Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page

Coming Up in November 2011

In Theatre on October 31, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Trying to get a much-needed jumpstart on this months preview post of theatrical shenanigans in Ottawa, because HOLY GODDAMNED HELL is there a lot going on this month.  It’s bloody brilliant.

To start, there’s all the shows that started last month, still running over into November.  Shows likethe NAC’s SALT-WATER MOON (until the 5th), Ottawa Little Theatre’s DR.COOK’S GARDEN (also til the 5th), Theatre du Trillium’s TARAM (You guessed it…the 5th), and the just launched WHISPERING PINES at the GCTC (that one plays until the 13th).  Keeping score so far?

Great!  Because the NAC will be quickly following MOON up with AND SLOWLY BEAUTY…, a dee-liteful sounding joint about a man who discovers Chekhov, and is changed forever.  Having just discovered the C-man myself, I can empathize.  Runs from the 7th to 19th in the studio.

Over at the Ottawa Little Theatre (fun fact: it’s actually quite large!) they will be premiering I HATE HAMLET on the 29th thru to December 17th.  If YOU hate Hamet, this just might be the show for you.

The Great Canadian Theatre Company will be reviving a classic piece from one of Ottawa’s most beloved troupes, A Company of Fools, with the new presentation of A MIDWINTERS DREAM TALE from the 29th to Dec 18th.  Ain’t no one does Billy Shakes like the Fools, especially with founding fool Al Connors at the helm.  This one’s can’t miss, folks. For serious.

Over at the Gladstone (still 100% condo-free as of this writing) Theatre, the hard-working heroes at 730 Productions are bringing I DO NOT LIKE THEE, DOCTOR FELL to the stage from the 1st thru 19th.  I can’t WAI T for this one, and not just because it puts Kelly Rigole, Tim Oberholzer and Richard Gelinas on the same stage together.  But…mostly.

Also at the Gladstone, Community Theatre cool kids the Phoenix Players are joining in the fun, putting up their new production of I REMEMBER MAMA from the 24th-26th, and it sounds like a gooder.  There’s even a cat!

More community goodness?  Absolutely!  Over at the Ron Maslin Playhouse, Kanata Theatre struts out Norm Foster’s MAGGIE’S GETTING MARRIED from the 8th to 19th, because sometimes funny things can happen even in Kanata.  And at the Ron Kolbus Theatre (what is it with Ron’s and theatres?), the Lakeside Players are putting up DICK WHITTINGTON, a classic Brit-stylee Panto, which sounds like a good idea to me.  That’s from the 10th-13th.

For your musical needs, Orpheus is getting their Xmas on with WHITE CHRISTMAS at Centrepointe, from the 11th thru 20th.  Orpheus does tend to know them some musicals, folks.  Just saying.

Done?  Heck no, just getting warmed up!  Check it out…one of my fav’rit companies, Evolution Theatre, are back in their new Arts Court home with the highly anticipated IN THE EYES OF STONE DOGS.  Cat Leger, Andy Massingham, and the new crop of gangsters from the Ottawa Theatre School…Yes, it’s another can’t miss, folks.  You heard me.

Meanwhile, over at Ottawa U, John Mighton’s POSSIBLE WORLDS is being put on by…students?  There isn’t really a company name to go on here, gang (tho probably Unicorn Theatre is a good bet), but know this…it’s a free show, it’s from some hard-working, theatre-loving Ottawa U nerds (the good kind), and its gonna be good.  In the same series of shows that brought the dynamite EURYDICE to Studio Leonard-Beaulne in October.  This one’s from the 10th to 12th.

Prefer your theatre in a dingy but lovable tavern?  Say no more!  Hintonburg heroes Chamber Theatre are back with Tremblay’s MARCEL PURSUED BY THE HOUNDS at the Carleton Tavern from the 23rd thru to December 3rd, and it should be the usual amazing time.  As real as theatre gets, gang.

C’est quoi tu dit?  Quelque chose de Francais?  Dit no more!  Aside from TARAM, there’s MEPHISTO at Academic Hall, from Comedie des Deux Rives, from the 8th thru 12th.  The NAC French Theatre presents JACKIE from the 22nd to 26th (and it sounds well cool).  Over at La Nouvelle Scene, they’ll be showing LES 3 EXILS DE CHRISTIAN E. from Theatre du Trillium (I think…pardon, my French is still a little dodgy) from the 16th thru 19th.

