Summer Theatre 2015

“Bed and Breakfast” Hits the All Right Notes in Gananoque

Reviewed by Connie Meng

Andrew Kirshnir & Paul Dunn.  Photo: Jay Kopinski

Andrew Kirshnir & Paul Dunn. Photo: Jay Kopinski

The world premiere of “Bed and Breakfast” currently running in the Firehall is, for my money, the hit of the season so far at the 1000 Islands Playhouse.  It’s billed as a comedy and certainly has many funny moments, but is basically the very human and sometimes touching story of Brett (Andrew Kushnir) who inherits the family home and his partner Drew (Paul Dunn), who move from Toronto to a small Ontario town to set up a B&B.  These two terrific actors also play a number of peripheral characters.

When the play began I did an internal eye-roll and thought we were in for a cutesy string of stereotypes.  After a few minutes, though, something clicked and I realized the story and relationship of Brett and Drew is the core of the play, while the peripheral characters deepen and support the central duo.

This is a true ensemble piece in that the playwright Mark Crawford, director Ashlie Corcoran and the two excellent actors, along with a great creative team, have come up with a performance style that enables us to see all the characters as three dimensional.  The staging, actually complex choreography, with its spins and jumps to signal character changes is wonderfully creative and the pace never lags.  We become genuinely involved with this “out” couple and root for them to succeed. (more…)

Strong “Romeo and Juliet” in Prescott at the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival

Reviewed by Connie Meng

Rose Napoli as Juliet, Jesse Griffiths as Romeo.  Photo: SLSF

Rose Napoli as Juliet, Jesse Griffiths as Romeo. Photo: SLSF

A very good production of “Romeo and Juliet” is playing at the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott.  Director Janet Irwin has set the play in the 1950s, perhaps the last decade in which marriage decisions were primarily made by parents, often in conflict with teen-agers’ raging hormones.  This decision allows designer Alex Amini to costume the actors so they can move easily through the athletic staging.  By the way, the various knife fights staged by Jonathan Purvis are remarkably effective.  Her costumes for the Capulets, particularly Juliet, are especially good.

The simple set of two sheer white panels with a circular sheer panel center designed by Julie Bourbonnais is very atmospheric.  The transformation to the tomb and the gradual lighting of the single paper lantern work very well. The a cappella dirges by Melissa Morris are good, but Lady Capulet’s snippet of “Blue Moon” seems out of place.

The cast is generally good, with just a couple of uneven performances.  Jonathan Gould is excellent as the Prince and also in his subtle guitar work.  Unfortunately Kathleen Veinotte gives an inconsistent performance as the Nurse, characterized off and on by a flat-footed caricature of a walk.  As Paris, Benjamin Sutherland gives us a realistically believable death scene.   (more…)

Puppet arts take center stage in this growing international puppet festival

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

POGUThe Puppets Up! International Puppet Festival presents a compelling program this year, where an impressive number of troupes present 69 shows over 3 days. The annual festival in Almonte, Ontario is well-worth the short drive from Ottawa. Artistic Director Noreen Young has curated a festival with a number of impressive local and international puppeteers, featuring a plethora of styles of puppetry. Puppet arts are an important theatre tradition, with strong cultural roots across the globe. It is an important festival to the future of puppet arts in Canada.

Young has put together a festival that allows its audience to venture into traditional styles of puppetry, as well as modern performances. The festival truly has something for everyone, young or old. What’s more, the late night “adults only” cabaret ensures that adults are not alienated in a style that is often associated with theatre for young audiences.

Here are just a few highlights from this year’s festival. (more…)

Frantic but Funny “Don’t Dress for Dinner” in Gananoque

Reviewed by Connie Meng

Todd Thomson as Bernard & Kirk Smith as Robert.  Photo: Mark Bergen

Todd Thomson as Bernard & Kirk Smith as Robert. Photo:
Mark Bergen

The 1000 Islands Playhouse has mounted an antic production of “Don’t Dress for Dinner.”  The rollicking farce, by Marc Camoletti and adapted by Robin Hawdon, is a sequel of sorts to his earlier play, “Boeing Boeing,” in that it features the same male leads: Bernard, still having woman problems, in this case with his wife Jacqueline and mistress Suzanne, and Robert, his hapless friend.  Through a series of mis-chances they all end up in Bernard’s country home for a disastrous dinner party along with a hired cook, Suzette.

