Professional Theatre

Avec « ERZULI DAHOMEY, déesse de l’amour » et après « Médée-Kali », le M’Acte démontre sa volonté de rapprocher les différentes cultures

News from Capital Critics Circle

Guest Critic: Scarlet Jesus

Avant la Martinique -où la pièce sera jouée au Théâtre Aimé Césaire du 16 au 18 février prochain-, dans le cadre d’une programmation mettant à l’honneur Karine Pedurand, le  Mémorial Acte a donné une unique représentation d’« Erzuli Dahomey, déesse de l’amour ». Le texte de cette pièce, écrite par Jean-René il y a une dizaine d’années dans le cadre d’une résidence d’auteur à La Chartreuse d’Avignon et publié aux éditions des Solitaires intempestifs, a reçu plusieurs récompenses : le Prix SACD de la dramaturgie française en 2009, suivi en 2013 du Prix « Théâtre 13 Jeunes metteurs en scène ».

La pièce avait fait l’objet d’une programmation à la Comédie Française (salle du Vieux Colombier) du 12 mars au 15 avril 2012, avec une mise en scène d’Eric Génovèse. La mise en scène, pour la Guadeloupe et comme pour la Martinique, a été réalisée à l’initiative de la Compagnie Théâtre des Deux Saisons. Elle a pu être vue en Île de France, les 17 et 18 juin derniers, dans le cadre de la structure Arcadi (Plateaux Solidaires).

Erzuli ? Voici une pièce qui va évoquer le vaudou, pensez-vous!  D’autant que vous connaissez l’origine haïtienne de Jean-René Lemoine.

Il vous faut d’emblée éliminer cette fausse piste et noter que le titre ne fait pas référence à « Erzuli Dantor », mais à « Erzuli Dahomey ». A l’Afrique donc plus qu’à Haïti.A travers la référence à un royaume , le Dahomey, qui fut autrefois, avec Ouidah, un lieu majeur de la traite des esclaves atlantiques. Et d’où le vaudou, certes, tire son origine… La pièce semble faire le lien entre une réalité historique et la présence d’un imaginaire collectif dans lequel le merveilleux trouve place.  (more…)

Director Lisa Zanyk balances the absurd and all-too familiar aspects of humanity in Albee’s At Home at the Zoo

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

Don’t we all have an inner Jerry? In so many ways, Edward Albee’s infamously volatile, transient character Jerry captures our frustrating inability to feel at home in a strangely formulaic world. He reveals the alienating sensation of being a human amongst other humans. Moreover, that I even left the Carleton Tavern with that in mind is a fine tribute to the work of director Lisa Zanyk and a nimble trio of actors who’ve taken on Albee’s At Home at the Zoo.

The double-bill features two one-act plays that have been careful sewn together by the playwright. The second act is a stand-alone play, Zoo Story, which he wrote while in his late twenties. Considering the piece well-formed but “incomplete”, Albee fleshed out Peter’s character in a prelude of sorts called Homelife when he was in his 70s. The two short pieces now play as a two act performance that exposes an uncomfortable portrayal of the middle class.

Critics have noted that the interplay of Homelife and Zoo Story reveal a portrait of the playwright at two distinct stages of life. Sequentially, the latter is Albee’s first play and captures youthful angst, anti-establishmentarian impulses, and nihilism. The former, written as a companion piece over 50 years later, delves into a more middle-aged mind set. The enemy there is complacency, disappointment, and repressed passions. Juxtaposed, these two one-act plays have an enthralling symmetry. In Homelife, Peter, a middle-aged textbook publishing executive, is flaccid, bored, and has a relationship with his work that borders on the absurd. Like Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hill, Peter hopes with all his heart that the textbooks that he pours countless hours of his life into have some intrinsic value. It is an unmistakable criticism of the complacency that fuels the middle class. (more…)

Colony Of Unrequited Dreams: Less Than Meets The Eye

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: Colin Furlong as Joey Smallwood. Credit: Paul Daly

One suspects that the National Arts Centre’s production of The Colony Of Unrequited Dreams will have its greatest success with those playgoers who haven’t read the Wayne Johnston novel that inspired it.

Playwright Robert Chafe’s earnest, well-intentioned adaptation frequently manages to engage the viewer — although on a somewhat brittle level. But it lacks the epic sweep and emotional resonance of Johnston’s fictional recreation of the early life of legendary Newfoundland Premier Joseph Smallwood and his campaign to bring a proud but troubled island nation into Canada in 1949. Indeed, Jillian Keiley’s production, although revelling in fancy visuals and clever bits of business, never really communicates the high stakes involved in the countdown to Confederation. Given that the turbulent referendum vote required a second run-off, such lack of tension is astonishing

Not just astonishing — also perplexing, given the drama that engulfed so much of Joey Smallwood’s life and career. But it’s also fair to suggest that it must have been  a daunting challenge for Chafe even to try to get into the maddening, calculating mind of this so-called “last father of Confederation.” Wayne Johnston’s original attempt to do so in the novel went on for more than 500 pages, many of them devoted to Joey’s own first-person narrative. As tends to be the case with this type of memoir, whether true or fictional, you keep wondering how reliable the narrator really is — or, in this instance, is intended to be. (more…)

