Ottawa Fringe 2013

Shadows: Margo Macdonald reviewed at an earlier Fringe in Ottawa

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Shadows at the Fringe

Shadows at the Ottawa Fringe Written and acted by Margo MacDonald, Shadows is a glimpse into the life of Eva Le Gallienne, the famous British actress producer and director who made her professional life in United States. We see the important periods of her life in rapid flashbacks: her work with her repertory company, her roles in Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland as well as Hamlet and Hedda Gabler, Mainly we have an intimate look at her stormy lesbian relationship with Jo, another actress who was dedicated to Eva but Eva’s own demons get the better of both of them. . Two excellent performances by Sarah Finn as the beautiful Joe and Margo MacDonald as the tortured Eva. The play pinpoints the fact that living as a lesbian, even as a famous actress, was not easy during the first half of the 20th Century.. . MacDonald is captivating and utterly convincing as we watch her live her passion for her work and for Joe and we see her slow degeneration into alcoholism and depression. A plum role for an actress which Ms MacDonald played most beautifully.
Director Diana Fajrajsl created flashsbacks that made the shifts in time very clear, transforming a gas explosion into what looked like a theatrical stage effect so the whole play became a performance within a performance, pinpointing the very nature of Le Gallienne’s life. This is very intelligent and sensitive directing on Fajrajsl’s part. Good set by Lynn Cox and a haunting musical background.
Shadows is the best show Ive seen yet in the Fringe. Be warned. This is not a comedy. Its serious theatre..Plays at the Leonard Beaulne Studio
Alvina Ruprecht Ottawa, June 2010

Ottawa Fringe 2013. Passages

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

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 Maja Stefanovska

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 Rajka Stefanovska

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. Imprisoned by Allie Bell

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

A drama about a paedophile who tries to justify his attraction to young boys as a police investigator puts him through an interrogation, trying to discover where he has hidden his most recent victim.

The spotlight is on Salvatore (Jeff Lefebvre) , the prisoner. His story is convoluted, repetitive, as he assures us he was only trying to help poor abandoned children by showing them the love their parents never gave them. As he repeats the story, more details emerge about his treatment of those children and about his own character. He is not a cult leader although he feels he must do this work, “ saving children” he smirks, he resists the pressure by the the police investigator to tell the truth, he insists on his godly mission and he often breaks into passages of prayer and incantation in Spanish. These moments were not at all clear because his Spanish was so badly pronounced it sounded completely garbled. In general this actor did not create a frightening character , but rather a disgusting heap of a man who was not interesting to watch.

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Ottawa Fringe 2013. La Voix humaine

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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 Rajka Stefanovska

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 Rajka Stefanovska

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 Maja Stefanovska

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.

Chesterfield

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 Alvina Ruprecht

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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