Gladstone Theatre

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

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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?

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Maestro’s frenetic beat fails to reach comic climax

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

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. (more…)

A Man of No Importance, an engaging delight.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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.) (more…)

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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Winnie-the-Pooh: A Retreat Into Nostalgia

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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.

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

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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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.

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Two: The Performances Rise Above The Material

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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. (more…)

The Dixie Swim Club: A show with heart and humour

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo for Phoenix Players

Poster for Phoenix Players

Swim together and stay close for the rest of your lives. This is the theme of The Dixie Swim Club by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, an ode to lifelong friendship in the vein of Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling and Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley. And the many comic one-liners through the script give a nod to television’s Golden Girls (not surprisingly, as Wooten was one of the screenwriters for the show).

In The Dixie Swim Club, five Southern U.S. women, members of the same college swimming team, meet each year at the same beach cottage in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Through their annual two-week vacation each August, they recharge their friendship and support each other through assorted life crises. (more…)

The Hunchbacks of Notre Dame Misses the Mark

Reviewed by Maja Stefanovska

Photo by Under the Table

Photo by Under the Table

The idea of a play within a play, like Under the Table’s The Hunchbacks of Notre Dame, is not a new concept. Neither is the concept of artistic awkwardness in order to make a point. Indeed, we see this latter technique in almost every commercial these days. All this to say that, in order for these elements to work well and seem fresh, they really have to come together in a natural and artistic way. Under the Table’s performance of The Hunchback’s of Notre Dame missed the mark. Instead of being funny and provocative, it ended up just being awkward and tiring, despite the three actors’ abilities, which were considerable.

The Hunchbacks of Notre Dame, created and performed by Matt Chapman, Josh Matthews, and Sarah Petersiel is the story of the Hunchinson Family Players, a theatre troupe of hunchbacked siblings trying to make it big with their misguided adaptation of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. No matter that neither Johann (Matt Chapman) or Hilda (Sarah Petersiel) can remember the author’s name, or that Johann is more focused on selling merchandise than anything else. Poor Paul’s (Josh Matthews) vision, such as it is, keeps getting crumbling until it finally explodes in an epic way.  (more…)

Hedwig and the Angry Inch. An unrecognizable Tim Oberholzer with star quality is stunning. An exciting and expertly mounted musical show that is not to be missed!!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo. Andrew Alexander . Tim Oberholzer as Hedwig and Rebecca Noelle in the background as Yitzak .

The Vanity project’s version of this glizty transvestite gender bender musical inspired much by David BowIe’s feminine Ziggy Stardust personality and her (his) tranformation to the male Bowie, shows us  Hedwig , accompanied by  her East German colleagues,  frantically searching  for the other half of her being. The epitome of Post-Wall divided culture, she  takes us through her beginnings in post war torn East Germany in the aftermath of the destruction..bringing together all the music of the period including that of the biggest German and international stars of the time. With her ragingly campy non stop  poetic banter , Mr. Hansel Schmidt  (alias Hedwig)  tells us the story of her personal evolution, her need to leave  East Germany and  her mother, and find freedom. Her escape, thanks to a  throaty voiced male American, her tortuous gender shifting,  closely linked to the  symbolic of a split postwar Germany  emasculated  and  divided by the wall. Identified to other splits such as its destructive German Jewish past. She speaks of   ethnic cleansing,  of post-wall European and American  politics. Her alter ego Tommy Gnossis  taunts her and shines across the way and  brings us into the world of the "Who” bathed in parodies of the later Beatles, Nina Hagen and all the music of the period. Rebecca Noelle (a Johnny Depp look alike) but the lead singer of the local  PepTides group and a magnificent voice that rivals Whitney Houston’s  ( I will always love youuuuuu! ) is Hedwig’s sidekick. There are four back-up musicians  including Stewart Matthews playing lead guitar!! Who would have believed that!! It’s one big surprise after the other.

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