I’ll say straight up, I’d been looking forward to this night for a long time now. I mean, I see my fair share of theatre, and some I’m more excited about than others, but tonite…hoo boy. I was excited for this one. After a month or so of maybe the best viral marketing campaign the Ottawa scene’s had in a while, I was more than stoked and now it was finally here…ZASTROZZI THE MASTER OF DISCIPLINE by George Walker, courtesy of the Algonquin Theatre Arts gang. And after how much I enjoyed their last show, ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, nothin’ could keep me away.
It also did not hurt that my date for the evening, once again, was the outstanding and Adorkable ™ Nadine Thornhill, a situation I could easily get used to. So everything looked good going in to this, the final show of the Algonquin Theatre season. Feelin’ happy I made it to all three…I is a patron of the arts!
After a brief chat out in the lobby with superstar director Teri Loretto-Valentik, and some quick chatter with celebrity guest-attendee Margo MacDonald, Nadine made a glamourous, last-minute entrance and we took our seats (front row, bitches!). The set was GORGEOUS, courtesy of very recent Rideau-Award winning designer Ivo Valentik. A moody, Escher-esque nightmare that wouldn’t let you look away from it. Spiffy. The lights went down, the best pre-show announcement EVER was delivered, and the show began at last. And mercy me, it did not disappoint.
For those who, like me, were not familiar with Walker’s tale, a brief synopsis: our (anti-)hero, the master criminal Zastrozzi, scourge of Europe and self-appointed judge of humanity, has spent the last 3 years tearing across the continent in search of the artist whom he holds responsible for the death of his Mother. Accompanying him in his epic quest for revenge are the brutal Bernardo (a wonderfully snarling Matt Beaubien) and sensuous, deadly Matilda (Kyla Hawley, making naughty fun again). His quarry, the mad painter Verezzi, is played with over-the-top glee by Aaron Mellway, dressed like my 70’s-era Mego Joker action figure and loving every minute of it. Protecting him is Victor, aka Will Lafrance, a man torn between his duty and, well, common fucking sense. He pulls it off nicely. And torn between both camps is innocent Julia (a very solid Megan Cameron), proud and kind, but destined for more than she counted on.
At the heart of it all is Zastrozzi himself, played by my good buddy Smooth Tim Oberholzer. So yeah, I’m biased, but fuck that shit…Tim OWNS this role from start to finish, revelling in Zastrozzi’s twisted philosophies, sparkling wit, and resplendent ruffled shirts. I’m happy to say this is easily one of my fav’rit performances I’ve seen so far this year, and I’m kinda guessing it’ll hold up over the coming months. Tim seems tailor made for this role, and if the run were longer than a paltry four nights I’d gladly come back and catch it again. I know Tim was looking forward to this role, and I’m so goddamn glad it turned out as amazing as it did. Oh, and the swordplay..? Wicked cool fun. The icing on a particularly sinful cake.
So, really, congratulations to Algonquin for a great season, and to the whole ZASTROZZI team for a job incredibly well done. I am officially impressed…and awaiting great things NEXT season. Believe me, I’ll be there. If you don’t have your ticket for the remaining shows (two more as of this writing), move your butt now, because there aren’t many left. Nor should there be. Great acting, set, costumes, music, lights…this is a student show..? Fuck me. I guess Ottawa is just that awesome.
Peace, love and soul (for as long as it amuses me to let you retain these things),
The Visitor (and Winston)