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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Jacqui Du Toit sets fire to the Gladstone stage recreating her personal tribute to Sarah Baartman.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo:      Jacqui Du Toit as narrator in The Hottentot Venus Untold.

No actor would dare become Sarah Baartman, the young South African woman who was abducted from her native Cape Town in 1810 and whisked off to London and the continent where she was paraded around public fairs and popular entertainment spots, exhibited as a freak and a strange savage. Her anatomy titillated British audiences, excited French audiences and inspired French scientists to conduct positivist inspired experiments on her body just to determine whether she was a human being or a beast, shoving her inner parts into bottles of formaldehyde which ended up in the Musée de l’homme in Paris. Mme Du Toit who in no way resembles the “Hottentot Venus” clearly realized that the only way to establish a portrait of this tortured victim of racism and colonial cruelty, was to produce various testimonies of her life given by imaginary characters whose stories were based on historical fact. Given current advances in historiography, testimonials, like all forms of memory, are considered material which contributes to the construction of history. Such is the case of Latin American victims of torture or survivors of the Shoah , events where documentation is not always available and where official historians were not present. Yet those who suffered, or who observed the suffering, always remember what happened and that is what is highlighted in this show.

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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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The Servant of Two Masters renews commedia acting without betraying the spirit of Goldoni. A beautiful evening in Strathcona park.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo. Barb  Gray/Zack Counsil as Brighella and Sean Sullivan as Pantalone.

This rollicking production of Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters , under the direction of Andy Massingham is intended to bring us back thirty years when Ottawa’s Odyssey Theatre Company first introduced Commedia dell’arte to the capital. This is in fact the same play but it isn’t the same production and that is the great lesson Massingham has taught us this time : adapting a play does not necessarily mean imitating slavishly the original text, the original style and the original way of performing the event. The question becomes therefore, when is a play no longer the play we thought we were watching?

I came across a similar dilemma this year with Dostoevsky’s The Double performed and directed by Adam Paolozza at the NAC, not because it was badly performed but because it had nothing to do with Dostoevsky’s novel except for some of the situations and some quotes from the original text that always appeared to be taken out of context. The problem was that Paolozza turned Dostoevsky’s disturbing book about paranoia into a clown show but the Russian protagonist is not a clown. He is going out of his mind in a nightmarish adventure .  Thus the Toronto  Company  might have advertised their version of the Double as a play “loosely inspired by The Double”.  As it was, their show was a serious misrepresentation of the Russian writer’s work and one could guess that Paolozza, who is interested in corporeal theatre, appeared to be using the text as a crutch for his own brilliant comic stage work that seemed to give little thought to the original narrative or characterization.

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“The Amazing Adventures of Pericles” introduce us to new faces of the Comedy of Fools!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

 

A Company of Fools presents Pericles, Prince of Tyre, in parks across Ottawa, July 4 to August 20, 2016. From left to right: Mekdes Teshome, Mary Ellis, AL Connors, Jennifer Cecil l to r: Mekdes Teshome (standing), Mary Ellis, AL Connors, Jennifer Cecil. Credit: Andrew Alexander Photography Goes with 0706 review fools

A Company of Fools presents Pericles, Prince of Tyre, in parks across Ottawa, July 4 to August 20, 2016. From left to right: Mekdes Teshome, Mary Ellis, AL Connors, Jennifer Cecil l to r: Mekdes Teshome (standing), Mary Ellis, AL Connors, Jennifer Cecil. Credit: Andrew Alexander

The Amazing adventures of Pericles: Prince of Tyre By William Shakespeare, adapted by the Comedy of Fools, directed by Catriona Leger

This is the  breathtaking adventure of the  Prince who finds himself  fleeing the anger of  King Antiochus and  setting out  to hide from the hired killer who is  pursuing him around an imaginary image of the Hellenistic world  from Tarsus, to Pentapolis. They continue  across the great sea to  Ephesus where shipwrecks, storms and much disaster separate him from his wife (whom all believe has died) .   Pericles then  comes into contact with the temple of Diana and the Middle eastern world of Dr. Cermion.  Fourteen years pass, Pericles’ daughter Marina has grown into a lovely young lady but before the nasty jealous Queen Dionyza can do away with Pericles’ daughter , terrifying  pirates  kidnap her and sell her to the  brothels of  Mytilene,  where she is befriended by  Lysimachus the kind governor. And so it goes until all are united at the end.  It’s  easy to immerse oneself  in this humungous mixture of plots and adventures and catastrophes and encounters of the most fabulous nature that suggest a twisted sort of Odyssey where all the themes and characters of all those  epic tales inflame the imagination of young men. And Shakespeare was no exception.

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« Le serviteur de deux maîtres » renouvelle le jeu corporel sans trahir l’esprit de Goldoni. Une très belle soirée dans le parc Strathcona.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Barb Gray.   Zack Counsil (Brighella)  et Jesse Buck (Truffaldino)

La compagnie Odyssey qui fait revivre le théâtre de la Commedia dell’arte au Canada anglophone depuis trente ans, remonte aux sources de la troupe en présentant cette nouvelle version de Le serviteur de deux maîtres de Carlo Goldoni.

L’intrigue et les sous intrigues sont d’une grande complexité. Truffaldino, le serviteur du titre, est au service de Florindo, l’amant de Béatrice, et de Federigo le frère de Béatrice. Tout se complique lorsque nous apprenons que Clairice (la fille de Pantalone) qui aime Silvio (le fils du Docteur Lombardi) est promise à Frederigo , le fiancé décédé depuis longtemps. Celui qui se présente à sa place est sa sœur Beatrice travestie , ce qui ajoute du piquant aux relations tempétueuses qui bouleversent ce microcosme de la société vénitienne. Le tout devient rapidement une accumulation de malentendus, de jeux d’identités, et d’intrigues secrets. Truffaldino qui a juré de respecter l’anonymat de ses deux employeurs, provoquent des rencontres spectaculaires, rocambolesques, chaotiques qui frôlent la farce la plus pure. Le rythme de ces orchestrations physiques qui font courir les serviteurs, les maîtres et tout le personnel de l’hôtel, coupent le souffle, surtout lorsque  Zack Counsil (Brighella) s’envole avec la legerete  d’une plume. Le masque a fait vivre son personnage!  Une belle prestance .

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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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Past Reviews