Capital Critics' Circle / Le cercle des critiques de la capitale http://capitalcriticscircle.com Reviewing Theatre in Canada's Capital Region / La critique thrêátrale de la rêgion Ottawa-Gatineau Sat, 23 Sep 2017 21:05:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 Tick…tick…BOOM http://capitalcriticscircle.com/tick-tick-boom/ Sat, 23 Sep 2017 19:59:21 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=12119       Tick…tick BOOM, book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, Script adaptation by David Auburn,  Orpheus Musical Theatre Society The countdown on the chance of success as a composer is near. Jon (aka Jonathan Larson) sees his thirtieth birthday as the deadline for delivering a hit musical or leaving theatre for a lucrative alternative. Therefore, anxiety and anger …Continue reading →

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Tick..tick…Boom
Photo Maria Vartanova

 

 

 

Tick…tick BOOM, book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, Script adaptation by David Auburn,  Orpheus Musical Theatre Society

The countdown on the chance of success as a composer is near. Jon (aka Jonathan Larson) sees his thirtieth birthday as the deadline for delivering a hit musical or leaving theatre for a lucrative alternative.

Therefore, anxiety and anger have equal time in his autobiographical chamber musical tick…tick…BOOM! Originally written as a solo rock monologue mourning the fact that the workshop of his musical, Superbia, did not progress to full production, David Auburn (author of the play Proof) turned the show into a piece for three performers after Larson’s death: the anxious composer, his girlfriend, Susan, and his best friend, Michael.

 

Eclectic in musical style, emotionally slight and with little opportunity for the additional characters to shine, despite slipping into numerous cameos, tick…tick…BOOM! was drowned into oblivion following the huge success of Larson’s 1996 award-winning musical Rent. (Ironically, as Larson predicted in tick…tick…BOOM! time ran out for him. He died suddenly three months before Rent premiered on Broadway.)

As directed by Gordon Guest, with musical direction by Wendy Berkelaar, the Orpheus Musical Theatre Society revival of tick…tick…BOOM! is fast moving, as melodic as the music allows and often funny. One of the most amusing moments is when Michael (Kenny Hayes) takes over from Susan (Andréa Black) as Jon’s agent, Rosa. But most of the time, the show belongs to Andy Allen McCarthy as Jon, particularly as there is little obvious chemistry among the three performers. The combination of McCarthy’s strong performance and the retention of the monologue format force Michael and Susan into the background, so that Black’s fine singing receives little recognition and Hayes’ characterization is somewhat shadowy.

The Orpheus production of tick…tick…BOOM! continues in the Centrepointe Studio Theatre to September 24.

Director: Gordon Guest

Musical director: Wendy Berkelaar

Choreographer: Debbie Guilbeault

Set: Blair Laugher

Lighting: Barry Sims

Sound: Mark Tye

Costumes: Bebe Brunjes

Cast:

Jon……………………………….Andy Allen McCarthy

Michael………………………….Kenny Hayes

Susan…………………………….Andréa Black

 

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Educating Rita, a Production which emphasizes the class struggle http://capitalcriticscircle.com/12079-2/ Sat, 23 Sep 2017 01:29:48 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=12079   Educating Rita by Willy Russell, Ottawa Little Theatre, Directed by Sterling Lynch Educating Rita always brings back memories. Not only do visions of Julie Walters and Michael Caine in the 1983 movie version or outstanding performances in previous stage productions of Willy Russell’s 1980 Pygmalion-like tale come to mind, but I flash back to thoughts of Janet — a …Continue reading →

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Educating Rita, Photos Maria Vartanova

 

Educating Rita by Willy Russell, Ottawa Little Theatre, Directed by Sterling Lynch

Educating Rita always brings back memories. Not only do visions of Julie Walters and Michael Caine in the 1983 movie version or outstanding performances in previous stage productions of Willy Russell’s 1980 Pygmalion-like tale come to mind, but I flash back to thoughts of Janet — a classmate of mine, briefly, in the UK in the 1950s.

Like Rita, Janet was exceptionally intelligent and from a working-class background. After passing her 11+ examination, (taken at the age of 10 – don’t ask) she was accepted in a prestigious out-of-zone grammar school. Before the end of her first semester, she withdrew and entered a mediocre school close to home, where, she said, she had friends and felt she fitted in with her own kind.

That move certainly assured escape from the accusation of betrayal that Rita’s husband and family levelled at her when her overpowering thirst for knowledge led her to fight her way out of intellectual stagnation. When she enrolled at the Open University (probably a move that would be financially out of range for someone in her income bracket today) and studied literature, she was no longer at ease with them, but was not yet a comfortable fit in the academic world or her tutor’s social class.

Frank, the tutor, was also a misfit. Drenched in alcohol and self-pity, only the fact that he was a tenured professor prevented the university from firing him rather than exiling him to Australia.

As Rita’s sparkle and originality reawaken some of Frank’s love of learning, he guides her in the ways of academia, afraid that as she becomes more educated and fits into the academic mould, she will lose herself and her unique style.

The Ottawa Little Theatre production, directed by Sterling Lynch, adeptly captures the tension between Rita’s gains and losses and displays the power shift between student and professor both by having her take over his desk and by the increasing confidence of her manner.

As Frank, Mike Kennedy (who stepped into the role at the last minute) is endearing and very effective as the disheveled, bumbling, bitter and vulnerable tutor. Allison Haley provides the appropriate degree of contrast and delivers a clear picture of her building excitement as she learns and her understanding grows with her education.

Lynch has wisely decided against having the cast attempt different English dialects. Instead, Haley’s regional Maritime accent and Kennedy’s standard Canadian provide the necessary language markers.

