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

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

Reviewed by on    Photo by Barb Gray, Professional Theatre  


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

Reviewed by on    Photo by Barb Gray, Professional Theatre  

woolf3DSC_0028  Photo: Barb Gray


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. (Continue reading » )

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

Reviewed by on    Opera, Photo by Barb Gray, Professional Theatre  


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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Take Me Back to Jefferson -Faulkner Lives at the NAC

Reviewed by on    Photo by Barb Gray, Professional Theatre  


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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Take me back to Jefferson: a fascinating corporeal performance that sets this family in competition with all the other living species on the earth.

Reviewed by on    Photo by Barb Gray, Professional Theatre  


Photo: Barb Gray.

This adaptation of the William Faulkner novel As I lay dying…remains fairly close to Faulkner’s 15 interior monologues  performed here by  seven actors who tell the story about a country family living in a fictional town in Mississippi. The Family  has sworn to respect the dying wishes of their mother Addie, a tough old lady who wants to be buried in Jefferson. Even in death she dominates their lives. As they make the difficult journey , the calvary as it were, back to Jefferson, they are almost drowned, burned, destroyed as they drag that coffin across the country with mother in it, just to respect her dying wishes. During the trip we learn about each of the children through their monologues which structure the performance, each one producing  memories of Addie. explaining their feelings about the farm, the other children and their visions of the world. It is all expressed  in a rough but  poetic version of a slightly archaic  hillbilly talk. This most beguiling language transforms them all into larger than life types, all emerging as grotesque beings within a southern gothic style landscape where they become creatures  creating strangely delusional images of their own reality.

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The Best Brothers: A brilliant piece of dramaturgy that speaks as much about theatre as it does about grieving.

Reviewed by on    Photo by Barb Gray, Professional Theatre  


bestDSC_0032 Photo, Barb Gray:  featuring John Ng and  Andy Massingham.

A frontal set made up of overlapping rectangles that establish an endless depth, glowing with interesting colour as the two men standing on either side of the stage, note our position in the audience and prepare us for what is to come. These are the Brothers. On one side Kyle (Andy Massingham), a flamboyant real estate agent trying to convince us and his clients to buy his condo, intoxicated with words as he praises the qualities of his product. The other brother, on the other side of the stage is Hamilton, (John Ng) cool and calm, exceedingly rational, dressed in a suit, an architect who is explaining his recent project to potential buyers. Their phones ring simultaneously. . Reactions on both sides are immediate except that the reactions are not the same. “Just something…” I can take care of it…says Kyle, “a tragedy…” says Hamilton the cool architect who tries not to appear upset but is very moved. Lights down then back up as all the rituals that accompany death and its closure for the family, structure the rest of the show. What we see emerging , under the stress of their mother’s campy accident is a the whole grieving process which underlies both the comedy and the strained relationship between the two sons, where jealousy rears its ugly head more than once and where the extraordinary Bunny (or Mommy) is recreated as the focal point of their lives.

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The Best Brothers at GCTC IS the Best

Reviewed by on    Photo by Barb Gray, Professional Theatre  

Photo: Barbara Grey

John Ng and Andy Massingham
Photo: Barb Gray

GCTC has a hit on their hands with their production of “The Best Brothers” by award-winning Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor.  MacIvor’s plays are so tightly woven that they’re difficult to write about without giving away quirky plot surprises and wonderful jokes.

“The Best Brothers” is a play about family and family relationships.  Hamilton Best, played by John Ng, and his younger brother Kyle, played by Andy Massingham, are faced with coping with the sudden death of their mother.  She was killed in a bizarre accident at a Pride Parade – one of the surprises I won’t give away.  They have to deal with long-buried resentments, sibling rivalry and what to do about their “other brother” Enzo, another surprise.

These two are very good actors and are well matched. John Ng’s Hamilton, almost always appearing in a suit, is an uptight architect whose wife is about to leave him.  Andy Massingham’s Kyle is more of a free spirit whose current boyfriend is a sex worker.  They bump heads over the obituary and Kyle’s proposal to have their Mother’s visitation catered.  Andy Massingham’s impeccable comic timing is on display in a hilarious scene at the visitation.  Each actor at times dons white gloves and gives us poignant and funny glimpses of their Mother, Bunny. (Continue reading » )

Obaaberima : a corporeal performance that expresses it all!

Reviewed by on    NAC english, Photo by Barb Gray, Professional Theatre  

DSC_0027(1)Tawiah M`Carthey. Photo Barb Gray.

Questions of identity have become one of the focal points of recent theatre in Canada. In Ottawa we have seen performances in French by Mani Soleymanlou  whose recent plays “Un”, “Deux” et “Trois” have focussed on his Persian identity as a construction produced by the interiorization of the gaze of Quebecers who saw him as the Middle eastern immigrant he never knew he was, given the fact his family was Iranian and he arrived here when he was very young. Other more recent immigrants such as Wajdi Mouawad, have used theatre to reflect on their immigrant condition and their sense of identity within their new Canadian/Quebec surroundings. Recently in Ottawa, we have seen other such performances by artists asking similar questions through performance.

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Do You Want what I have got. A craigslist cantata: quiet jibing at human foibles.

Reviewed by on    Musical Theatre, Photo by Barb Gray, Professional Theatre  


Bree Greig and Marguerite Witvoet

Photo: Barb Gray.

Richardson’s occasionally deranged sense of humour and eye for the poignant are well-paired with Hille’s partiality to the offbeat. The combination emerges in numbers like performer Bree Greig’s ode to transience, in which she sings about 300 stuffed penguins that she’d like to dispose of now that she’s finished university and is living, jobless, back at her parents’ home, and is aware that her youth is vanishing over the horizon. It’s a number that starts out funny and ends up wistful.

Dmitry Chepovetsky gives us a total scammer who offers, for a fee, to care for the pets of those who believe they’re going to be carted off to the ever-after in the coming Rapture. Chepovetsky, who’s a pleasure to watch, also depicts the just plain weird side of human desire when he sings an ad looking for someone to sit in a bathtub of noodles (cooked noodles, mind you) in a one-piece bathing suit. What part of the brain, you ask yourself, births such fantasies?

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Do you want what I have got? A Craigslist Cantata; Witty Cyber Hi-jinx at the NAC.

Reviewed by on    Musical Theatre, Photo by Barb Gray, Professional Theatre  


Bree Greig  Photo: Barbara Gray

Fans of the Cantata singers of Ottawa might wonder what the relation is between Craigslist and their own style of singing and musical accompaniment but they should be reassured that this is much closer to Cabaret . This collage of musical numbers that work to different degrees, brings together various popular rhythms , dance music, Kurt Weill ”ish” sounds of discordant and dramatic moments, musical parody and a lot more. A generally good musical score underlies this quirky musical event bringing to life a musical and physical interpretation of the nature of that web site that advertises everything, that seeks anything at all . It accumulates ads and letters that don’t connect, that don’t allow for any kind of traditional dramatic thread. In other words, at first glance it all appears to be pure chaos, projecting a cyber-microcosm of people searching for everything and anything and then wondering if anyone is listening, or if anyone cares! At least the musical plays heavily on that theme. Each musical number is an independent moment of its own and each number stands alone, some more strongly than others. Each one reveals the most intimate needs of the voices on line, transformed into musical sound expressing the most intimate desires, the most special lifestyles, the most inhabitual objects one searches for or needs to get rid of. And it all moves about on Robin Fisher’s set that shows rows of compartments along the back, representing the many categories that construct the site in space.

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