Professional Theatre

Lawrence Aronovitch’s Finishing the Suit an insightful portrayal of grief and mourning

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

Photo: Andrew Alexander

This is a true heartbreaker. In Bear and Co’s latest offering at the Gladstone Theatre, Ottawa-based playwright Lawrence Aronovitch pens a script that delves into the grief of lost love. This world premiere is largely set in a tailor’s shop in 1070s New York, where being a publicly gay man is criminal. A young, nameless tailor works on a bespoke suit for a funeral. In the midst of his work, his mind wanders to his life’s greatest loves – the Duke of Windsor and a fiery Irish actor – who are now both dead, and suddenly conjures their ghosts onto the stage. (more…)

The Gladstone unveils a fine new play with Finishing The Suit

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: Andrew Alexander

Lawrence Aronovitch’s new play, Finishing The Suit, comes to us simply, without pretension. But this tender drama about a lonely gay tailor coming to terms with a crushing personal loss deserves attention from anyone who cares about good theatre.

This Bear @ Co. Production is at the Gladstone until March 11, and it may be recommended not only for a beautifully written 70-minute script, a piece both psychologically and culturally observant, but also for a trio of strong performances from Matt Pilipiak, Isaac Giles and David Whiteley. (more…)

Infinity: outstanding production of a problematic play

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann

In terms of production quality, Infinity is probably as good as anything we’ve seen on an NAC stage in a while.

There’s Ross Manson’s excellent direction — responsive to the dramatic demands of Hannah Moscovitch’s script, adroitly managing its fluctuating rhythms and moods, seeking to give it substance and fluidity despite the authorial ambushes lying along the way.

In this, Manson is beautifully complemented by designer Teresa Przybylski’s deceptively simple cycloramic setting, which at times seems to be dissolving into destinations unknown. And she is supported here by lighting designer Rebecca Picherack who is making her own valuable contribution to a world of shifting shades and textures. (more…)

Finishing the Suit: Bear & Co. delivers a sensitive and clear production

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: Andrew Alexander

Finishing the Suit

By Lawrence Aronovitch

Bear & Co.

Directed by Joël Beddows

Coming to terms with the past is the only way to prepare for the future. Even then, putting grief to rest is incredibly difficult.

This is the theme of Lawrence Aronovitch’s fine play, Finishing the Suit, currently having its premiere production from Bear & Co. at the Gladstone.

The title is partly drawn from the reality of completing a morning coat (also referred to as a mourning coat in the context of the script). It is also a metaphor for sewing up the past through memory and conversation.

Directed with sensitivity and clarity by Joël Beddows, the three-person cast tells of the two people that have had the greatest impact on the tailor (Matt Pilipiak), The two, David (David Whiteley) —who is to wear the morning coat in death—and Jimmy (Isaac Giles) are both dead, but remain alive in the tailor’s heart and remembrance, almost to the exclusion of his daily existence. (more…)

Infinity: Ideas more interesting than unsatisfying whole

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann

Infinity

By Hannah Moscovitch

A Volcano (Toronto) production at the National Arts Centre

Director: Ross Manson

Clever rather than entertaining, playwright Hannah Moscovitch’s 2013 drama Infinity intertwines alternative theories of time with the affinity between mathematics and music overlaying the drama of a dysfunctional family.

At the centre of the storm of ideas and her inability to preserve relationships is Sarah Jean — at times an eight-year-old having a tantrum (three-year-old style); at other times, a serious graduate student in mathematics; but mostly, a confused and unhappy young woman trying to make sense of her life through unsatisfying sexual encounters and crude words and imagery. (more…)

Les Passants is an imaginative, deep, intelligent, disturbing, and beautifully performed

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

 

Photo: Sylvain Sabatie

In his play “Les Passants,” Luc Moquen is, to put it simply, presenting us to us. This play has no classic storyline – there is no beginning or end, nothing develops and nothing happens in succession. It has no real solution – only a hint that maybe love, a simple hug can help us – but nobody seems to see it. The play implies many things, and one of them is the fact that we do not want to listen to reason or to nature. “Les Passants’ is a series of vignettes from average people’s lives. The author observes them, captures their thoughts, misadventures, anxiety, and confusion. Although these sketches seem to be random when taken out of context, put together they make a powerful testimony by capturing the essence of today’s life, which is filled with crazy rush through a myriad of meaningless tasks causing a detachment from everything and everyone around us. The leitmotif of the play is death – not so much physical, but a death inside us, caused by total alienation. Dante’s Inferno, killings on the streets, or killing the human inside of us – all these deaths have the same root – displaced values as the result of a disconnect from our true, natural existence. (more…)

Les Passants: Co-production suggests we are all together in modern, alienated world

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Photo: Sylvain Sabatie

If everyone feels like an outsider, then is anyone actually an outsider? Les Passants – an engagingly adventurous, vignette-based co-production by GCTC and le Théâtre la Catapulte – doesn’t address that question directly, but in presenting its cavalcade of funny, poignant and vulnerable characters, people whose inner lives are constantly at odds with the outer world, it certainly suggests we are all together in this messy, often unhappy business of modern-day alienation.

Wobbly at the outset, the production soon enough gains traction as playwright Luc Moquin’s script unrolls in French with English surtitles. Four actors – Mélanie Beauchamp, Benjamin Gaillard, Andrée Rainville and Yves Turbide – play multiple characters, with Keith Thomas’s soundscape often becoming a character itself. That soundscape can be intensely disquieting, becoming at times a kind of howling white noise that underscores Moquin’s concern with the clamour of distraction that smothers our ability to think, judge and communicate about anything outside the ephemeral.

Caught up in this universe of fevered inconsequentiality, Moquin’s characters ricochet about, trying to connect with each other, with themselves, with anything that would provide a quiet, safe harbour. They fail to do so, of course, sometimes in exceedingly funny fashion. Such is the case when a couple, having attended some kind of flaky get-in-touch-with-yourself-and-each-other session, performs an interpretative dance meant to express the emotions they’ve long kept tamped down. It’s an absurd exercise in self-absorption, a cure that’s worse than the illness, but also the kind of lazy solution to a deep existential calamity that’s so appealing precisely because it entails little real effort or risk. (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…)

Past Reviews