Although Haley’s characterization is quite effective, it would be more convincing had she been directed to look at Frank more of the time, when she is talking to him, rather than playing directly to the audience. The other irritant in her presentation is that Lynch has not persuaded her to avoid almost constant flapping of her arms as she speaks.

The set by Rachel Hauraney gives the general impression of dusty academia, although even an alcoholic professor on the way out is likely to keep his library in better order than the sloppy mess displayed. This man has not completely lost his love of books.

The OLT production of Educating Rita continues to October 7.

Director: Sterling Lynch

Set: Rachel Hauraney

Lighting: Larry Davies

Sound: Kenny Hayes

Costumes: Peggy Campbell

 

Cast:

Rita………………….Allison Haley

Frank………………..Mike Kennedy

 

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Yerma from the Young Vic. intense, powerful, an impeccable adaptation of Lorca to the London stage. http://capitalcriticscircle.com/yerma-young-vic-intense-powerful-impeccable-adaptation-lorca-london-stage/ Fri, 22 Sep 2017 15:53:30 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=12025 Yerma in London, as the subtitle states, is a contemporary adaptation of  Federico García Lorca’s Yerma,  a work by one of the great 20th Century Spanish playwrights.  It was written in 1934, two years before the tragic assassination of the writer by Franco’s forces. Director Simon Stone’s  reworking of the play  sets it in an Expressionist  design environment where the …Continue reading →

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Yerma at the Young Vic
photo Johan Persson

Yerma in London, as the subtitle states, is a contemporary adaptation of  Federico García Lorca’s Yerma,  a work by one of the great 20th Century Spanish playwrights.  It was written in 1934, two years before the tragic assassination of the writer by Franco’s forces.

Director Simon Stone’s  reworking of the play  sets it in an Expressionist  design environment where the young couple, (she and John as they are mentioned in the cast) are enclosed in a glass case that creates a mirror effect for the audience. We, in the  cinema, see the British audience reflected at the back of the stage so that it gives an impression of an audience sitting on both sides of the stage,  staring into the  most uncomfortably   intimate,   increasingly violent encounters, appearing  as the secular Calvary  of this doomed couple. Gregorian chants, religious and varying forms of music in Spanish and Latin as well as a reference to a particular Japanese death ritual, mark the seven  chapters of the tale that announce  each step of this painful process  in Yerma’s desperate search  to become pregnant.

Little by little,  Yerma’s  desire and frustration grow within  in her like a destructive beast, fanned by the fact that her sister can conceive so easily and by a self-centered  mother who is unable to understand her daughter’s plight. There is also the ex-boyfriend who , in Yerma’s mind  becomes the final chance at motherhood  who is still attracted to her but cannot understand the depth of her need.  In this version, the gossiping repressive religious atmosphere of Southern  Spain that drove  the young wife mad in Lorca’s version, Yerma’s  responds to her pain by writing  about her childless life and family problems and posting them on a blog for all to see. The internet replaces the repressive attitude of the  Church which has contaminated the local women and this is the act that  finally  tears the couple apart.

Surrounded by individuals  who cannot see who she is, Billie Piper’s  hypersensitive   Yerma molds  her body and her whole self  into a  tragic creature  who can no longer control the inner pain that slides  between laughing and crying, between states of numbness and wildly  hysterical outbursts as she is overtaken by her burning obsession. The  final scenes with her husband are so intense, so teetering on the brink of true self destruction  as she wallows in the slime around her,  that one almost has trouble watching the screen.

Presenting the play essentially as a ritual of death  brilliantly captures the essence of Lorca’s work in spite of the change of time and location.  The  music and singing play a central role while the unhinging of the central character is located both in moments of violent poetry that collide with  extremely realistic exchanges – dialogues becoming simultaneous monologues that incarnate the coming disaster as the verbal communication breaks down even before the emotional and physical collapse begin.

Director Simon Stone has brought together an extraordinary orchestration  of words, of sound, of music and human interplay  that have taken  Lorca from his southern  Spanish world  into our contemporary theatrical world without losing one bit of Yerma’s meaning. Such pain and such pleasure were a welcome experience in this case.

YERMA   from the National Theatre Live series, performed at the Young Vic company in London.

NOTE:

A British blog ends  its own review of the play  with an interesting comment about the link between directors and playwrights :

Stone’s production is total theatre in the truest sense, with all elements fueling a cohesive, thoroughly convincing, updated world in which the story exists. From the most delicate metaphor spoken to the boldest design choice, nothing seems extraneous or touching the wrong note and I’m persuaded, more than ever, that the rise of the auteur/director that we’ve seen in London in the last few years, at theatres such as The Young Vic and The Almeida, allows for a more fully realised theatrical vision than the traditional separation of playwright and director.”

https://thesofasophist.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/yerma-the-young-vic/

 

Yerma plays again on Saturday, September  23  (12pm) at South Keyes

Yerma by García lorca, adapted and directed by Simon Stone.

Design Lizzie Clachan, Costumes Alice Babidge,

Liging James Farncombe, Music and sound Stefan Gregory

Cast:

Billie Piper as  Yerma, with  Maureen Beattie, Brendan Cowell, John MacMillan, Billie Piper, Charlotte Randle, Thalissa Teixeira

 

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Tick, Tick Boom! Intimate and Powerful! http://capitalcriticscircle.com/tick-tick-boom-intimate-powerful/ Thu, 21 Sep 2017 21:20:06 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=12018 I was very intrigued to attend the Orpheus production of Tick Tick Boom. It would be my first time seeing a production in Centrepointe’s more intimate studio theatre. The play is an autobiographical tale of Jonathan Larson’s early years as a struggling artist attempting to write the great American musical while toiling as a waiter and watching his friends prosper …Continue reading →

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Tick..tick…boom!
Photo Maria Vartanova

I was very intrigued to attend the Orpheus production of Tick Tick Boom. It would be my first time seeing a production in Centrepointe’s more intimate studio theatre. The play is an autobiographical tale of Jonathan Larson’s early years as a struggling artist attempting to write the great American musical while toiling as a waiter and watching his friends prosper in more conventional professions. He would succeed of course, in writing the monstrously popular Rent, but tragically dying a sudden death of aortic dissection caused by Marfan syndrome before he ever got to see a single performance. The spectacular 12 year run on Broadway, was awarded a plethora of awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Larson, sadly posthumously. 

