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

A Christmas Carol at the NAC: beautiful visuals bring a Christmas decoration to life!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Jack Volpe, Andy Jones

Photo Courtesy of the NAC. Jack Volpe and Andy Jones

A clump of sparkling white Christmas trees beckons to us at the entrance of the theatre telling us that the play has become part of the festive NAC landscape in a new way. Not just because A Christmas Carol has become a Christmas staple in Ottawa (gone are those British pantos which I loved so much) but also because this conception of Dicken’s work has a new existence, one that removes all that is dark, miserable, poor, disturbing and psychological. The event about the transformation of mean old Scrooge, the sad story of Tiny Tim and the poor Cratchit family and Scrooge’s frightening visits to his past his present and his future have been turned into a living Christmas decoration all fluffy, beautiful, seductive, dreamy, shiny, bursting with love, good feelings tinted with  the purity of pristine whiteness. Dickens meets Never Never Land!!! Visually, this production is unsurpassable. Glowing white clouds, given unlimited nuances of whiteness by Michal Walton’s magical lighting effects , reflect the tinges of blue, green and red transformed by  Bretta Gerecke’s set and costumes, as living creatures come to life in white wigs and flit around the audience just before the play begins.

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Empire of the Son: An important father-son portrait curiously dilluted by this production

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   , ,

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Photo. courtesy of the NAC, English Theatre.

The Empire of the Son is a one man show that raises important questions which much contemporary theatre is asking. Questions of memory and migration, of individuals trying to define their identity by discussing their origins, or their parents origins, or the difficulties related to generational conflict, or fitting into a host society that did not always open its doors to these newcomers attempting to rid themselves of the trauma of rejection or violence suffered in the past. Such writers/performers such as Wajdi Mouawad, Mani Souleymanlou are emblematic of this but even more recently during Zones Théâtrales (Ottawa) we saw Sans Pays, by budding playwright Anna Beaupré Moulounda. She is a product of a Québécois mother and a father from the Congo, discussing growing up in Abitibi and what it meant to be an outsider. These cases are all different and they show how migration, generates multiple questions that each individual must confront.

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Belles Soeurs: The Musical” sings out the NAC Season

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

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Photos .Courtesy of the National arts Centre

The NAC English Theatre is closing out their season with the musical “Belles Soeurs.” Based on the Michel Tremblay play, the book and lyrics are by Rene Richard Cyr who also directed, with the English book adapted by Brian Hill. The music is by Daniel Belanger with English lyrics, musical adaptation, and additional music by Neil Bartram.

Michel Tremblay’s play, first produced in 1973, has become a Canadian classic that has been produced all over the world in over 30 languages. It tells the story of Germaine, winner of one million trading stamps, and the stories of her friends and relatives who she has invited to a party to help paste the stamps into books. These are all Quebecois women, unhappy with their lot in life and uncomfortable with the changing times. Germaine’s daughter Linda wants to fit in with the new ways and bonds with Germaine’s estranged sister who works in a club. We gradually learn about all of their lives.

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Concord Floral: a youthful ritual of psychic proportions. Spellbinding!!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

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Photo: Courtesy Suburban Beast and NAC’ Ottawa.

Concord Floral was inspired by an existing greenhouse in Vaughan (in the Toronto area ) that was demolished in 2012 but the rotting space somewhere in a mysterious field that emerges from Tanahill’s imagination becomes the site of an encounter among ten young people and their deep-seated obsessions. The actors for this production were all chosen from the Ottawa area. (Continue reading » )

Concord Floral presents a disturbing suburban dystopia

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

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Production shot from the toronto production of Jordan Tannahill’s  “Concord Floral

Those of us long past our teenage years can only breathe a sigh of gratitude to aging after seeing Jordan Tannahill’s disquieting Concord Floral.

