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

Naked Boys Singing :male burlesque with many moving moments.

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre, Musical Theatre  

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.

(Continue reading » )

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

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre  


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.

(Continue reading » )

The Marvelous Wonderettes: An entertaining pastiche of the past

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre  

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. (Continue reading » )

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

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre  

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. (Continue reading » )

The Mouse House: Squeaky psychological drama low on thrills

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre  

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). (Continue reading » )

Calendar Girls: A warm-hearted and very entertaining production

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre  


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.

(Continue reading » )

The Odd Couple by Neil Simon: the incompatible roommates are back again almost as amusing as before!

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre  


Photo: Wendy Wagner

Neil Simon’s 50-year-old comedy portraying the myriad ways in which incompatible roommates can drive each other crazy is almost as amusing as it was before Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon inhabited the characters of the slobbish Oscar Madison and the OCD neat freak Felix Ungar in the 1968 movie version.

Considering that the concept was also a TV series featuring the odd pairing, as well as numerous stage versions over the years, yet another view of Oscar and Felix poses a considerable challenge.

In the current Kanata Theatre production, directed and designed by Jim Clarke and Ron Gardner, Bernie Horton offers a suitably slobbish Oscar. Laid back and smiling, even when losing in the weekly poker game, his anger with Felix when he finally tosses him out provides a fine contrast, but some glimpses of that hard edge early on would have made for a more rounded characterization.

(Continue reading » )

Kanata’s Odd Couple Needs More Snap, Crackle, and Pop

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre  


Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple first arrived on Broadway more than half a century ago, but time has not diminished its comic potential. In chronicling what happens when the neurotic, freakishly neat Felix
Ungar moves in with his good-natured but slobbish buddy, Oscar Madison, the play becomes a springboard for hilarity. But if you look beyond the crisp one-liners and the deftly-managed comic situations — and how did that linguini end up clinging to the kitchen wall? — you
also find a good deal of sharp psychological observation about how human relationships can misfire.

Kanata Theatre’s new production has several things going for it. To begin with, there is the work of Bernie Horton and Stavros Sakiadis in the two key roles.
Horton’s Oscar is very much the likeable slob the script demands. His housekeeping may be atrocious, the bedraggled sandwiches he offers his buddies on poker night probably constitute a risk to one’s health, and you may sympathize with the ex-wife who keeps nagging him on the  phone about his maintenance payments — but there’s something endearing and disarming about this Oscar in all his fallibility.
As Felix, Sakiadis adroitly gives us all the irritating foibles that will have Oscar climbing the wall within days — the hypochondria, the obsessive neatness, the fusspot fastidiousness that even has him distributing dainty doilies to the gang at the card table during one of Oscar’s poker nights.

(Continue reading » )

Chorus Line at Centrepoint: a production full of heart.

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre, Musical Theatre  


Courtesy of Orpheus Musical Theatre

At the heart of Chorus Line is the huge contrast between the opening and closing scenes. The intentionally ragged beginning features some two dozen dancers, a few practising exercises, others meandering around, all anxiously waiting to strut their stuff so that the director will choose them from among their rivals for a place on the line. The closing number shows the dancers as a unit, the perfect backup for the star of the next Broadway show.

And the paradox of the creation of the well-oiled dancing machine, peopled by anonymous dancers moving in unison, is that, along the way, Chorus Line morphs into often tragic tales about the individuals and the life-and-death importance of this audition, the next and the many beyond that.

(Continue reading » )

Cuckoo’s Nest Has Some Soaring Moments

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre  


One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest has become a period piece. However,
that doesn't necessarily mean that Dale Wasserman's adaptation of the
Ken Kesey novel about life in a state mental institution in the early
1960s has become dated. It still has historic importance in what it
has to tell us about U.S. psychiatric care in another era — and let's
remember that Kesey's novel, based on the author's own experiences
working in a state veterans hospital, was considered in its time to be
a blistering indictment of a culture that condoned electroconvulsive
therapy and pre-frontal lobotomy as legitimate ways of dealing with
mental illness.

(Continue reading » )