One more at LNS, and it oddly coincides with three other shows, that share the identical 4-day run time, because Ottawa theatres (like all good theatres) just hate to make any god damned sense at all.  The shows are:  SAUCE BRUNE from Theatre la CatapulteHIS GRACE from TotoToo…and THIS IS OUR YOUTH from Sock ‘n’ Buskin…all three shows play from November 30th to December 3rd, so decide early what order you want to see them in, okay?  Don’t go confusing yourselves.

And ya didn’t think I’d forget about my acting Coach Brie Barker?  Fuck no..his Sanitas Playback Theatre has a show on the 12th at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama, entitled STORIES OF SACRIFICE.  Sanitas shows are intense deals, folks, and I highly recommend the experience.

More?  Still?  Awright…howabout the visiting Baltimore troupe the Missoula Oblongata, and their one-night-only showing of  THE DAUGHTER OF THE FATHER OF TIME MOTION STUDY, at St.Pauls on Cumberland.  Co-Presented by Ottawa’s own MiCasa Theatre  and directed by Miss Emily Pearlman herself, this is going to be unforgettable, I already guarantee.

And still need more zombies after Halloween and this weeks Walking Dead?  Try the return from the grave of Fringe hit PLAYING DEAD from Dead Unicorn Ink, at Arts Court this time from the 24th to 26th.  Because the only thing cooler than a zombie is a puppet zombie.

Sheesh.  I’m actually getting sore from fucking typing, people…this WAS a lot, right?  I’m not crazy?  And I haven’t even mentioned the regular CRUSH IMPROV, CRYSTAL BASEMENT, GRIMPROV and INSENSITIVITY TRAINING improv shows, or the much-anticipated launch of the UNDERCURRENTS festival on the 21st…Yikes.  I need a vacation again.  Maybe to Toronto, so I could catch Atomic Vaudeville‘s RIDE THE CYCLONE again.  There’s a thought (November 10th thru December 3rd, for those interested…you all should be).  But that’s it for me for now, kids…as always, if you spot something I didn’t, drop me a comment…there’s always room for one more!  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

ETA:   Yes, there’s EVEN FUCKING MORE now!  And it’s so exciting as to well deserve that all-caps expletive just then, because it’s a one-night only remount of Luna Allison’s bloody amazing Fringe show FALLING OPEN, playing on Saturday the 19th at the OSSD.  Tickets for this special fundraising appearance are 25 bucks, which is much cheaper than the grief therapy you’ll need if you miss it a second time.  Trust me.

Pines and Pints at the GCTC

In GCTC on October 30, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Another week, another premiere. Ho hum, don’t these things become positively DREARY after a spell?  I do say…

…Nah, just kidding, premieres are AWESOME!!!  And I got invited to one at the GCTC this week, so you better believe I snapped on my red suspenders and bowtie (fresh from RAGTIME dont’cha know), called up my best girl (the ever-adorkable ™ Nadine Thornhill), and strutted on out to the Oiving Greenboig Theatre for the premiere…WORLD premiere, even, of Richard Sanger’s WHISPERING PINES, directed by Brian Quirt.  I was excited for this one since, unlike last month’s AMELIA, this one had an all hometown cast: Tracey Ferencz (from last season’s THE LIST), Paul Rainville (HEROES, among many others), and Kris Joseph (still garnering accolades for THE TURN OF THE SCREW even now).  I got to preview a scene from the show at the media call last week, and promptly failed to write anything about in in the blog…but I got art!

Awww, they're kissing! Awww...