Quand Médée-Kali trouve place au Memorial Acte

News from Capital Critics Circle

Guest Critic: Scarlett Jesus

La pièce de Laurent Gaudé, « Médé-Kali » est, à l’évidence, d’actualité. La preuve en est qu’elle a été mise en scène presque simultanément, en février 2016, au Théâtre de la mer (Joliette Minoterie), à Marseille, ainsi que dans le 93, à Montreuil-sous-Bois. Montée par la Cie Kamma crée par Karine Pédurand, elle a été jouée en Guyane, début novembre, puis à L’Archipel de Basse-Terre, en Guadeloupe les 20 et 21 janvier 2017, avant d’être présentée au public martiniquais le 24 janvier, dans le cadre du Festival des Petites formes, à L’Atrium. La voici revenue en Guadeloupe, ce vendredi 27 janvier, mais dans un lieu hautement emblématique cette fois, le Mémorial Acte. Nul doute que la réception d’une telle pièce dans ce « Centre caribéen d’expressions et de mémoire de la traite et de l’esclavage », ne peut que se charger d’une coloration particulière. « Médée-Kali » peut-elle apporter une quelconque contribution à un vivre-ensemble harmonieux, permettant que s’opère, à travers l’horreur que suscite cette histoire tragique, la catharsis des sentiments de haine et de vengeance engendrés par l’histoire douloureuse de l’esclavage ?

« Je suis Médée-Kali… Je suis Médée-Kali… Je suis Médée-Kali… » martèle d’une voix forte, comme pour mieux graver ce nom dans nos mémoires, l’actrice Karine Pédurand qui incarne le personnage. Un personnage, celui de Médée, que Laurent Gaudé a voulu à son tour revisiter, après Euripide, Sénèque, Corneille… et la mise en scène qu’en proposa Jacques Lassalle à Avignon, en 2000, dans laquelle Isabelle Huppert incarnait une Médée très humaine. Comme l’indique le titre, l’auteur a cherché à opérer un raccourci entre deux figures mythiques dont l’une, Médée, nous vient de la Grèce antique, tandis que l’autre, Kali, est empruntée au panthéon hindou. Une pièce invitant peut-être le public à réfléchir à ce qui peut rapprocher des communautés différentes, plutôt que ce qui les divise… (more…)

8: Production addresses pressing issues and fears of today

News from Capital Critics Circle

Guest Critic: Yana Meerzon

Photo: David Ospina

On November 8, 2016, America elected its 45th President, Donald Trump, whose political forays, populist statements and neo-nationalist decrees, as well as Twitter type of communication, evoke the Russian poet –futurist Vladimir Mayakovsky’s manifesto “A Slap in the Face of Public Taste” (1917). By slapping  public taste, however, Mayakovsky aimed to change the role of arts in society, while Trump aims to change society itself. Trump’s aggressive and dangerous practices also bring into question  the role performing arts can play in resisting this type of political discourse and law-making.

Mani Soleymanlou, a Québécois artist of Iranian origin, and his company Orange Noyée, ask a similar question. With their new production 8 they inquire: what can theatre artists and intellectuals, socially and politically engaged individuals, do to resist the phantasmagoria of the Trump-lead era of history? What devices of political performance can make true social impact, in a  time when peoples’ political opinions and politics itself are formed over social media, through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram?

8, co-produced and presented by Orange Noyée, Place des Arts, Montreal, and National Arts Centre, French Theatre, Ottawa is an example of such a search. Soleymanlou has always been politically aware. Starting from his autobiographical show Un to his more recent work 5 à 7, he has continuously engaged with the questions of artist’s responsibility and social ethics, first through his work on immigration and now focusing on the perils of the world’s growing nationalism. (more…)

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: The Heart and Soul of the Rock

News from Capital Critics Circle

Guest reviewer Jim Murchisson

Photo: Victoria Wells

The opening night of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams at the National Arts Centre was attended by a who’s who of Newfoundland artists, Canadian politicians and journalists. It was appropriate of course as the play is an adaptation by Robert Chafe of Wayne Johnston’s novel that imagines what early influences might have created a character as enigmatic and colourful as Joseph Smallwood, the last father of Confederation and an enduring symbol of Newfoundland.

A work of fiction that speculates about the heart and soul of a very real character in Canadian history by blending history with invention makes for a compelling evening . It worked on every level. The characters both real and imagined are spellbinding. The dialogue crackles with the wisecracking wit that you find in the best of 40’s cinema. Chafe’s play makes me want to both read Johnston’s novel and discover more about this significant piece of history.

