Summer Sins

Starting to slack off a bit…I’ve seen two shows over the weekend, and I have yet to get a post up about either one!  I may be suffering from a touch of  performance anxiety…the last post I made, about Evolution Theatre‘s epic LITTLE MARTYRS show has been insanely well-received (but then, with such rich fodder, how could I fail?), even prompting Ottawa’s squinkiest actress to make an entire post about it.  That, combined with the news of my involvement in the still super-secret Fringe project, makes this past week just about my proudest week in Ottawa Theatre yet.

But one mustn’t rest on one’s laurels, lest one’s laurels lose their robust shape and flavour!  So let’s get back to business…the business of sweet, sweet theatre fun!  Which in this case involves the two shows I saw over the past weekend, both on the last days of each play’s run, another reason why I perhaps haven’t been rushing to the review.  Once there’s a mathematical certainty I can’t convince anyone else to see a show, the fire kind of dims, you know what I mean?  But plays are plays, and they still deserve a few of my meagre words, and plenty more.

The first show, over at good ole Algonquin College, was David French’s THAT SUMMER, directed by one Cath Kenny and starring a gaggle of their theatre arts students.  My blogmate Smooth Tim Oberholzer was stage managing this one, so I for sure wanted to check it out…I often enjoy the student prods, and I can certainly relate to that up-and-comer eagerness.  There was a simple but good-lookin’ set, very sweetly including a rope swing and some rockin’ chairs.  i got a little nervous when a young couple showed up at the eleventh hour with their toddler in tow…seriously, folks, I respect parenting and know finding a babysitter can be hard.  But babies aren’t going to get that, once the lights go down and strangers start saying bizarre things all around them, that they’re supposed to remain silent, you dig?  They’re just not refined in that direction.  It’s all cool, but it isn’t their game yet.

So, anyways, yeah, screaming baby.  It happens.  The play went about its business, and managed nicely.  Laurie Payton, previously seen in the Gladstone’s fun farce A FLEA IN HER EAR, lent a nice touch of class as the narrator, telling us the story of a magical summer from her youth.  She (Margaret) and her flighty sister Daisy end up at a lake in Canada, where each embarks upon a journey that will change her life…the romantic kind, you dig?

The second half of THAT SUMMER felt like more fun to me than the first, and the Algonquin gang gave it a great effort.  Brianna Radnor and John Marochko make a nice bit of chemistry as young Margaret and her true love Paul, tho it’s Monique Floyd’s drama queen Daisy who steals the show, doing things with the theatrical pout that would give Kate Smith a run for her money.  Great fun, and a good night out.

Next day I was back at school again…this time the OSSD, for the New Ottawa Repertory Theatre’s production of Israel Horovitz’s SINS OF THE MOTHER.  Directed by OSSD playwrighting coach Paul Dervis, and housed in my familiar classroom in the Natalie Stern Studio, we entered the room to one of my fav’rit sights…the actors already in character.  Or rather, actor, as it was only Ray Besharah (seen last week at the Elmdale with CRUSH IMPROV…you were there, right?) onstage just yet, quietly reading a book as we waited for showtime.  I SERIOUSLY love when shit like that happens in theatre (OLD GROWTH, LAST GODDAMNED PERFORMANCE PIECE…even MY PREGNANT BROTHER come to mind).

When the show began, with the entry onstage of the mighty Jerome Bourgault (another FLEA veteran…they’re everywhere!) as well-seasoned old fisherman Bobby, the slow burn that is SINS got underway.  The staging was pretty brilliant…I’d thought it odd and rather risky that the show started with the big window open to the outside…until, a few minutes in Sean Tucker and Adam Skanks came loudly knocking on said window, shouting for Bobby to let them in.  Killer.  And with each character taking his turn grilling Ray’s newcomer Douggie about his past, his connection to their embittered Massachussets town, and eventually finding the dark secret that would slowly but surely twist its angry fingers around all of their throats…I can say I jumped in my seat a few times, hells yes.  Over three short acts each actor impressed mightily…Sean Tucker’s brash pride shone in two separate roles, and Adam Skanks as the kind but hapless Dubbah broke my heart halfway through act 2.
The music was picked by director Dervis to evoke Maritime villages, and connect them to Horovitz’ more American milieu…personally, I was getting odd flashbacks to my childhood trips up to Kenora, especially during the all-too-real wake in act 2.  It was a positively dynamite show, and well done indeed to the lads on stage.

After the show was over, we had a special treat, as the playwright himself, Israel Horovitz, was in attendance and took to the stage to field some questions.  He was polite and charming, and told a great story about the genesis of the play over the years, and basically made me feel terribly ignorant of the playwrighting world. It was totally cool.

And after THAT, when I was waiting for the bus to go home, who do I run into but Ray Besharah himself!   We ended up having a pleasant chat indeed…I thanked him for the show, as well as his role in my old Fringe fav’rit SATANIC PANIC a couple years back.  He reminded me about the upcoming Ottawa Theatre Challenge, and generally made a lovely gent of himself.  It was a great capper to a great weekend of theatre.

Plenty of good stuff lined up for this week, you bet…aside from a certain something I plan on watching and reviewing later this evening, I’m hoping to catch Plosive’s THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST on tuesday (although this is mighty tempting, too…), OLT’s THE LONG WEEKEND on thursday, and then back for more nightmares with LITTLE MARTYRS closing night on Saturday.  I swear, I’d better see some of you beggars out there for all this awesomeness, because…because…

Because it’s Valentine’s Day, that’s why.  And I know you love me like I love you.  Don’t try and fight it.  Just enjoy the peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

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