You may never look at a shipping container the same way after seeing Old Stock. Starring Halifax singer-songwriter-actor Ben Caplan, a luxuriantly bearded lad with a grand voice and a remarkable flair for entertaining, the music-play hybrid opens with a closed shipping container at centre stage.
As blandly anonymous on the exterior as any container, this one swings opens to reveal a four-piece band and the intimate story of two early-20th-century Jewish refugees who fled from Romania to Canada – refugees who are played by a couple of the musicians.
When the show’s over, the container doors close and your own life goes on, richer for what you’ve seen and heard. It’s a wonderful conceit for a set, this shipping container from who knows where. Designed by Louisa Adamson, Christian Barry and Andrew Cull, it suggests everything from foreign shores to life’s transience to the search for a permanent home, all themes in this smartly textured show……..
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Old Stock is a 2b theatre company (Halifax, N.S.) production, co-produced by the NAC. It was reviewed Thursday. In the Azrieli Studio (NAC) until July 15. Tickets: nac-cna.ca
Photo courtesy of The Gladstone Theatre
Has something been lost in translation?
Touted as a hilarious comedy about the off-stage shenanigans of musicians, classical and otherwise, Maestro by Québec playwright Claude Montminy opened Friday at the Gladstone in its English-language premiere. The play is running in both official languages and opened in French a day earlier.
Perhaps the show skims smartly along in its original French (I saw it only in Nina Lauren and Danielle Ellen’s English translation), but Friday’s opening had the buoyancy of a tuba. (Continue reading » )
Photo: Sylvain Sabatie
If everyone feels like an outsider, then is anyone actually an outsider? Les Passants – an engagingly adventurous, vignette-based co-production by GCTC and le Théâtre la Catapulte – doesn’t address that question directly, but in presenting its cavalcade of funny, poignant and vulnerable characters, people whose inner lives are constantly at odds with the outer world, it certainly suggests we are all together in this messy, often unhappy business of modern-day alienation.
Wobbly at the outset, the production soon enough gains traction as playwright Luc Moquin’s script unrolls in French with English surtitles. Four actors – Mélanie Beauchamp, Benjamin Gaillard, Andrée Rainville and Yves Turbide – play multiple characters, with Keith Thomas’s soundscape often becoming a character itself. That soundscape can be intensely disquieting, becoming at times a kind of howling white noise that underscores Moquin’s concern with the clamour of distraction that smothers our ability to think, judge and communicate about anything outside the ephemeral.
Caught up in this universe of fevered inconsequentiality, Moquin’s characters ricochet about, trying to connect with each other, with themselves, with anything that would provide a quiet, safe harbour. They fail to do so, of course, sometimes in exceedingly funny fashion. Such is the case when a couple, having attended some kind of flaky get-in-touch-with-yourself-and-each-other session, performs an interpretative dance meant to express the emotions they’ve long kept tamped down. It’s an absurd exercise in self-absorption, a cure that’s worse than the illness, but also the kind of lazy solution to a deep existential calamity that’s so appealing precisely because it entails little real effort or risk. (Continue reading » )
Photo: Colin Furlong as Joey Smallwood. Credit: Paul Daly
Joey Smallwood, the diminutive guy who led Newfoundland into Confederation in 1949: with a subject like that, audience members for The Colony of Unrequited Dreams could be forgiven for fearing an evening of excruciating boredom.
They would also be proven dead wrong.
Adapted by Robert Chafe from Wayne Johnston’s celebrated 1998 historical novel of the same name, the play is an enthralling glimpse into the heart of the earnest and tenacious Smallwood, into the soul of his beloved Newfoundland, and into Smallwood’s complicated relationship with a caustic newspaper columnist named Sheilagh Fielding. (Continue reading » )
Photo: Maria Vartanova
Other Desert Cities By Jon Robin Baitz, directed by Geoff Gruson.
In case you hadn’t noticed, truth is slippery. Everyone has his or her own version of it, as Donald Trump demonstrates almost daily. Playwright Jon Robin Baitz has made that slipperiness – and the crazy-making process of trying to grab hold of it – a principal theme in his compelling 2010 family drama, Other Desert Cities.
