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 Fring 2014 : A Mind Full of Dopamine

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2014, Shaw Festival 2014  

A Shapshot on the Fringe:

A Mind Full of Dopamine written & performed by Rory Ledbetter

An energized, speedy and focused performer, Ledbetter knows a thing or two about how to win at cards. But the key to this mile-a-minute tour of the poker table is that he also knows about losing, and the monkey mind set that compels the desperate to pile up their chips and swim with sharks. When debt meets desperation, Ledbetter is a consummate performer, driving for his life with the devil in his rear view mirror. What he makes visible in this descent of man into hellish habit is the terrible thrill of fighting for your life as you crash headlong into a disaster that just keeps giving. You can almost see the piles of poker chips amid the smoke and taste the double lattes. We want Rory to stop, but somehow can’t pull ourselves away as we experience the terrifying rush of actually watching a human being plunge into self-inflicted chaos – again and again. What level of will power, luck, or mysterious divine intervention does it take to re-claim your life when you’ve given it over to an all-powerful force – that lives inside you. Here’s the deal – place your Fringe chips on Dopamine. – Snapshot on the Fringe by Laurie Fyffe<=

Plays at Arts Court Library

Ottawa Fringe 2014: Oceans Apart

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2014, Summer theatre 2014  

Alain Chauvin becomes Cpl Patrick McLachlan just returning home to his parents’ house after 8 months spent  in the horror of a mission in Kandahar. The first moments of the evening show clearly that this writer is trying to capture the effects of post traumatic stress disorder on this young man. And there are excellent moments when we see how his everyday life is interrupted by hallucinations that send him back to the war zone, set off by some simple event around him home in Canada. He then leaves his home, buys a car and begins a cross-Canada ride alone to get Afghanistan and the war out of his system. That is when the play falls apart and loses focus.

This fascinating attempt to delve into the way pts eats its way into the psyche of an individual was hijacked by the character’s  reactions to Canada as he crosses the country, experiencing various meetings – real and imaginary – with his friend Joe who is wounded in the war and has to undergo surgery. Then there are his adventures in Toronto, in Saskatoon, and right out to the west coast. The central question of his own wounded psyche is abandoned. And yet the  basic subject of this show is all about what is happening inside Patrick’s head as a result of the war…which is what makes it so difficult to turn into a performance. Quite obviously the writer/actor  had no idea how an actor could express this kind of trauma, nor was the writer  able to sustain that idea in the scenario and so he turned it into a sort of road show where the  pts dissolved into clichés, giving us the sense that none of this was due to any first hand experience. Thus this appeared to be essentially a verbatim piece, based on what others described to the writer, or perhaps even what the writer imagined from newspaper reports??  The dilemma then became what textual choices to make when putting this together so that it captured something authentic.  Given this performance however, something did not mesh and one had the distinct sense that this  team took on an almost impossible task with a subject that was way  beyond its comprehension.

Oceans Apart plays in Arts Court Theatre.

Oceans Apart presented by Take a Jump in it Theatre

Written by Alain G. Chauvin

Dramaturgy by Catherine Ballachey


Alain G. Chauvin as Patrick

Daniel Groleau Landry as Joe

Rebecca Laviolette as Carol

Ottawa Fringe 2014: Kavalier’s Kuriosities – Dead Unicorn Ink

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2014  

Reviewed by Kat Fournier.

Set in a historical “freak show”, Kavalier’s Kuriosities brings audiences behind the scenes of their nightly show, where an unexpected visitor disrupts the tenuous balance of relationships. A home to social outcasts of a world where deformities are considered abominations and religious writ reigns supreme, Kavalier’s Kuriosity seems an interesting setting for a dramatic interlude. The setting is the most interesting part of this production, unfortunately, which is stunted by robotic acting and soft choices in direction. The script suggests a world that is actually a lot more twisted and painful than the one presented. Some use of puppetry–shadow and marionette–contribute to the visual impact, but does little to redeem the production as a whole.

Kavalier’s Kuriosities

Dead Unicorn Ink

Written by Aaron Lajeunesse and Jeremy Piamonte

Directed by Patrice-Ann Forbes

Ottawa Fringe 2014: Women Who Shout at the Stars

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2014, Summer theatre 2014  


Photo from the Kingston Whig Standard.Carolyn Heatherington.

The Story: Discovering yourself is a lifetime slog as we are reminded in this satisfyingly textured memory piece written and performed by Carolyn Hetherington. An accomplished stage/film/television actor who, at 83, is performing her first-ever fringe show, Hetherington revisits growing up – and older – under the often-conflicting influences of her mother Gwen, a difficult, suicidal socialite with a waspish tongue and a fondness for gin, and her nanny Edie whose early life as a scullery maid helped forge her into a loving but tough woman. Gwen is especially rich and complex, and the mother-daughter relationship a fraught one.

Pros: Hetherington gives an eloquent, measured performance throughout, her self-discipline a brake on the self-indulgence into which a lesser actor might have slid. Small things – the angle of a foot, the dropping of a ribbon on the floor – tell us almost as much about a character as do their words. Hetherington understands patience, silence and how to recreate an era (the 1920s onward) now long gone.

