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

Ottawa Fringe 2013. Passages

Reviewed by on    Musical Theatre, Ottawa Fringe 2013, Summer Theatre 2013  

Passages  is a dance featuring the plight of the Scots in the 18th century. It is based on historical facts and encompasses events of everyday, happy life in the highlands in Scotland, war between the British army and supporters of the Jacobites in Scotland, atrocities caused by the overpowering British Army, and finally a trip to Canada. Brief instances of storytelling are included in the performance, but it is the dance that carries the audience through the history of the first inhabitants of the harbors of Cape Breton, Pictou and others.

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Ottawa Fringe 2013. Nhar Moves (super bad moves)

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2013  

Nhar Moves (Super Bad Moves), written by Richard Harrington, Chris Kauffman and Emily Windover and performed by Chris Kauggman is a lovely, touching show about a depressed warehouse worker who, happens upon a fish he makes his friend. When the fish disappears suddenly one night, he goes on a quest to find him, in the process realizing he must find the strength to pursue a passion that will make him happy regardless of others. It’s a sweet, silent show with beautifully whimsical music and storybook drawings on a projector to set the scene. Kauffman acts with his whole body, and especially with his eyes. He manages to make us feel and root for his character. A mark of his success was that he had the children at the show enthralled, following and laughing at his every move, not an easy feat when your show is basically a mime. If anything, I wish his show had been entirely silent. The couple of times Kauffman broke out into song frankly ruined the magic and the mood. The show is strong and funny enough without it. Having said that, everyone seemed to be having a great time at the show, young and old alike.

Nhar Moves (Super Bad Moves)

Harrington & Kauffman

By Chris Kauffman, Emily Windover & Richard Harrington

Ottawa Fringe 2013. 6 Guitars

Reviewed by on    Musical performance, Ottawa Fringe 2013  

Actor Chase Padgett presents  six musicians – guitar players ranging from an 87-year-old blues musician to a 20 years old rocker. Chase Padgett is an excellent actor and his impersonations are generally very realistic, although there were some slips. The attempt to adopt a Spanish accent when portraying a Mexican character was not spot on. It ended up sounding more like an Indian than a Mexican one. A 20 year old rocker also ends up looking a lot younger due to characterization.

It is an original idea of how to tell the story about music, entertain and connect with the audience. The entertainment element is definitely impeccable, and Padgett’s very strong command of the stage helps as well. The audience loves it. They laugh and enjoy short and well executed guitar passages and admire the impersonations. 

Unfortunately, it stays at the entertainment level, without an attempt to go deeper, to explore the connections and the power of the music. It can be so much more than individuals falling in love in instruments and expressing that love through different genres. I would like Chase Padgett to dig a bit deeper and try to discover the magic behind the notes. Only that way  can he find that it is not only about main stream sell-outs: sex, sadness, cars and mess-up, but much, much more.

by Chase Padgett and Jay Hopkins, performed by Chase Padgett

Orlando FL.

Rajka Stefanovska

Ottawa Fringe 2013. La Voix humaine

Reviewed by on    Opera, Ottawa Fringe 2013, Professional Theatre  

La Voix humaine, libretto by Jean Cocteau, musique by Francis Poulenc

This is a serious opera performance with the beautiful soprano voice of Rachel Krehm (elle) accompanied by pianist Patrick Hansen playing Poulenc’s music. A breath of fresh air in the festival. The set is the woman’s room. Photos of her lover and herself are projected on the backdrop and there are surtitles in English so it is easy to follow. Based on Cocteau’s play, this is a a devastating phone conversation where we only see the woman, and hear her voice on our end but her answers and reactions make the conversation and the image of the man on the other end, very clear. He is in the process of leaving her but she is so much in love that she at first can’t believe it and then as the tragedy sinks in, she keeps taking all the blame as his erratic, often angry reactions show he feels slightly guilty but turns that guilt against her. AS she is trying to reassure him that she is fine and he must not feel upset, she is slowly committing suicide, by drinking water laced with pills. In this magnificent one act performance, the portrait of the absent, self-centred male is just as strong as the portrait of the woman who is slowly falling apart in front of us, while sustaining a voice that tries to avoid tragic tones so that her lover will not hear what is really happening in the room. A very difficult role for a singer and actress/singer Mme Krehm did it beautifully. Her pianist added a level of concert performance that put this on the stage of the NAC ! Certainly not normal fringe fare. This is live performance at its artistic best.

Musical director Maika’I Nash

Stage director Aria Umezawa

A production of Opera 5 , Toronto

Ottawa Fringe 2013. La Voix Humaine by Jean Cocteau, music by Francis Poulenc

Reviewed by on    Opera, Ottawa Fringe 2013, Summer Theatre 2013  

La voix humaine (Human Voice), a one-act opera for one character, with a libretto by Jean Cocteau set to music by Francis Poulenc is misleadingly simple story. A woman abandoned by her lover cannot imagine living on without him, so she talks to him over the telephone (in this case cellphone) an hour before committing suicide. 