So anyways, PREMIERE!  Me and the Thornhill mads a sensational entrance, setting the fashion bar cruelly high, but someone had to do it.   Did a little of that mingling thing, spotted a few of the usual suspects in the crowd, got into the premiere mood.  When we entered the theatre, both of us were quite taken with Brian Smith’s elegant set, framed by columns evoking the titular pines.  …Wait, did I just say ‘evoking the titular pines’?  Damn.  That doesn’t SOUND like something I’d say…

The show is in two acts, and takes place in two times, in two countries.  We begin in East Berlin, 1987, where we meet Rabble-rousing troubadour Bruno (Rainville) and his painter/partner Renate (Ferencz).  They seem madly in love, living out their lives under the thumb of the GDR, sticking a fly in the ointment of the machinery where they can, when they receive a visit from a travelling Canadian Scholar, Thomas (Kris Joesph), and everything changes.  In between the rounds of passive-aggressive group drinking (note: you WILL want to drink during this show.  It’s just gonna happen) and singing songs of rebellion, Thomas starts to get perhaps a little too infatuated with Renate.  Which leads Bruno to a fateful decision of his own…

…and all of this leads to Canada, twenty years later, where all the characters reunite to settle what went horribly wrong all those years ago.  I won’t give anything away, but there’s some intriguing premises and threads running through Sanger’s thorougly sociopolitical play, anchored by strong performances from his three leads.  Rainville probably impressed me the most, breathing some real passion into willful romantic Bruno.  And Tracey Ferencz carries the lion’s share of the emotional wallop of the script, and she wears it splendidly.  Kris Joseph, always solid, keeps his streak going here, very convincing as the roving idealist who gets a little too close to his subject matter.

For my part, I was more taken with the first act then the second, which added a few timebending elements that , I must admit, kinda left me cold.  The early scenes with the then-friends getting to know one another, even as the darker elements of the tale start weaving themselves in, kept me the most rivetted.  A little of the dialogue got kinda cliched in prepared for LOTS of musing on ‘truth, love and freedom’.  Ewan MacGregor’s character from MOULIN ROUGE would apparently have been right at home in this production (not necessarily a bad thing, now…that movie rocked).  And some of the projected images on the back wall, which run throughout the show, don’t always seem to be doing anything but  being there (although some ARE quite lovely and evocative…there I go evoking again!  What is it with me today?)

So, WHISPERING PINES…I guess I have to say I didn’t love it quite as much as I wanted to, but there is still plenty I found to like in this show, which I’ll be giving a second look in a week or so when I clock my volunteer-time in (the 11th…come on by if ya like!).  As for premiere night, it rounded out in fine style, with some German beer and sausage putting a delicious capper on the evening.  There was also, I believe, some lederhosen involved.  But that’s another story.  Peace, love and soul, internet,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Somerset’s Circle

In Theatre on October 28, 2011 at 1:09 am

There’s something I really love about checking out a show from a group, or at a theatre that I’ve never seen before.   Gives one that real pioneer spirit, you dig?  And if anyone gets into the pioneer spirit, it’s effete pampered sissies like me.  So off I went, venturing far, far into the untold reaches of New Edinburgh, where the busses do not dare to run, to check out something new.

…well, after a quick dinner and pint at the pub, of course, and THEN I was off, in search of the Elmwood theatre.  And yes, yes, I DID realize by the time I got down there that I probably should have checked the online map before I left the house (no, I STILL don’t have a cellphone…stop laughing at me, Nancy!), but I had the general direction in my head.  I wandered off with plenty of time,and…and…holy shit, is EVERYONE rich out in these parts?  Have I never been out here before, ever?  My God!  I think I just realized the evolutionary purpose of Vanier…it’s like a sort of civic Van Allen radiation belt, protecting the good folk of Rockliffe Park from unwanted detritus.  No WONDER the busses don’t run out here!  I was terrified I would set off some sort of automated vagrancy alarm with every mansion I passed.

I finally arrived at the by now expectedly-palatial Elmwood school, a sort of Hogwarts for people far better than you or I, figuring I was laughably early and would have to sit on some bench or other for an hour to pass the time.  Of course, as soon as I entered, there was a spread laid out that shamed the NAC premiere I just attended last week.  And free wine!  What the…was this what it was like EVERY time a play happened here?  I’m coming here ALL the time from now on!

Turns out, no.  Tonight just happened to be a fundraiser for the Laurentian chapter of the IODE, which oddly enough none of the literature there bothered to elucidate upon (the acronym, that is).  Luckily  I’m home now, have internet access once again, so you can see for yourselves.  They seem like a swell bunch.

