Capital Critics' Circle
Le cercle des critiques de la capitale

Reviewing Theatre in Canada's Capital Region
La critique théâtrale de la région Ottawa-Gatineau

OLT’s Black Coffee: a decaffeinated production of Agatha Christie that requires a little brandy

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre, Summer Theatre 2012  

 poirotfeature-preview-300x167 Photo by Alan Dean: .  As mystery writer Agatha Christie’s first play, Black Coffee deserves recognition as a landmark in theatrical history. Further, it is the only play (and later movie) in which Christie featured the character of Hercule Poirot, although many screen adaptations of her mystery novels star the Belgian detective.

That said, the carefully plotted Black Coffee, first produced in 1930, is heavy-handed, repetitive and slow moving. In the Ottawa Little Theatre production, director Johni Keyworth exacerbates the problem by keeping the pace slow and insisting that some of the characters attempt to adopt English accents. Much of the time, the accents are gratingly unconvincing and the actors are so focused on trying to sound English that they give less than the required emphasis to characterization. Thus, the result is stilted at two levels. For example, having a character pause, move two paces to centre stage, face the audience and announce that the death of the patriarch of the household is murder is even more painful than the over-pronounced vowels of failed English accents.

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Classic Theatre Festival, Perth: Two for the Seesaw updates a hit from the 5os

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, Summer Theatre 2012  

When it premiered in 1958, William Gibson’s Two for the Seesaw was hailed as an honest examination of the relationship between two damaged souls.

It remains that — as well as a contrast to the more usual whitewashed-happy-nuclear-family style of show more usual in the 50s. But in the current climate, there are issues — even when the drama is presented as a period piece. For example, hitting a woman or commenting that an ulcer is a “man’s disease” is likely to raise the hackles of many audience members in the 21st century.

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Somewhere Beyond the Sea: a text that still needs reworking

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, Summer Theatre 2012  

 someoneGetAttachment.aspx Alison Deon, Tracey Ferencz, Stewart Arnott and Matthew Gibson Photo:
1000 Islands Playhouse.   Although I’ve long been a fan of Douglas Bowie’s plays his latest, SOMEWHERE BEYOND THE SEA, currently getting its first airing at the 1000 Islands Playhouse, seems not quite ready for prime time.  It tells the story of Celia, an amateur cook and housewife, on a “foodie” tour of the Scots Isle of Skye.  Her meeting and involvement with tour host Trevor, a world-renowned food critic, opens her eyes to her need for a wider life.  Assailed by global weather disasters plus various herds of sheep and cows, they eventually make it back to London’s Heathrow Airport, both somewhat changed.

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Henry V in the park: a timely French-English reconciliation

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, Summer Theatre 2012  

This production of Henry V is a first for the Company of Fools, trying their hand at one of Shakespeare’s most accurate historical dramas with long monologues, multiple sites, many characters and epic war scenes. HenryfoolGetAttachment.aspx

In the first moments, the play is put into perspective for all to see.   “Chorus” presents Shakespeare’s own words as he invites us to imagine the scene, and “gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play”. Thus it clearly presents the characters as  actors who are going to perform an event where our imagination must fill in the gaps.   The  show revolves around actors,  a perfectly functional collection of objects including an empty chest that serves as a walled city, some wooden volumes and royal red curtains set up under the trees, as well as a group of puppets.  It’s all  about creating a play  and since that is the case,  men can play women’s roles as they did in Shakespeare’s time, or women can play men’s roles as they do now in our time. It all fits.

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The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder, The Musical.

Reviewed by on    Musical Theatre, Summer Theatre 2012  

matchmaker1c95daf2-b615-4a46-9f52-c76bfa6e0424 I’ve loved this play ever since I saw the incomparable Ruth Gordon enchant her audience and everyone on stage in it as Dolly Levi some 56 years ago. What I did not know was that Wilder completed it in Stratford, Ontario when

Tyrone Guthrie invited him to work there on revising his unsuccessful source-play, The Merchant of Yonkers. In fact, Guthrie, Stratford’s founding director, won a Tony Award for best direction on Broadway with The Matchmaker. It now plays less often than the musical adapted from it, Hello, Dolly! ; but much of Wilder’s beloved wit and even a lot of his madcap farcical comedy get lost in the musical.

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