Seems like a simple narrative, but is it indeed so? In this work, Cocteau explores human feelings and needs versus realities of love, relationships and communication. The only tools to convey ideas are voice and facial expressions.  It takes an excellent singer and a gifted actress to revive the desperation and agony of a woman in the last hour of her life. Luckily for the audience, it is Rachel Krehm who is trusted with this extremely demanding role. 

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Ottawa Fringe. 2013. Under the Mango Tree

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2013  

Who can tell what is best for another person? Sometimes, what benefits the body may be utterly damaging for the soul.

In “Under the Mango Tree,” Veenesh Dubois explores the depth of pain which starts during her early childhood and stays for the rest of her life. The main character, 10 year old girl Timal, stays with her grandparents at home in a small village on Fiji while her father leaves for Canada in search of a better life for both of them. Six years pass and the only connection she has with her father are letters from this far away land, Canada, and her undying hope that she will be joining him there soon. After she is married off, her dream is crushed, but life goes on and her hope still persists. It is only when she is an adult woman and a mother that her father asks her to visit him. Upon her arrival, she finds out that her father passed away before she could see him again. In her desperate devastation at losing him definitely, she still clings to the hope that they will meet, if not in this than surely in another life.

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Ottawa Fringe 2013. Chesterfield.

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2013  

Everyone has that voice in the back of their head that preys on their insecurities and whispers demoralizing things. To what extent you give in to this personal bully relies on a variety of things, from strength of character to events in your life at the time. Dead Unicorn Ink has decided to externalize this voice in the form of Chesterfield, a malicious talking couch. Sounds a bit weird? Sure, but that’s what makes the idea so good as well. It’s different and funny, while still talking about something of importance. This is the story of a young married couple, Zach and Sarah (Drake Evans and Gabrielle Lazarovitz) who are going through a hard time in their marriage due, simply, to not communicating enough. Their own fears, already formed somewhere in the back of their minds, are exacerbated by the couch, spinning the situation out of control. This is a show with a lot of potential. Unfortunately the acting was a bit imbalanced, diluting the effect. Lazarovitz gives a strong performance, while Evans and other co-star Aaron Lejeunesse are a bit off with their characterization. Better pacing and subtler changes in tone would go a long way in both of their cases. The lighting could also be fixed up, as there were scenes which were left dark for too long.


A Dead Unicorn Ink production

Written by: Patrice Ann Forbes

Directed by: Sylvie Recoskie. Cast: Zach: Drake Evans, Donald: Aaron Lejeunesse, , Sarah: Gabrielle Lazarovitz

Ottawa Fringe 2013. The Frenzy of Queen Maeve.

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2013, Professional Theatre  

The setting is dark, the smell of beer wafts into the audience. This is naturalism at its miserably best. Set in a pub in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the 1970s where war between the Irish and the English, the Catholics and the Protestants is waging. Lives are torn apart, families are destroyed, young men become killers and women are accustomed to blood and violence. It has become second nature. The place smells like death and this production captures that feeling, enhanced by the presence of three characters. An IRA activist (Fionn) and the son of an English landowner (William), are seeing the same girl, Aislin. “Why not” she quips, with a knowing grin,” I don’t want to get involved in politics so I’m on both sides” and so far it works. However life is not that simple and when the situation comes to a violent head, and decisions must be made, Aislin decides to come clean. And later, when Fionn comes into the pub with a bag under his arm, we know what is about to happen. At that point we even wondered if the last scene following the one just mentioned, was even necessary! The play is beautifully constructed, the characters are believable. The three of them create perfect dramatic balance in that situation where a terrible malaise haunts us right up to the final moment and our attention never falters.

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Ottawa Fringe 2013. Under the Mango Tree

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2013  

I have just written a whole page on this show and I pressed the wrong button so it all disappeared and I dont have the energy to write it again.

The play needs a lot of mitigating comments about her performance style to justify  and explain why the show did not work for me  but Im too tired now.

I’m sorry.


Ottawa Fringe 2013. Sappho in 9 Fragments.

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2013, Summer Theatre 2013  

The Greek poet Sappho, all but erased from history save for fragments of her poetry here and there, has been used as a personification of anything and everything, from the “fallen woman,” to a feminist icon, to champion of lesbian love. Due to her very mystery, people throughout history have put their own frustrations and hopes in her. That is, until now. Sappho… in 9 Fragments, written by Jane Montgomery Griffiths and directed by Jessica Ruano give Sappho her own voice to vent about her appropriation. The set, beautiful in its simplicity, is a cage-like structure with ropes draped across the top and sides. Victoria Grove, who plays Sappho, as well as Atthis, a modern-day chorus girl embarking on her own sapphic romance with an egotistical actress, reminds you why one-person shows can be better than a full-ensemble production. She is what every actress or actor should strive to be. You barely notice as she slides seamlessly, sensually from role to role. Her magnetic stage presence draws you in as she acts with every inch of her body and voice; she has the ability to break your heart with the flick of a finger or the wink of an eye.

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