Reviewer: Rajka Stefanovska

Rajka Stefanovska
Rajka Stefanovska was a radio journalist and arts reviewer in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as on Radio Yugoslavia, Belgrade, Serbia for 20 years. When the war in Former Yugoslavia started she moved to Ottawa, where she joined the Parliamentary Press Gallery as a correspondent for several media, and was a contributor to the Canadian news agency “Issues Network.” At the moment, she works as a federal public servant and still lives in Ottawa.

1979: An amusing play, not a satire

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

 

Photo by Andrew Alexander

The year is 1979 and the Canadian political scene is in upheaval. The Conservative government has just replaced Trudeau’s Liberals, and the new Prime Minister, Joe Clark, is trying to govern the country on the principles of honesty, truthfulness, and adherence to his high ideals. During his short period in the cabinet, he meets with much stronger adversaries than the opposition party – human greed and corrupt nature. While he stays true to himself and to Canadians, he, as a political misfit, ultimately looses the battle. (more…)

Les Passants is an imaginative, deep, intelligent, disturbing, and beautifully performed

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Photo: Sylvain Sabatie

In his play “Les Passants,” Luc Moquen is, to put it simply, presenting us to us. This play has no classic storyline – there is no beginning or end, nothing develops and nothing happens in succession. It has no real solution – only a hint that maybe love, a simple hug can help us – but nobody seems to see it. The play implies many things, and one of them is the fact that we do not want to listen to reason or to nature. “Les Passants’ is a series of vignettes from average people’s lives. The author observes them, captures their thoughts, misadventures, anxiety, and confusion. Although these sketches seem to be random when taken out of context, put together they make a powerful testimony by capturing the essence of today’s life, which is filled with crazy rush through a myriad of meaningless tasks causing a detachment from everything and everyone around us. The leitmotif of the play is death – not so much physical, but a death inside us, caused by total alienation. Dante’s Inferno, killings on the streets, or killing the human inside of us – all these deaths have the same root – displaced values as the result of a disconnect from our true, natural existence. (more…)

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: Brilliantly performed, directed, and adapted

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Photo: Paul Daly

In the Playwright’s Notes, the playwright, Robert Chafe, writes: “The history buff will have no trouble calling me out. But I made my primary task to reflect the spirit and heart of this magnificent book within the often-confining demands of a stage play.” That is exactly what he does. Hard, cold facts about Newfoundland’s first premier Joey Smallwood, and the role he played in bringing the Dominion of Newfoundland into Canada’s confederation can be found in any number of books. Chafe’s adaptation of Wayne Johnston novel Colony of Unrequited Dreams brings much more to the stage than that. It brings back the time, the place and people during a time of great change in Newfoundland. (more…)

Attempts on Her Life: Brave, bold, modern, challenging, creative

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

“Attempts on Her Life” is written by postmodern British playwright Martin Crimp, but has been entirely interpreted by Peter James Haworth, which is probably the only regularity in a highly irregular play. I say ‘regularity’ only because that is exactly the way Crimp works. Narrative is not his focus, therefore his dialogues are meaningless. The stage resembles madhouse whose residents are lost in nothingness. Reality disappears, lucid identity is non-existent, and lives are lived in a virtual world shaped by media.   

The story – if one can talk about a story at all – revolves around Anne, the only character in the play. That is, if we can talk about character at all. Anne is not on the stage. She might be already dead, still alive, in the neighbourhood, or somewhere very far. Everybody talks about her, trying to shape her, disagrees about who she is, but in spite of all of that, here she is. She occupies our minds, our thoughts and becoming more real than we are. Welcome to the modern world of advanced technology and consumerism wrapped up into a global capitalism. In seventeen apparently disconnected scenes, groups of people talk about her as a terrorist, a porno star, a tourist hostess, a daughter of grieving parents, a suicide artist and even as a car. Crimp does not express his opinion; he does not create atmosphere or protagonist and anti-protagonists. In his emotionally detached work, he leaves every possible interpretation to the director.

There is no point in trying to understand a deeper meaning of the story (because there is none).  (more…)

Servant of Two Masters. Massingham’s staging of Goldoni is intriguing, engaging and funny from the first second! A Winner.

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

odyssey-theatre1

Photo: Barb Gray.Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni. Directed by Andy Massingham.  An Odyssey Theatre production 

Almost as a rule, plays start slowly and develop into something interesting as the story unfolds. Fortunately, director Andy Massingham forgot all about this, and instead made “The Servants of Two Masters” intriguing, engaging, and funny from the first second. The play starts with the characters presenting themselves. One by one, they come dancing on the stage, promising an evening under the stars (and sporadic rain) full of fun and delight. Odyssey Theatre premiered its “Theatre Under Stars” production with the adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s best known comic play, giving it a more contemporary twist (the play is set in late fifties), and so proving the old art form of commedia dell’arte to be timeless.

Of course, in commedia dell’arte, the narrative itself is not the center of attention. The outline of the story and characters is always a simple tale about love, error, and deception. In this case, a young couple, Clarice (based on Isabella) and Silvio (based on Flavio), celebrate their engagement, when Truffaldino (based on Arlecchino) enters and announces that he has come with his master Federigo, Clarice’s former fiancé who was presumably dead. While Clarice tries to whimper her way out of her predicament, hot headed Silvio to fight it, master Federigo (in reality Beatrice disguised as her brother) attempts to get his hands on Pantalone’s (Clarica’s father’s) money. Florindo Aretusi (in love with Beatrice) comes looking for his love. Sly and capable Truffaldino (who has no idea that his master is a woman) seizes the opportunity to double his income. Now as a servant of two masters (Beatrice and Florindo) he juggles his duties masterfully, except for a few unfortunate errors, which lead to unexpected and hilarious developments.