The staging of the play is mesmerizing. Director Jillian Keiley drops the audience smack dab in the middle of a film noir piece. The pinpoint lighting of Leigh Ann Vardy allows the dialogue to pepper the stage. Characters pop up in one spot and then another creating the illusion of watching a series of newsreel clips. We are captured in the tide of the Confederation movement. Brilliant! (more…)

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: Brilliantly performed, directed, and adapted

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Photo: Paul Daly

In the Playwright’s Notes, the playwright, Robert Chafe, writes: “The history buff will have no trouble calling me out. But I made my primary task to reflect the spirit and heart of this magnificent book within the often-confining demands of a stage play.” That is exactly what he does. Hard, cold facts about Newfoundland’s first premier Joey Smallwood, and the role he played in bringing the Dominion of Newfoundland into Canada’s confederation can be found in any number of books. Chafe’s adaptation of Wayne Johnston novel Colony of Unrequited Dreams brings much more to the stage than that. It brings back the time, the place and people during a time of great change in Newfoundland.

The play spans over 25 years of hard and turbulent times in Newfoundland, showing that if the period preceding confederation was troubling, the transition from dominion to confederation was anything but smooth. The results (fifty-two per cent of people voted in favour of joining Canada in the 1949 referendum; 48 per cent voted against) split the nation on many levels – from political to personal. What makes the play universal, regardless of its local content, is its focus on human experience rather than on political events. (more…)

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: A fractious relationship

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Photo: Colin Furlong as Joey Smallwood. Credit: Paul Daly

Joey Smallwood, the diminutive guy who led Newfoundland into Confederation in 1949:  with a subject like that, audience members for The Colony of Unrequited Dreams could be forgiven for fearing an evening of excruciating boredom.

They would also be proven dead wrong.

Adapted by Robert Chafe from Wayne Johnston’s celebrated 1998 historical novel of the same name, the play is an enthralling glimpse into the heart of the earnest and tenacious Smallwood, into the soul of his beloved Newfoundland, and into Smallwood’s complicated relationship with a caustic newspaper columnist named Sheilagh Fielding.

Directed here by Jillian Keiley (herself a native Newfoundlander) with especially thoughtful attention to pacing, the story hums along so fluidly that you’re scarcely aware that three hours have elapsed when Smallwood finally attains his dream, Fielding reaches a goal of a different kind, and issues of identity, family, love and loneliness settle into their ultimately unresolvable conclusion.

Politics and the personal are inextricably woven together in this show’s vision of Joey Smallwood, played with a buoyant sense of mission, principle and rabble-rousing fearlessness by Colin Furlong. We meet Smallwood when he is a young man determined to carve out an influential place for himself in a Newfoundland where the old boys’ network and corruption are endemic in government. Doubtless partly in reaction to his father (Steve O‘Connell), an alcoholic whose life is a string of might-have-beens, Smallwood never meets a challenge that he won’t wade into like an up-and-coming welterweight. (more…)

Hand to God – Coping with Angst and Puppets

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

 

Photo Glenn Perry    Tyrone scares Timothy

Hand to God is both a farce and satire of religion and suburban life in Cypress, Texas. First produced off-Broadway in 2011, its writer Robert Askins was an unknown working as a bartender with a few unsung off-off Broadway plays to his credit. Hand to God went to Broadway, became a tremendous hit, and received several Tony nominations. Now as it makes the rounds of the regionals, Boston’s SpeakEasy Stage Company is presenting its New England première.
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Our Secrets: Life in a dystopian world.

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

ArtsEmerson is presenting the American début of Our Secrets, written and directed by Béla Pintér. The widely acclaimed Hungarian troupe, appropriately called Béla Pintér and company, is taking Our Secrets to New York after its short Boston run. Performed in Hungarian with supertitles, the play addresses the power that the communist state had over its citizens. It takes place in the 1980s, a period when the government encouraged its citizens to revive Hungary’s folk songs and dances as an attempt to prevent the population from falling under the influence of Western popular music. Three musicians play a variety of string instruments and a synthesizer.

Photo: Cscaba Maszaros

The narrative revolves around a folkloric group who meet to dance and sing. One of their members is István Balla Ban (Zoltán Friedenthanal) a musicologist and a man with a secret that will interest the Hungarian intelligence service. He visits a therapist (Eszter Csákákanyi) for help with his sexuality. István is desperately attracted to his seven-year old stepdaughter Timike (Éva Enyedi) and because of this infatuation is no longer aroused by his wife. He claims that he has never done anything untoward with the stepdaughter. It is a lie. He has taught the little girl sexual games that involve his pleasure and that strangely she enjoys.

Having bugged the therapist’s office, Comrade Pánczél (Eszter Csákákanyi) head of the intelligence service, calls in István and gives him the choice between going to prison for pedophilia or becoming an informer who will be rewarded by the state. Weakling that he is, he agrees to spy on his friends. In developing István as an unhappy reprobate, Pintér casts a shadow over the society as a whole. The playwright takes this a step further by using a disconsolate would-be dancer (Szabolcs Thuróczy) in the folkloric group as István’s contact. He became a servant for the state to avenge himself on the other dancers who mocked his lack of talent.

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