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

LOMBARDI scores at the Depot Theatre in Westport NY

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, Summer Theatre 2013  


John Lenartz as Vince Lombardi. Photo-Depot Theatre

The Depot Theatre is closing out their 35th season with a first-rate production of LOMBARDI – yes, CoachVince, THAT Lombardi. Written by Eric Simonson and based on the book “When Pride Still Mattered” by David Maraniss, the play deals with the man behind the myth. We learn not only of his philosophy, but also of his relationships with his wife Marie and three of his players, Dave Robinson, Jim Taylor and Paul Horning. Set largely in 1965, it includes flashbacks to 1958, 1959 and 1964. It’s structured around a series of interviews with a reporter.

Director Chris Clavelli’s simple set of two armchairs and a table backed by a large green-board with the diagram of a play and a cocktail cabinet stage right works very well for the production. The action is enhanced by Isabella Byrd’s excellent lighting that helps focus the changes of time and place. As always, Jean Brookman’s costumes are good, especially Marie’s final dress.

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Confessions of a Mad Drag Queen: Script drags confessions down

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre, Summer Theatre 2013  


Photo thanks to Tototoo productions. POSTER.

Confessions of a Mad Drag Queen is the story of a deeply flawed human being told in equally flawed dramatic/melodramatic format.

Miranda Rights, the aging drag queen of the title, is not quite ready for her close-up when her visitor and would-be biographer, John Morgan, arrives on the scene. His role through the extended exposition — much of it a drag in the other sense — is to listen to the pathetic ranting of the campy Miranda, while attempting to keep her on track as she justifies the murderous rampage that landed her in prison for a quarter of a century.

With ruthless pruning, Miranda’s monologue might hold the attention more effectively, but, as written, it is too repetitive and periodically boringly circular. Little wonder that, in the Toto Too production, Barry Daley marred an otherwise excellent performance by needing several prompts that caused glitches in both rhythm and characterization.

The move from the comic and stereotypical sequences of Act I to the melodramatic twists and dialogue (Hallelujah!) of Act II gives natural impetus to conversation and character. Although Act II flows more naturally, the change of pace and tone jar at times. (Confessions started off as a monologue. Playwright David Blue is reported as saying that the second character was not added until the twelfth draft.)

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Confessions of a Mad Drag Queen: This Campy Mystery Hits the Spot!

Reviewed by on    Community Theatre, Summer Theatre 2013  


John Collins and Barry Daley. Photo by Bruce Ecroyd

Drag makes excellent theatre! Take for instance the ground breaking Hosanna (Richard Monette performed the title role in Tremblay’s play, in English, at Stratford many years ago), or La Duchesse de Langeais, that heartbreaking campy monologue by Michel Tremblay interpreted by that great actor Claude Gai who made the role his own. More recently there was that French production of the Changing Room at the NAC which delved more closely into the various possibilities of Drag identities which was extremely revealing as “real” drags and “phony” drags cohabited the stage and the audience was left totally perplexed t trying to figure it all out.

These performances are, after all, about the essence of theatre: dressing up and assuming various roles, even various identities while hiding other identities. David Blue, the playwright has clearly been reading a lot of theatre based on campy drag performance because his text is full of references to so many other similar plays and works by gay writers such as Tennessee Williams as well as female models of female impersonators, that this work almost becomes a compilation of all the stereotypical utterances one could imagine, especially in Act I. It therefore needs a lot of pairing down. I think this play could lose at least 20 minutes and still be just as effective, in fact it might even be stronger. Listening to Miranda Rights (an extraordinary performance by Barry Daley) extolling the virtues of Bette Davis and other icons of female impersonators has something almost pathetic about it when we see what a frump Mme Miranda has really become.

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The Marriage-Go-Round. Perth Classic Theatre Festival mounts a solid revival of this play.

Reviewed by on    Summer Theatre 2013  

Leslie Stevens’s 1958 Broadway hit is the sort of period piece that was once considered daring by both producers and audiences. So some may question the wisdom of reviving – more than half a century later – this comedy about a sexy young Swedish blonde who arrives in the household of a college anthropology professor and his wife, who just happens to be that institution’s dean of women, with an astonishing proposition.

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The Marriage-Go-Round. A classic at Perth riding the merry-go-round of marriage again.