The performances as directed by Gordon Guest with musical direction by Wendy Berkelaar and choreography by Debbie Guilbeault are all stellar.

 Andy Allen-McCarthy plays Jon naturally, passionately, soulfully and with great humour. You believe every moment of his struggle to find his creative soul and his place as both an artist and a human being while the clock ticks in his head waiting for the boom of reality: a real job that will remove him from his destiny.

 Kenny Hayes as Jon’s best friend Michael is terrific. He walks the fine line of trying to be supportive to his friend’s dreams and trying to save him from a life of poverty. His body language is that of corporate America but underneath that, Michael is an actor who has given up much so that he can make it in the world.

 Andréa Black who was in Orpheus’ Rent clearly relishes being in this production. As Jon’s girlfriend Susan she is seductive, frustrated and supportive but always sympathetic. In one of many highlight’s of the night I found myself belly laughing out loud at the musical telephone argument Jon and Susan have shortly before she decides to leave him.

Blair Laugher’s set makes full use of the theatre space, from the squalid little New York apartment at center stage to the matching balconies stage left and right. An upstage screen ads some ambiance with projected photos of the New York area. The scenes pop back and forth into focus with the help of Barry Sims’ lighting design.

 The star of the night is the play itself and it is great to see Orpheus in this unusually intimate production. Although Larson will always be remembered for Rent, this is just as important a part of his legacy, shining a light on his tremendous gift.

 My problem, a great deal of the time with musicals is that they are pieces of music that connect a shallowly developed plot line. It may seem strange to say that a play that originally was intended to be a one man show with a small band is probably the most complete and heartfelt musical story that will grace an Ottawa stage this year, but it probably will be. The play is a masterpiece of storytelling, spectacularly performed and a musical delight. My theatre partner and I did have one large complaint. Why did they bring the house lights up so fast and not let us applaud them for one more bow?

 Book, Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson
Script Consultant, David Auburn
Vocal Arrangements and Orchestrations by Stephen Oremus

 Running Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes (no intermission)
Audience: PG13 – Parents Strongly Cautioned as some material may be inappropriate for children under 13

Gord Guest

Artistic Director

Wendy Berkelaar

Musical Director

Debbie Guilbeault

Choreographer

CAST

Jon………………..Andy Allen-McCarthy

Mike…………….Kenny Hayes

Susan…………..Andréa Black

Executive Producer……………………………………………………….Steve Jones

Producer………………………………………………………………….Linda Webster

Production Assistant……………………………………………….Donna St-Jean

Stage Manager……………………………………………………………Carrie Milkslikely will be the

Set Designer………………………………………………………………Blair Laugher

Costume Designer/Costume Production Manager……….Bebe Brunjes

Wardrobe Supervisor…………………………………………………..Sarah Down

Lighting Designer………………………………………………………….Barry Sims

Sound Designer……………………………………………………………….Mark Tye

Makeup & Hair Designer……………………………………………..Kim Shields

Rehearsal Accompanist……………………………………….Wendy Berkelaar

Audition Accompanist…………………………………………Steve Pankiewicz

Social Convenor/Orpheus House………………………………..Bryan Jesmer

Centrepointe Food Coordinator………………………………..Jean Meldrum

 

 

 

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A Year in the Death of Eddie Jester: The Show Must Go On. http://capitalcriticscircle.com/12007-2/ Wed, 20 Sep 2017 21:22:24 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=12007   A Year in the life of  Eddie Jester by T. Gregory Argall,  Kanata Theatre, Directed by Stavros Sakiadis A Year in the Life of Eddie Jester  underlines the dictum that the show must go on, however extreme the situation. And in the case of stand-up comedian Eddie Jester, lying comatose and near death in a Toronto hospital room, the …Continue reading →

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A Year in the Death of Eddie Jester
Photo. Kanata Theatre

 

A Year in the life of  Eddie Jester by T. Gregory Argall,  Kanata Theatre, Directed by Stavros Sakiadis

A Year in the Life of Eddie Jester  underlines the dictum that the show must go on, however extreme the situation. And in the case of stand-up comedian Eddie Jester, lying comatose and near death in a Toronto hospital room, the situation is about as extreme as it can be. Yet, he keeps his act alive as his wife and girlfriend (both pregnant), his incompetent agent and randy doctor and nurses check on his deteriorating condition.

Clever and amusing as playwright T. Gregory Argall’s concept for this 2002 play is, neither the script nor the production maintains sufficiently high momentum to keep the laughs coming without allowing time for consideration. For example, it is difficult to accept that Eddie’s wife Susan and girlfriend Jennifer will move from total hostility to such close friendship that they move in together before the year is out.

In addition, the pace of the Kanata Theatre production, as directed by Stavros Sakiadis, is a little too leisurely. It gives too much time for audiences to think about unlikely circumstances and such one-note characters and characterizations as that offered by the smarmy Dr. Jimmy (Ian Gillies) and the uncertain agent Max (Jamie Hegland).

The three female characters are written as tools of the plot rather than as solid individuals. All three actors, Katherine Williams as wife Susan, Lindsay LaViolette as girlfriend Jennifer and Jessica Lauren Doucet as nurses Jayne and Heather are quite effective, given the limitations of the script.

