kanata theatre

Kanata Theatre’s Shatter collapses with a thud

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Perhaps the best thing that can be said about Kanata Theatre’s production of a play called Shatter is that it’s well-intentioned.

But that’s not sufficient to give it a pass.

It may have seemed an attractive notion to mark the 100th anniversary of the Halifax explosion with a drama that purports to deal with this tragedy. But the people at Kanata Theatre should have first made sure that the script was worth doing.

Dramatist Trina Davies is clearly seeking to bring a note of intimacy to her story and give us a glimpse of ravaged human lives. But in the process, she devalues the impact on Haligonians (and on Canadians) of the largest man-made explosion in human history until the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima 28 years later. (more…)

Treasure Island: Mediocre production with great technical elements

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: Kanata Theatre

Treasure Island
By Ken Ludwig
Adapted from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson
Kanata Theatre
Directed by Wendy Wagner

The treasure to be found in the Kanata Theatre production of Treasure Island is its design and technical achievement.

But much of the rest of Ken Ludwig’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure story — written to entertain his stepson, with “no need of psychology of fine writing”— is boring, repetitive and noisy in the KT production, directed by Wendy Wagner. (more…)

Kanata Theatre struggles to make The Melville Boys work

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Norm Foster is a playwright with a modest intent — to write comedies about “ordinary people just trying to get by in life.”

That prescription can no doubt be applied to The Melville Boys — his much-produced piece about two brothers, wildly disparate in personality, who seek to re-bond by spending a weekend at the family’s  lakeside cabin.

Unfortunately Kanata Theatre’s new production merely shows how fragile the play really is and how easily it can collapse in performance. (more…)

The Melville Boys: Adequate production of play past its prime

Reviewed by Iris Winston

By Norm Foster, directed by Steve Truelove, a Kanata Theatre Production

The cottage is as much part of the Canadian psyche as hockey, so little wonder playwright Norm Foster set The Melville Boys at a lakeside retreat.

The second play of his long writing career, this dark comedy carries the signature one-liners that resulted in Foster being called the Canadian Neil Simon. It also has a familiar sit-com approach veiled with a coating of tragedy. (more…)

Schoolhouse gets failing grade

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: Kanata Theatre

Schoolhouse  By Leanna Brodie, Kanata Theatre. Directed by Joy Forbes

 One scene in Schoolhouse depicts an amateurish production of a Christmas play. The sequence would be more amusing if it were a greater contrast to most of the other episodic scenes in a non-drama that drags from beginning to end.

Part of the problem is with the production style of this 2006 memory play by Leanna Brodie and part of the issue is that the writing is simply not particularly interesting.Certainly, the one-room schoolhouse of yesteryear is remembered with affection by former students, teachers and, indeed, the entire community surrounding it. In rural areas across Canada, the small school was a social as well as an educational centre and so almost as important as the main church in the vicinity.

Other plays — Anne of Green Gables, for example — have made the school a key part of a drama or musical. Most recently, Elmwood School presented Jean Duce Palmer’s Miss Bruce’s War. Like Schoolhouse, Palmer’s drama is a memory play. Unlike, the choppy, episodic Schoolhouse, Miss Bruce’s War has gentle charm and a believable flow and the high-school production was outstanding. (more…)

Equivocation: Solid production of a problematic play

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Image courtesy of Kanata Theatre

Image courtesy of Kanata Theatre

Equivocation by Bill Cain
Kanata Theatre
Directed by Alain Chamsi

Kanata Theatre’s production of Equivocation contains so many fine moments that you’re left saddened by the fact that it ultimately doesn’t work.

Director Alain Chamsi and his colleagues have worked with diligence and discernment to bring shape and substance to a play that uses an imagined crisis in Shakespeare’s life as a platform for an examination of the fragility of truth in a hothouse political climate.

