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

Obaaberima`: Multiple identities merge into inspirational whole in Obaaberima

Reviewed by on    NAC english, Professional Theatre  

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Photo: Barb Gray. Published in the Ottawa Citizen, Thursday, March 5, 2015

At one point early in Obaaberima, writer/performer Tawiah M’Carthy’s courageous one-man show about sexual identities, we watch the main character Agyeman, still a young boy, slip into a dress. The action, mimed by M’Carthy, is transformative, lighting a glow in Agyeman’s eyes and lending a sudden strength and ease to his posture: this male/female, we realize, is who he really is.

Problem is, Agyeman doesn’t see himself through our eyes. So it takes another couple of decades, years that are fraught with confusion, wrong turns, even a prison term, before he understands that wearing a metaphorical dress while remaining a male – in other words, exploring his male and female sides and ultimately coming out to himself and to the rest of the world — is his only real choice.

The triple Dora-winning play follows Agyeman from boyhood in homosexuality-denying Ghana to adulthood in more-open-but-yet-not-entirely-so Toronto. Such coming-out stories are no longer groundbreaking, but M’Carthy enacts this one (he has said it draws on but is not about his own life) with such intimacy and skill that it becomes one we’ve never before heard.

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Importance of Being Earnest at the NAC. Dykstra fails to Respect Wilde.

Reviewed by on    NAC english, Professional Theatre  

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Photo: Andree Lanthier

Alert for Ted Dykstra: The Importance of Being Earnest is a social satire. It is NOT a farce. One of the key aspects of Oscar Wilde’s brilliant comedy is that it appears to observe the social niceties while subtly undercutting them.

Therefore, bun fights are more than wildly inappropriate. Having the two male leads throwing muffins across the stage at each other violates the playwright’s intent.

It is also completely out of place to have Miss Prism, the spinster governess, fondling the spout of a watering can in pseudo-sexual titillation, while panting after the bachelor vicar. Certainly, Wilde suggests that she longs to be married and he is the nearest eligible bachelor. But in the context of Earnest, they will always behave with complete propriety.

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Oil and Water: A long time getting started!

Reviewed by on    NAC english, Professional Theatre  

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Reviewed May 16 for the Ottawa Citizen . Photo by Barb Gray.

Clearly, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Take the true story of an African-American sailor named Lanier Phillips, who was shipwrecked on the shore of St. Lawrence, Nfld. in 1942. Blend in the troubled lives of fluorspar miners and their families in that same small, isolated village. Occasionally fast forward three decades to when the now-older Phillips is encouraging his young, scared daughter as she endures the often-terrifying integration of Boston schools in 1974. Add music rooted in spirituals and east coast folk tunes. Then underpin everything with themes of transformation, exploitation and basic human decency.

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Oil and Water: Its own Shipwreck

Reviewed by on    NAC english, Professional Theatre  

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Photo by Barb Gray

Oil and Water by Robert Chafe doesn’t really get off the ground until about two-thirds of the way through its hour and twenty-five minutes, (with no intermission), running time. It purports to be the story of Lanier Phillips, a black American sailor who was rescued in 1942 along with 40-some white sailors from a shipwreck off St. Lawrence, Newfoundland. His non-racist and benevolent treatment by the villagers, who had never seen a black man, was a pivotal event in his life. He became an activist for civil rights and also maintained his connection with the people of St. Lawrence.

Sounds like a great story, but most of the details never make it to the stage. The many scenes with Lanier and his daughter 30 years later during the school riots in Boston intercut with those of the miners’ families in the village dealing with mine safety and lung disease, hijack the play and the shipwreck story. The script tries to follow too many characters. When the audience has no idea what’s going on unless they’ve read the program notes, something’s very wrong. With the shipwreck, the play finally gets on track, but by then we don’t much care.

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