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

“Waiting for the Parade” at 1000 Islands Playhouse

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, Summer theatre 2014  


Photo. Barbara Zimonick.

“Waiting for the Parade” by John Murrell has become a Canadian classic. First produced in Calgary in 1977, the play looks at WWII through the eyes of five women on the home front, their relationships with each other and with their families. The play’s structure is flowing and cinematic, consisting of slice of life vignettes and presentational monologues. These are connected by songs and sometimes dances of the period that also allow for minimal costume changes and changes of mood.

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Bernard Shaw’s early comedy, The Philanderer, makes a stunning return to the Shaw festival – reviewed by Jamie Portman.

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, Shaw Festival 2014, Summer theatre 2014  


Photo: David Cooper. Featuring Marla  McLean and Gord Rand.

NIAGARA-ONTHE-LAKE, Ont. — We’re not really getting full nudity on the stage of the Festival Theatre, but that’s still what the opening moments of The Philanderer manage to suggest.

We’re privy to a couple still in lustful embrace, and they leave us in no doubt about what has just taken place. The man is Leonard Charteris, an accomplished womanizer whose sexual confidence is only matched by his sense of sexual entitlement. The woman is Grace Tranfield, a current conquest and a young widow who has managed to convince herself that the charismatic Leonard is her new soul mate.

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The Sea: a beautiful production at Shaw of a strange and beguiling fable that evokes an elusive something; reviewed by Jamie Portman.

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, Shaw Festival 2014, Summer theatre 2014  


Fiona Reid in The Sea. Photo: David Cooper.

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont.  —   Edward Bond’s The Sea is perhaps the most personal play he ever wrote in terms of its relationship to his own life, and it’s certainly his most accessible.
But as the Shaw Festival’s sterling new production of this 41-year-old piece reminds us, it’s also a strange and beguiling fable, set a century ago in an East Anglian seaside village and turning its sights on two favorite Bond preoccupations — class and social disorder.
It can seem discordant in performance. The play can touch you to the heart at one moment — witness the poignancy with which its two young protagonists, beautifully played by Wade Bogert-O’Brien and Julia Course, experience a shared loss from a tragic death and also a shared yearning for escape from a repressive environment. Yet, within the compass of this same play, you’ll encounter a funeral service that degenerates into surrealistic farce.

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Deborah Hay Triumphs Again At The Shaw Festival: Jamie Portman reviews Williams’ A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur.

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, Shaw Festival 2014, Summer theatre 2014  


Photo: Emily Cooper. Featuring  Deborah Hay and Kate Manning.

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — This is the summer when Shaw Festival actress Deborah Hay can do wrong.

She’s been in command of the flagship Festival Theatre stage since April with her brilliant performance as Sally Bowles in Cabaret. And now, she’s providing some sublime moments in the festival’s problematic lunch-hour production of Tennessee Williams’s neglected one-act play, A Lovely Sunday For Creve Coeur.

The setting is St. Louis, a city that looms large and traumatically in the playwright’s personal and creative life, and we first meet Dorothea, the character played by Hay, doing calisthenics in the living room. She is another of Williams’s emotionally maimed heroines — not as tragedy-bound as Blanche Dubois, but still vulnerable.

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Shaw Festival Scores big with J.B. Priestley’s classic comedy When We Are Married.

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, Shaw Festival 2014, Summer theatre 2014  


Photo: David Cooper

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — Acerbic American critic John Simon once observed that the Shaw Festival probably has the best acting company in the Western Hemisphere.
And the proof is again in evidence with the festival’s uproarious revival of When We Are Married, J.B. Priestley’s 1938 comedy about three Yorkshire couples who make the shattering discovery at their joint Silver Anniversary party that they were never legally wed.
The play is a cunningly executed fusion of character and situation. It is also a probing and at times painfully funny dissection of a particular culture and of a class system that achieves its own unique definition within the West Riding town of Clecklewyke, which is the fictional stand-in for Priestley’s own birthplace of Bradford.