Jung-Hye Kim’s set is good, with plenty of doors for slamming, a necessity for farce.  The furniture is colorful and easily tips, another plus.  The only flaw is the large mirror on the stage left wall which is very distracting.  Oz Weaver’s lighting is good except for the last two scenes, which doesn’t make sense.  As the actors leave they turn out the lights, but the stage lights immediately sneak up again to light the final scene.  The costumes by Cindy Wiebe are fine and Suzette’s onstage change is very clever.  The exception is Jacqueline’s very unflattering nightgown and odd slippers.  Also, someone should remind Jacqueline and Suzette to make up their tan lines. (more…)

I’m Not Jewish But My Mother Is!: Trite, repetitive and clichéd production

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

 

Photo: Steve Martin

Photo: Steve Martin

Something to remember: writing, producing, directing and acting in a play mounted in your own theatre is probably not a good idea. Case in point: I’m Not Jewish But My Mother Is! written, produced and so on by Steve Martin on his own stage. Trite, repetitive and clichéd with a predictably gooey centre, the comedy is a prime example of how being overly involved in something blinds you to its faults.

Not that Martin hasn’t shown talent in many things theatrical. As owner of The Gladstone, he’s produced some excellent shows. As a director, he did a bang-up job in 2009 with David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin, Jr.’s howlingly funny The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of A Christmas Carol. As an actor, he was first-rate, several years ago, in Stephen Mallatratt’s The Woman in Black at Ottawa Little Theatre, and has since held his own in Glengarry Glen Ross, Noises Off and other shows at The Gladstone. 

But in those cases, he was wearing just one or two hats. With I’m Not Jewish …, he’s wearing them all so there’s no place for anyone with a dissenting view of Martin’s writing or staging decisions, no room for someone to suggest richer character development, no one to notice that maybe all that dancing (and Martin, a professional ballroom dancer, is undeniably fleet of foot) is overkill.

The play’s storyline is simple enough: successful bachelor lawyer Christopher Bloomfeld (Martin) has a stereotypical Jewish mother Rose Bloomfeld (Barbara Seabright-Moore) whose mouth pops into gear before her brain is fully engaged; lawyer also has a curvaceous girlfriend Felix (Bekah Fay) who arrives at his apartment while mouthy mother is visiting unannounced; sparks fly – though maybe not in the way you’d expect; heart-to-heart resolves all. (more…)

Delightfully Giddy Comedy of Errors in Prescott

Reviewed by Connie Meng

Jesse Griffiths as Dromio of Ephesus & Jamie Cavanagh as Antipholus of Ephesus. Photo: SLSF

Jesse Griffiths as Dromio of Ephesus & Jamie Cavanagh as Antipholus of Ephesus. Photo: SLSF

The St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival’s new Artistic Director Rona Waddington has come up with a creative, lively and wonderfully silly production of “Comedy of Errors.”  With clever added music by Musical Director Melissa Morris and lyrics by Shakespeare and Miss Waddington, the play speeds by in a well-paced ninety minutes through all the twin confusion to it’s unlikely happy ending.

The music and Miss Waddington’s sometimes athletic staging take advantage of the multitalented cast.  Aegon, well-played by Richard Sheridan Willis, sings his story of the twins while Colin Lepage and Alice Snaden dance the story in balletic pantomime.  Mr. Willis shows up in Act II as the hilarious conjurer Pinch, who bursts into a rousing gospel number with robed choir back-up complete with tambourines.

Jonathan Purvis’s choreography is very good, especially the acrobatics, as is his fight direction.  The timing on the slapping scene between Luciana, the appealing Shannon Currie and Adriana, played as a Latina fireball by the excellent Rose Napoli, is impeccable.  (I’d like to mention everyone in the terrific cast, but time won’t permit it. (more…)

Odyssey Theatre provides a mixed bag of one-act plays

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

The Things We Do For Love Photo: Maria Vartanova

The Things We Do For Love
Photo: Maria Vartanova

Odyssey Theatre’s celebration of its 30th anniversary is a mixed bag in more ways than one.