But ultimately the centre does not hold. Playwright Bill Cain, a Jesuit priest whose moonlighting activities including scripting an episode of House of Cards, has solid credentials, and this 2009 play has been acclaimed in many quarters. But it’s overly ambitious in scope, thematically cluttered, structurally uncertain and at times painfully glib and facile.

Furthermore, when it comes to tone, it attempts to have it both ways — expecting the audience to go along with moments of serious drama, which include a pair of gruesome public hangings, while also expecting them to revel in episodes of comic buffoonery as well as bits of more subtle satire. It’s an uneasy fusion. (more…)

Kanata Theatre Delvers a Problematic Calendar Girls

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Photo: Susan Sinchak

Photo: Susan Sinchak

Calendar Girls

By Tim Firth

Kanata Theatre

Directed by Tania Carrière

The problem with a play like Calendar Girls is that it’s dangerously easy for it to come across as exploitive theatre and nothing more. Indeed, the sell-out houses currently being enjoyed by Kanata Theatre are clearly due to the subject matter — a group of middle-aged Women’s Institute members posing  in the nude for a charity calendar. The original film was a built-in hit for the same reason. And when screenwriter Tim Firth reworked it for the stage, the premiere London production chalked up advance sales of more than $3 million even before the show opened. The promise of titillation sells — but Firth’s script has sturdier aspirations than the need to display a bit of skin.

There’s no denying that Kanata Theatre’s production delivers some robustly funny moments near the end of Act One when the various participants in the calendar project — some quaking with anxiety, others proudly assertive —  start disrobing for the camera. That’s when various concealing objects — flowers, bits of fruit — come into discreet play as the women display themselves in the not-quite altogether. (more…)

Radium Girls: a production that qualifies as a treatment for insomniacs

Reviewed by Iris Winston

radiumslider-img1

The mystery behind Radium Girls is how such a fascinating piece of history could be turned into such a boring drama. Yet, according to playwright D.W. Gregory’s website, this is her most performed play and it has received a number of awards.

In recounting how a group of female factory workers were poisoned by the radium-based paint they applied to watch faces to make them luminous—they were forced to lick the paintbrushes into fine points—Gregory replaces dramatic opportunity with short sequences, lack of meaningful characterization and multiple doubling.

The reality is compelling. Five of the radium girls brought suit against their employer, the U.S. Radium Corporation, eventually winning some financial compensation and payment of their medical bills for the remainder of their much-shortened lives.

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Maggie’s Getting Married at Kanata Theatre. Norm Foster has fun with the family!

Reviewed by Iris Winston

 

Are the crashes of thunder in the Kanata Theatre production of Maggie’s Getting Married the director’s way of ensuring that the audience doesn’t miss any verbal bombshells in the dialogue? Maybe such a device could be justified in a drama with an obscure plot line and archaic language. But for a Norm Foster comedy?

Foster, often called Canada’s answer to Neil Simon, generally writes sit-coms, simple in language and often simplistic in plot. His plays offer the comfort of familiarity. Via light comedies, sometimes with serious undercurrents, audiences see themselves, their neighbours, aspects of their lives — exaggerated just a little.

Such is the tone of Maggie’s Getting Married, first performed in 2000. Set in the Duncan family’s kitchen on the night before the wedding, the focus is on sibling rivalry, pre-wedding jitters and family quirks.

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West Moon Street an early Oscar Wilde that already shows us his classic comedy of manners

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Basing a play on a little known story by a famous writer sounds like a good idea. But when the story itself is not one of that author’s best (that may be the reason that it is so obscure) the adapter is likely to face credibility issues with the script.

The short story in question is Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime. In it, Oscar Wilde mocks frauds and confidence tricksters in the “fate” industry (palm readers, telepathists, spiritualists) and takes a tongue-in-cheek look at a gentleman’s approach to doing his duty. Wilde follows the pattern perfected in his classic comedy of manners, The Importance of Being Earnest, written four years later in 1895, making much of the insignificant and minimizing the value of important matters. The approach is just does not as effective in Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime.

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Past Reviews