s Needles and Opium begins with a paradox, that of acupuncture points that when activated by needles relieve pain, but were discovered in the search for maximum effect during torture. However, the more exquisite paradox of Needles and Opium is present in the dislocation of the human heart as it searches for relief from the suffering of love denied, suspended in the space between longing for the object of one’s desire and the knowledge that such love is now forever beyond reach. Remembered love holds both promise and pain. Thus begins a journey through space and time of the tortured soul buffeted by the physical and emotional gravitational forces of memory and longing.

(Continue reading » )

Ottawa Fringe 2014. Women Who Shout at the Stars.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Women Who Shout at the Stars written and performed by Carolyn Heatherington, directed by Kathryn Mackay, dramaturgy by Judith Thompson.

Heatherington’s reminiscences are a not to be missed emersion in the distance past of the 1930s.  The characters of her mother Gwen and childhood nannie Edie float across a landscape ravaged by war and lost loves in which the lovely and vulnerable Heatherington was as often her mother’s savior as her child.  Sensitively written by Heatherington, the play allows a daughter to speak for her mother, and make peace with her, while never becoming sentimental. Shaped by bold choices these are women who courageously embrace the consequences of those choices. Heatherington’s performance is by turns gentle, then swift and sharp, but always imbued with humour, and the portraits are unforgettable.  – Snapshot on the Fringe by Laurie Fyffe

Plays at the Leonard Beaulne Studio.


    Ottawa Fring 2014 : A Mind Full of Dopamine

    Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2014, Shaw Festival 2014  

    A Shapshot on the Fringe:

    A Mind Full of Dopamine written & performed by Rory Ledbetter

    An energized, speedy and focused performer, Ledbetter knows a thing or two about how to win at cards. But the key to this mile-a-minute tour of the poker table is that he also knows about losing, and the monkey mind set that compels the desperate to pile up their chips and swim with sharks. When debt meets desperation, Ledbetter is a consummate performer, driving for his life with the devil in his rear view mirror. What he makes visible in this descent of man into hellish habit is the terrible thrill of fighting for your life as you crash headlong into a disaster that just keeps giving. You can almost see the piles of poker chips amid the smoke and taste the double lattes. We want Rory to stop, but somehow can’t pull ourselves away as we experience the terrifying rush of actually watching a human being plunge into self-inflicted chaos – again and again. What level of will power, luck, or mysterious divine intervention does it take to re-claim your life when you’ve given it over to an all-powerful force – that lives inside you. Here’s the deal – place your Fringe chips on Dopamine. – Snapshot on the Fringe by Laurie Fyffe<=

    Plays at Arts Court Library

    Ottawa Fringe 2014: A Universal Guide to Loving Your Shadow:

    Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

    A snapshot on the fringe !

    A Universal Guide to Loving Your Shadow written & performed by Sylvia Kindl

    When Sylvia Kindl came to Ottawa a strange thing happened, she found herself followed, stalked, and well shadowed by an alter ego, an unexpected interloper who was a lot more aggressive and – imagine the audacity – attractive to young, skinny men than her corporeal self. Teetering between a stand-up comedy routine, sprinkled with highly amusing observations, and a story telling monologue that peels away a curiously dark side of Ottawa, Kindl addresses her audience in an intimate and personable way. But she sometimes loses the thread, and we don’t hear enough from ‘the shadow’. When her shadow launches into a rant, Kindl shuts her down too soon. Sylvia’s shadow is an altered personality complex with something to say and, I suspect, deeper and darker Ottawa secrets to reveal.  A play that will tell you “you’re not alone” if you think Ottawa, in addition to having a lovely canal and a thing about tulips, is sometimes a weird city to live in! 

    PLays in Arts Court Library

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