After politely stuffing my face with a modest handful of nibbles (they had whole plates full of mini-eclairs!  And real fudge!  I LOVE this theatre!!), I finally headed on in to the space itself, a modest room with a nicely raised stage, so I didn’t fret the loss of stadium-style seating any.  And oh yeah, after all this rambling about posh neighbourhoods and free food, thee was a bit of theatre I was gonna be talking about, and this is it…Somerset Maugham’s THE CIRCLE, from Linden House Theatre.  A comedy set in the uppercrust England of the 1930’s, and an indictment of the role of men, women and marriage to boot, old Somerset must have had a rollicking good time writing this one, because it’s a helluva treat to watch.

Centered about the well to-do (but scandal plagued) Champion-Cheney family, Government official Arnold (Corey Reay, almost heartbreakingly repressed here) has a few problems to deal with.  His Father (Robin Carter, elegant and crafty in the elder statesman role) is coming home for a visit, at the same time his long-estranged Mother Catherine (Linden House founder Janet Uren, gloriously in-denial as vain Kitty) is returning for the first time in 30 years, along with the best friend of Arnold’s father she ran away with (Robin Bowditch, gut-bustingly magnificent as the scene-devouring Lord ‘Hughie’ Porteous). At the heart of all of this is Arnold’s young wife Elizabeth (Sara Duplancic) and her handsome guest, Teddie Luton.

Now, I’d been wondering about the girl in the poster for this show ever since I saw it…she looked so damned familiar, and it wasn’t until I saw the name that it hit me…Playing Dead!  Right!  I just didn’t recognize wee Sara when she wasn’t being attacked by Zombie puppets (another chance to see just that coming soon)!  And she does marvelous work here as the romantic young trophy wife, desperate for something more.  Her scenes with Robin Carter, and the wonderful Janet Uren, are great to behold, as is most of this show.  The humour is hilariously subversive at times, and the musings on the roles of men and women in society are, sadly, not as out of date as they probably should be.  Extra kudos to the set designers, and costumers too…Elizabeth positively glows in every outfit.

There’s a lot to love in THE CIRCLE, even without the free wine.  Maugham’s script, with all its manipulation, sexual politics, ribaldry and heart, holds up well, and director George Stonyk does it justice.  I’m glad I made the trek through rich-people’s land to Linden House.  And I’ll be back.  The show’s on until the 29th, so catch it if you can!  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Eurydice vs. MacBeth

In Theatre on October 27, 2011 at 10:37 am

Time for a bit of an oddly-themed double-bill of a post: A pair of student show reviews, one as timely as I could make it, the other so woefully out of date it’s actually a little bit sad.  Now, in my defense, that latter one I only saw on the last day of its run, so my review would always have been a touch post-mortem.  Also, it was a free show, so it’s not like I was taking food out of their mouths, all right?  So just let it go.  Would you just LAY OFF for a second?  Sheesh.   Judgemental much?

Ah, it’s all right…we’re very forgiving sorts here at the Visitorium.  So settle in and let me try and dredge up the memories of…wow, has it been 5 days?  Yup, it was last Saturday that I headed on down to Ottawa U. Campus, and beloved Studio Leonard-Beaulne (where I met up with a beautiful and glamorous actor-lady from Toronto…you’re jealous, I can tell.  You should be.) for the final day of Sarah Ruhl’s EURYDICE, courtesy of Unicorn Theatre.  The latest in what seems to be a series of short-run free admission shows showcasing young up and coming directors, in this case one Jodi Sprung-Boyd, Eurydice is of course based on the classic Greek myth about love, the underworld, and all that jazz.  Jodi had the sense to update it, at least in look, just enough to keep the goings-on fresh and fun.  Here our Eurydice (a very vibrant and delightful Adriane Eprecht) is crazy in love with distracted music-master Orpheus (Conor Holash, straddling the line between nerd and action hero quite nicely here).  But the Lord of the Underworld, a scene-stealing Sean Sonier, has other plans, and spirits Eurydice off to the land of the dead, where she meets her long-lost Father (Todd Duckworth in a joyous performance) and is tormented by a smarmy trio of smart-alecky stones (Elise Merrill, Alex Beraldin and Kyle Cunningham).

The show was well paced and a helluva lotta fun, with a pretty impressive set that even included some nifty water effects. Staging, costumes, they really went the whole nine with this one, and it showed.  I especially loved the Father’s ingenious creation of a ‘room’ in the underworld for his confused daughter, and the slow escalation of their relationship as her memories resurfaced down below.  Quite frankly, I’m not surprised we ended up having to cram in right at the back, as the show was packed to capacity for its entire run.  They really should think about charging some money for these things.

