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

Othello, a story worth telling again!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Othello   Photo Maria Vartanova



I arrived two or three minutes late to the Gladstone due to the parking issues and bad time management after my day of drudgery, so I was looking forward to an evening of interesting theatre. I slid into the back seats of the theatre while Iago was professing his hatred of the Moor to the audience. He is dressed as a Union Army soldier in the American Civil War. (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 » )

Burn: a good natured horror mystery that keeps us glued to the stage!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Zoe_photo by Lawless

Photo:  by Venetia  Lawless. Zoe Georgaras

An evening that begins in Geoff Gruson’s cozy sitting room design with enormous wooden bookcases, a warm fireplace, posters and paintings coming to life under David Magladry’s soft lighting that heats up the room in its friendly glow. A writer’s paradise. Three friends, David, (Michael Thompson), Sam (Tahera Mufti) and Robert (Chris Torti) are gathered in Roberts sitting room discussing the life and death of Paul, a successful writer friend, author of horror fiction who recently passed away. Robert also laments the death of his own wife Tara Waters, a talented writer whose memorabilia is spread out over the walls and around the house and whom, according to Robert, is not really dead! What kind of presence does he sense in the room?

(Continue reading » )

Maestro’s frenetic beat fails to reach comic climax

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

Photo courtesy of The Gladstone Theatre

Has something been lost in translation?

Touted as a hilarious comedy about the off-stage shenanigans of musicians, classical and otherwise, Maestro by Québec playwright Claude Montminy opened Friday at the Gladstone in its English-language premiere. The play is running in both official languages and opened in French a day earlier.

Perhaps the show skims smartly along in its original French (I saw it only in Nina Lauren and Danielle Ellen’s English translation), but Friday’s opening had the buoyancy of a tuba. (Continue reading » )

A Man of No Importance, an engaging delight.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

A Man of No Importance Book by Terrence McNally Music by Stephen Flaherty Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens Directed by Maxim David indie women productions

Part of the charm of A Man of No Importance is its modesty. Almost reflecting the tone of the title in its approach, the award-winning chamber musical is gently low-key, gradually working its way into unfolding a moving story about a bus conductor in 1960s Dublin.

With book by Terence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, the 2002 musical is based on the 1994 movie of the same name, starring Albert Finney as bus conductor Alfie Byrne. Byrne escapes his internal conflict and his mundane daily routine through his love of the works of Oscar Wilde — his role model — and his determination to mount a production of Wilde’s Salome in St. Imelda’s church hall (a most unsuitable location for a script that shocked from the outset and would certainly offend conservative Catholic sensibilities in 1960s Ireland.) (Continue reading » )

Underpants Droop At The Gladstone

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

If you can believe the people at Ottawa’s fledgling Theatre Kraken, people actually had working radios back in the days when Germany possessed an emperor and housewives still wore below-the-knee bloomers as underwear.

In truth, however, such discrepancies merely define this company’s production of The Underpants as a historical mish-mash.

It’s also a mish-mash when it comes to style, performance and the accents of the characters. All of which helps to make the evening a glum and pointless theatrical experience.

Promotion for this appallingly misconceived theatrical event has emphasized the name of comedian Steve Martin who is responsible for this adaptation of German playwright Carl Sternheim’s 1911 expressionist satire of bourgeois values. The piece will never rank as one of Martin’s shining creative moments, lacking the wit and verbal agility of his earlier play, Picasso At The Lapine Agile — but Don Fex’s production at the Gladstone Theatre makes it seem even worse, giving more heed to the text’s sophomoric sexual double entendres than its more cutting elements of social and political satire. The latter are largely trampled under.

(Continue reading » )

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

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


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.

(Continue reading » )

Winnie-the-Pooh: A Retreat Into Nostalgia

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

Chris Ralph & David Gerow in Winnie-the-Pooh-The Radio Show.

Photo: William Beddoe.  Chris Ralph (Winnie) and David Gerow (Eeyore)

There’s something decidedly inviting about the shared pleasure of spending time with Winnie The Pooh and his friends.

So you’re conscious of a strong sense of community when you arrive at the Gladstone Theatre for Plosive Productions’ latest Christmas bow to the glory days of radio.

In this instance, it’s a simple matter of audience members engaging in a special way with the people at the microphones. And the task of Winnie-the-Pooh: The Radio Show is to recreate through voice and a bit of body language the magical world created by author A.A. Milne in his Pooh Bear tales.

(Continue reading » )

The End of Civilisation: A Strong Production of a Depressing Drama

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,


Photo: Barb Gray.

The End of Civilization is about a middle-class couple’s last-ditch attempt at preservation. Harry Cape, downsized and out of work for more than two years, is at the end of his rope. His wife, Lily, is willing to do anything to save her house and lifestyle.

The Capes have checked into a budget motel — The End of Civilization is the third of six plays in George F. Walker’s 1997 Suburban Motel series — and left their children in the care of Lily’s sister, while Harry tries one last time to find work.

From here, in a jumbled, but nevertheless clear, timeline, The End of Civilization presents the reasons for Harry’s descent into insane and unreasonable behaviour and Lily’s amazingly fast jump into the world’s oldest profession, after being befriended by Sandy, the prostitute in the next motel room.

(Continue reading » )

Two: The Performances Rise Above The Material

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Two_vMere silence on stage can sometimes be as arresting as an explosion. That’s what happens at the Gladstone Theatre during the most memorable moments of its new production of Lancashire playwright Jim Cartwright’s pub drama, Two. We have a woman sitting quietly at a table. There’s a tentative smile on her face — she’s relaxing into a moment of serenity. In the background there is the noise of other customers, but for the moment she’s occupying her own, private secure world. But only for a moment. Reality intrudes, the smile vanishes. and those brief glimmerings of happiness yield to anguish bordering on despair. There’s also fear.

Michelle LeBlanc is the actress here, her face and body language signalling an unsettling gamut of emotions. We start realizing that this is someone in deep trouble, and when her boyfriend shows up with the drinks, we know why. We have front-row seats for a glimpse into an abusive relationship. Her boyfriend, played with swaggering cruelty by Richard Gelinas, is as much an emotional tyrant as he is a physical menace — toying with her anxieties and fears, threatening her with the jealousies and possessiveness which hide his own insecurities. You know the scene will have a bad ending — and it does.

Director John P. Kelly has staged this sequence with the care and nuance this treacherous material deserves. He and his performers must do their best to disguise the fact that the two characters are stereotypes and that their sad little drama is playing out predictably. Gelinas, truly discomforting here, manages to bring out the awfulness of the boyfriend, getting beyond the elements of caricature in Cartwright’s script. And it is LeBlanc’s brilliantly modulated characterization that conveys the young woman’s ultimate anguish of spirit. (Continue reading » )

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