Cons: Occasionally confusing as to who is speaking.

Verdict: A smart idea finely executed.

Women Who Shout at the Stars

Goombay Productions, Ottawa

PLays at the Studio Leonard-Beaulne

Ottawa Fringe 2014: Against Gravity, Song and Stories of Davey Punk,

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2014, Summer theatre 2014  

Against Gravity

The Story: That’s where the problem starts: the story. There isn’t enough of one to support the 45 minutes it takes for this aimless piece of shadow puppetry to wander to its uncertain end. During that time, one of the company’s performers plays guitar and makes electronically enhanced noises (the audience is also encouraged to makes noises) while the other operates an overhead projector that throws the shadows on a screen. Together, they create a wafer-thin narrative about a man who encounters a bunch of gravity-related experiences, from falling down stairs to meeting a group of Monty Pythonesque anti-gravity protestors. The show appears to be making a point about breaking free of restraints and concludes, unaccountably, with one of the performers taking centre stage for a portrayal of envy and other emotions.

Pros: Some fairly cool sound effects.

Cons: Self-indulgent and arid.

Verdict: Unlike the shadow-puppet bird that occasionally appears, the show never achieves ignition let alone lift-off.

Mind of a Snail Theatre Co., Vancouver

Plays in Academic Hall

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Ottawa Fringe 2014 : Einstein.

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2014, Summer theatre 2014  


Photo Jesse Ashton

Einstein returns from the dead as it were in a blaze of swirling lights and classical music.Mozart mainly. Projected on a screen are the necessary titles and illustrations of Einstein’s explanations how he perfected his theory of relativity.. It moves from solar eclipse to solar eclipse beginning before the great war and continuing on for 20 years. Those are  the important moments  of the founding his theory because he needed perfect photos of the eclipse  to prove his theory about the movement of light. Technically, the show is impeccable and it holds our interest most of the time. Fry tries to create a total portrait of an excentric  genius  whose personal life fell apart because it interfered with his inner world of scientific thought and he brought in that part of his world very effectively. The nagging voice of his wife on the phone, the evolution of his relationship with his son Hans.

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Ottawa Fringe 2014: Paco V Put to Sleep: Excellent!!

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2014, Summer theatre 2014  

Six actors invade a private space where Dick and Paco live. Thus begins a whole network of disconnected dialogues and monologues that bring us right back to Ionesco’s abrupt and broken logic.  His use of clichés, inappropriate and disrupted language, indicating a breakdown in rational behaviour. The situation gets worse. Tim Oberholzer as Ricky t-bone is the  character supposedly  showing an exacerbated sense of connection with this world while the others rattle on as though they were wound up and set off like clocks  in their own little network of stereotypical responses. No one appears to hear anyone else. What a terrible world. And yet it all works beautifully thanks to Martin Dockery who introduces all these creatures within a script that never falters. There is also Dave Dawson’s meticulous direction of actors, his excellent sense of acting style that he sustains throughout and a pace that keeps the excitement high. Note Tim Oberholzer as the tortured ice cream salesman and Mrs. Dick, Céline Filion who glows in her state of absurdity. Great fun and very good theatre!!!

Paco V Put to Sleep

By Martin Dockery,

Directed by Dave Dawson

With Mike Kosowan as the Son

Marissa Caldwell as Jane `

Will Lafrance as Paco V

Céline Filion as Mrs Dick

Jeff Lefebvre as Mr. Dick

Tim Oberholzer as Ricky T –bone

Plays at the Arts Court Theatre….Good theatre!!!! and lots of fun.

Ottawa Fringe 2014: Who Killed Gertrude Crump? A World Premiere.

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2014, Summer theatre 2014  

This Murder Mystery with puppets is a world premiere that probably should have waited a bit before going public. The set is fine, the lighting sets up the right atmosphere, the choice of music is exciting but the actor who manipulates all the puppets (9 or 10 of them) all by herself, is not quite at home with her script which has masses of movement, and individuals coming and going and just creating a complicated scenario. It is in fact one of Agatha Christie’s earlier plays that was never published, the puppeteer tells us –but maybe that is a way of getting our undivided attention.  As well, this puppeteer tends to forground herself instead of her puppets so we don’t pay too much attention to them.  Normally, there has to be some sense of illusion that the puppets come from their own world but we are caught in the world of Tara Travis the puppeteer who keeps asking us what we think and explaining everything. This constantly breaks the magic- certainly not  the best strategy,.aside from the fact that these  puppets are not very interesting creatures.

We are used to an excellent puppet tradition from the western part of Canada with Ronny Burkett, Old Trout, One Yellow Rabbit…and this company (Ryan Gladstone Productions) certainly does not cut it- yet.  The fact some of the puppets fell apart during the show can happen I suppose but that can be fixed, as can forgotten lines and a sense of exhaustion that emanated from the actress. Nevertheless. there is still lots of work  to be done on this show . But perhaps  that is what the Fringe is all about  .. testing one’s ideas.

Who Killed Gertrude Crump plays at Arts Court Theatre.

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