But time waits for no man, especially me, and we now have to jump forward to last night, where…exiting news!…I took the O-Train for the first time EVER!  I can’t describe it, it…it’s…

…it’s rather shockingly dull, actually.  Oh well.  It got me there, is the point, there being Carleton Campus.  More specifically the Kailash Mital Theatre (after a quick stop at Oliver’s…shut up, I was thirsty!  What’d we say about judging??) for the launch of Sock ‘n’ Buskin’s new season.  This time around the gang chose old Billy Shakes’ Scottish chestnut MACBETH, directed by Matt Minter.  The gang give the slightly familiar story a nice jolt by adding a dash of MAD MAX to the proceedings…MacBeth and Banquo have armour partially assembled from old license plates, the trio of assassins shamble in wearing dusty cloaks and gasmasks, and the whole set has a running theme of cobbled stone and twisted metal that lends a cool vibe to the whole show.  The costumes from Patrice-Ann Tremblay and soundwork by Minter and Steve Turner, too, are pretty freaking sweet.  Lady Macbeth’s post-modern hoop skirt is a serious hoot.

It was a good opening night crowd, and I was pretty excited for the two leads…Nicholas Amott, who’s impressed me in past Youth Infringement shows, and the awesome RED NOSES at Ottawa U last year, played MacB himself, and did a pretty fantastic job of it.  And Tess McManus, another YI fav’rit (also seen in this years Fringe show SUBNORMALITY) made for a saucy and surprising Lady MacB, twisting poor old Mackers around her seductive fingers, before succumbing to the guilt of her deeds. It was a lot of fun to see.

They had a great large cast assembled for this production, and everyone gave it a solid effort…I have to single out Brennan Richardson as MacDuff, who commanded easy respect on stage (and also took are of the surprisingly awesome fight choreography in the show..I was seriously worried a few times when they were swinging the steel!).  The Weird Sisters (Jillian Bailey, Emily Bradley and Rachel Swatek), a MacB staple if ever there was one, were also handled pretty niftily, slinking with requisite creepiness through a haze of fog-machine glory.  There was a bump or two along the way, sure, but give them a break, it’s goddamned MACBETH.    Overall, it was a rockin’ fun show, with enough high points to make it very worth checking out.

And I got to take the O-Train AGAIN on the way home!  It…it was less interesting this time.  Oh well.  Still a good night out.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)


Moon over Newfoundland

In Theatre on October 23, 2011 at 7:25 pm

This Friday was a pretty exciting night for me…a premiere at the NAC!  Never done an opening night there, and there’s always something really nice about checking out a show at the National Arts Centre.  It just has a swanky vibe, you know?  Once you step inside its hallowed halls, no matter how much of a ratfuck shitbag you are (and you are, stop lying) you just feel classier somehow.  I think its all the little lights.

But like I said, premiere!  And for the season opener no less, a new production of SALT-WATER MOON from Canuck legend David French.  Illiterate that I am, I am woefully unversed in Messr. French’s work (save for the Algonquin college production of THAT SUMMER earlier this year) , but was happy to immerse myself in his world for the evening.  In a pre-show talk from director Micheline Chevrier and NAC Artistic Director Peter Hinton, I (and the several hundred other hoi polloi present for  the event) learned that SWM is one of a series of plays written about the Mercer clan, at various stages of their history.  I’ll be honest, that sounds pretty cool.

This particular chunk of the story takes place in Newfoundland post WWI,  and one night when Jacob Mercer (Jamie Mac) returns to the rock after running away to Toronto for a year, and tries to win back the girl he left behind, Mary Snow (Holly Gauthier-Frankel).  The whole play is a single scene, on a stylized, angular set standing in for a Newfoundland pier.  French’s dialogue is a delight to the ears, and I was hooked early on in this show, laughing out loud just where he would have wanted and leaning forward with eager expectation a few more times than I care to admit.  I didn’t realize until I read the program that Jamie Mac was the artist formerly know as James Stuart MacDonald in the GCTC/NAC co-production VIMY last year, but I was sure glad to see him again.  Especially once I saw how very, very thoroughly he owned the role of romantic rogue Jacob Mercer, with a song in his heart and not a boot-stomping step out of place. Watching him pull out all the stops to woo his old flame, potentially lost to a loathed family rival,  was utterly enthralling…and Holly Gauthier-Frankel gave just as good as she got as fiery Mary Snow, proud and strong and never letting Jacob forget either.  The two of them played and duelled well off one another…which is excellent, since that’s basically the entire show.

