summer 2016

Confused “Das Ding” in Gananoque.

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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Photo: Stephen Wild.

“Das Ding (The Thing)” by Philippe Lohle and translated from the German by Birgit Schreyer Duarte is billed as “a sharp-witted social comedy.” I can only think that something got lost in translation as I found precious little comedy in the evening. This production originated in Toronto and moved intact to the Firehall with only one cast change. Luckily the technical production, which is terrific, moved too. “Das Ding” purports to span today’s globalized world by following the journey of a cotton fiber. I got this from the press release – not from the play.

It opens with a petulant King Manoel I of Portugal, (Qasim Khan), seated on a giant white cotton ball speaking with Magellan, (Naomi Wright). Magellan, after explaining his broken leg, requests backing for an expedition to sail west to find a route to the Indian Ocean. King Manoel refuses. The scene is mildly amusing, but the play goes downhill from there.

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A Grand Time in the Rapds, Light-Hearted Farce et the 1000 Thousand Islands Playhouse

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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Photo: Jay Kopinski

“A Grand Time in the Rapids” by award-winning Canadian playwright Stewart Lemoine is billed as “a frivolous fast-paced farce” and it certainly is. It features Thalia, (Tess Degenstein), newly arrived in Grand Rapids from England and Ted, (Paul Dunn), an etiquette expert who arrives to monitor and direct Thalia’s confession to her boyfriend Boyd, (Craig Pike), the details of her rather lurid past.

That’s all I’ll say, as I don’t want to reveal the surprising twists of this odd-ball plot. Suffice it to say there are lots of thrown drinks, wet clothes, quick changes, and slamming of doors in this unusual farce that for a change is not about sex.

The set, designed by Jung-Hye Kim, shows Thalia’s apartment with minimal furniture and a pile of trunks and suitcases framed by a brick proscenium. The wallpaper has a design of stylized waves and there are 3 good solid doors plus a swing door to the kitchen. Her costumes are also good, especially Thalia’s dresses which clearly set the play in the 50s. Rebecca Picherack’s lighting is fine, except that the table lamp needs to come up a couple of points when the stage lights come up.

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An Inspector Calls gets solid treatment at Perth

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

There’s no denying the polemic in J.B. Priestley’s 1944 classic, An Inspector Calls. And it’s not played down in the Perth Classic Theatre Festival’s excellent production. That’s evident from the compelling moment near the end when actor William Vickers, excellent as the play’s mysterious Inspector Goole, confronts the audience and warns of the “fire and blood and anguish” that will descend on society if human beings fail to recognize their collective responsibilities to each other.

The play wears its socialist colours proudly, as did its author throughout a remarkably long career. And when Britain’s National Theatre unveiled a historic revival in 1992, the notes in the printed program took unflinching aim at Margaret Thatcher’s notorious assertion that “there is no such thing as society” and therefore no case to be made for shared human concerns.

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An Inspector Calls: A Cohesive Production of a British Classic is the Final Play of the Perth Summer Season

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Poster from the Perth  Classic Theatre Festival. An Inspector calls  by J.B. Priestley, Directed by Laurel Smith. Classic Theatre Festival.     

Part social manifesto and part drawing-room drama, An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley is a play with a strong message about responsibility, caring and guilt. Add to this the playwright’s signature interest in time shifts and his criticism of class divisions in Great Britain immediately before the First World War and the scene is set for the inspector of the title to call on the wealthy Birling family and dent their complacency.

An Inspector Calls, which premiered in Russia in 1945 and in England the next year, is Priestley’s best-known play. It is frequently used as part of the British high school curriculum because of its value as an instrument of social history, as well as its interest as one of the classics of 20th-century drama.

As such, it fits in well with the Classic Theatre Festival mandate of presenting popular plays of the 1920s to the 1970s. It also poses a number of problems for any director because of its wordiness and lack of subtlety. In addition, audiences today are less tolerant of three-act plays (hence the usual condensation to two acts) and the often lengthy exposition.

