Theatre in Ottawa and the region

Enchanted April: Linden House production is charming and well acted

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Enchanted April
By Matthew Barber
Based on the novel The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
Linden House
Directed by George Stonyk

Would that a month’s vacation in a foreign land, surrounded by flowers, sunshine and ocean, could solve the problems of daily life.

Maybe it did for author Elizabeth von Arnim, whose 1922 novel The Enchanted April was inspired by the month she spent at Castello Brown in Portofino on the Italian Riviera. It certainly spawned two stage plays (1925 and 2003), two movies (1935 and 1992) and even a musical (2010) and is credited with having made Portofino popular as a vacation destination. (more…)

Sir John A Macdonald the Musical. Much to admire in the book, the music and Andrew Galligan’s fine performance in the title role.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

“History has a voice.”

The line from the world premiere of Gord Carruth’s latest work, Sir John A. Macdonald, the Musical, is the core of the show that recounts key points in the life of Canada’s first prime minister in words and music.

The man — consistently ranked as one of the most successful prime ministers in Canadian history — is an ideal subject to mark the 150th anniversary of the country he was instrumental in founding, particularly given some recent negative comments about Macdonald’s policies. In his carefully researched and historically accurate musical, Carruth has chosen to present the man, his demons and some of his speeches, as recorded in Hansard, without judgment or analysis. (more…)

Prodigal Son: 9th Hour Theatre Company presents sensitive, timeless story

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Photo courtesy of 9th Hour Theatre Company

Prodigal Son

By Shawn Macdonald

Production:  9th Hour Theatre Company

What is good about 9th Hour Theatre Company is their unflinching courage to tackle bold and often sensitive subjects. What is great about them is their consistently challenging and artistic story telling that manages to hold up a mirror to its audience, no matter the topic. Their new production, Prodigal Son by Shawn MacDonald, is inspired by the suffering of LGBTQ people of faith, but in director Jonathan Harris’ interpretation, the story becomes universal – it is about our imperfect world where individuals struggle with preconceived notions, embedded deeply through their upbringing. Unable to fight society’s rigid rules, carved in stone by prejudice and a blind faith in authority, they lash out on those close to them and end up losing themselves. (more…)

Ismene at the University of Ottawa : excellent work by a talented ensemble!

Reviewed by Laurie Fyffe

Ismène courtesy of the University of OttawaTheatre Department



A finely tuned production that shows off a talented ensemble and describes an enduring mystery, Michael Geither’s Ismene, directed by Daniel Mroz, takes us into the complex and precarious world of siblings Antigone and Ismene. As portrayed in Sophocles’ Antigone, Ismene is the saner sister who, while sympathetic to Antigone’s desire to do the right thing in burying their bother, is not prepared to endure the wrath of Uncle and King Creon for the sake of a corpse. Indeed, in both the original play, and in Geither’s text, Ismene is the one most anxious to cast off the mantle of the family tragedy for the pleasures of an ordinary life. But growing up under the shadow of incest and death places the normal out of reach. In this less than one-hour exploration of girlhood lived on the fringes of tragedy, the actors use singing, poetic encounters, movement, and a constantly shifting landscape of coffin-like boxes (courtesy of Paul Auclair) to express the isolation their parent’s fate has inflicted on their offspring. The poignant admission that it is Jocasta, their mother, who hanged herself, that they miss the most, rings particularly true. This chorus of actors, dancers and singers all deserve congratulations for excellent work. The uniform costumes of tank tops and shorts designed by Margaret Coderre-Williams contribute to a light and playful feel. While Mroz tells us that we really don’t know what Greek theatre might have looked like, one feels this play with its daring cast and well-balanced creative team has come awfully close.

Ismène ,  written by Michael Geither ,  directed by Daniel Mroz

Cast: With: Emily Bertrand, Emma Hickey, Jasmine Massé, Montana Adams, Zaakirah Chubb, Sophie McIntosh, Stefanie Velichkin, Kiara Lynn Neï.

Venue: University of Ottawa, Academic Hall.



King of the Yees trips over its own plot.

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

It doubtless started out as a viable, if overstuffed, idea.

