Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

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Photo. Andrew Alexander. Brad Long and Gabrielle Lazarovitz (Ex Libris by Yohanan Kaldi)

Ten short plays directed by John Koensgen, presented in rapid sequence but set in spaces that are similarly designed so that there is almost no visual distinction among the works. Also the same four actors return in various roles so the performances are not as highlighted as the texts themselves. That is no doubt the reasoning behind this form of staging: It draws our attention to the writing and less to the staging. An important experiment that gives younger playwrights, as well as some seasoned ones, a chance to have their work shown in public.

I liked Pierre Brault’s Quartet because it was a playful meeting of four voices that appeared to be written as a musical score, rather than a dialogue. Very good. He used extra linguistic means (rhythm, pauses, and quality of sound, accent, rhyme, intonation and all such things) as the four voices wove their way around each other and eventually ended in a duo that matched beautifully. Michel Tremblay did this a lot in Les Belles –Soeurs and in other works…it’s a technique that highlights language and Brault with Koensgen directing captured the flow very well.

Ex Libris (Yohanan Kaldi) was a quick , saucy moment of absurd theatre in a library, …nothing more but I like the way it ended with a touch of humour and the transformation of the female presence. Still, it was only a moment. It could have gone on. I wonder if the playwright just ran out of inspiration.

Blue Fluted Plain shows that Adam Meisner has a gift for writing short, complete plays. The subtlety with which he constructed the tension and built up the psychological situation, kept me glued to the stage. It had depth, it was psychologically complex, and the duo Mary  Ellis and John Muggleton performed it with much sensitivity. An excellent moment of theatre!

Submission ( Jessica Anderson). Made up of interesting elements that tell us how to write a play! It lost its focus however as the male character changed his orientation completely, the motivation was not clear and at that point the play drowned in a lot of clichés.

Rasha (Mikaela Asfour). A play that seemed to signify the way external conflict can tear a family apart. A brother subjected to violence outside the home, becomes aggressive towards his sister when they are at home. A VERY interesting idea but I got nothing more from that. The image is very good but it was awkwardly written and did not follow through clearly enough. It tried to say too much while not focussing enough on the essence of that original idea. . A shame.

My Best friend (Yohanan Kaldi) staging a metaphor of cruelty , apparently, with an anecdotal context that was so overdrawn that the focus on cruelty was destroyed and nothing remained.

Buying Time (Rosaleen Egan) Suggests the person has been reading Pinter but Pinter knows how to say a lot by saying very little in very simplified terms. . This writer said little but very little remained. The performance of the mother was too ambiguous which did not help. But then the play introduced various conflicts and none of them came to the fore until the final moment. Not well constructed.

A couple walks into a Bar.(Stéphanie Turple) a curious atmosphere that could be worked into something better no doubt. Good sound effects were also part of the script! Nevertheless, there was too much involved for such a short play even though the characters were well outlined. An economy of words and ideas is the secret for this kind of theatre.

Dream On (Brad Long) good lighting effects but I quickly lost interest in this self-absorbed monodrama. The problems seem to be the artificial language and a building of tension that fails to materialize.

I LoveOrangesAndHateThePort. (Sarah Waisvisz)

A confessional monologue of the kind that worked quite well  because it was focussed and well written. The relationship which is drawn in this text, withers at the end but it is almost to be expected, given the cultural background of the two protagonists. This was a magnificently symbolic relationship given the present state of affairs in the Middle East. The same sex relationship might be considered a new take on this situation but it felt as though the author was less interested in the politics symbolised by the cultural origins of the protagonists  (which for me was the main thing) than in exploiting the sexual politics of it and that is what disappointed me. However she had her priorities which are justified. to my mind however, the author missed her chance  to rise above the everyday and to say something new about the loving meeting of difference! ….

10 Short Plays

Directed by John Koensgen

Performed by ,  John Muggleton, Brad Long and Gabrielle Lazarovitz and Mary Ellis

at Arts Cour

Co-produced by the New Theatre of Ottawa and the Ottawa Acting Company ,