On the other hand, the very funny sparkle of the athletic performance from Josh Sparks in the title role is worth the price of admission. His transitions from delivering his act in a smoky hall and involving the audience to returning to disembodied spirit status in the hospital room are delivered refreshingly smoothly. And it is not difficult to suspend disbelief when Sparks’ characterization is so convincing.

Set design by Jim Clarke, lighting by Torin Zaugg and sound by Neihls Jacobson and other technical backup offer the required contrast between the two locations. But A Year in the Death of Eddie Jester would have been stronger if this relatively short play had not seemed much longer than it is, leaving me wishing that the machine that announced Eddie’s end had flatlined sooner.

A Year in the Death of Eddie Jester continues at Kanata Theatre to September 30.

Director: Stavros Sakiadis

Set: Jim Clarke

Lighting: Torin Zaugg

Sound: Neihls Jacobson

Costumes: Heather Hogan

Cast:

Eddie………………………………..Josh Sparks

Announcer/patient………………….Gabriel DeRooy

Susan………………………………..Katherine Williams

Jennifer……………………………..Lindsay LaViolette

Max…………………………………Jamie Heglund

Dr. Jimmy…………………………..Ian Gillies

Nurse Jayne/Heather………………..Jessica Lauren Doucet

 

 

 

 

A Year in the Death of Eddie Jester underlines the dictum that the show must go on, however extreme the situation.

 

And in the case of stand-up comedian Eddie Jester, lying comatose and near death in a Toronto hospital room, the situation is about as extreme as it can be. Yet, he keeps his act alive as his wife and girlfriend (both pregnant), his incompetent agent and randy doctor and nurses check on his deteriorating condition.

 

Clever and amusing as playwright T. Gregory Argall’s concept for this 2002 play is, neither the script nor the production maintains sufficiently high momentum to keep the laughs coming without allowing time for consideration. For example, it is difficult to accept that Eddie’s wife Susan and girlfriend Jennifer will move from total hostility to such close friendship that they move in together before the year is out.

 

In addition, the pace of the Kanata Theatre production, as directed by Stavros Sakiadis, is a little too leisurely. It gives too much time for audiences to think about unlikely circumstances and such one-note characters and characterizations as that offered by the smarmy Dr. Jimmy (Ian Gillies) and the uncertain agent Max (Jamie Hegland).

 

The three female characters are written as tools of the plot rather than as solid individuals. All three actors, Katherine Williams as wife Susan, Lindsay LaViolette as girlfriend Jennifer and Jessica Lauren Doucet as nurses Jayne and Heather are quite effective, given the limitations of the script.

 

On the other hand, the very funny sparkle of the athletic performance from Josh Sparks in the title role is worth the price of admission. His transitions from delivering his act in a smoky hall and involving the audience to returning to disembodied spirit status in the hospital room are delivered refreshingly smoothly. And it is not difficult to suspend disbelief when Sparks’ characterization is so convincing.

 

Set design by Jim Clarke, lighting by Torin Zaugg and sound by Neihls Jacobson and other technical backup offer the required contrast between the two locations. But A Year in the Death of Eddie Jester would have been stronger if this relatively short play had not seemed much longer than it is, leaving me wishing that the machine that announced Eddie’s end had flatlined sooner.

 

A Year in the Death of Eddie Jester continues at Kanata Theatre to September 30.

 

Director: Stavros Sakiadis

Set: Jim Clarke

Lighting: Torin Zaugg

Sound: Neihls Jacobson

Costumes: Heather Hogan

 

Cast:

Eddie………………………………..Josh Sparks

Announcer/patient………………….Gabriel DeRooy

Susan………………………………..Katherine Williams

Jennifer……………………………..Lindsay LaViolette

Max…………………………………Jamie Heglund

Dr. Jimmy…………………………..Ian Gillies

Nurse Jayne/Heather………………..Jessica Lauren Doucet

 

 

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Constellations: A Relationship Held Together by String Theory http://capitalcriticscircle.com/constellations-relationship-held-together-string-theory/ Tue, 19 Sep 2017 22:02:43 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=11977 Cambridge’s Central Square Theatre is presently showing Nick Payne’s imaginative Constellations under the auspices of the Underground Railway Theatre as a Catalyst Collaborative @ MIT. Every year a play whose source is scientific knowledge is offered at the Central Square Theatre and supported by MIT as a means of amalgamating art and science.   Constellations is based on string theory …Continue reading →

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Constellations
Photo. A.R.Sinclair

Cambridge’s Central Square Theatre is presently showing Nick Payne’s imaginative Constellations under the auspices of the Underground Railway Theatre as a Catalyst Collaborative @ MIT. Every year a play whose source is scientific knowledge is offered at the Central Square Theatre and supported by MIT as a means of amalgamating art and science.  

Constellations is based on string theory which postulates the presence of multiple coexisting universes. The play involves both a troubled and growing relationship between its two characters, Marianne (Marianna Bassham) and Roland (Nael Nacer), both of whom seem, at least at the beginning, incompatible. Marianne is a quantum physicist at Cambridge University while Roland is a beekeeper who harvests and sells his own honey. Nonetheless, she flirts with him when they meet at a barbecue, only to be rejected when Roland tells her he is not interested since he has just broken up with a girlfriend.

The second and third scenes resemble the first except that the dialogue differs somewhat. Roland is married in the second, divorced in the third. It is only then it begins to become clear that in this story of girl meets boy the events are taking place in parallel universes or as some scientists would say in a multiverse.

Although intellectually they are on a different level, Roland is extremely articulate and informative in describing the life of honey bees, where each bee is assigned a distinct role. Is the playwright suggesting that in contrast with bees human beings are endowed with free will?

Eventually, Marianne and Roland become lovers and live together. In each universe, infidelity plays a role.

As characters, Marianne and Roland are aware only of the universe in which they are present during Constellations’ various scenes. As actors, they must play the complexity of the lives given them by the playwright.