Taking Spanish writing and the measures to which we go for love as her themes, artistic director Laurie Steven has chosen three one-act plays, each of which she directs, rather than the usual single, full production. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

The first piece, Saving Melisendra, is Steven’s stage adaptation of a chapter from Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th century novel Don Quixote. In it, the increasingly mad knight Quixote (William Beddoe) interferes in a puppet show about two lovers, one of whom, Melisendra, has been captured by some dastardly Moors.

The puppets, designed by Kathy McLellan and operated primarily by John Nolan who plays the puppet master Pedro, are clever. There are some funny Punch and Judy-style bits, and melodrama is given the gears. The text touches on ideas of reality and artifice in theatre (“I thought everything taking place here was taking place,” says the deluded Quixote).

But the show overall is flat, lacks commitment and is unfocused. On opening night, which had been twice delayed because of weather, the show also saw the first of several set or costume malfunctions. (more…)

The Tempest: Magical outdoor performance

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

temp

Photo: David Whiteley

It can be said that The Tempest is the least of his plays that bear a “Shakespearean” style. Not only is the dramatic structure very different from what we usually see in Shakespeare’s plays, but the role of women is marginalized to a subordinate, pretty figure. The only female character that appears in The Tempest is Miranda, Prospero’s dutiful daughter who merely serves to fulfill her father’s revenge over his brother Antonio.

The story is very simple. Prospero, the rightful duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda have been stranded for 12 years on a remote island after Prospero’s brother Antonio overthrows and exiles him. For those 12 years, Prospero has been preparing his revenge. The play takes place during three hours on the island at the zenith of the action, culminating in forgiveness instead of revenge.

This is the only play by the great bard that follows the dramatic structure of Aristotle’s three classical unities of time, place, and action, and as such is perfectly suited for outdoor staging. Just the thing for Ottawa’s parks in the summertime!

Bear & Co.’s production takes full advantage of the outdoor space and its atmosphere. It also skillfully incorporates all three major themes in the play: magic, yearning for freedom, and love. The effects that invoke the storm are realistic and, in combination with music, make an eerie atmosphere. Well-chosen songs transport the audience to a different time. Add to all this beautiful, fiery and elegant spirit Ariel and magic is born right there before your eyes. Zoe Georgaras is a perfect fit for the role of Ariel. She is a light dancer, excellent actress, alluring, playful, and mischievous. Her ability to express thoughts and mood just with body language and facial expressions is superb. (more…)

OLT’s Bedtime Stories: The Best and Worst of Norm Foster

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Norm Foster’s Bedtime Stories consists of six playlets, four of which should have been left to gather dust in the playwright’s bottom drawer.

There’s a variability in quality here. And that places a hard-working cast at something of a disadvantage in Ottawa Little Theatre’s current summer production of this frequently produced Foster piece.

But there remains enough here to show this prolific Canadian playwright’s genuine merits. He has a gift for funny, observant glimpses into contemporary life. He also — when he puts his mind to it — can examine human relationships with genuine poignancy. Both these qualities are on display in Bedtime Stories.

But Foster also has a weakness for the kind of sophomoric humour that can quickly wear out its welcome. In Bedtime Stories, the playlets are linked in three basic ways.

(more…)

Bedtime Stories at the OLT: Stories not worth a bedtime read!

Reviewed by Iris Winston

OLT_Posters 102nd Season-FnL.indd

Poster for the Ottawa Little Theatre.

Seeing the aging shock rocker peel off his sleeves of tattoos is the single most effective moment in the Ottawa Little Theatre production of Bedtime Stories.

It is a reminder that Norm Foster comedies can be very funny, even touching at times.

Sadly, this group of six vaguely connected skits set in various bedrooms is worthy of few laughs, rarely touches and leaves one wondering why Foster has so often been called the Canadian Neil Simon.

The opening sequence of the group, written in 2006, is both ridiculous and distasteful: an ambitious radio host has paid a middle-aged couple $5,000 to have sex on air. The conservatively clothed couple is less than the passionate pair he envisioned. Yet, the sounds of their bedtime activities become an irritating recurring theme through the remaining playlets. Other repetitions such as mention of a cab driver, who constantly loses her way, and her foolish sister, an incompetent exotic dancer, are hardly worth a smile, never mind a laugh.

(more…)