Photo by Barb Gray

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

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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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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Turcaret or The Financier. A Beautiful World Premiere in English That Shows the Limits of Contemporary Commedia Performance.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo. Barb Gray for Capital Critics Circle.

Odyssey Theatre’s presentation of Turcaret or the Financier, an 18th Century classic, is a world premiere of the English translation by Joanne Miller and Laurie Steven. Delicate set and luscious costumes by James Lavoie, Almut Ellinghaus’ beautiful masques and wigs, the presence of excellent actors, a precisely Commedia direction that at times became a collective choreography as the actors displaced their expression away from the masked faces to the bodies that floated, skipped and flowed among each other with much grace, beauty, impudence and comic energy. Director Laurie Steven is back among us and her excellent command of the Commedia dell’arte technique that shone through this performance, as each of her characters integrates the conventional Commedia types. In a masterful convergence of lighting effects, dance, and orchestrated destruction, Turcaret’s world of the greedy rising middle class, comes crashing down, opening the way for the next generation of crooks. The French Revolution is not there yet but the middle and lower classes are already showing their teeth, these are still types that do not dare rise beyond their social status.

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The Financier: Charming choreography does not change the fact that the physical performance is at odds with the content.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo. Barbara Gray

The choreography is charming. The masks and movement are effective. The backdrops and lighting are attractive. The scene changes and cleanups are a delight. In fact, every aspect of the periphery enhances the commedia dell’arte style imposed on The Financier.

All this is as expected from Odyssey Theatre with the return of company founder Laurie Steven as director of a newly translated version of The Financier (Turcaret) by Alain-René Lesage.

But, despite its similarities to Molière’s Tartuffe and its designation as a comedy, this play is hard to fit into the style that is the company’s trademark. In The Financier no character is honest or shows a modicum of heroism and each individual is out to swindle all the others and thinks only of the WIFM (What’s in it for me?) principle.

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Turcaret or The Financier. Commedia style changes the focus of the play.

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

 

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Photo. Barb Gray 

Highly influenced by Moliere’s witty, sharp and ironic criticism of French society’s many vices, Alain René Lesage follows in his footsteps, only he takes Moliere’s comedy even deeper into the dark side of human nature. In his famous classic “Turcaret” there is not a single positive character. The time when the King’s funds are exhausted and those close to the king scheme with his tax collectors to swindle the country’s treasury is a perfect moment for financiers to make remarkable fortunes. Turcaret is a representative of that new class – the “nouveau riche,” who acquired tremendous fortunes by various means – most of them illegal. What these new rich upstarts do not have is class or social prestige, so they are after any possible way to buy that last obstacle they face on their way to high society.

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Turcaret ou le financier :

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Barb Gray.

Compte rendu  bientôt, en français.

Patience!!!

As You Like It: The Heightened Playfulness of the Fools Creates an Excellent Performance

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo. Barb Gray. Katie McArthur and Katie Ryerson.

A fun-filled production of As You Like It where the masterful touch of Scott Florence’s direction heightens the humour, the corporeal performances, the playfulness as well as the seriousness and the lyrical effusions of this delightful pastoral romance . The actors articulate their lines so that they never lose control of the text, producing  a comic performance that always serves the play. The rivalry of the brothers Orlando and Oliver, the banishment of the old Duke into the forest of Arden by his younger brother, Frederick, the banishment of Rosalind who also flees to the forest of Arden with her cousin Celia, leads to  games of hidden and confused identities, the main impulse of their pastoral romp. Rosalind becomes young Ganymede, Celia becomes “his” sister Aliana, and the peasant girl Pheobe does not hide her lust for that young man, while Orlando flits about the forest posting his love-sick verse in the trees, pining for the beautiful Rosalind who is really right under his nose the whole time.

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The Merry Wives of Windsor in the park: Falstaff overwhelmed by a solid team of Fools.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

 Merry2GetAttachment.aspx                                                                                 Katie Ryerson, ‘Matthew John Lundvall, Melanie Karin.  Photo: by Barb Gray. 

This production is probably one of the most successful Shakespeare adaptations the Company of Fools has ever done. Their comic style has solidified into a performance that exudes a coherent, maturely playful humour; the text is well articulated so every word is clear, but never stilted; the playful distance is always fore grounded by the actors themselves which is something that gives the performers a sense that they are in control, guiding the parody, thus making the humour all the more sophisticated, helped of course by Vanessa Imeson’s costumes that are both beautiful and appropriate for this lusty comedy.  I suspect that Catriona Leger’s work is behind this, which shows she is quickly becoming a local director to be taken very seriously. The Merry Wives of Windsor fore grounds that drunken rascal Falstaff who played an important role as comic relief in the King Henry IV series.

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Miss Caledonia: funny, warm and convincing, a truly unforgettable character

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

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Photo. Barbara Gray

It is sometime in the middle of the 1950s on a remote farm in Ontario where teenager Peggy Ann Douglas lives and daydreams about a shiny future as a movie star. Inspired by Hollywood success story Debbie Reynolds, she envisions herself in the role of a big, new discovery that is coached by Bing Cosby himself. So, dreaming about the fabulous world of fame while labouring through farm chores and domestic goings on, she decides that the road leading to her goal runs through local beauty pageants. To win, she decides to attend classes teaching beauty, charm and poise in a local charm school, but not before she gets around a stumbling block in form of her feet-firm-on-the-ground farmer father first. Fortunately for her, she finds all necessary support in her mother.

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Miss Caledonia: A beautiful way to get off the farm

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo, Barbara Gray

Melody A. Johnson

Winning a beauty contest is a way to escape farm living and extreme poverty. At least, 15-year-old Peggy Ann Douglas hopes this will be her path to a new life, which at the very least will include indoor plumbing. (It was the route to stardom for movie actress Debbie Reynolds, so why not for a teenager from rural Ontario?)

Based on her mother’s history, Melody A. Johnson tells the story of how a gawky teenager in the 1950s transformed herself into a confident baton-twirling/singing beauty queen.

Johnson is a fine storyteller and comedienne, delivering clear and often amusing sketches of Peggy’s parents, assorted neighbours and acquaintances.

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Hroses, An Affront to Reason: A hodge-podge of semi-defined concepts.

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

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Some ideas should remain just that: ideas. Putting them on stage does no one any favour, least of all audiences. That’s the case with Jill Connell’s Hroses, a hodge-podge of semi-defined concepts and often vaguely poetic language that never figures out what it wants to be when it grows up.

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Past Reviews