Marianne, diagnosed with a non-cancerous tumor, rejoices. Diagnosed with treatable cancers in another universe, she accepts chemotherapy. In a third instance, she finds out that the cancer will kill her.

Both Mariana Bassham and Nael Nacer are strong actors who are convincing as their somewhat awkward and socially inept personae who, nevertheless, are deeply involved with each other. Congratulations are also due them for their consistently believable British accents.

Scott Edmiston’s direction is spot on. The actors are almost always blocked so that they face each other as if there were no one else in their particular world of the moment, as indeed there is not.

The entire show is of a piece. Scenic designer Susan Zeeman Rogers and the lighting designer Jeff Adelburg worked together to create an extraordinary sense of other universes. Above the stage is a curved mirror which by reflecting the actors from above gives the impression that other Mariannes and Rolands abide there as well as on the platform where they are standing or lying down. At other times, the lights shining down on the stage give it a mirrored effect as well. The stage is bare of furniture except for a seldom-used beautiful glass-like antique style chair placed stage left. At moments, the red lights surrounding the front of the stage shine.

Charles Schoonmaker devised close to matching outfits for Marianne and Roland – he in off white pants and a white shirt with rolled up sleeves and light gray sneakers and she in a becoming white top, whose sleeves are also rolled up, with matching tight pants, and shod with gray and white fabric flats.

Constellations plays at the Central Square Theatre through October 8, 2017

Written by Nick Payne

Directed by Scott Edmiston

Scene Designer                    Susan Zeeman Rogers

Costume Designer               Charles Schoonmaker

Lighting Designer               Jeff Adelberg

Music and Sound Design    Dewey Dellay

Cast

Marianna Bassham and Nael Nacer

 

 

 

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THE NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE’S EXTRAORDINARY PRESIDENT AND CEO PETER HERRNDORF TO STEP DOWN IN 2018 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/national-arts-centres-extraordinary-president-ceo-peter-herrndorf-step-2018/ Mon, 18 Sep 2017 17:10:58 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=11966   September 18, 2017 – OTTAWA (Canada) – Peter Herrndorf, the President and CEO of the National Arts Centre, will be stepping down on June 2, 2018, after leading Canada’s largest performing arts organization for 18 years—and ushering in  a period of extraordinary growth for the institution. Herrndorf is credited with transforming the NAC artistically through major national and international …Continue reading →

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Peter Herrndorf
CEO of the National Arts Centre, Ottawa
Photo David Kawai

 

September 18, 2017 – OTTAWA (Canada) – Peter Herrndorf, the President and CEO of the National Arts Centre, will be stepping down on June 2, 2018, after leading Canada’s largest performing arts organization for 18 years—and ushering in  a period of extraordinary growth for the institution.

Herrndorf is credited with transforming the NAC artistically through major national and international performing arts projects and physically through the $225.4M Architectural and Production Renewal project that was supported by the Governments of both former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the current Government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The project was designed to transform the NAC’s brutalist architecture into a warm and inviting space, with beautiful views of the nation’s capital. Peter Herrndorf describes the “new” NAC as  “the living room of the City.”  The project also includes major upgrades to the NAC’s performance halls and production facilities.

The first phase of the Architectural Renewal of the NAC, a glittering addition designed by Canadian architect Donald Schmitt, opened on Canada Day 2017, and was the largest gift to Canadian artists and audiences to mark the sesquicentennial. The entire project will be completed in 2019.

“Leading the National Arts Centre for the last 18 years continues to be the greatest joy of my life,” said Peter Herrndorf. “The National Arts Centre is a national treasure, and my role was to create the conditions to allow artists to dream, and to do their very best work. It has been a privilege to serve Canadian artists, and to help them define who we are as a people.”

“Peter Herrndorf is quite simply the most successful, influential, and beloved leader in the performing arts in Canada. Throughout his career, he has brought groundbreaking ideas to life. He has helped countless artists and arts organizations fulfill their creative aspirations. More than anyone else, he has helped the performing arts thrive across the country,” said Adrian Burns, Chair of the NAC Board of Trustees.

Peter Herrndorf arrived at the NAC in 1999, taking the reins after a prolonged period of turmoil. He quickly established a clear sense of direction for the organization. Under his leadership, the NAC re-embraced its national role, made youth and education a key pillar of the organization, put excitement back on its stages by committing to artistic excellence, and dramatically increased its earned revenues.  He re-energized the staff, hired superb new leaders to senior management, and recruited an exceptional artistic team, giving them the freedom to produce great work on the NAC’s stage, and on stages across the country.

Herrndorf also created the NAC Foundation, the fundraising arm of the organization which has raised more than $140 M from the private sector to fund major national and international initiatives for Canadian artists. The NAC will soon open the $25 M Creation Fund, which will provide venture capital to artists who want to create bold new works of Music, Theatre and Dance.

In recent months Herrndorf also announced that the NAC will open a new Department of Indigenous Theatre to mark the NAC’s 50th Anniversary in 2019, led by Indigenous actor and playwright Kevin Loring. This groundbreaking initiative has been celebrated by Indigenous artists across Canada as an important step in reconciliation

Herrndorf’s visionary leadership made the NAC the centre of artistic excellence in 2017 both in Ottawa and across the country. From June 15-July 23, 2017 the NAC produced the Canada Scene festival which featured 1,000 artists from every corner of Canada; on June 29, 2017 the NAC produced the 25th anniversary of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards (Herrndorf founded the awards in 1992, with Ramon John Hnatyshyn and Brian Robertson).