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, Summer Theatre 2013  

labellechachca2 copy Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle

Set up as his and her takes on marital values, The Marriage-Go-Round by Leslie Stevens was well received as a stage play in 1958 and bombed as a movie three years later.

The premise of the sex comedy is that college professor Paul Delville and dean of women Content Lowell hit the first rough patch in their 25-years of marital bliss in the form of a blonde, Swedish seductress, intent on Paul being the father of the child she plans to have.

On the brink of infidelity, he continues to lecture on monogamy, while Content seeks advice from her best friend on campus, a married man, who halfheartedly tries to seduce her.

In the Classic Theatre Festival production, director Laurel Smith maximizes pregnant pauses and focuses on the highly expressive faces of Rachel Jones as Content and Scott Clarkson as Paul as the two ride the marriage-go-round with aplomb. Meanwhile, Elisabeth Lagerhőf, as the Swedish siren Katrin, makes a concerted effort to reel Paul in and Kevin Hare, as Ross, delivers his insincere attempt to step up from platonic friend to lover.

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Spelling Bee at the 1000 Islands Playhouse is Fun and Funny

Reviewed by on    Musical Theatre, Professional Theatre, Summer Theatre 2013  

Photo: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The Thousand Islands Playhouse, 2013. Photography by Mark Bergin                          spellingPutnam(12)

A very entertaining and fast moving production of the musical THE 25th ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE has opened at the 1000 Islands Playhouse. With music and lyrics by William Finn and book by Rachel Sheinkin, Rebecca Feldman and Jay Reiss, the format is that of an actual spelling bee with six young contestants plus four volunteer contestants from the audience. It’s the only show I’ve ever seen where using audience volunteers really works. There’s also a female organizer, the Vice Principal as the judge and Mitch, who’s working out his community service sentence by offering comfort to those eliminated.

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Arms and the Man: Massingham gives the show a telling commedia dell’arte twist

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, Summer Theatre 2013  


Photo. Wayne Cuddingham, Ottawa Citizen.

Did George Bernard Shaw ever envision Arms and the Man staged like this?

Seizing on the themes of duplicity, self-deception, and confusion of fantasy and reality that underpin Shaw’s biting comedy about love, war and class, director Andy Massingham has given the show a telling Commedia dell’arte twist.

Actors appear in mask or with faces richly painted, many of their costumes big and bright. Characters – at least the worst dissemblers or the most deceived among them — move with exaggerated physicality. And those characters break down into servants, masters and lovers, which is how Shaw wrote the play but is also the classic structure of Commedia.

What Shaw may have envisioned is, in the end, idle speculation. What’s not speculation is that this production — funny, fast and furiously satiric — works.

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The Star-Spangled Girl

Reviewed by on    Summer Theatre 2013  


Photo courtesy of the Perth  Classic Festival

The Star-Spangled Girl has never been considered one of Neil Simon’s stronger plays — even by Simon, who is reported as saying that he “knew it didn’t have the body” to be “a powerful comedy.”

The 1966 script contains a number of the playwright’s trademark one-liners, but is tentative in stepping into political waters, despite the fact that the storyline supposedly focuses on two radicals publishing a protest magazine in San Francisco.

Any radical views have little punch mainly because Simon is really writing a cute love-triangle comedy in which the only near-political comment is when Sophie, the southern-belle patriot, says she would fight for freedom of speech, no matter how wrong the views expressed.

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Third Floor at 1000 Islands Playhouse (Gananoque) Disappoints

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, Summer Theatre 2013  


Photo. Courtesy !000 Islands Playhouse. With Taylor Towbridge and Craig Pike

THIRD FLOOR by Jason Hall, billed as a “rom-com with a thriller twist,” is neither romantic nor a comedy, although it does have some elements of a thriller. The play, including the title, is an attempt at an homage to Alfred Hitchcock. It’s set in the hallway of an apartment building, with the doors of four apartments visible. Although it’s never mentioned, I assume they’re on the third floor.

Jung-Hye Kim’s set is very workable and features panels above for Kevin Tanner’s projections of scenes from Hitchcock movies. These are used to cover what feels like at least 50 blackouts. Miss Kim’s costume for the woman is very good, providing constant variation from scene to scene. Adam Harendorf’s music between the early scenes is very repetitive and electronic, but improves as the play moves on.

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