summer 2017

The Shaw Festival serves up a defanged Dracula

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE — You know there’s something wrong with the trendy 1985 version of Dracula currently available at the Shaw Festival when you quickly start yearning for the old Hamilton Deane-John Balderston stage adaptation of Bram Stoker’s celebrated vampire shocker.

To be sure the latter is somewhat creaky and happy to indulge in old-fashioned melodramatics. But it can still have a potent impact on stage and was still scaring the daylights out of playgoers in a 1977 Broadway revival starring Frank Langella. (more…)

Only Drunks and Children tell the truth: a tough-minded play fuelled by the author’s background in stand-up comedy!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Only Drunks. Taran Kootenhayoo, Joelle Peters. Photo by Stephen Wild Photo: Stephen Wild. Taran Kootenhayoo and Joelle Peters.

Drew Hayden Taylor is a prolific playwright, also well known for his stand-up comic routines which bring out his corrosive and provocative humor as well as ideas that stimulate much thought. Published in 1998 and winner of the 1996 Dora Mavor Moore Small Theatre award for Outstanding New Play, Only Drunks and Children tell the truth was first produced in Toronto (1996) by Native Earth Performing Arts. This new production in Gananoque gives us a chance to see the work of an author who has not yet had enough exposure on the mainstream theatre circuit in spite of his many plays that have already been published. .

Taylor raises delicate questions about stereotypes and racism and mistaken attitudes in the non-native community of Canada with regards to native people . Here, he takes a close look at Grace, a young woman of Ojibway origin, from Otter lake, who was removed from her family by the Children’s Aid Society when she was a child because the Society assumed the father had abandoned the family which was not true. She became “Janice” in Toronto where she grew up in a non-native family . As time passed, the cultural memories of her former life, slipped quietly away. The white set by designer Jung-Hye Kim shows us a symbolic place where all culture has been eradicated, as the invisible paintings and other objects that decorate the room only exist in the memory and the imagination of the owner or of those who are still in touch with her past.


More dragons, please! La Machine in Ottawa

News from Capital Critics Circle

Guest reviewer Laurie Fyffe

Photo: Laurie Fyffe.

La Machine with its dueling dragon and gigantic spider has come and gone, leaving in its wake a flurry of excitement over what one can do with public space. Ottawa audiences came out in droves to witness two fantastical creates enact their fictional quest on Ottawa streets before discovering each other in a grand finale on Lebreton Flats. Given extraordinary license to tie up traffic, two mechanical beings transformed this city’s boulevards and multilane, downtown thoroughfares into scenic displays of awe and wonder. Kids were hoisted aloft to gaze at monsters that roared, spewed smoke and arrived in an array of wondrous musical accompaniment.


Molière dans le parc » : Le Fâcheux théâtre impose son style et amuse le public de tous âges. !

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht


Sasha Dominique (le Docteur), Sylvain Sabatié (le Barbouillé).    Photos:  © Martin Cadieux

Sylvain Sabatié et toute son équipe de professionnels bien connus dans la région nous plongent dans un des moments les plus marquants de l’histoire théâtrale française : la rencontre entre Molière et les comédiens italiens  avant même que Scaramouche et la commedia dell’ arte trouvent  leur place à la cour de France. Les Italiens avaient  déjà  laissé des traces importantes sur le jeu de Molière en Europe,  lorsqu’ils jouaient sur la place publique. Ce modèle du jeu  grotesque et vulgaire, l’essence même du théâtre populaire, du théâtre de la foire et tout ce qu’il y avait de plus divertissant et  attirant des spectacles de la rue (more…)

Classic Theatre Festival delivers a worthy Candida

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Candida. Photo Jean-Denis LaBelle

Candida By George Bernard Shaw, A Perth Classic Theatre Festival production directed by Laurel Smith

PERTH, Ontario — One of the pleasures of an Ottawa Valley summer is Perth’s Classic Theatre Festival, which has an impressive track record for mounting quality fare.

Its current production of Candida, Bernard Shaw’s 1894 play about turmoil within the household of an Anglican vicar, is no exception.

