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

Undercurrents: “The Pipeline Project” , Forstner & Fillister present: Forstner & Fillister in: “Forstner & Fillister” and” Little Boxes”

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

The Pipeline Project.

White, urban eco-warrior or First Nations rez dweller with a hankering for the good life, you don’t get off easy in The Pipeline Project.

The show, performed as a series of vignettes, centres on the political and cultural battles over pipelines in B.C.

That could make for a dry 75 minutes. But writers/performers Sebastien Archibald, Quelemia Sparrow and Kevin Loring (artistic director of the new Indigenous Theatre at the National Arts Centre) make the matter intensely personal, and in doing so, render it both universal and absorbing. (Continue reading » )

What a Young Wife Ought to Know is a lesson in clear-eyed compassion

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

What a young Wife ought to Know. Photo Timothy Patrick

At first sight, the two knitting needles stuck into an inconspicuous basket of wool seem a simple touch of domesticity. They are implements you’d expect any working class mother in the 1920s to wield with some skill and love if she wanted to keep her family decently clothed.

But as Hannah Moscovitch’s trenchant What a Young Wife Ought to Know (at the Great Canadian Theatre Company) proceeds, those needles, part of the set and never removed from the wool, take on a terrible potentiality. For this is a play concerned with women’s reproductive rights – or, more precisely, the absence of them — and we all know the horrifying use to which knitting needles have sometimes been put in the service of birth control. (Continue reading » )

Mr. Shi and His Lover: a tautly executed superlative piece of musical theatre

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

Mr Shi and His Lover: Jordan Cheng and Derek Kwan, Photo Erik Kuong

A word of advice: If you’re going to see this superlative chamber musical, take the time to read the introductory notes from Macau Experimental Theatre that accompany the National Arts Centre’s program as well as the program itself.

That material will give you not just the show’s background – for instance, it’s based on a two-decades long, real-life love affair between two men: a French diplomat and a Peking opera singer who presented himself as a woman – but also provide invaluable explanatory musical and storyline anchors for a show that, like its concerns with love, deceit, identity and the nature of performance, eludes easy categorization and slyly resists our natural hunger for definitive answers in the face of ambiguity. (Continue reading » )

Voices from the Front:Radio format and the written material dont always mesh

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Most years, Plosive Productions’ annual Radio Show takes place close to Christmas with a seasonal or light-hearted theme: adaptations of classics like Miracle on 34th Street or Winnie-the-Pooh, for example.

This time, Plosive has scheduled the show – Voices from the Front – around Remembrance Day and focused on much grittier material: the letters written to family and sweethearts by soldiers serving at the front in the First and Second World Wars.

If you’ve ever read any of these letters, particularly on their original, now-yellowed paper, you know how effecting the words can be.

(Continue reading » )

GCTC’s Ordinary Days proves to be an extraordinary stage experience

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Posted on on November 3

The key to life in the big city? Ignore the big and celebrate the everyday.

It sounds trite, but Ordinary Days – Adam Gwon’s thoughtfully empathetic chamber musical about four young people adrift in New York City – is just the opposite of pedestrian, as the Great Canadian Theatre Company’s winning production of his show proves.

Directed by Eric Coates, the sung-through piece tracks the lives of two women and two men as they grapple with loneliness in the city and struggle for everything from artistic recognition to freedom from a past that warps the present. (Continue reading » )

King of the Yees trips over its own plot.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

It doubtless started out as a viable, if overstuffed, idea.

Write a comedy about the erosion of Chinese culture and tradition when it’s transplanted to contemporary America. Illustrate the resonant theme of cultural identity by making the two main characters the likeable Larry Yee, a 60-year-old father who honours tradition, and Lauren Yee, his thoroughly westernized, Ivy League school-educated daughter who makes her living as a playwright.

Weave in a loving-but-fraught relationship between father and daughter and a search for personal identity. Set the whole thing in Chinatown, say it’s a true story, and call it King of the Yees. (Continue reading » )

Fresh Meat: Le Crip Bleu, La disparition, Beer Buddies, Honey Dew Me, Badges

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

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.

La disparition

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 » )

Sir John A: Acts of Gentrified Ojibway Rebellion on stage at the NAC.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Onegin’s portrayal of young love conquers despite some missteps

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Article first published in

Pity the rich boy with too much time on his hands. His heart entombed as though by a Russian winter, he drifts through life bored, disconnected, emotionally somnolent. And if his name is Evgeni Onegin, he manages, through indifference to all but his own wants, to hurt deeply those who reach out to him and, in the end, to become the victim of his own glacial persona.

Onegin, in other words, isn’t the kind of guy you’d choose to hang with. But, as the titular character in the new, spirited musical by west coasters Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hille — who based their show on the early 19th century poem by Alexander Pushkin and the subsequent Tchaikovsky opera — he is someone to whom you pay attention. (Continue reading » )

This Amorous Servant seduces her audience.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,


A word of advice: If your plans ever conflict with those of Corallina, you may as well just give way because she’ll best you every time.

Corallina — a firecracker with an intense sense of honour, an estimable loyalty to those who merit it and an ingrained understanding that women’s second-class citizenry needs to be rooted out like a nasty bit of poison ivy — is the glue who holds together Carlo Goldoni’s rarely produced 1752 commedia dell’arte creation The Amorous Servant. (Continue reading » )

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