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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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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Barefoot in the Park: OLT offers believable characterization of a rather dated play.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo: Maria Vartanova

Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon. Directed by Richard Elichuk. A production of the Ottawa Little Theatre.

When Barefoot in the Park premiered on Broadway, it was an instant hit, running for more than 1,500 performances — a record run for a non-musical play. In 1967, the movie version starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, was also a success.

That was half a century ago. And in the 50 years since the mid-1960s, attitudes towards marital roles have changed massively. This means that the play frequently creaks along, particularly when it is presented as a three-act show.

Unless the comedy — which Simon wrote as a tribute to his first wife — is given a stellar production, we are more likely to notice that it is a dated piece than to appreciate the core of the story: that opposites attract and that there is a steep learning curve in the early days of any marriage. In addition, the play relies heavily on the oft-repeated, and now stale, joke about the location of the overpriced, walk-up apartment where newly weds Corie and Paul Bratter are enjoying their first taste of marriage and near-divorce.

As directed by Richard Elichuk, with assistance from Dianna Renée Yorke and Susanna Doherty, the Ottawa Little Theatre production is at its best when focusing on character definition.

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“Blithe Spirit” Sparkles at 1000 Islands Playhouse

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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Photo: Stephen  Wild. Anita Wittenberg as Mme Arcati

I f you enjoy Noel Coward’s comedies as much as I do, get over to the 1000 Islands Playhouse and see their terrific production of “Blithe Spirit.”  Director Ashlie Corcoran and her uniformly strong cast hit all the right notes of both Coward’s style and humor. Ms. Corcoran has made a wise decision in bringing in Alison Deon as Dialect Coach.  For once Coward’s dialogue and “airy persiflage” sound authentic.

This is partly due to the excellent cast, including Christopher Weddell and Janet Michael as Dr. and Mrs. Bradman.  Kelsey Gilker has great fun with the inexperienced maid Edith, particularly the opening of Scene 2 when her mishaps are accompanied by percussion.  Speaking of percussion, Christopher Stanton’s music and sound are first rate.  I love the scene change music that sometimes sounds like drums and kazoo, as well as the perfectly timed sound in the final scene.

Krista Colosimo does a fine job as Ruth, Charles’s rather unsympathetic second wife, as does Stephen Gartner as Charles, from the use of his perfect period haircut to his final declaration of independence.  As for Shannon Currie’s mischievous Elvira, she’s well-nigh perfect, especially her wonderful body language which is enhanced by Dana Osborne’s lovely costume and wig.

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Past Reviews