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New Play “In a Blue Moon” a hit in Gananoque

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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Photo: David Cooper

Blue Moon by Lucia Frangione, directed by Daryl Cloran.

The world premiere of Canadian playwright Lucia Frangione’s new play “In a Blue Moon” is definitely worth a trip to Gananoque. It tells the story of Ava, a widow, (Anita Wittenberg), and her six-year-old daughter Frankie, (Emma Tow – Miss Wittenberg’s real-life daughter), who move to an inherited cottage. There they find Will, (Brett Christopher), a free-lance photographer and Ava’s brother-in-law, already in residence. As their relationships change and grow, we find ourselves increasingly caught up in their emotions and lives.

Drew Facey’s abstract and creative wooden cottage is backed by a giant moon. The cottage has an upper level which functions as both a bedroom and the roof. There’s also a free-standing and very slammable door. The moon is used as a screen for Conor Moore’s terrific projections and his lighting is also very good. John Gzowski’s music and sound are very effective and the costumes, designed by Marian Truscott, are just fine. I loved Frankie’s pajamas.

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Sparkling “Into the Woods” at Gananoque’s 1000 Islands Playhouse

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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A very good production of the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical “Into the Woods” is running at the 1000 Islands Playhouse. The cast, with a couple of exceptions, is strong and the actors can all handle the complex score. Drew Facey’s set, featuring an upper level walkway, 3 birdcage-like playing areas and, of course, woods, is excellent and his wonderful costumes cleverly fanciful. I loved the Prince’s high-top sneakers. The choreography by Shelly Stewart Hunt is good, especially for the Princes, although I felt it began a bit too early in the opening number and we lost some lyrics. Michelle Ramsay’s lighting is evocative and William Fallon’s sound first-rate and well balanced.

Speaking of sound, Musical Director Stephen Woodjetts has done an expert job with the complex vocals, especially the diction. When the show first opened in New York in 1987, the pit musicians called it “Into the Words.” He’s also done a great arrangement that allows only 5 musicians to convey the flavor and color of the original orchestration, with himself on piano, Greg Runions on percussion, David Smith on reeds, Bob Arlidge on bass, and the excellent Erin Puttee on keyboard.

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A Robust Arms and The Man at Perth

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Logo: Classic Theatre Festival, Perth.

George Bernard Shaw sub-titled Arms And The Man an “anti-romantic comedy” when he wrote it in 1894. His intent was serious — to challenge romantic illusions about the glory of war. But his methods were playful as he set up farcical situations to make his point and created a memorable gallery of comic characters who continue to delight audiences more than a century later.

Perth’s Classic Theatre Festival has mounted a robust revival that declares its purpose immediately when we’re introduced to Raina, the romantically inclined heroine whose heart begins fluttering at the very thought of the heroic Balkan war happening around her. She — fantasizing with schoolgirl fervour about the stalwart conduct of her betrothed, Sergius Saranoff, on the battlefield — is actually bursting into song as the stage lights go up. To be sure, there’s no singing in the text of the Shaw play, but director Laurel Smith has cunningly chosen to launch the evening with a few bars of the aria, My Hero, from The Chocolate Soldier, the 1909 Oscar Strauss operetta based on Arms And The Man. That’s sufficient for actress Lana Sugarman, an ongoing delight as Raina, to start giving shape to a character addicted to head-in-the clouds romantic nonsense until she’s brought down to earth with a resounding thud by the Swiss mercenary who seeks sanctuary in her bedroom.

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Arms and the Man in Perth: A Delight from beginning to end!

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo: Jean-Denis  Labelle

Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw, directed by Laurel Smith. A Classic Theatre Festival Production

A comedy of manners, bordering on farce, George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man pits romance versus realism, idealism versus pragmatism and flamboyant foolishness versus clockwork precision.