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Stratford Misfires with Noel Coward’s Hay Fever: reviewed by Jamie Portman.

Reviewed by on    Stratford 2014, Summer theatre 2014  


Photo. Cylla Von Tiedemann

STRATFORD — You find yourself worrying about the Stratford Festival’s bungled revival of Noel Coward’s Hay Fever even before the performance begins.

‘That’s because a glance at the printed program notes reveals that director Alisa Palmer, a Shaw Festival veteran who really ought to know better, has decided to impose some kind of trendy feminist agenda on Coward’s 1925 comedy. Hence, among other things, Hay Fever actually deals with a mother-daughter power struggle: Coward’s memorable creation, veteran actress Judith Bliss, is suffering a mid-life identity crisis, while daughter Sorel is merely doing what a young woman must do, which is to break free of her family and become independent.

Or so Palmer claims.

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Turcaret ou le financier: Une premiere mondiale en anglais qui laisse à désirer malgré sa grande qualité artistique

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, Summer theatre 2014  


Photo: Barb Gray (Capital Critics Circle)

Le Financier (Turcaret ou le financier) d’Alain-René Lesage, mise en scène de Laurie Steven, adaptation en anglais de Laurie Steven et de Joanne Miller. . 

Cette première mondiale d’une adaptation canadienne an anglais  de Turcaret, le Financier d’après le texte de Lesage, a été réalisée à l’intention des acteurs masqués de la  Commedia dell’arte. Malgré les costumes d’époque d’une beauté extraordinaire, les masques d’une grande qualité artistique, la chorégraphie délicate de l’ensemble et un décor d’une grande sensualité qui s’inspire des tableaux de François Boucher, le résultat laisse beaucoup à désirer.

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The Shaw Festival has another triumph with Juno And The Paycock: Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, Shaw Festival 2014, Summer theatre 2014  


Juno and the Paycock.  Photo. David Cooper

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. — It’s only a cameo appearance, but when the remarkable Jennifer Phipps shows up in the second act of Juno And The Paycock as a bereaved old Irish mother mourning the son who has become a victim of the Irish Civil War, you can hear a pin drop.

Phipps is with us for only a few moments in the role of the mourning Mrs. Tancred, her head held high despite everything that’s happened to her, but that’s all the time she needs to communicate not just grief but stoicism and resilience in the face of terrible loss. It’s always at the most personal level that we can become really aware of the price exacted by human conflict, and this venerable Shaw Festival veteran delivers.

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Hamlet at Prescott: Shakespeare’s Globe at the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, St Lawrence Shakespeare Festival, Stratford Festival, Summer theatre 2014  



If you blinked, then – like Hamlet trying to steel himself to action – you missed your chance.

On Saturday, Prescott’s St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival hosted Globe To Globe, the riveting international touring production of Hamlet by London, England-based Shakespeare’s Globe theatre company. It was in town (and Canada) for two shows only before hitting the road again.

The company is touring Hamlet to every country in the world between now and 2016, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The show also links to the 450th anniversary of the writer’s birth this past April.

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A Stylish but superficial “Earnest” in Gananoque: I 000 Islands Playhouse.

Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre, Summer theatre 2014  


Photo. Jay Kopinski. Tess Degenstein as Cecily & Brett Christopher as Algernon.

The comedy, The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde, one of the 19th century’s greatest wits, is currently playing at the 1000 Islands Playhouse. For anyone unfamiliar with the play, it concerns two wealthy playboys who have been leading double lives to escape their boredom with the restrictions of polite society. When they both use the alias “Earnest,” the plot becomes chaotic and full of twists and turns, all happening in Wilde’s witty dialogue.

This is a very clever and stylish play but this production, directed by Daryl Cloran, seems to be mostly frosting and not much cake. At times, for example with Cecily’s rather contemporary method of serving tea to Gwendolen, it degenerates into slapstick. This play is not a farce and Wilde has written characters that can certainly be played believably. Everyone here, with a couple of exceptions, is working so hard at the style that any element of reality is lost. Style is meaningless if there’s no substance.

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