So, MAGNETIC NORTH. Even after a year of writing this thing, there’s still plenty theatre-wise I haven’t done, and today was my day to pop my MagNorth cherry. A theatre festival that divides its time between Ottawa and, well, somewhere ELSE in Canada from year to year, but always returning to home base in Bytowne, which sounds like a just fine idea to me. The Festival runs from June 3-11th at various familiar locations, and tonight was opening night. Almost seems like it calls for an elaborate, fancy ceremony of some type…
…no, no. I think what’s called for here is a wedding. And can we Jew that up a little? Or a lot? Or even completely? Perfect. We now have a fine recipe for YICHUD by Julie Tepperman, from the good folks at Theatre Passe-Muraille and Convergence Theatre in T-Dot. The show was at good old Academic Hall on Ottawa U campus, and I met up with familiar and friendly faces like Nancy Kenny, Andrew ‘Tweedy’ Snowdon, Brad Long, Wayne Current, Tania Levy, Dropped Name, Name Dropper, and even Notable Personage! Sorry, I should really stop doing that all the time. but it’s the only way I get people to READ this thing!
Anyhoo, we entered into a party in full swing. The ladies of the Wedding Party were dancing up a storm on the main stage (including my li’l buddies Stef diGaetano of RED NOSES and Jodi Morden from UNDER MILK WOOD), while out in the lobby the lads were getting rowdy to traditional but raucous tunes (including Mike Kosowan of Insensitivity Training, Sanitas Theatre, and writer of youth infringement hit TRAPPED IN A VOX). I caught some of the action inside before heading back out to dance it up with the boys for a spell, strap on a yarmulke, and just plain get the night off on the right foot. ALL theatre could do with a start like this.
Eventually it came time for the show proper to begin, the tale of the wedding of willful Rachel (the perfectly glowing and brilliant Julie Tepperman herself) and her nervous, hypchondriac suitor Chaim (a frankly hilarious Aaron Willis). As is to be expected at a wedding, there’s some backstage drama…brothers Menachem and Ephraim (Michael Rubenfeld and Jordan Pettie) squabble incessantly over sex and the Torah, and estranged parents Malka and Mordecai (Diane Flacks and Richard Greenblatt) have their own issues, which impact in various ways on Rachel.
In amidst all the dancing, singing, songs and clapping (of which there is a merry lot), there’s a few simple stories going on. Definitely cast in the cloak of orthodox Judaism, to be sure, and I’m told quite convincingly so by my one Jewish go-to source of the evening (thanks again, TL). But of course, any good story goes beyond that. And YICHUD had us all right where it wanted us all along. Rachel and Chaim’s unlikely matching, culminating in their time in the Yichud (seclusion) room, was equally hilarious and beautiful. And there’s a magnificent scene between Flacks and Greenblatt as the parents that’s the most amazing and perfect shift between side-splittingly funny and heart-shatteringly brutal that I’ve yet seen in live theatre. It was wonderful to see…honest, human, sad, funny, real. Likewise for the whole show.
YICHUD is filled with wonderful moments, both sad and glorious. It’s a wonderful way to start this festival, and when we all finally, reluctantly filed out of the theatre after the applause died down, it was off to the festival bar at SAW gallery for whatever more fun we could squeeze out of the evening. I didn’t stay long because, well, I had to get home and write THIS nonsense before heading off to work tomorrow A.M. And I’m happy to write about this sweet show. I’m only sorry that, when I saw Julie Tepperman come into the SAW, I was too chicken to tell her how great her show was. But, hopefully she finds this and groks it. That’d be cool. YICHUD plays til the 6th, and you should go unless you’re a monster with no soul. You’re not, right? Course you’re not. So go. Peace, love and Mazel Tov,
The Visitor (and Winston)