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

887 lepage at the NAC: technology masterfully used to support storytelling

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Canada, Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

887 Robert Lepage,   Photo  Erick Labbé

Robert Lepage’s 887, named after his childhood home address, deals with the unstable, vague nature of personal and collective memory. It’s an autobiographical show, in which he recalls his childhood in Québec City during the turbulent 1960s.

Details about his father and his immediate surroundings, as well as the Quiet Revolution and its consequences, frame his childhood and shape his identity, to an extent that surprises even Lepage. The snippets of story are nestled within the frame of the artist’s struggle to remember the words to “Speak White” By Michèle Lalonde, a poem dealing with the cultural and linguistic imperialism of the English-speaking world. (Continue reading » )

887: a shared collective history about the nature of memory itself.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Canada, Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

887   Robert Lepage,   Photo. Erick Labbé

 

 

887 Playwright, Designer & Director Robert Lepage

Like pinpoints of light scattered across the map of shows I have attended over thirty years, a Robert Lepage production always stands out as something special. His reach into the subject matter of any endeavor he conceives, develops, and then as much as embodies as performs, triggers all the receptors in the theatrical brain. (Continue reading » )

Mr. Shi and His Lover: a tautly executed superlative piece of musical theatre

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Canada, Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Mr Shi and His Lover: Jordan Cheng and Derek Kwan, Photo Erik Kuong

A word of advice: If you’re going to see this superlative chamber musical, take the time to read the introductory notes from Macau Experimental Theatre that accompany the National Arts Centre’s program as well as the program itself.

That material will give you not just the show’s background – for instance, it’s based on a two-decades long, real-life love affair between two men: a French diplomat and a Peking opera singer who presented himself as a woman – but also provide invaluable explanatory musical and storyline anchors for a show that, like its concerns with love, deceit, identity and the nature of performance, eludes easy categorization and slyly resists our natural hunger for definitive answers in the face of ambiguity. (Continue reading » )

The Lorax: An exciting and transformative experience for the whole family.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Canada  

Photo Manuel Harlan

The story by Theodor Seuss Geisl (Dr. Seuss) that has made its way through various forms of animated cartoon films, is now playing at the Royal Alex in Toronto, after an opening performance in October 2017 in London.

Yes indeed!! We have all been watching the National Theatre Live bringing performances at the Old Vic and the New Vic, into Canada via satellite. This time, the David Mirvish production of The Lorax brings a whole British cast and creative team from the Old Vic into one of its own theatres in Toronto for a perfectly executed and utterly polished performance of the Lorax live without the camera! The experience is so completely exciting it had the little ones and the older ones glued to their seats for almost two hours and 15 minutes including the intermission. (Continue reading » )

Onegin : This tribute to 21st century sensibility moves musical theatre far beyond the box!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Canada, Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Onegin
Photo Rachael McQuaig

First of all do not read Pushkin’s work before seeing this.  Although the show is apparently set in Russia, it includes the main characters in the novel, it moves from Saint Petersburg to Moscow and back and there are references to Byron which one  finds in Pushkin’s text.  However,  a knowledge of this  early 19th century romantic novel which has become one of the great works of Russian literature will only confuse you. Just arrive at the NAC with no great expectations, think of what we are told that this is not an opera, relax, forget the ballet,  and you will probably enjoy this very much because it is clearly geared for a 21st century sensibility where existing operatic, theatrical , pop music and musical theatre conventions  have all been thrown to the wind. (Continue reading » )

Tartuffe is not the star in this Stratford revival

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Canada  

Tartuffe :Tom Rooney, Orgon: Graham Abbey
Photo: Lynda Churilla

STRATFORD, Ont. —   Let’s get down to the basics. The Stratford Festival’s new production of Moliere’s Tartuffe has company mainstay Graham Abbey delivering one of the best comic performances in  this  venerable theatre’s history. And no, he’s not playing the title character — he’s not the oily religious hypocrite and con-artist who ingratiates himself into a wealthy Parisian household and causes mayhem.

On the contrary, Abbey has the role of Orgon, the gullible head of the household and a man bewitched by Tartuffe’s bogus odour of sanctity. (Continue reading » )

Stratford’s Breathing Hole is one for the memory books.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Canada  

The Breathing Hole - On The Run 2017

Photo: Cylla Von Tiedemann

STRATFORD, Ontario — Our first encounter with the mythic polar bear dominating the Stratford Festival’s stunning production of The Breathing Hole comes at the very beginning when a widowed Inuit woman takes an orphaned one-eared cub into her care.

Our last sighting of of Angu’juaq — for that is the name bestowed on this creature — comes 500 years later, and the moment is heartbreaking.

By the end of the evening, we’re aware that Colleen Murphy’s remarkable play is making an ecological statement. But unlike The Madwoman Of Chaillot, another late-season Stratford offering with the environment on its mind, it radiates genuine heart when it comes to environmental matters. The self-congratulatory aren’t-we-being-clever flavour of Jean Giradoux’s satirical fantasy has no place in the sensibility of The Breathing Hole. It is an intensely human play tinged at the end with a melancholy that is palpable.

(Continue reading » )

Stratford tries to make a revival of Madwoman Of Chaillot take flight

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Canada  

The Madwoman of Chaillot - On The Run 2017

Seana McKenna as the Madwoman. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

STRATFORD, Ont. — The stage of the Tom Patterson Theatre has become a fantasy place — of colourful jugglers, exultant wordplay and somersaulting paradoxes, of imaginary dogs, lifeguards who can’t swim, cops with a weakness for cribbage — and a madwoman who isn’t mad.

Seana McKenna, who has the title role in the Stratford Festival’s new production of The Madwoman of Chaillot, gives us a character who confidently exists in her own reality — or is it her own unreality?

The flamboyant costumes designed for her by Teresa Przbylski certainly reflect a certain dotty elegance, but it is ultimately McKenna herself who really brings this quality into topsy-turvy focus with her performance as Aurelie, the Madwoman of Chaillot.

(Continue reading » )

The Shaw Festival serves up a defanged Dracula

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Canada  

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE — You know there’s something wrong with the trendy 1985 version of Dracula currently available at the Shaw Festival when you quickly start yearning for the old Hamilton Deane-John Balderston stage adaptation of Bram Stoker’s celebrated vampire shocker.

To be sure the latter is somewhat creaky and happy to indulge in old-fashioned melodramatics. But it can still have a potent impact on stage and was still scaring the daylights out of playgoers in a 1977 Broadway revival starring Frank Langella. (Continue reading » )

The Shaw Festival triumphs with Middletown

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Canada  

Middletown, Photo: James Cooper

Middletown. Photo:David Cooper.

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. —  We seem to be entering a somewhat skewed universe when we attend the Shaw Festival’s production of American dramatist Will Eno’s Middletown.

For example, what’s with the conflicted town cop, played by Benedict Campbell, brutally throttling a mouthy good-for-nothing, played by Jeff Meadows, and commanding him to acknowledge the wonder and awe of life’s mystery? (Continue reading » )

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