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

Ottawa Fringe 2014. The City That Eats You

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

The Story :  Playwright Jayson McDonald tackles identity, privacy and societal disintegration with this sci-fi police story for two actors. He also frequently waxes poetic, a less than desirable move. Without revealing too much of the interminable plot, the story takes place at some future time when a virus has given people the mental ability to share memories. That’s helpful when a constable who’s particularly proficient at rummaging through the heads of others (all played by the second actor) goes searching for a missing woman. If you attend the show, you’ll learn the outcome.

Pros :  With the current flap about police access to our private digital lives, McDonald may have hit a topical nerve. There’s also some fun speculation about accessing memories of events that have not yet happened.

Cons:   The script comes off as prime-time television fare, and the actors aren’t up to the demands of their roles.

Verdict A case of unfulfilled potential.

The City That Eats You

Squirrels at War, London, Ont.

Arts Court Library

Ottawa Fringe 2014. Women Who Shout at the Stars.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Women Who Shout at the Stars written and performed by Carolyn Heatherington, directed by Kathryn Mackay, dramaturgy by Judith Thompson.

Heatherington’s reminiscences are a not to be missed emersion in the distance past of the 1930s.  The characters of her mother Gwen and childhood nannie Edie float across a landscape ravaged by war and lost loves in which the lovely and vulnerable Heatherington was as often her mother’s savior as her child.  Sensitively written by Heatherington, the play allows a daughter to speak for her mother, and make peace with her, while never becoming sentimental. Shaped by bold choices these are women who courageously embrace the consequences of those choices. Heatherington’s performance is by turns gentle, then swift and sharp, but always imbued with humour, and the portraits are unforgettable.  – Snapshot on the Fringe by Laurie Fyffe

Plays at the Leonard Beaulne Studio.

 

    Ottawa Fringe 2014. Iredea Techno dance/theatre!!! See this

    Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region.   ,

    iredeaindex

    Photo thanks to Woo Me Myth.

    Iredea Techno-dance/theatre performance.

    First of all one can see this as one wants but to my mind this is not a Rock Opera or anything of the sort!!! The trouble is that we don’t have vocabulary to define this it is so far out. One could speak of techno-dance/theatre but whatever you think it might be, the performers are mainly dancers with theatre experience, and a musician. No matter, because whatever name one uses to describe this show be prepared for a fascinating experience that brought together contemporary technology fused with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s world of dance and Marie Chouinard’s earlier anthropological vision of dance, whose characters are at times, creatures crawling out of the Uhrschleim of a new world . Iredea recreates the Apocalypse with images projected on a screen, powerful lighting effects, sound effects that are bits of electronically generated vibrating rhythm, guitar music, a human voice that growls and pants and makes unidentifiable sounds for which we don’t yet have the words in our language to describe.

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    Ottawa Fringe 2014. Never Own Anything You Have to Paint or Feed.

    Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

    Howard Petrick is not a trained actor but he is a living piece of history, an honest to goodness hippy /hobo from San Francisco and Mineapolis, who comes out of the left wing labour movement and is transformed into an anti Viet-nam War activist in 1960’s. No set (a chair and some lights) no costume, no props, no esthetic theatrical set up, just Petrick in all his earnest feeling, vast experience as a speaker for the union movement with all his stories, which pour out of his mind non stop for an hour. He rode the rails, he hopped the freight cars, he looked for work throughout the US and ended up with a vivid story of a monstrous wrestling match which tops of all his tales, all of which are all based on real experience. His stories also paint a gallery of characters with colourful names, itinerant men who created a sub culture of out of work men, forced to move around to find a job . Some reach the point where this kind of moving about becomes a style of life that they can’t or don’t want to change. It’s a fascinating portrait of the U.S. in the 1960s and all the more interesting because it is based on authentic experience.

    This show is a  prequel to his earlier show Breaking Rank, where he tells us how he was drafted into the American army and continued protesting even when he was a soldier in Viet-nam.

    Never Own anything you have to paint or feed

    Written and performed by Howard Petrick

    Plays at Studio Leonard Beaulne

    Ottawa Fringe 2014. Portable #3 a Doubtful French class

    Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

    No doubt that Alexander Gibson is an effective story teller especially where it comes to his own personal experience but I think this show is mainly about his experiences as a first time elementary school teacher and the obstacles he had to overcome. It is not about teaching French. So don’t be confused. In fact I wish his one man performance had erased all the references to teaching French and just chosen to tell us about  the character’s  experiences with  these children who are funny and disruptive and who constantly challenge him, as the ghost of his mother intervenes in his head and keeps telling him how to deal with it all

    What was very distasteful for me was his relationship with the material he was supposed to be teaching. It showed first of all that the character  knows nothing about “second” language teaching. Evan at that early age there are pedagogical techniques that have to be mastered and there is a minimum level of linguistic competence one would expect from a teacher so that he does not ruin the poor sensitive ears of the little ones. At that age they pick up sounds, pronunciation, rhythms and accents so easily. Plus the fact that the story-line  emphasized the negative reactions of his class, which shows no doubt that the teacher  was not doing it properly. I could go into much detail but there is no point. Maybe a show of this kind would fly in a place where there are no francophones around but in Ottawa it is almost an insult to the attempts of serious French teachers who are dedicated to French Immersion, even if the children are very young. Not knowing what you are doing is not funny. its sad!  The  mimicry is fine but there is  something naive and childish about this performance that shows us why it missed the point.

