Photo by Barb Gray

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 Alvina Ruprecht

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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 Marriage of Figaro. This Opera Lyra Production Ranks High!

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Photo: Barb Gray. John Brancy and Sacha Djihanian

It’s pretty obvious that Opera Lyra is making a pitch to the Downton Abbey fan club by attempting an early 20th Century take on The Marriage Of Figaro.

Halfway through the overture, we get a glimpse of servants being assembled in front of the stately English exterior of “Highclere Castle” and inspected by a dignified butler. The scene is a somewhat tiresome contrivance, and not really in synch with Mozart’s music. And, let’s face it — the the music is what counts in this production, and, happily, the playing of the overture already has us appreciating the silken elegance of the National Arts Centre Orchestra’s contribution to the evening under conductor Kevin Mallon.

So when it comes to honouring the Mozartian soundscape, the delights the production provides are manifest. For the most part, this is a beautifully sung Figaro, featuring some stellar work from the principals, and in particular a notably engaging performance on all fronts from Wallis Giunta in the trouser role of the lovelorn pageboy, Cherubino.

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THe Best Brothers : Two Shining Performances at the GCTC

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Photo: Barb Gray

There’s no denying the pleasure of Andy Massingham’s performance in The Best Brothers, the latest offering from GCTC. His portrayal of Kyle, a twitchy gay realtor coping with the aftermath of his mother’s death, isn’t merely rich in comic detail: it also seeks to anchor it to psychological truth. And if this fine actor doesn’t entirely succeed, blame it on the ambushes inherent in Daniel MacIvor’s problematic play.

It would be easy for audience members to settle back and simply enjoy Massingham’s contribution to the evening as a “performance.” His Kyle is a jumble of emotions — anxious, impulsive, street-smart, capable of saying and doing outrageous things. We suspect that something hilariously awful will occur during the deceased’s funeral, and Kyle (or, rather, Massingham) doesn’t let us down. But even as he turns the moment of eulogy into chaos, Massingham also manages to remind us of Kyle’s essential kindness of heart — and his vulnerability.

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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 Alvina Ruprecht

 

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 Connie Meng

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. (more…)

Obaaberima : a corporeal performance that expresses it all!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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 Patrick Langston

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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 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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Past Reviews