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

What a Young Wife Ought to Know,: a play that stays with you long after you’ve left the theatre, dried your eyes, and found your voice again.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Photo Timothy Patrick

Hannah Moscovitch’s play What a Young Wife Ought to Know, which is based on a compilation of letters women sent to famous birth control advocate Dr. Marie Stopes in the 1920s, tackles an uncomfortably hard theme to watch unfold. It’s particularly hard to watch today, when new stories of crimes, whether perpetrated or attempted against women, are coming to light every day;

The need to shut down, to gain respite from the horror, can be overwhelming at times. Moscovitch’s play, as deeply sad and disturbing as its subject matter is, doesn’t allow this luxury. The playwright, along with the director, technical crew, and actors, create an intimate, haunting story and infuse it with so much warmth and humour that it seduces its audience back in, just as they would most like to hide from the uncomfortable truths it speaks. The result is an overwhelming empathy and understanding for the characters and a play that stays with you long after you’ve left the theatre, dried your eyes, and found your voice again.
(Continue reading » )

Lepage’s 887: An Innovative Exploration into the World of Memory

Reviewed by on    Student Reviews, Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

887 Photo Erick Labbé.

Reviewed by Natasha Lomonossoff

Ex Machina’s production of Robert Lepage’s recent play 887, showing at the National Arts Centre’s Babs Asper theatre, is a true triumph in innovative storytelling. The technologies of video and image projection work to complement the events and interactions that are recounted onstage in a way that is meaningful rather than cheesy. The program for the show states that “Ex Machina’s creative team believes that the performing arts-dance, opera, music-should be mixed with recorded arts-filmmaking, video art and multimedia.” Upon seeing a performance of 887, one is inclined to agree. (Continue reading » )

887 lepage at the NAC: technology masterfully used to support storytelling

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Canada, Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

887 Robert Lepage,   Photo  Erick Labbé

Robert Lepage’s 887, named after his childhood home address, deals with the unstable, vague nature of personal and collective memory. It’s an autobiographical show, in which he recalls his childhood in Québec City during the turbulent 1960s.

Details about his father and his immediate surroundings, as well as the Quiet Revolution and its consequences, frame his childhood and shape his identity, to an extent that surprises even Lepage. The snippets of story are nestled within the frame of the artist’s struggle to remember the words to “Speak White” By Michèle Lalonde, a poem dealing with the cultural and linguistic imperialism of the English-speaking world. (Continue reading » )

An Inspector Calls: A classic thriller struggles to survive OLT’s treatment.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

An Inspector Calls
Photo: Maria Vartanova

Photo Maria Vartanova

An Inspector Calls By J.B. Priestley ,  directed by Jim McNabb

J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls is such a well-crafted play that it can even survive the ill-conceived treatment meted out to it by Ottawa Little Theatre.

So even though OLT’s current production rarely meets the script’s full potential, there are still some effective moments as a mysterious police inspector  named Goole descends on a well-to-do upper-middle-class household and proceeds to tear its complacencies asunder with his questions about the suicide of a young woman in this North Midlands town.

And there is no denying that the play’s climax, and the eerie conundrum it poses, can administer a satisfying jolt, even in a hit-and-miss offering like this one. At its best, An Inspector Calls displays its credentials as a classic 20th Century stage thriller by a master dramatist. But J.B. Priestley was also a dramatist with a conscience. It’s no accident that he sets this play in 1912, two years before the outbreak of war, a time when the smug certainties of Edwardian England were yielding to the first signs of fracture in the social order. (Continue reading » )

887: a shared collective history about the nature of memory itself.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Canada, Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

887   Robert Lepage,   Photo. Erick Labbé



887 Playwright, Designer & Director Robert Lepage

Like pinpoints of light scattered across the map of shows I have attended over thirty years, a Robert Lepage production always stands out as something special. His reach into the subject matter of any endeavor he conceives, develops, and then as much as embodies as performs, triggers all the receptors in the theatrical brain. (Continue reading » )

OLT’s An Inspector Calls: Dark Comedy or Impactful Social Drama ?