    Plays in the Arts Court Library. This year that venue has been rearranged so that we can actually see the performance space beyond the third row. Good job Fringe.

    Ottawa Fringe 2014. Moonlight After Midnight

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

      Reviewed by Kat Fournier

    The play opens with a man seated on a wooden chair, eyes closed, in an otherwise simple setting. A hotel room, we soon learn. A woman enters, and the audience believes they are witnessing a long awaited reunion. Suddenly, the dialogue shifts and from thereon-in it is impossible to know what is real and what is not. This play uses the fictionality of the stage world to keep the audience guessing, and it is a totally mind-blowing experience. The script toys with the audience, constantly shifting the story so that the line between reality and fiction blurs. But there is a constant: These two characters are meeting on a night where a rare comet can be seen just after midnight. The comet will pass by again in precisely ten years, and so they make a pact. Until the final moment, the play delivers no answers and only more questions. This play is everything I’ve ever wanted out of theatre. To say that Martin Dockery and Vanessa Quesnelle’s chemistry is riveting would be an understatement. Don’t miss this play.

    Plays at Venu C. Courtroom.

    Moonlight After Midnight

    Written by Martin Dockery

    Ottawa Fringe 2014. Eclipse

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

    Reviewed by Kat Fournier

    A group of kids meet on a beach in time for the eclipse. They are a wayward bunch of characters who are bent on enacting a surreal ritual; an invocation, of sorts, to the eclipse. But when a stranger arrives on the beach, their plan begins to go very wrong. The script, written by British poet Simon Armitage, is strange, repetitive, and hypnotic. It is nonsense verse, rife with bold imagery, rhyming couplets and riddles. A very tall order for this group of young actors, who unfortunately lose their footing in the demands of this challenging text. There are some really powerful moments where text, acting, and staging converge well. However, the staging is also hampered by clutter on the stage floor that interrupts the actors’ movements.

    Eclipse

    Written by Simon Armitage

    Directed by James Richardson

    Ottawa Fringe 2014. Othello

    Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

    Reviewed by Kat Fournier

    Trinity Pit Stop Theatre Co.’s Othello is a Shakespeare re-mix, set in a steampunk wasteland where vanity and exposure are celebrated. It’s a perfect setting for Iago’s greedy manipulation of his master. This production is both spectacle and substance: The set is amazing, the staging is incredibly dynamic, and the young actors showed great proficiency of Shakespeare’s text. What’s more: This “modernization” works. The atmosphere – lighting, sound, set, and costuming – form an excellent playground for an interpretation of Othello that emphasizes the role of vanity and ego in his undoing. The script intends the blur the lines of villain and hero, and unfortunately Iago tends to be one-sided in this regard (his more sympathetic qualities lost, perhaps due to annotation). Still: The actor who plays Iago wields incredible power on-stage. You can look forward to the final stand-off between Iago and Othello. This production is total sensory overload, fast paced, and a good deal of fun. Theatre at its most entertaining.

    at Arts Court theatre on Saturdays

    Trinity Pit Stop Theatre Co

    Written by William Shakespeare, Directed by Stavros Stakiadis

    Ottawa Fringe 2014. Wasteland Radio

    Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

    Wasteland Radio

    By S. Dietrich, S. Doherty, and A Plangio

    Shaken Theatre

    Wasteland Radio is a story about a man who survived the extinction of the human race after a volcano eruption and the carnage that followed it. He finds an abandoned radio station and brings it back to working order, using it to call out to others, as well as keep himself sane. However, even more than this, Wasteland Radio is a show about loneliness, hope, and SOMETHING. It’s about losing hope because of the rashness of human emotion. These are some heavy topics and, while very well written, the show’s cast and directing didn’t quite rise to the challenge of the script. The blocking had the main character talking to one of his long-dead friends or enemies off-stage too often. Since it went on too long, it broke the connection with the audience and therefore our empathy for the character. Another distracting element was the music. Although the choice of song was great and really did a lot to create an almost Pirate Radio-like atmosphere to moment of the show, there were times it also drowned out the acting. Things picked up a bit by the end of the show and the cast managed to go out with a bang, providing us with a powerful ending steeped in meaning.

    Plays in Arts Court Theatre

    Wasteland Radio 

    By S. Dietrich, S. Doherty, and A Plangio

    Shaken Theatre

    Ottawa Fringe 2014: A Universal Guide to Loving Your Shadow:

    Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

    A snapshot on the fringe !

    A Universal Guide to Loving Your Shadow written & performed by Sylvia Kindl

    When Sylvia Kindl came to Ottawa a strange thing happened, she found herself followed, stalked, and well shadowed by an alter ego, an unexpected interloper who was a lot more aggressive and – imagine the audacity – attractive to young, skinny men than her corporeal self. Teetering between a stand-up comedy routine, sprinkled with highly amusing observations, and a story telling monologue that peels away a curiously dark side of Ottawa, Kindl addresses her audience in an intimate and personable way. But she sometimes loses the thread, and we don’t hear enough from ‘the shadow’. When her shadow launches into a rant, Kindl shuts her down too soon. Sylvia’s shadow is an altered personality complex with something to say and, I suspect, deeper and darker Ottawa secrets to reveal.  A play that will tell you “you’re not alone” if you think Ottawa, in addition to having a lovely canal and a thing about tulips, is sometimes a weird city to live in! 

    PLays in Arts Court Library