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

An Inspector Calls: OLT production suffers from problematic staging choices.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

An Inspector Calls. Photo Maria Vartanova

By J.B. Priestley Ottawa Little Theatre  Directed by Jim McNabb

Social responsibility and time, two of J.B. Priestley’s major preoccupations, are at the centre of An Inspector Calls.

One of his best-known works, the drama is part social manifesto and part mystery in a drawing-room setting. With its underlying theme of the obligation to care for others and the playwright’s signature interest in time shifts, An Inspector Calls delivers strong criticism of class divisions in Great Britain immediately before the First World War as the scene is set for the mysterious inspector of the title to call on the wealthy Birling family and dent their complacency. (Continue reading » )

Rita is still being educated!

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Educating Rita, Photos Maria Vartanova

 

Educating Rita by Willy Russell, Ottawa Little Theatre, Directed by Sterling Lynch

Educating Rita always brings back memories. Not only do visions of Julie Walters and Michael Caine in the 1983 movie version or outstanding performances in previous stage productions of Willy Russell’s 1980 Pygmalion-like tale come to mind, but I flash back to thoughts of Janet — a classmate of mine, briefly, in the UK in the 1950s.

Like Rita, Janet was exceptionally intelligent and from a working-class background. After passing her 11+ examination, (taken at the age of 10 – don’t ask) she was accepted in a prestigious out-of-zone grammar school. Before the end of her first semester, she withdrew and entered a mediocre school close to home, where, she said, she had friends and felt she fitted in with her own kind. (Continue reading » )

Ottawa Little Theatre: Pardon Me, Prime Minister. Good performances out of weak material.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

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Pardon Me, Prime Minister, directed by Josh Kemp. Photo: Maria Vartanova

Should you think about going to see Pardon Me, Prime Minister, currently playing at Ottawa Little Theatre, be warned.

This weak and dated farce by Edward Taylor and John Graham, first performed in 1979, is not connected to the fine television comedy series Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister — except by trying to force a link through its title.

The plot — if that is not too strong a word for the creaking storyline — is transparent and the climax (again too strong a word for something that is more fizzle than sizzle) is discernible well before the end of the first scene.

In the tradition of British farce, cast members rush through assorted doors and females strip to their underwear, on at least one occasion for absolutely no reason. Sadly, the OLT production features some of the ugliest and most unflattering undies that do nothing to enhance the appearance of the three young women who must wear them. And, while considering the costuming, it might also have been a good idea to spring for three similar dresses in three different sizes, instead of making do with one, for the three actresses of different body types, who must wear them. Along the way, this would also set up an amusing replication of outfits for the curtain call.

(Continue reading » )

Old Love: Just the right mix of heart and humour

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Photo courtesy of Ottawa Little Theatre

Old Love
By Norm Foster
Ottawa Little Theatre
Directed by Venetia Lawless

For two friends in their 60s who just celebrated their third wedding anniversary and say that love in later life is especially rewarding, Old Love is a play to identify with and enjoy.

Probably one of the most charming of Canadian playwright Norm Foster’s 55 scripts, Old Love, while containing many of his signature one-liners, is more romance than comedy. First performed in 2008, Old Love traces an undeclared love that has lasted for 30 years, unspoken until he — now divorced — invites his former boss’s widow to dinner at the funeral reception. (Continue reading » )

Towards Zero: True to period production would have benefitted from some editing

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Photo courtesy of Ottawa Little Theatre

Towards Zero
By Agatha Christie and Gerald Verner
Ottawa Little Theatre
Directed by Sarah Hearn

You know the drill of a classic whodunit: A small group of people, most of them with a grudge or a secret, gathers in an elegant country or seaside house, probably on a dark and stormy night. At least one among them is murdered (usually off stage) and it seems that the killer is an insider. (Continue reading » )

OLT’s Marion Bridge: More Pretension than Substance

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There is an affecting moment of dramatic truth in Ottawa Little Theatre’s production of Marion Bridge, Daniel MacIvor’s overwrought drama about about three sisters whose relationship is in crisis.

It comes when Agnes, the booze-swilling failed actress back from Toronto to be at her mother’s deathbed, sits down for a game of cards and a chat with the sister who stayed at home —  the child-like, unimaginative Louise.

It’s a simple scene but subtle in nuance in what it tells us about two estranged siblings and the dynamics that both separate them and keep them together. It does work. And it’s a reminder of MacIvor’s  expertise in creating compelling individual scenes for a play. But whether they present us with an integrated whole is another matter. (Continue reading » )

Marion Bridge: much emotional baggage makes for a dreary drama

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Marion Bridge by Daniel MacIvor; director: Chantale Plante; a production of the  Ottawa Little Theatre

Carrying a lifetime’s worth of baggage, three sisters of a very dysfunctional family are brought together by imminent death. As their mother lies dying, each of the three reveals her insecurities, resentments, memories and false memories and periodic hostility towards the others and their parents.

Each sister is deeply flawed and hides from the world in her own way. Agnes fled from her Cape Breton home to an unsuccessful acting career in Toronto. Her other escape is alcohol — her mother’s choice towards oblivion, too. Meanwhile, the ‘good’ middle sister, Theresa, now having a crisis of faith, chose the nun’s veil and farming as her escape route, while youngest sibling, Louise — the only child still living at home — sinks into daytime television soap operas and love of automobiles. (Continue reading » )