Theatre in Ottawa and the region.

The Maltese Falcon: A Family Reunion

Reviewed by James Murchison

 

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Play poster courtesy of Plosive Theatre

The Radio Play has been a staple of the Gladstone Theatre now for eight years. It is an interesting hybrid of theatre and radio that harkens us back to a simpler time when people would huddle around a box as a family to laugh and cry and listen to stories together.

There have been many different forms of the radio play, which allows the Gladstone to use the same basic set pieces every year with minor alterations in their placement. s Each year the set is familiar but different. That being said it is always CGLD radio; “Radio that makes you glad”.

This year director Terri Loretto-Valentik chose to recreate Dashiell Hammett’s classic detective story The Maltese Falcon. The detective yarn demands a little more concentration to follow the storyline than more standard holiday fair like Winnie the Pooh or Miracle on 34th Street. The Gladstone Sisters add the nutmeg and cinnamon to create a little seasonal flavour, peppering the interludes with lively period ditties.

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Welfarewell : Social Satire or Middle Class Indulgence?

Reviewed by James Murchison

Guest reviewer, Jim Murchisson

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Photo: Phoenix Players. IEllen Clare O’Gallagher  in Welfarewell.

It was a cool, dank Friday evening as I headed into the warmth of the Gladstone Theatre to see the Phoenix Players production of Welfarewell. As I entered into the theatre I was greeted by a cozy, economical little set made up of three primary playing areas: stage left a table and chairs serve as various meeting areas (rehearsal hall, police station, holding room, etcetera) centre stage is used primarily as a jail cell but doubles as a courthouse with minor adjustments and the stage right space works well as a tiny basement apartment or bank teller’s area.

The premise of the play is pretty interesting as it goes. An aging actress can no longer make ends meet and strategizes to commit a crime, anticipating that she might enjoy a better quality of life in prison in her waning years. Playwright, Cat Delaney inserts Shakespeare, liberally ensuring that there are some great lines in this play, but she does not meet the challenge of matching the power of Shakespearean dialogue with her own.

The problem is that Cat Delaney’s characters are sadly stereotypical. You have the feeling that this was written by someone observing poor souls from a suburban window and dropping a loonie in their hat while looking the other way. The result is a play of middle class indulgence rather than social relevance.

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Odyssey Theatre’s The Servant of Two Masters a rolicking good time

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

First published on: July 22, 2016  in the Ottawa Citizen. 

Zach Council and Sean Sullivan from Odyssey Theatre perform for the media at Strathcona Park in Ottawa Friday July 15, 2016. Odyssey Theatre is performing The Servant of Two Masters under the stars at Strathcona Park from July 21 to August 21.

Zach Council and Sean Sullivan from Odyssey Theatre perform for the media at Strathcona Park in Ottawa Friday July 15, 2016. Odyssey Theatre is performing The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, directed by Andy Massingham. at Strathcona Park from July 21 to August 21.  Photo: Tony Caldwell

You’d be hard-pressed to find profound insights in it, but Odyssey Theatre’s production of Carlo Goldoni’s 1745 comedy The Servant of Two Masters sure is fun.

Jesse Buck plays the titular servant Truffaldino, a wily and perennially famished fellow who lands himself in the absurd situation of serving two masters at once. One of them is the stylish, self-admiring Florindo (Joshua Wiles). The other is Beatrice (Sarah Finn) who is Florindo’s lover and has come to Venice to be with him.  Except Beatrice is disguised as her pompadour-proud brother Federigo. And Federigo is actually dead, killed by Florindo. Beatrice, meanwhile, is owed money by a wealthy miser, whose daughter …

You see where this is going, right? Down the rabbit hole of a plot so deliciously convoluted that to summarize it would leave your head spinning faster than governor Chris Christie trying to defend Melania Trump’s plagiarized convention speech earlier this week.

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Belles Soeurs: The Musical” sings out the NAC Season

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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Photos .Courtesy of the National arts Centre

The NAC English Theatre is closing out their season with the musical “Belles Soeurs.” Based on the Michel Tremblay play, the book and lyrics are by Rene Richard Cyr who also directed, with the English book adapted by Brian Hill. The music is by Daniel Belanger with English lyrics, musical adaptation, and additional music by Neil Bartram.

Michel Tremblay’s play, first produced in 1973, has become a Canadian classic that has been produced all over the world in over 30 languages. It tells the story of Germaine, winner of one million trading stamps, and the stories of her friends and relatives who she has invited to a party to help paste the stamps into books. These are all Quebecois women, unhappy with their lot in life and uncomfortable with the changing times. Germaine’s daughter Linda wants to fit in with the new ways and bonds with Germaine’s estranged sister who works in a club. We gradually learn about all of their lives.

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Belles Soeurs the musical is a winner!

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Belles Soeurs the Musical is at the National Arts Centre.

  • Photos, Courtesy of the National Arts Centre and the Segal Centre.

    Initially, it’s discomfiting. Here are Germaine Lauzon, her family and her pals, richly imagined characters we’ve long associated with a straight-ahead stage play, breaking into song about bingo and being free and no-good boyfriends.

    But Belles Soeurs: The Musical, which is based on Michel Tremblay’s evergreen mid-1960s tragicomedy Les Belles-soeurs, soon feels as comfortable as Germaine’s weathered kitchen where all the action takes place. And for the most part those songs work splendidly, showcasing not just some fine voices but the surging loneliness, longing and occasional sisterhood that define the lives of these working class women.