Write a comedy about the erosion of Chinese culture and tradition when it’s transplanted to contemporary America. Illustrate the resonant theme of cultural identity by making the two main characters the likeable Larry Yee, a 60-year-old father who honours tradition, and Lauren Yee, his thoroughly westernized, Ivy League school-educated daughter who makes her living as a playwright.

Weave in a loving-but-fraught relationship between father and daughter and a search for personal identity. Set the whole thing in Chinatown, say it’s a true story, and call it King of the Yees. (more…)

The NAC King of the Yees fails to mesh

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

King of Yees. Provided by the NAC English Theatre



So whats exactly happening on the stage of the Babs Asper Theatre at the National Arts Centre? Well now,  let’s see. There are such ingredients as identity angst, the generation gap, urban politics, racial stereotyping, cultural dislocation, a search for “meaning” in life. We also get smidgeons of naturalism, surrealism, dada, Brechtian and absurdist devices glued together by low-vaudeville buffoonery — all hopefully stirred into American playwright Lauren Yee’s dramatic pot in expectation of a coherent whole. A picturesquely conceived lion occasionally makes a manic appearance along with a chiropractor who’s really a sadistic needle-plunging acupuncturist — or is he actually a herbalist? There’s a swaggering caricature of aTong gangster — Shrimp Boy by name — whose presence triggers a street shoot-out that manages to throw an already discordant offering even more off track. (more…)

King of Yees: cluttered and confusing.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

King of Yee, courtesy of the NAC



King of the Yees is not the play that Lauren Yee set out to write — so says the character playing the playwright in the semi-autobiographical work. This is a hint that the comic drama could lack clarity. And it does. King of the Yees is about equal parts amusing and confusing and frequently seems to lack discipline.

The title character is the playwright’s father, Larry, a man steeped in tradition and committed to supporting his community, particularly through the Yee Fung Toy Family Association — a men’s club formed 150 years earlier — in San Francisco’s Chinatown.


Some strong performers highlight ambience of gentility in Arsenic and Old Lace

Reviewed by Iris Winston


Photo: Maria Vartanova

A small glass of elderberry wine seems an appropriately genteel alcoholic drink for two kindly old ladies to serve potential lodgers — except when it is laced with arsenic and spiced with strychnine and cyanide.

Even those who have never seen a stage production or of Joseph Kesselring’s 76-year-old dark comedy Arsenic and Old Lace or watched the Frank Capra movie (shot in 1941 and released in 1944) are familiar with parts of the tale of the charitable Brewster sisters, who dispatched lonely gentlemen and then gave them a Christian burial in the basement of their home. (more…)

Arsenic and Old Lace: A fun night at the theatre delivers laughs

Reviewed by Maja Stefanovska

Photo: Maria Vartanova

We often make jokes about that which scares or hurts us the most. It’s a way many of us cope with a world that can often feel needlessly cruel and absurd. It’s because of this need to laugh in the face of darkness that a comedy such as Joseph Kesselring’s play Arsenic and Old Lace has such an enduring quality.  After all, there’s something strangely captivating about discovering the layer of rotten silt under a veneer of respectability. The Ottawa Little Theatre’s production  of Arsenic and Old Lace, directed by Brian Cano, is a delightfully relaxing romp, despite its dark plot. There are some minor issues with pacing, but its combination of adept directing, brilliant acting, and sumptuous sets make for a cozy evening at the theatre. (more…)

Arsenic and Old Lace Classic Play for The Season

Reviewed by James Murchison

Ottawa Little Theatre’s second play of it’s 105th season is the enduring classic, Arsenic and Old Lace. If there is a better play to stage around the Halloween season I don’t know what it would be. It is dark and creepy enough, but peppered with humour and spiced with a little bit of romance. It is the pumpkin pie of theatre; both a trick and a treat.

The characters are already well known to fans of the the classic 1944 Frank Capra film with Cary Grant. The sweet little old ladies that bury lonely gentlemen in the basement have a nephew that thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt, another that is a menacing international criminal and a third that is a theatre critic in love with the preacher’s daughter. Add in some dim witted police officers and sure fire one liners and that’s how to construct a near perfect black comedy. Written by Joseph Kesselring in 1939 it first premiered on Broadway in 1941 and was a welcome distraction from the war that was occurring in Europe at the time. (more…)

Past Reviews