On the surface, this may seem no more than a comedy about the unsettling impact of a romantic young poet named Eugene Marchbanks when he enters the lives of James Morell, a cleric whose Socialist convictions and gift for rhetoric have won him public prominence, and Morell’s beguiling wife, Candida. But Laurel Smith’s discerning production finds deeper currents in the central situation — which involves the youthful Eugene’s infatuation with Candida, an infatuation so intense and so openly critical of Morell that it leaves the latter increasingly insecure about her love.


This Amorous Servant seduces her audience.

Reviewed by Patrick Langston


A word of advice: If your plans ever conflict with those of Corallina, you may as well just give way because she’ll best you every time.

Corallina — a firecracker with an intense sense of honour, an estimable loyalty to those who merit it and an ingrained understanding that women’s second-class citizenry needs to be rooted out like a nasty bit of poison ivy — is the glue who holds together Carlo Goldoni’s rarely produced 1752 commedia dell’arte creation The Amorous Servant.

Played by the tirelessly excellent Lise Cormier in Odyssey Theatre’s robust outdoor production, Corallina serves in the household of the wealthy but aging Ottavio (David Warburton). When Ottavio is convinced by his conniving second and younger wife Beatrice (Suzanne Roberts Smith) to disinherit his mate-less son Florindo (Christopher Allen in hilarious drama queen mode), Corallina swings into action. And when Corallina swings, she almost never misses.

The ensuing action is, as you might guess, riddled with twists and turns, comeuppances, hopes held high and dashed, and all the other stuff that makes for theatre that’s at once sheer entertainment and an always-timely reminder that the ruling class rules not because it deserves to but because it’s adept at holding on to power and wealth.

Corallina navigates this world of class and entitlement like a pro, gulling her superiors with ease (isn’t it delightful when servants are so much smarter than those they serve?) and sticking always to her motto, “Nothing means more to me than honour.” And don’t expect her to bite her tongue when she spots foolishness. “Don’t be such a sap,” she fires at a hapless Florindo at one point (John Van Burek’s unfussy translation of Goldoni’s original is peppered with such nuggets).

There are, of course, a gaggle of other characters on hand. Chris Ralph plays Pantalone, the moneyed father of Florindo’s love interest Rosaura (Tiffany Claire Martin). But Goldoni, who didn’t hesitate to rework commedia dell’arte conventions, turns the stock character of Pantalone from a cunning man into a waffler, a depiction Ralph handles with likeable humour. That change is one of many that keep Goldoni’s story ticking along at a mostly lively pace.

Also on board are Abraham Asto and Joshua Browne in double roles, including Asto as Beatrice’s son Lelio, a none-too-bright fellow in vain, swaggering pursuit of Rosaura. Late in the play, Goldoni again surprises us by having Lelio reveal a deep vulnerability beneath his bravado.

This being commedia, The Amorous Servant is performed in mask. Jerrard Smith designed the masks, and they’re a treasure trove of arched eyebrows, youthful ardour and long noses predaceously hooked or tipped with a set of spectacles. Especially wonderful is the way they, like the characters, take on deeper life as the sky darkens in Strathcona Park and Ron Ward’s lighting design grows stronger.

With costumes by Vanessa Imeson and a very workable set by John Doucet, director Attila Clemann invests the show with a physicality that outpaces even Odyssey’s usual standard. There are occasional arid spots in Goldoni’s script, but Clemann, who, like Corallina, has a clear idea of exactly what he wants and how to get there, keeps us visually occupied as he steers through them.

Just remember: Don’t ever try to steer through Corallina.

The Amorous Servant is an Odyssey Theatre production. It was reviewed Thursday. At Strathcona Park until August 20. Tickets: od

The Amorous Servant: A new contemporary vision of masked theatre comes to light!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

The Amorous Servant. Photo: Barb Gray

The Amorous  Servant by Carlo Goldoni , directed by Attila Clemann, translated by John Van Burek. A production of the Odyssey Theatre.

The Odyssey Theatre is back in the park again this summer, braving the rain and the bad weather . Luckily it was beautiful the night we saw it, the mosquitoes were gone, the new cushions were comfortable and all was perfect.

A simple but functional  set designed by John D oucet set the space for the  dashing about the house that keeps the eight actors moving  in this 18th Century comedy by  Carlo Goldoni , rarely performed, created in French in 1993 at the Comédie française and only recently translated into English by John Van Burek, better known in Canada for his translations of Quebec playwright Michel Tremblay! (more…)

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