Other 2017 initiatives include the NAC Orchestra’s Canada 150 Tour to every province and territory; the upcoming tour of the NAC English Theatre production of Tartuffe to Atlantic Canada; and the creation and tour of Gabriel Dumont’s Wild West Show, an original production written by some of Canada’s finest French, English, First Nations and Métis theatre artists that will be presented in English, French, Cree, Mitchif and Lakota, and that will be performed in Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg and Saskatoon.

Herrndorf has recruited exceptional artists and artistic teams to work at the NAC over two decades including: French Theatre Artistic Directors Denis Marleau, Wajdi Mouawad, Brigitte Haentjens; English Theatre Artistic Directors Marti Maraden, Peter Hinton and Jillian Keiley; Music Directors Pinchas Zukerman and Alexander Shelley; Dance Producers Michel Dozois and Cathy Levy; NAC Presents Producers Simone Deneau and Heather Gibson; Scene Producers Kari Cullen and Heather Moore; and Governor General’s Performing Arts Producers Brian Robertson, Kari Cullen and Virginia Thompson.

Peter Herrndorf’s legendary career spans broadcasting, magazine publishing and the performing arts. He first joined the CBC in Winnipeg in 1965 as an editor and reporter and quickly rose in the ranks to become Vice President and General Manager of CBC’s English Language Radio and Television Networks. At the CBC Herrndorf is credited with developing some of the best public affairs programming ever produced including “the fifth estate”, and “The Journal”. He left the CBC in 1992 to become the publisher of Toronto Life magazine where he achieved record earnings. During his tenure as publisher Toronto Life was selected twice as Canada’s Magazine of the Year. Mr. Herrndorf then became Chairman and CEO of TVOntario in March of 1992 and served three terms in that role, stepping down in 1999. While at TVOntario Herrndorf achieved increased audiences, improved programming on both TVO and TFO networks, and won an unprecedented number of national and international awards (including an International Emmy and a record 11 Gemini Awards).[…] For his extraordinary leadership Peter Herrndorf was named Companion of the Order of Canada, on July 1, 2017 . He  is married to Eva Czigler, a former broadcast executive at CBC-SRC, and together they have two grown children, Katherine and Matthew.

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Onegin: a talented cast but an adaptation that faulters. http://capitalcriticscircle.com/11962-2/ Sun, 17 Sep 2017 21:25:35 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=11962 The launch of Ottawa’s new theatre season started for me on Friday night at the National Arts Centre, with a great deal of anticipation, excitement and angst. Opening night brings out the eager cheerleaders for the arts and live performance: people like me. This year the renovations and restoration of the N.A.C. are complete making the journey easier, now bereft …Continue reading →

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Onegin. thanks to the National Arts Centre, Ottawa. Daren Herbert (Onegin), Hailey Gillis (Tatyana).

The launch of Ottawa’s new theatre season started for me on Friday night at the National Arts Centre, with a great deal of anticipation, excitement and angst. Opening night brings out the eager cheerleaders for the arts and live
performance: people like me.
This year the renovations and restoration of the N.A.C. are complete making the journey easier, now bereft of the obstructions and detours that we have had to sidestep for months. The complex is beautiful and easier to navigate.
As you enter the newly christened Babs Asper Theatre, Denyse Karn’s set design takes you to a huge Russian country house with mile high windows. Books and vodka bottles are spread about the mantles and the large limbs of grand powerful trees reach across from either side of stage evoking a feeling of nature’s Gothic arch. It sets a mood of an aristocratic country estate as a retreat and a temple.

Shortly after taking our seats, the energetic and amiable cast enter through the house welcoming the audience engaging in friendly banter and saying hello to as many as they can. After the cast and musicians make their way to the stage, they introduce their characters and enter into a high spirited drinking game about love.
The audience seems instantly captured by the infectious number which launches the tale. Unfortunately the play itself did not work for me.
The story of Evgeny Onegin is based on a 19th century poem by Alexander Pushkin and the subsequent opera by Tchaikovsky. This production does not advance or flesh out the original piece in a way that kept me engaged. The main reason is that the title character has no substance.
Onegin is a spoiled playboy who does not care how the world views him. He has no time to invest in anything except what pleases him at the moment. Daren A. Herbert plays Evgeny Onegin with a lazy boredom. He is handsome and masculine but is completely disconnected from the other actors and the audience.
This seems to be a conscious choice of the creative team of director Amiel Gladstone and Musical supervisor Veda Hille who also collaborated to write the story. It is not inappropriate for a Russian landholder to be bored. Russianplays are riddled with hilarious or painful studies of people utterly bored with there own leisure or uninspired bytheir own creations. Had the play taken some time to examine why Onegin is Onegin I would have understood the journey better. If I had seen that he was abused or brought up in a sterileenvironment or seen something that
exposed his central core, I would have cared about whatever catharsis or epiphany fell upon him. All the other characters are interesting and multi-dimensional.
Josh Epstein plays Vladimir Lensky with heart onhis sleeve abandon. He is a poet and a lover and it shows in his performance. Everything about his being is defined
by his love and so you care profoundly about what happens to him. Hailey Gillis is equally impressive in her role as Tatyana Larin. She has a breathy excitement in her playing of obsessive infatuation that stirs your whole body and makes you laugh at the same time. The supporting cast also is terrific.
I also really enjoyed the band being visible on stage. Chris Tsijiuchi plays piano and keyboard while musically directing Barry Mirochnick on drums and guitar and Erika Nielsen who provides exquisite cello lines. The design elements of this musical were spot on and the performances by in large were exceptional, where it fell short for me was in the adaptation which started with a bang but things carried on too long after the 2nd  act climax and the play faded where there should have been a crescendo.

