Community Theatre

Barefoot in the Park: OLT offers believable characterization of a rather dated play.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo: Maria Vartanova

Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon. Directed by Richard Elichuk. A production of the Ottawa Little Theatre.

When Barefoot in the Park premiered on Broadway, it was an instant hit, running for more than 1,500 performances — a record run for a non-musical play. In 1967, the movie version starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, was also a success.

That was half a century ago. And in the 50 years since the mid-1960s, attitudes towards marital roles have changed massively. This means that the play frequently creaks along, particularly when it is presented as a three-act show.

Unless the comedy — which Simon wrote as a tribute to his first wife — is given a stellar production, we are more likely to notice that it is a dated piece than to appreciate the core of the story: that opposites attract and that there is a steep learning curve in the early days of any marriage. In addition, the play relies heavily on the oft-repeated, and now stale, joke about the location of the overpriced, walk-up apartment where newly weds Corie and Paul Bratter are enjoying their first taste of marriage and near-divorce.

As directed by Richard Elichuk, with assistance from Dianna Renée Yorke and Susanna Doherty, the Ottawa Little Theatre production is at its best when focusing on character definition.

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Naked Boys Singing :male burlesque with many moving moments.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

The title, underlined by the first number, Gratuitous Nudity, tells almost all about Robert Shrock’s concept for the multi-author musical revue.

Not only will the seven performers give new meaning to the term “bare stage” as one of them promises early on, but they will also make fun of themselves for spending most of the show unclothed.

But Naked Boys Singing is more than a male burlesque show. While there are many funny segments, there are an equal number of moving moments, all presented with power and clarity by the well-chosen cast, as directed by Shaun Toohey and musical director Gordon Johnston.

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Naked Boys Singing Struts Its Stuff at Live On Elgin

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Naked Boys Singing Conceived by Robert Shrock , directed by Sean Toohey, musical Director: Gordon Johnston

Would you believe there’s even a moment of fugal joy in Naked Boys Singing?

It surfaces in an ensemble number with the title of Members Only — and yes, there’s no doubt about the subject matter. But as you listen to the performers moving nimbly through the contrapuntal intricacies of an amusing song, you’re again conscious of the wit and imagination that have gone into the preparation of this musical revue.

You’re also conscious of the affection. There’s no doubt of the primary audience for Naked Boys Singing, but this a show that seems ready to extend its embrace to anyone who goes to see it. And its long runs in major cities suggest that, in its own disarming, sweet-natured way, it is knocking down more than a few barriers.

There are ample displays of naked flesh on view at Live On Elgin. But there is no narcissism. These seven guys are definitely not aspiring to a Chippendales gig. There is a bit of philosophizing about nakedness being a window to the soul, but it’s leavened by moments of self-deprecation. Similar philosophies about nudity were expressed in Hair more than 40 years ago, but Naked Boys Singing seems blessedly immune from the self-referential nonsense of that grossly overpraised musical.

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Naked Boys Singing: engaging fun, sophisticated parody, exciting music and a good healthy romp in the altogether!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Naked Boys Singing : The international hit musical review. Originally conceived by Robert Schrock. Written by Stephen Bates, Marie Cain, Perry Hart, Shelly Markham, Jim Morgan, Daivd Pevsner Rayme Sciarni, Mark Savage, Ben Schaechter, Robert Schrock Trance Thompson, Bruce Vilanch, Mark Winkler. Directed by Schaun Toohey

Seven naked gay male characters on stage might sound like an evening of peek abo and sexual titillation but this show has very little to do with that. In fact director Shaun Toohey calls this “ a light hearted romp where the actors did not at all have to be naked and you would still have a good show.” It certainly is not about the nudity because the men involved are not supposed to be Greek gods with perfect bodies  But that is the point. The show is a series of sketches about aspects of life…the frustrations, the sadness, the happy moments, the positive and negative experiences which open one’s eyes, which show the difficulties of relationships with some very funny parodies involving male genitalia that is the centre of a lot of attention here. The nakedness becomes a symbol of men’s desire to open their souls and not hide things anymore. They are vulnerable but they are trying to reach the essence of their beings and the unclothed body is the best symbol of that achievement.

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God of Carnage: Yasmina Reza returns to the OLT with her award-winning critique of the middle class

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo: Maria Vartanova

By Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton; Ottawa Little Theatre ; Directed by Chantale Plante

At one point in Yasmina Reza’s incisive, award-winning comedy about social hypocrisy, a father comments that his 11-year-old son is “a savage”.

The savage behaviour in question is a playground fight in which he hit another boy with a stick, breaking two of the other child’s teeth.

Now, the two sets of parents are meeting to discuss the incident. The initial awkwardness, punctuated by long pauses, is soon replaced by increasingly uncivil and uncivilized behaviour revealing the insincerity and ugliness in the married couples’ relationships with each other and with their opposite numbers.

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The Who’s Tommy. Absence of vocal clarity creates a cacophony of sound.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo: Alan Dean.

Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff. Music and lyrics by Pete Townshend.Additional music and lyrics by John Entwhistle and Keith Moon. Orpheus Musical Theatre Society

Tommy, can you hear me? Too often, we cannot hear your story with any clarity. Instead, we are bombarded with a cacophony of sound. Although we see interesting projections, bright lights and colours, we cannot distinguish the words, whether spoken or sung.

Despite — or perhaps because of — the high decibel level of the Orpheus Musical Theatre Society production of The Who’s Tommy, there are only a few occasions when there is any vocal clarity in musical numbers or speeches throughout the rock opera.

While director Michael Gareau’s production is well conceived and, there are some excellent moments, particularly in the early sequences, presentation is frequently dogged by ongoing sound issues. Additional confusion is created when the young and then the adult Tommy sit cross-legged rocking repeatedly in a movement most often associated with some forms of autism. (The catatonic state that is supposed to be Tommy’s situation is more usually described as involving no motion at all.)

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The Marvelous Wonderettes: An entertaining pastiche of the past

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: The Gladstone

Photo: The Gladstone

The Marvelous Wonderettes

By Roger Bean

A Fundraiser for the Catholic Education Foundation of Ottawa at the Gladstone

Directed and choreographed by Aileen Szwarek

More of a musical revue than a fully-fledged musical, The Marvelous Wonderettes by Roger Bean is a light-hearted concoction that quickly evokes the 1950s and 60s through songs of the era.

The girl group entertaining at the Springfield High School on senior prom night 1958 runs through key pop songs of the era, interspersed with rivalry between the two “frenemies,” Cindy Lou and Betty Jean. Meanwhile, the other members of the singing foursome, organizer Missy and bubblehead Suzy, try their best to restore equilibrium, keep the entertainment on track and everyone on and off stage smiling. (more…)

Calendar Girls: Uneven characterization causes jerkiness, but show receives warm welcome on opening night

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: Susan Sinchak

Photo: Susan Sinchak

Calendar Girls

By Tim Firth

Kanata Theatre

Directed by Tania Carrière

Any production of Calendar Girls presents special challenges. The storyline, a slightly fictionalized version of true events at a Women’s Institute in northern England, is the basis of a 2003 movie starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters. It is so well known, that there is little room for any surprises on stage. In addition, the concept — a group of mature women posing discreetly nude behind some protective covering to raise funds for charity — has since been adopted and adapted for numerous assorted fundraising ventures (including at least two in the Ottawa area).

Although the flash of bare flesh on stage for each of the six women who drop their robes for a few seconds is not the main focus of Calendar Girls, it is often the point of concentration of pre-show publicity and audience awareness. The main goal of the script is to focus on the bonding and friendship among the group. But because the key photography/nude scene closes the first act, director and cast are likely to have difficulty in maintaining momentum through Act II. The attempts to fill in the women’s back-stories have limited success and the falling out between the two women behind the calendar project is too under-written to be entirely credible. (more…)

The Mouse House: Squeaky psychological drama low on thrills

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: Maria Vartanova

Photo: Maria Vartanova

The Mouse House

By Robert Ainsworth

Ottawa Little Theatre

Billed as a thriller — but actually more of a tale of sibling rivalry — The Mouse House by Peterborough playwright Robert Ainsworth grinds along rather than sending chills down the spine.

Ainsworth has been careful in preparing his situation. His protagonist, Carson, a successful author, returns to the isolated family cottage in 2006 to overcome his writer’s block and complete his latest his novel (on a portable typewriter), turning down his agent’s offer of a cellphone, so that she can keep in contact with him. Isolation confirmed. When a young drug addict breaks into the cottage, Carson cannot easily reach out for help.

Much of the ensuing drama is divided into blackout-separated short sequences depicting the shifting relationship between the two. Carson seems gentle, timid and kind. Troy seems a kid in need of help.

The tug-of-war is eventually resolved because Carson’s anxious literary agent asks his brother, Thomas, a long-haul truck driver, to check on Carson. To say more would be to reveal the twist in The Mouse House tale (tail). (more…)

Calendar Girls: A warm-hearted and very entertaining production

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo: Maria Vartanova.

Despite all the nudge-nudge-wink-wink exploitive publicity and jokes, Calendar Girls is not mainly about a group of middle-aged-to-senior women posing nude.

Rather it is a story of friendship and the continuing ripples of successful fundraising that began with an unusual idea.

Based on the true story of a charitable project by a Women’s Institute in the Yorkshire Dales, the fictionalized version of Calendar Girls started as a 2003 movie starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters. Five years later, Tim Firth adapted his movie script into a stage play. (A musical featuring the story debuted in England earlier this year.)

The idea that a creative member presented to the WI was intended to honour the recently deceased husband of another member — her closest friend — by raising money for leukemia research through sales of the annual WI calendar. In place of the usual landscapes, local buildings or recipes, this calendar would feature the WI members tastefully unclad.

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Past Reviews