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    Phoenix Theatre runs rampant in the high school “staff room”.

    Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

    This Phoenix Theatre production called Staff Room (by Joan Burrows) is a mild crowd pleaser, definitely aimed at a niche audience. A cast of ten actors playing 55 roles carried out a non-stop whirlwind evening of skits , monologues, dialogues or exchanges with multiple actors of varying descriptions.  Each skit was an individual performance but all were linked by the fact that they all took place in the staff room of a high school where the teachers, administrators, cleaners and related employees were all involved in the business of this institution of learning. Joel Rahn responsible for media relations, stepped out on the stage before the curtain went up and asked us point blank: “How many people were/are school teachers“? A lot of hands went up. I gather that If he asked the question it was important, and we soon realized why.

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    Matchstick: A great story with a lot of potential

    Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

    Photo by electric umbrella images

    Photo by electric umbrella images

    The story of Matchstick starts as a familiar cold war-era propaganda machine in action: An orphan girl lives in a cold, restricted – undesirable – land and dreams about America, a free land of opportunities. She meets a prince charming – Alik – who takes her heart by storm and sends her hopes soaring!  But, life is rarely what we hope for. The story leaves the realm of the cliché and enters different, darker waters after they marry and come to the promised land. Little by little, Matchstick realizes that Alik is a paranoid liar, and her life is as far from the freedom and big opportunities she dreamed of as can be. Through her life of misadventures, Matchstick comes to the realization that fairy tales do not happen in a real life. Even more than that, she understands – only too late – that real freedom and opportunities exist where you are loved and where your family and friends are.
    The topic of the play is very interesting and worth serious exploration. Digging deeper, going beyond the facts and basic emotions, would make it great theatre. For now, the narrative in Matchstick has some very touching moments and some cleverly constructed dialogues, but the story stays on surface.
    Its execution is reminiscent of Bertolt Brecht’s “Mother Courage and her Children,” as it uses the elements of storytelling, a simple but effective set with the projection of city in the center, actors who change characters, and a few songs sprinkled throughout the play to accentuate the theme. Only in Matchstick, due to lack of depth, the writer misses an opportunity to boggle our minds.

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    Freezing : Canadian answer to the British Panto aimed at a younger audience.

    Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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    Photo: Courtesy of Matt Cassidy

    British Pantos are not unknown to Ottawa audiences. Ross Petty and his super-slick group of dancers, singers, actor’s choreographers and writers of witty dialogue used to bring us their special versions of fairy tales to brighten our Christmas fun. These tales, reworked to fit the contemporary taste for parody, satire, and all kinds of naughty suggestions for the whole family that respected the particular conventions of the Panto, were regular features at the National Arts Centre. Then suddenly they stopped coming and we never understood why.

    Now producers Matt and Sarah Cassidy have decided to bring back their version of the family panto to Ottawa and take up the lost tradition which Ross Petty and his collaborators introduced here many years ago. This company is made up of professionals who have been working in Toronto but many of them are originally from Ottawa. They have decided to make Ottawa their home as they work out their vision of what these new Pantos could be. Freezing is an example of this new musical narrative aimed at the whole family but drawn from childhood memories about living through cold Canadian (Ottawa) winters and revelling in the snow, the ice, hockey, and all the winter activities that made life so magical.

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    GCTC’s Angel Square — A Buoyant Delight

    Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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    Photo: Barb Gray

    On one level, GCTC’s sterling production of Angel Square might seem to offer no more than a series of impressions of a particularly beguiling kind.

    But they’re impressions that beautifully evoke another time and place — Lowertown Ottawa in the 1940s. And out of them there emerges a delightful stage work of genuine shape and substance.

    It’s through the prism of an observant youngster named Tommy that these moments unfold. Even if we weren’t actually there ourselves, we find ourselves engulfed in his childhood world. And its components resonate with us today.

    It’s a world of Woolworth stores — remember them? — with creaking wooden floors. Of Ottawa’s majestic Union Station, now an underused government conference centre, but in this production exerting a ghostly remembrance of things past, courtesy of designer Jock Munro.

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    Anget Square at the GCTC: A warm antidote to a dark December.

    Reviewed by Patrick Langston

    Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 5 2015. Angel2SC_0052 Photographer, Vartanova

    Ottawa’s Lowertown could be a rough place for 12-year-olds in the mid-1940s. Racism, pitched battles with other kids, nasty teachers: such hurdles sometimes made life something to be survived more than celebrated. But while Angel Square, Janet Irwin’s loving and vibrant stage adaptation of Brian K. Doyle’s 1984 novel of the same name, sharply limns the rough side of life, it also excites our envy of those urban kids of long ago – their freedom, their resilience, their sense of place and community.

    Just as importantly, the family-friendly show makes us appreciate anew Doyle’s depiction of the rich imaginative life of Tommy, the story’s young hero. Fantasizing himself to be Lamont Cranston, AKA the crime-fighting Shadow of 1930s and ‘40s radio drama and print fame, Tommy sets out to solve the mystery of who badly beat the father of his best friend, Sammy Rosenberg. That quest in the days leading up to Christmas, 1945 serves as backbone to a fond recreation of life in a now-vanished Ottawa: the original Ritchie Feed & Seed Store on York Street (a Ritchie bag is key to solving the mystery); the squeaky floored Woolworth’s and the more upscale Freimans department store on Rideau Street; the vast, echoing Union Station, now the Government Conference Centre.

    Irwin, who also directs, has cast just four adult actors to recreate

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