Photo by Barb Gray

« Le serviteur de deux maîtres » renouvelle le jeu corporel sans trahir l’esprit de Goldoni. Une très belle soirée dans le parc Strathcona.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Barb Gray.   Zack Counsil (Brighella)  et Jesse Buck (Truffaldino)

La compagnie Odyssey qui fait revivre le théâtre de la Commedia dell’arte au Canada anglophone depuis trente ans, remonte aux sources de la troupe en présentant cette nouvelle version de Le serviteur de deux maîtres de Carlo Goldoni.

L’intrigue et les sous intrigues sont d’une grande complexité. Truffaldino, le serviteur du titre, est au service de Florindo, l’amant de Béatrice, et de Federigo le frère de Béatrice. Tout se complique lorsque nous apprenons que Clairice (la fille de Pantalone) qui aime Silvio (le fils du Docteur Lombardi) est promise à Frederigo , le fiancé décédé depuis longtemps. Celui qui se présente à sa place est sa sœur Beatrice travestie , ce qui ajoute du piquant aux relations tempétueuses qui bouleversent ce microcosme de la société vénitienne. Le tout devient rapidement une accumulation de malentendus, de jeux d’identités, et d’intrigues secrets. Truffaldino qui a juré de respecter l’anonymat de ses deux employeurs, provoquent des rencontres spectaculaires, rocambolesques, chaotiques qui frôlent la farce la plus pure. Le rythme de ces orchestrations physiques qui font courir les serviteurs, les maîtres et tout le personnel de l’hôtel, coupent le souffle, surtout lorsque  Zack Counsil (Brighella) s’envole avec la legerete  d’une plume. Le masque a fait vivre son personnage!  Une belle prestance .

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Actor Paul Rainville Triumphs in Virginia Woolf — But The Production Is Out Of Whack

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Photo Barb Gray

It’s always rewarding to watch a gifted actor like Paul Rainville
exert his effortless authority on stage.It is, to begin with, a matter of presence — and Rainville always has that in spades. But beyond that, there’s the way he will inhabit and define a character — an approach that well goes beyond mere technical expertise.
Currently at the Gladstone, he’s delivering a fascinating portrayal of George — the middle-aged academic failure who provides one half of the marital battleground that comprises Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? There are surprises in what he does here. There are few glimpses of the passive-aggressive husband who often surfaces in productions of Edward Albee’s 1962 play. This George, for all his vulnerabilities, never seems that much of a victim to the vicious verbal taunting of his wife Martha, a booze-soaked harridan whose mainform of recreation amidst the shambles of a disappointing life is to keep tearing the scabs off an increasingly scarred relationship. In the world of 34-year-old Edward Albee, indulging in this kind of domestic warfare fulfilled his vision of how an awful relationship might be sustained: behave abominably enough to force retaliation from the other side and you achieve some manner of real human contact no matter how emotionally bruising the consequences.

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Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf: a legendary play that had trouble at the Gladstone.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Barb Gray.

One of the most important  plays of the contemporary American repertoire (created in 1962)  has resurfaced at the  Gladstone these days and we should be grateful to the theatre  for daring to programme this work. Luckily  they were able to  bring in a fine director such as Ian Farthing   who during his years as artistic director of the Saint Lawrence Shakespeare Summer Theatre company , put the theatre on the map in Prescott. Even the Globe  Theatre  from London,  with its travelling  version of Hamlet, made its only Canadian stop in Prescott to perform in the festival arena by the river.

This encounter between a wife who is compelled to destroy her husband with insults and humiliating accusations in spite of the fact she realizes he is the only one who understands her and a husband who submits himself to this constant humiliation, has become legendary on the world stage.  George is trapped in this compulsive need to be with her because of a troubled past and his refusal to show he is defeated.  The arrival of two guests, a naïve young couple Honey and Nick, allows this marital battleground to come to a head as they each give vent to their frustration, their rage and their deep-seated anxieties that propel this self destructive interaction. It also reveals Albee’s enormous talent as the play moves between symbolism , gritty psychological realism sprinkled with fitting and ironic references to great works of art and a reflexion on contemporary history which goes deeply into the American psyche . It is a work one must see at least once in a lifetime.

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Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the Gladstone: Rainville shines in an unbalanced cast.

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

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All couples play dangerous emotional games, but most of us are like kids with a ball and jacks compared to George and Martha.

The middle-aged couple at the heart of Edward Albee’s 1962 play, now at The Gladstone in a revival whose reach exceeds its grasp, has honed to an art the pastime of taunting, flaying, almost-but-not-quite-mortally wounding each other with words.

To watch them in full flight late one booze-fueled night after returning from a university party – George (Paul Rainville) is a career-stalled professor of history, Martha (Rachel Eugster) the disappointed daughter of the university president — is at once tragic and funny, familiar and foreign, mesmerizing and sickening.

Honey and Nick, the young faculty couple invited back to George and Martha’s for post-party drinks, don’t quite know what to make of these long-time inhabitants of the optimistically named town New Carthage.

Honey (Grace Gordon), annoyingly awkward and none-too-swift, is clearly out of her depth when George and Martha slip into their vicious hammer and tongs routine.

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GCTC’s Angel Square — A Buoyant Delight

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Photo: Barb Gray

On one level, GCTC’s sterling production of Angel Square might seem to offer no more than a series of impressions of a particularly beguiling kind.

But they’re impressions that beautifully evoke another time and place — Lowertown Ottawa in the 1940s. And out of them there emerges a delightful stage work of genuine shape and substance.

It’s through the prism of an observant youngster named Tommy that these moments unfold. Even if we weren’t actually there ourselves, we find ourselves engulfed in his childhood world. And its components resonate with us today.