One of Shaw’s earliest and funniest scripts, Arms and the Man is set in a wealthy Bulgarian household during the 1885 Serbian invasion and subsequent peace between Bulgaria and Serbia.

The comedy revolves around two overlapping love triangles: the first involving Raina, the Bulgarian heiress engaged to the empty-headed exhibitionist officer Sergius Saranoff, and more attracted to the efficient Swiss mercenary, Captain Bluntshli, whom she helps to escape capture; and the second amongst household servants Louka, a maid with ideas above her station, manservant Nicola, content with his role in life, and Sergius.

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Odyssey Theatre’s The Servant of Two Masters a rolicking good time

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

First published on: July 22, 2016  in the Ottawa Citizen. 

Zach Council and Sean Sullivan from Odyssey Theatre perform for the media at Strathcona Park in Ottawa Friday July 15, 2016. Odyssey Theatre is performing The Servant of Two Masters under the stars at Strathcona Park from July 21 to August 21.

Zach Council and Sean Sullivan from Odyssey Theatre perform for the media at Strathcona Park in Ottawa Friday July 15, 2016. Odyssey Theatre is performing The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, directed by Andy Massingham. at Strathcona Park from July 21 to August 21.  Photo: Tony Caldwell

You’d be hard-pressed to find profound insights in it, but Odyssey Theatre’s production of Carlo Goldoni’s 1745 comedy The Servant of Two Masters sure is fun.

Jesse Buck plays the titular servant Truffaldino, a wily and perennially famished fellow who lands himself in the absurd situation of serving two masters at once. One of them is the stylish, self-admiring Florindo (Joshua Wiles). The other is Beatrice (Sarah Finn) who is Florindo’s lover and has come to Venice to be with him.  Except Beatrice is disguised as her pompadour-proud brother Federigo. And Federigo is actually dead, killed by Florindo. Beatrice, meanwhile, is owed money by a wealthy miser, whose daughter …

You see where this is going, right? Down the rabbit hole of a plot so deliciously convoluted that to summarize it would leave your head spinning faster than governor Chris Christie trying to defend Melania Trump’s plagiarized convention speech earlier this week.

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Servant of Two Masters. Massingham’s staging of Goldoni is intriguing, engaging and funny from the first second! A Winner.

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

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Photo: Barb Gray.Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni. Directed by Andy Massingham.  An Odyssey Theatre production 

Almost as a rule, plays start slowly and develop into something interesting as the story unfolds. Fortunately, director Andy Massingham forgot all about this, and instead made “The Servants of Two Masters” intriguing, engaging, and funny from the first second. The play starts with the characters presenting themselves. One by one, they come dancing on the stage, promising an evening under the stars (and sporadic rain) full of fun and delight. Odyssey Theatre premiered its “Theatre Under Stars” production with the adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s best known comic play, giving it a more contemporary twist (the play is set in late fifties), and so proving the old art form of commedia dell’arte to be timeless.

Of course, in commedia dell’arte, the narrative itself is not the center of attention. The outline of the story and characters is always a simple tale about love, error, and deception. In this case, a young couple, Clarice (based on Isabella) and Silvio (based on Flavio), celebrate their engagement, when Truffaldino (based on Arlecchino) enters and announces that he has come with his master Federigo, Clarice’s former fiancé who was presumably dead. While Clarice tries to whimper her way out of her predicament, hot headed Silvio to fight it, master Federigo (in reality Beatrice disguised as her brother) attempts to get his hands on Pantalone’s (Clarica’s father’s) money. Florindo Aretusi (in love with Beatrice) comes looking for his love. Sly and capable Truffaldino (who has no idea that his master is a woman) seizes the opportunity to double his income. Now as a servant of two masters (Beatrice and Florindo) he juggles his duties masterfully, except for a few unfortunate errors, which lead to unexpected and hilarious developments.

 

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Past Reviews