Set in Christmas-season California during the mid-2000s, the play finds two generations of the Wyeth family grappling with multiple truths – from matters of personal motivation to what the Republican Party truly represents – after 30-something, left-leaning daughter/author Brooke (Venetia Lawless) writes a memoir about the dark side of her family. The book is awaiting publication, and the potential of public exposure terrifies her parents Polly (Jane Morris) and Lyman (Robert Hicks), who years ago made a killing in the movie business and have gone on to a prominent role in conservative social and political circles.
(Continue reading » )
Photo: Kelly Clipperton
Trudeau Stories By Brooke Johnson, Great Canadian Theatre Company Directed by Allyson McMackon
Pierre Elliott Trudeau may have been a kind of sorcerer, a shape-shifter and ultimately unknowable, to public affairs writer Richard Gwyn, who titled his 1980 book about the former prime minister The Northern Magus: Trudeau and Canada.
To Brooke Johnson, 40 years Trudeau’s junior, he was a friend, an occasional swimming and hiking companion, a man who once slid down an icy Montreal street with her shouting “Whee!” (Continue reading » )
Final Review posted by Patrick Langston in the Ottawa Citizen!! December 17, 2016. We wish him well.
A Christmas Carol at NAC English Theatre Photographer: John Lauener / –
Bringing Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol to the stage is a risky business. The story is as well known as that of Adam and Eve – indeed, there’s something of The Fall and subsequent Redemption in Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey from innocent boyhood to miserly misery and finally into bliss – and finding a fresh interpretation of Dickens’s tale can be tough.
The NAC English Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol, newly adapted by director Jillian Keiley and starring Andy Jones as Scrooge, finds that fresh perspective and does so with élan. (Continue reading » )
Photo: Allan Mackey
The Novel House
By Jayson McDonald
Black Sheep Theatre at The Gladstone
That’s the question about Black Sheep Theatre’s misguided production of Ontario playwright Jayson McDonald’s tiresome family drama Novel House.
The plot – contrived and coy when it’s not simply inert – finds the jaunty writer James Novel (William Beddoe) working on – wait for it – the great Canadian novel in his rambling, leaky and apparently ghost-riddled home called Novel House. For reason that eluded at least me, Novel is writing his masterwork with a quill pen even though the setting is present-day.
We the audience are apparently reading the novel as he writes it. This allows him to address us directly from time to time before stepping back into the action of his novel which, if it tells the story of his and his family’s collective life, may not be a novel at all. Assuming you care to plumb things to that depth.
James’s wife Mary (Alexis Scott) is an annoyingly fidgety scatterbrain, but one who loves her husband and adult daughter Rebecca (Whitney Richards, who brings a welcome freshness to this dank show). There’s a cutely weird grandfather (James’ father Geoffrey, played by Jeffrey Lefebvre) who talks to a lamp and hangs out in a wardrobe (one keeps hoping he’ll be whisked away permanently to Narnia). Also on the scene: Thomas Winding, an earnest, whiny kind of guy played by the able Tony Adams, who marries Rebecca, almost fathers a child and does other stuff. (Continue reading » )
The fifth annual Fresh Meat festival of local, DIY theatre features ten, 20-minute shows by established and emerging artists. The emphasis is on testing new ideas in front of audiences. Some past Fresh Meat shows have gone on to bigger venues including the undercurrents festival and the fringe circuit. The following opening night shows comprised the festival’s first of two weekends.
Space Jameration (Greg Houston Comedy). Houston is a stand-up comic eager to transition into more theatre-based performance. He’s not there yet. His autobiographically based piece, quite witty at times, hovers in a no-man’s land between stand-up and storytelling. Houston seems to know he’s not yet where he wants to be artistically, and his discomfort intrudes on the performance.
S.S. Lightbulb (Second Step). Three bumbling electricians are tasked with repairing an out-of-commission lighthouse during a storm at sea. They demonstrate zero technical competence, cower in fear at nature’s fury, and are shaken when they realize the danger that those at sea face. It’s an inconsequential show by emerging performers who love physical theatre but S.S. Lightbulb manages to remain mostly amusing and well-timed. (Continue reading » )