The script is a treasure trove of Newfie lore, Canadiana, and romantic longing, and the gang do great work bringing it all to life.  The set may not be to all likings, but I for one thought it was dead cool.  And Jock Munro’s lighting was mostly gorgeous, tho a few effects seemed to be there just to be there, you know?  Or more likely, I was too dumb to get it.  Anyways, that’s me done being critical…I had a heartwarming blast at MOON and would gladly soak it all in again if I got the chance.  A great start to the season.

After a few moments of neck-craning the celebs in attendance (Divine Alix Sideris and my acting coach Barry Karp high on the list), I ditched the claustrophobic after-party and headed for home on a high.  And I’m always glad for when that happens.  See you next time, NAC, it was a delight.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Under an Ancient Sea

In Theatre on October 20, 2011 at 1:01 pm

I know, I know…you’re not supposed to review the ‘preview’ shows.   It’s a whole thing, and I don’t understand it, but you’re really not supposed to do it.  Well, phooey on that, what am I, REAL media?  Besides, it’s a busy couple of weeks, time is collapsing, everything is happening at once and the preview is all I could make it out for before the end of the damned run, so Hell yes, I’m reviewing it.  So there.

Reviewing what..?  Yes, I should probably get to that one of these days.  Well, a ways back, Arts Court here in Ottawa announced they were adding three groups as resident companies, to make the AC their home and play their respective seasons here.  Those companies were Evolution Theatre, Creations in Vivo, and the first to debut, New Theatre of Ottawa.  They hit the season running this week with the world premiere of Dean Hawes’ DREAMS OF WHALES.  NTO Artistic Director John Koensgen (also director, producer and star of the show…phew!) showed some pretty unabashed enthusiasm for the script in the run-up to this show, and it’s nice to finally see what it was that had one of Ottawa’s premiere theatre kingpins so giddy with delight.  Really, it’s hard to argue with him.

WHALES follows Walter (Koensgen), a retired dentist heading back to his childhood home, and his longtime unrequited love Ruth (the positively radiant Mary Ellis), who has recently her husband.  He arrives to find she’s ejected all the belongings from her home, and locked herself inside.  Walter calls Ruth’s children, timid Susan (Shannon Donnelly, making her Ottawa stage debut here) and loudmouthed George (an almost shockingly, if deliberately unlikeable Brad Long) to try and help out.  Long simmering conflicts, dances under the moonlight and, yes, even a dream or two about whales, follow.

On the backdrop of Sarah Waghorn’s simple, rustic set, the DoW cast bring Hawes’ elegant and magical script very much to life.  Mary Ellis’ Ruth is a perfect joy, wearing her loss and anguish as beautifully as her brightly-coloured jammies.  Koensgen impresses as always, showing some wonderful understated comic timing as shy wallflower Walt.  Shannon Donnelly, a former student of John K’s, gives a sweet and tragic performance as lonely Susan, long the target of her insufferable brother George’s vicious ‘humour’.  And as for Brad Long (sadly lacking a sweater vest in this production but more than making up for it in jig-dancing) he brings the goods as George, whose bluster hides maybe the biggest secrets of anyone.  Shoutout also to some typically cool Al Connors soundwork.  Ravens everywhere!

The story is simple and effective, always engaging, with a few scenes that are particular standouts for me.  Ya gotta feel a flush of price that we in Ottawa are the first ones to see this play, that already feels so familiar I’m surprised it hasn’t been performed for years.  Hopefully, that starts right about now. The show runs til the 29th at Arts Court, so no excuses, you lot.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Coming Up in What’s Left (oops) of October 2011

In Theatre on October 14, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Well, I’ve already missed half the month, haven’t I?  But luckily for me, this is a rather lopsided October for theatre, and besides the killer SPEED-THE-PLOW (currently ongoing at the Gladstone) most of the action takes place in the second half of the month this time around.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

DREAMS OF WHALES from New Theatre of Ottawa.  Kicking off their first full season as a resident company at Arts Court, the company that Koensgen built launches with the world premiere of Dean Hawes’ script.  Hearing how effusive John K is with his praise for this work, and seeing what a sweet cast they have lined up, I can’t wait to check it out.  From the 18th-29th at Arts Court Theatre.