Dislocation, loneliness, confusion: these we remember about our younger selves. And while Tannahill and this gripping production depict those horrors of growing up with precision and sensitivity, the show also layers in a creeping sense of dread about contemporary teen life, a feeling that “something in the air has shifted” as one character puts it, that may seem foreign to the adolescent experience of many older audience members. (Continue reading » )

Boom provides comfort for those afflicted with Attention Deficit Disorder

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

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Photo: Richard Leclerc.

Is Boom more flash than substance? It may seem churlish to ask that question, given the undeniable
vitality and creativity that have gone into Rick Miller’s panoramic look at the Boomer generation over a quarter century of change.
Indeed, in his capacity as writer, director and performer, Miller does secure his credentials as a mercurial and engaging presence as he whips us through the decades. So Boom is an achievement of sorts — and definitely a collective one.
That often translucent pillar dominating the stage of the NAC Theatre is essential to the multi-media impact of a carefully planned entertainment in which state-of-the art projections and a seductive soundscape integrate with Miller’s own endlessly shifting persona to evoke the shapes and textures of another era.

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Twelfth Night: Light production sacrifices depth for fun

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

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Photo. Andrée Lanthier

The NAC English Theatre Company has teamed up with The Old Trout Puppet Workshop for a visually stunning production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The Old Trout Puppet Workshop hits it out of the park with the sets and masks, which director Jillian Kieley elegantly brings to life. It’s not a flawless production, or a version that gives Shakespeare’s elegant balance of comedy and melancholy its due respect, but it is fun and visually appealing.

Twelfth Night hardly needs much explaining, so let me be brief. Viola is separated from her brother Sebastian in a ship wreck. She washes up on the shoes of Illyria, cross-dresses as a eunuch named Cesario, and serves in the court of count Orisno, who is in love with a disinterested Olivia. Viola-as-Cesario is sent to woo Olivia, who falls madly in with her/him. Did I forget to mention that Viola is in love with Orsino? Or that there is a sub-plot between Olivia’s perpetually drunk cousin, Sir Tobey Belch, his drinking buddy Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and the servants?

The production is light, colourful, and fun. It’s described as directed by Keiley and imagined by the Old Trout Puppet Workshop. This is very clear throughout the production, as the wonderful aesthetics overwhelm the story. Much of the depth of Shakespeare’s text is sacrificed for the visuals and an over-reliance on farcical, physical comedy. The joke Sir Toby Belch and his group play on Malvolio is treated as just a bit of fun, so the blighted man’s anger and despair seem out of place.

Likewise, the decision to set the play in the late 17th century would have been more believable had the costuming been more consistent. A sailor’s very modern raincoat and hat seem out of place in a sea of stockings, embellished jackets, and wigs. Likewise the jester Feste’s white costume looks out of place in the 17th century, and too simple and colourless for the 16th. (Continue reading » )

Twelfth Night: Fun and adventurous, spectacular and cartoonish.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Alex McCooeye, Paul Rainville, Kayvon Kelly, Paula-Jean Prudat

Photo Andrée Lanthier

Static it’s not. Life-sized cut-outs of Illyrian townspeople drift across the scene. Paintings in Duke Orsino’s palace spring to life. A couple of castle-topped hills, craggy faces etched into their steep sides, slip across the stage for a brief encounter.

In fact, this immensely imaginative and hilarious production of William Shakespeare’s romantic comedy Twelfth Night doesn’t even have an intermission. Instead — rare treat in our attention-deficit era! – we get to relish the play in one two-hour swoop.

You know the story, right? Siblings Viola and Sebastian are shipwrecked on the shores of Illyria. Disguising herself as a man (Cesario), Viola lands a job with Duke Orsino who’s smitten with unrequited love for the Countess Olivia. Cesario pleads Orsino’s case to Olivia who in turn falls for Cesario just as Viola has fallen for Orsino. There’s a bunch of other characters including Olivia’s dipsomaniacal uncle Sir Toby Belch, his space cadet pal Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Olivia’s stuffy steward Malvolio. Disguise, misdirected affections and a lack of self-knowledge are the order of the day, with all coming right in the end.

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