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Onegin’s portrayal of young love conquers despite some missteps http://capitalcriticscircle.com/11954-2/ Sun, 17 Sep 2017 13:23:42 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=11954  Daren A. Herbert, Hailey Gillis in Onegin. Photo: Matt Barnes Article first published in  Artsfile.ca Pity the rich boy with too much time on his hands. His heart entombed as though by a Russian winter, he drifts through life bored, disconnected, emotionally somnolent. And if his name is Evgeni Onegin, he manages, through indifference to all but his own wants, …Continue reading →

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Article first published in  Artsfile.ca

Pity the rich boy with too much time on his hands. His heart entombed as though by a Russian winter, he drifts through life bored, disconnected, emotionally somnolent. And if his name is Evgeni Onegin, he manages, through indifference to all but his own wants, to hurt deeply those who reach out to him and, in the end, to become the victim of his own glacial persona.

Onegin, in other words, isn’t the kind of guy you’d choose to hang with. But, as the titular character in the new, spirited musical by west coasters Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hille — who based their show on the early 19th century poem by Alexander Pushkin and the subsequent Tchaikovsky opera — he is someone to whom you pay attention.

“Amuse me, surprise me, shake me … try to awake me,” he sings near the top of the show, which opens the new theatre season at the National Arts Centre. Played with a supercilious gaze and an unyielding, upright carriage by Daren A. Herbert, Onegin needs a damn good shaking. The shy but ardent young Tatyana Larin (Hailey Gillis, whose singing voice is a marvel of colour) does her best. The two meet at a party, where she’s smitten by this good-looking bad boy. Onegin, of course, resists her. However, resisting is not the same as being unaware, and, in one of many moments that reveal a beating heart beneath that frosty exterior, he later explains that he doesn’t want to hurt her.

While this drama of unrequited young love is occurring – and Onegin, with its nod-and-wink to the fun of being a little over the top, is nothing if not dramatic – another love story is blossoming.

Onegin’s hyper-romantic poet pal Vladimir Lensky (Josh Epstein) has teamed up with Tatyana’s younger, bright-eyed sister Olga (Elena Juatco). All goes swimmingly for the two until Lensky, enraged by Onegin’s trifling with Olga, challenges him to a duel and comes out on the wrong end of his buddy’s pistol (Pushkin himself fought a duel in 1837, ending up fatally wounded).

It probably goes without saying that things go less than well for Onegin after that, although Denyse Karn’s looming set of a country home’s interior with broken windows and scattered books signals from the outset that dissolution is in the wind.

Gladstone and Hille, attuned to the fact that duels are less than common in the 21st century, preface the big  showdown with the tongue-in-cheek tune Rules for Dueling. It’s sung by a caped character who oversees the event (Rebecca Auerbach, also Madame Larin). But with muddy mixes here and elsewhere on opening night, the lyrics were frequently overwhelmed by the music of the on-stage trio. All of which kind of defeats the purpose of an explanatory tune.

Blameless for the unbalanced sound, that trio, led by music director Chris Tsujiuchi, handles Gladstone and Hille’s compositions sharply and often with sly humour. The music – by turns urgent, sweeping and melancholy – is integral to Onegin’s story, its references to ghosts (and what is Onegin but a ghost of a man?) and to honour (another ghost-like quality these days?), and to the tale’s decidedly un-Hollywood-like conclusion.

The music, with nods to Tchaikovsky, the sadness of a Russian autumn and contemporary rock, is also timeless. That’s in keeping with director Gladstone’s choice to underscore the timelessness of unrequited love stories by sprinkling a two-centuries-old tale with a modern ballpoint pen in a letter-writing scene and to have Olga slashing on an electric guitar while wearing a brilliant red dress from a bygone era (Alex Amini clearly had fun with the costume design).

Onegin, choreographed by Linda Garneau and memorably lit by John Webber, is flawed. Olga, while less critical to the story than her sister, is underdeveloped. Some scenes, including the performance of Queen of Tonight by a foppish “French” singer, are played strictly for laughs while adding little to the story. And there is awkward staging including a scene toward the end when Onegin and another character are apparently looking at Tatyana but seem instead to be gazing at Olga and her rich, red dress.

Missteps aside, Onegin proves again that young love, bad boys and good music never grow old.

Onegin is a production of The Musical Stage Company (Toronto) in collaboration with NAC English Theatre. It was reviewed Friday. In the Babs Asper Theatre until Sept. 30. Tickets: nac-cna.ca

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Onegin : This tribute to 21st century sensibility moves musical theatre far beyond the box! http://capitalcriticscircle.com/onegin-tribute-21st-century-sensibility-moves-musical-theatre-far-beyond-the-box/ Sat, 16 Sep 2017 21:30:24 +0000 http://capitalcriticscircle.com/?p=11938 First of all do not read Pushkin’s work before seeing this.  Although the show is apparently set in Russia, it includes the main characters in the novel, it moves from Saint Petersburg to Moscow and back and there are references to Byron which one  finds in Pushkin’s text.  However,  a knowledge of this  early 19th century romantic novel which has become …Continue reading →

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Onegin
Photo Rachael McQuaig

First of all do not read Pushkin’s work before seeing this.  Although the show is apparently set in Russia, it includes the main characters in the novel, it moves from Saint Petersburg to Moscow and back and there are references to Byron which one  finds in Pushkin’s text.  However,  a knowledge of this  early 19th century romantic novel which has become one of the great works of Russian literature will only confuse you. Just arrive at the NAC with no great expectations, think of what we are told that this is not an opera, relax, forget the ballet,  and you will probably enjoy this very much because it is clearly geared for a 21st century sensibility where existing operatic, theatrical , pop music and musical theatre conventions  have all been thrown to the wind.