It’s a world of Woolworth stores — remember them? — with creaking wooden floors. Of Ottawa’s majestic Union Station, now an underused government conference centre, but in this production exerting a ghostly remembrance of things past, courtesy of designer Jock Munro.

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GCTC’s Angel Square brings the good and the bad of post-war Ottawa to audiences

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

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Photo: Barb Gray

Solve the crime and win the girl’s heart, all in time for Christmas. Superficially, Angel Square presents a sweet holiday yarn, but just below the surface we get a glimpse at race politics through the eyes of children, and a hopeful depiction of Ottawa’s working class heritage. Brian Doyle’s classic novel by the same name is newly adapted and directed by Janet Irwin. The production recounts twelve-year-old Tommy’s memory of Lowertown, Ottawa (Ontario, Canada, Planet Earth, The Universe) in 1945. It is the first Christmas after World War II and the impact of the war—from war rations to a sense of post-war relief—peppers the script, while anti-Semitism rears its ugly head.

Tommy (played by Bruce Spinney) is gutted that his best Jewish friend, Sammy, has left town. Sammy’s father has been badly beaten up and sent to a hospital in Kingston. Inspired by his superhero idol, The Shadow, Tommy is determined to find the ‘bad guy’. Stylistically, this production rides the line between being a memory play and youth theatre. Janet Irwin’s adaptation maintains Tommy’s role as the narrator of the story, while thrusting him inside the action of the play as he recalls the events leading up to Christmas.

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Anne and Gilbert: A slick, attractive production and a worthy sequel to the 1965 musical Anne of Green Gables.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photos by Barbara Gray

Now a decade after its creation, Anne and Gilbert The Musical is firmly established as not only a worthy sequel to the much loved 1965 musical Anne of Green Gables, but also as a Canadian theatre standard.

Based on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s second and third novels about the feisty red-haired orphan, Anne and Gilbert follows her adventures at Redmond (a.k.a. Dalhousie University). She makes a new friend, the wealthy Philippa, finds a new beau in Roy and continues to deny that she loves Gilbert Blythe — when everyone else knows otherwise.

Knowing how the story will end is of no importance. Anne and Gilbert is primarily a celebration of a way of life in a small island village in the early 20th century. (Little wonder that P.E.I. tourism has set up a booth, complete with assorted Anne souvenirs, in the NAC lobby. A catchy number such as You’re Island Through and Through tempts you to take a trip to the island.)

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The Barber of Seville : Extraordinary stage business challenges the singers.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Barb Gray.  Joshua Hopkiins (Figaro) and Marion Newman(Rosina).

Just as Brian MacDonald transformed Gilbert and Sullivan into light opera, just as Steven Sondheim’s musicals could often be considered light opera, why not do the reverse and transform Rossini’s Opera Buffa into musical theatre where all the spoken parts are sung in any case, and comedy dominates the whole event? This production, which originates in Vancouver is a treat for the eye and is clearly aimed at a general even non-opera going audience that just wants an evening of entertainment in the lush setting of the National Arts Centre. Why not? Opera is not the sole possession of specialists. If Opera Lyra has to seduce the audience by setting Count Almaviva’s attempts to declare his love to Rosina on the set of a 1940’s film of Carmen, (Bizet’s version I imagine) – a sort of mise en abyme musical, why not? It was all supported by conductor Giuseppe Pietraroia’s fine direction that emphasized the heightened comic drama of the artists and produced excellent moments of music. The chorus of extras who changed costumes, who ran around trying to get their  hair cut by Figaro, the cheeky foppish barber and stylist of the film crew, sung by Baritone Joshua Hopkins, created an amusing performance. Also film-like with gangster undertones were the two sinister body guards who kept close to Rosina so that her impatient lover Almaviva (Lindoro), could not get near her as Bartolo snorted with anger in the background. Director Dennis Garnhum created numerous stage dramas operating simultaneously and eventually he transformed the whole cast into excellent actors whose timing was impeccable, whose sense of fun worked beautifully. A comedy of near epic proportions!!

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The End of Civilisation: A Strong Production of a Depressing Drama

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo: Barb Gray.

The End of Civilization is about a middle-class couple’s last-ditch attempt at preservation. Harry Cape, downsized and out of work for more than two years, is at the end of his rope. His wife, Lily, is willing to do anything to save her house and lifestyle.

The Capes have checked into a budget motel — The End of Civilization is the third of six plays in George F. Walker’s 1997 Suburban Motel series — and left their children in the care of Lily’s sister, while Harry tries one last time to find work.

From here, in a jumbled, but nevertheless clear, timeline, The End of Civilization presents the reasons for Harry’s descent into insane and unreasonable behaviour and Lily’s amazingly fast jump into the world’s oldest profession, after being befriended by Sandy, the prostitute in the next motel room.

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Take Me Back to Jefferson -Faulkner Lives at the NAC

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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Photo: Barb Gray.

“Take Me Back to Jefferson” adapted by Michele Smith and Dean Gilmour from William Faulkner’s novel “As I Lay Dying” gradually draws one in and becomes mesmerizing. Played on a bare stage with minimal props, the cast of seven brings to life Faulkner’s gothic tale of a dirt-poor Mississippi family’s odyssey to bury their matriarch Addie in her old home.

This is true ensemble theatre and all the actors are both strong and physically accomplished. The patriarch Anse is powerfully played by Dean Gilmour with the slippery ease of an unconscious natural con man and terrific body language. His oldest son Cash, (Dan Watson), provides his own vocal sound effects as he builds his mother’s coffin, and we come to believe we see it. Next in line Darl, (Julian De Zotti), holds himself in tight control till he finally snaps. Jewel, (Ben Muir), gives a remarkable performance with his beloved horse as he becomes not only the rider but also the horse.

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Past Reviews