Reviewed by on    Student Reviews, Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

An Inspector Calls
Photo: Maria Vartanova

Reviewed by Natasha Lomonossoff, Wed. January 10, 2018

The Ottawa Little Theatre’s production of An Inspector Calls, the classic mid-20th century drama by British writer J.B. Priestley and directed by Jim McNabb, is one which leaves something to be desired for the more socially-conscious viewer.

As a performance given by actors, it is not entirely unsuccessful; the laughter elicited from the audience at even odd moments during the show attests to this. The task of meaningfully transmitting Priestley’s message of social responsibility for others, however, is where McNabb’s vision falls short. (Continue reading » )

An Inspector Calls: OLT production suffers from problematic staging choices.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

An Inspector Calls. Photo Maria Vartanova

By J.B. Priestley Ottawa Little Theatre  Directed by Jim McNabb

Social responsibility and time, two of J.B. Priestley’s major preoccupations, are at the centre of An Inspector Calls.

One of his best-known works, the drama is part social manifesto and part mystery in a drawing-room setting. With its underlying theme of the obligation to care for others and the playwright’s signature interest in time shifts, An Inspector Calls delivers strong criticism of class divisions in Great Britain immediately before the First World War as the scene is set for the mysterious inspector of the title to call on the wealthy Birling family and dent their complacency. (Continue reading » )

Mr. Shi and His Lover: a tautly executed superlative piece of musical theatre

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Canada, Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Mr Shi and His Lover: Jordan Cheng and Derek Kwan, Photo Erik Kuong

A word of advice: If you’re going to see this superlative chamber musical, take the time to read the introductory notes from Macau Experimental Theatre that accompany the National Arts Centre’s program as well as the program itself.

That material will give you not just the show’s background – for instance, it’s based on a two-decades long, real-life love affair between two men: a French diplomat and a Peking opera singer who presented himself as a woman – but also provide invaluable explanatory musical and storyline anchors for a show that, like its concerns with love, deceit, identity and the nature of performance, eludes easy categorization and slyly resists our natural hunger for definitive answers in the face of ambiguity. (Continue reading » )

Alice in Winterland : The Evil Red Queen of Tarts stole the show!!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

Sarah and Matt Cassidy are back at the Gladstone Theatre  producing a British panto style show for the holiday season, one that is particularly relevant this year with the deep frost  vortex from the north that has  turned us all into living icicles.  Written and directed by Ken MacDougall, the show has taken, as it did last year, a well-known  young people’s story, transformed it into a tale best suited to Ottawa in winter and located it in a section of the city that allows local merchants to show off their stores, take part in the shenanigans and become  a perfectly amusing background to this version of Alice  down the Rabbit hole,  where the  frigid wonderland is not the one we were expecting. (Continue reading » )

Alice In Winterland Family Friendly? I Think Not!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

Jessica Vandenberg as Alice in Winterland!
Photo Dominique Gibbons

Written and Directed by Ken MacDougall
Musical Direction by Wendy Berkelaar
Choreographed by Jessica Vandenberg
Produced by Matt Cassidy and Sarah Cassidy

On a night when Ottawa was the coldest capital city on the planet, I appropriately ventured out to see a local production called Alice in Winterland. It seemed a proper choice of entertainment to bridge the Christmas and New Year festive season. It is a pantomime show which incorporates broad actions combined with music and intended primarily for children in what is described as family friendly theatre.
There are a number of adult jokes sprinkled throughout that were not particularly funny which makes their inappropriateness more offensive. I was left wondering whether writer director Ken MacDougall thought the insertion of campy, raunchy vaudeville was the only way that adults could be inspired to bring their children to the theatre. I again wondered if he figured that it would be okay because the phallic references would be lost on the children. In any event, the crass gratuitous dick humour was anything but family friendly. (Continue reading » )

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