My feeling?  The show, although it takes on the form of a Rock concert,   appears to follow Tchaikovsky’s libretto of  Onegin,  because this performance highlights the most important moments of the story and thus becomes a  19th century melodrama moving  forward rapidly:  the tragedy of a young country girl who falls in love with a brooding, self-centered iconic figure of the Romantic period,  struck by the writings of Lord Byron and  “l’ennui’, the favorite illness of  European literature of that period.   This one is  produced by the Musical Stage Company from Toronto, accompanied by three onstage members of a rock  group  on keyboards, cello, percussion and guitar,  who become a fascinating  performance unto  themselves.  The highly talented keyboard artist Chris Tsujiuchi pounds the piano to death, percussionist Barry Mirochnick and cellist Erika Nielson liberate powerful  energy on the bass sounds  that vibrate throughout the theatre but they often cut into the more delicately lyrical moments, creating much emotion but interrupting  the rare bits of intimate feeling that  spiral off the stage. This show was definitely an attempt to move musical theatre far, far outside the box.

There were moments that worked  well. The  confrontation between  Onegin (Daren Herbert) and Lensky (Josh Epstein) when  Onegin, after flirting with Lensky’s fiancé Olga, is finally challenged to a duel. Lensky’s aria when he says goodbye to Olga  showed how  Epstein’s voice and movement were among  the most important forces of the show.  Also well staged was  the early morning duel which had Onegin collapsing with sorrow at the end.

In general the structure of the second part,  which was already in Tchaikovsky’s libretto  where the exchange of letters and opposing reactions(Tatyana’s letter as opposed to Onegin’s letter)  recreated the counter effect of the first part of the show. That reversal of exchanges  produced a solid dramaturgical turn and  gave much  weight  to the final meeting between Onegin and Tatyana even though  parts of the audience did manage to howl  with laughter for  reasons I couldn’t fathom . They must have wanted to  emphasize  the sense of provocation that this show could represent in its new esthetic of counter conventional  adaptation.

However, even when we were told about the passion of the whole production, (an interview on YouTube made that point)  that is what was missing to my mind. I felt no passion;  I had no particular emotional feeling for this show  in spite of the great soaring sense of sadness  that should have resulted from that horrible moment when Onegin reacts to Tatyana’s letter that she sends him soon after their meeting.   The story was full of  sweeping emotions, of unbearable  tension, of sadness, of  excitement but none of that came over. What happened?

One problem was the way Onegin  (Daren A, Herbert) never managed to bring across  his brutal philandering man of the world character . His rock music voice was perhaps not suited to the great  sweeping highly theatrical emotions that should have bowled us over. It was also partly due to the fact that his singing  was  overwhelmed by  Hailey Gillis, as Tatyana, whose voice has a tragic and lyrical quality that brought out those  extraordinary emotions! (Let me Die).  In her case, the vocal performance and the stage character  complemented each other.  But because Onegin was the focal point of all the  energy of this performance, the emotional weakness of his singing ( all the dialogue was sung by the way) was even more obvious. But his was not the only one. The  scene where  Onegin  was supposed to be seducing Olga, his friend’s fiancé, just to annoy Lensky for bringing him to this boring party,  fell terribly flat.   Why?  Because even though Olga (Elena Juatco) danced like a giddy young girl, she did not carry her performance any further than that and so nothing vibrated between  her and Onegin. As a result, the  couple who was in the process of destroying both Tatyana and Lensky  and setting up a tragedy,  just disintegrated.

The most exciting moments were created by Josh Epstein as the poet Lensky, who apparently has been with the show since its creation in Vancouver.  He has a marvelously powerful and highly dramatic voice which came out in his aria with Olga just before the  duel.  He moves like a dancer and his corporeal fluidity helped unite the contemporary feeling of the  Rock music choreography with the  universal emotions of anger and jealousy that were at the source of his character and ultimately lead him to his death. He fused both period  sensibilities just as Shane Carty (the Prince Gremin) managed to do with his magnificent voice.

The Linda Garneau’s choreography  which worked so well in  Tremblay’s Belles-Sours: the Musical, seemed to bring out much of Tchaikovsky’s interest in folk dancing that one finds in his  ballets (Swan Lake was created one year after Onegin)  but the dancing appeared  rather watered down, diluted with  bits of  Paso double, and flamenco, American hoe down, line dancing. It thrilled the spectators who wanted to have fun, and this was funnyish,  but it almost seemed an extension of the theatrical games that they played by having the actors move into the audience, pass the letters around  in a playful way, drop out of character and chat with people they meet on the way towards the stage, before moving on.   Thus a good part of the show was all about breaking the  theatrical illusion but then what is left for the passion, and emotion within the play and between the characters  which has to depend on an illusion created by the performance!    Far from it. It’s romantic love story where a cad destroys a young country girl and gets it in the end !  and the fun and games contradict all that.   We know that shows which break the barriers between audience and performers  have an important performance history  but those techniques usually   have  a theatrical reason to exist, not  just a need to titillate the audience. in this Onegin, it was a protest, a way of breaking down all the Onegins  preceding this one. And  a way of bringing the younger crowd into the theatre!  And then  why not? Tickets have to be sold.

As it is, there were those who loved this show, there were those who were perplexed, There were those who hated and loved it. The debate is on! For that reason it is certainly worth seeing. Real controversy over a work of art is a rare thing in Ottawa! .

Onegin plays in the Theatre at the NAC from September 13 to 30.

book, music and Lyrics by Veda Hille and Amiel Gladstone

Produed by the Musical Stage Company (Toronto) in collaboration iwth the NAC english Theatre.

Directed by Amiel Gladstone

Music supervisor  Veda Hille

Choreographer Linda Garneau

Set design  Denyse Karn

Lighting     John Weber

Sound design  Michael Laird

Costumes  Alex Amini

cast:

Olga                              Elena Juatco

Onegin                       Daren Herbert

Tatyana                      Hailey Gillis

Lensky                         Josh Epstein

Prince Gremin         Shane Carty

Mme Larin                Rebecca Auerbach

and  Peter frendandez, ..

 

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