 

(more…)

The Actor<s Nightmare: Entertaining with moments of brilliance.

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

When a nightmare or the greatest fear actors can face strikes, what one can do? Improvise; find a band-aide solution or, go with the flow no matter what. After all, show must go on!

So, when a principal character on a performance night of a great show phones in with the broken leg, desperate crew replaces him with an understudy George. Only, it is not George on the stage, but an accountant who has little connection with theatre, even less with acting. As it happens, everybody is full of their own problems, so that nobody listens to the poor accountant, and as a result, he has to go on the stage and to take a part in four well-known plays: Noel Coward’s Private Lives, Hamlet, of Beckett’s Happy Days, and Bolt’s Man for All Seasons.

(more…)

Ottawa Fringe 2016: Raw Footage – mission accomplished as three artists create trustworthiness, honesty and beauty.

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Raw footage is comprised of three dance pieces performed by Cathy Kyle-Fenton, Mary Catherine Jack and Nicola Henry. It is a real treat for dance lovers who like to immerse themselves in a beauty of dance moves and to be carried away by the imaginative narrative. Artists dance beautifully, showcasing their talent, strength and creativity while portraying women who struggle with their personal perception of loss, beauty and life defining light.

Cathy Kyle-Fenton is dancing partly to the faint sound of guitar and partly to the complete silence – at the beginning the only sound heard is tapping of her own feet accompanied by the rhythmic sound of her breathing. Silence adds to the drama of the story about woman who recently suffered a loss of someone close and beloved. Pain is clearly written on her face. Every move tells about battle to accept the reality in hope that they will meet again.

Mary Catherine Jack is a true comedian in a role of a woman who is not a youngster any more, and has hard time to accept the plain facts: sagging skin, wrinkled face and not so firm body. She portrays the wont-to-be sexy seductress in a naturally humorous way while preserving control and gracefulness of dance.

(more…)

Two for Tea : audience communication is the key!!

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Jamesy comes into a room bringing with him a pot of tea and teacup. In bizarre, slow motion movements, he approaches the table and arranges the tea in an obsessive manner. Bringing a second cup suggest that he is going to share his precious tea with someone. Enter his friend James and the tea party begins. 

It’s a true party that these two bring to the stage. They combine physical comedy and improvisation, including audience involvement into a perfectly logical scenario. The story features two friends, a general, Jamesy’s parents and a doctor. First, they “kill” the general on the battlefield, and after that, Jamesy asks his best friend James to take a photo of him and his parents. Of course, the parents are chosen from the audience. In the middle of the photo session, his father has a heart attack, which calls for a doctor (another audience member). The father, along with the entire family and the doctor rushes to the hospital. On their way there, they come face to face with a several difficulties, including a car accident. Not surprisingly, everybody ends up in Cafe Limbo, obviously on their way to Heaven.

(more…)

Ottawa Fringe Festival 2016: Small Creatures Such as We a pleasant hour of theatre

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Small Creatures Such as We
Created by Meagan McDonald & Vishesh Abeyratne
Produced by Angel in the Rafters Theatre

Joanna and Kit meet in their teens. He is a tough boy and she is a modest, religious girl. As opposites attract, Joanna and Kit fall in love.  It is an unsteady, adolescent relationship, but it is exciting and pure. The Romance finishes with an unexpected pregnancy and stillborn child. They part, each going a different direction. Still, they often think of each other, and finally meet again after 10 years. Now as adults, they talk about how their lives have been changed as a result of their past. By revealing sequences of their youth, they face their inner demons and expose their tortured minds.

Small Creatures Such as We is a well-written story in which Meagan McDonald and Vishesh Abeyratne explore the dark side of growing up. They probe such issues as violence among teenagers, fear of and confusion with circumstances they find themselves in, as well as unprotected sexual relationships and its consequences. Although the general tone of the play is tragic, the creators leave hope for the future. Does love conquer it all? The end seems to be rushed, and therefore lacks the conviction of the rest of the narrative. (more…)

Ottawa Fringe Festival 2016: Miss Bruce’s War brings 1940s Alberta to our doorstep

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Miss Bruce’s War
Created by Jean Duce Palmer
Produced by Elmwood School_Elmwood Theatre

Playwright Jean Duce Palmer wrote Miss Bruce’s War based on her own experience as a young schoolteacher in ruralAlberta during World War II. This semi-biographical work brings back a different era – a time where people sang patriotic song and helped the war effort any way they could.

Miss Bruce gets a three month job teaching a small group of children who happen to be of a German origin. Her assignment starts in January – the worst and the coldest part of year. The journey is long and tiring, she is cold and hungry, and her only wish is to reach her destination as soon as possible and get a chance to rest. As the story unfolds, Miss Bruce undergoes changes. She matures a little after every single event during her short stay in the area. Prejudice and insensitivity towards her neighbours disappear and she learns a lot about love and friendship. (more…)

Categories

Past Reviews