John Koensgen and Mary Ellis on the DOW set

SALT-WATER MOON at the National Arts Centre.  A thoroughly Canadian romantic comedy, kicking off what turns out to be Peter Hinton’s second-last season as Artistic Director.  Good enough for me!  From the 18th-Nov 5th.

DR.COOK’S GARDEN from Ottawa Little Theatre.  99 years?  Holy Kites!  The OLT just keeps ’em coming, and this production of Ira Levin’s thriller sounds like a particularly fun one.  From the 18th-Nov 5th.

THE CIRCLE from Linden House Theatre.  A little Somerset Maugham to ease those October blahs sounds like good medicine to me.From the 20th-29th at the Elmwood Theatre.

WHISPERING PINES from the Great Canadian Theatre Company.  I hear good buzz indeed about this show, playing over at the Irving Greenberg as the 2nd show of the GCTC’s current season.  And about time we got Kris Joseph back on an Ottawa stage!  From the 25th-Nov 13th.

MACBETH from Sock’n’Buskin.  I love me some student theatre, and this post-apocalyptic vision of the Scottish Play sounds like a blast.  Tess McManus as Lady Macbeth?  Sold!  From the 26th-30th at the Kailash Mital Theatre on Carleton Campus.

TARAM from Theatre du Trillium.  Oui, I’m heading right back into Franco-Theatre, and this one sounds like a right good time.  Written by and starring  international slam champion Marjolaine Beauchamp.  From the 26th-Nov 5th at La Nouvelle Scene.

EURYDICE from Unicorn Theatre.  A special free presentation from the Ottawa U gang, directed by Jodi Sprung-Boyd, and it sounds dead cool. You should go.  From the 19th-22nd at Studio Leonard-Beaulne.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA with Seventeen Voyces.  Okay, it’s note strictly theatre, but you’ll be missing out if you skip this special screening of the classic Lon Chaney silent film, with live musical accompaniment.  27th and 28th at St.Matthews Church in the Glebe.

OUT OF TIME by Colin Dunne.  A little something that sounds pretty cool from the NAC Dance series, and here I am telling you about it.  Anyone wanna go?  I kinda wanna go.  From the 27th-29th at the NAC Studio.

ZIMMERPROV from GRIMprov.  An Improv show/lab from the mentally disturbed gang known only as GRIMprov, and featuring the music of mister Hans Zimmer.  Not bad for five bucks.  Wednesday the 26th at the The Imperial (329 Bank).

That’s all I got for now…what’d I miss?  And seriously, October, we couldn’t have spread this out a little better?  I’m hardly even gonna see Winston for the next 2 weeks!  Ah well.  As always, I am willing to suffer for your art.  Get on out there and see some shows, hey?   And maybe I’ll see you there.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Rebuilding the Third Wall

In Theatre on October 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm

So, a little while back, the Ottawa theatre community got some might grim news (and I’m not talking about losing FamousActressNancyKenny to Toronto, tho I’m still a little verklempt about that, thank you very much)…namely, that veteran company THIRD WALL THEATRE was being forced to cancel their upcoming 11th season due to budgetary constraints.  Now, I think we can all agree that that’s some goddam horseshit right there, and the next time you see ‘budgetary constraints’, go right ahead and kick them in the nuts.

But life goes on, and so too does Third Wall, who are making the best of a bad situation with what Artistic director James Richardson calls the EMPTY SPACE SERIES. A planned string of one-off events, staged readings and fundraisers, the series got its debut just last night at the Glebe St.James United Church with a night of readings of short stories by Anton Chekhov, by local legends Kristina Watt and Andy Massingham (with an able assist from James Richardson himself).  Heading as I was into some serious Third Wall withdrawal, I was all too happy to attend.  An added bonus was that, despite all odds, I had never actually been exposed to Chekhov’s work before!

I mean, Spock, okay, but this guy..?

Amidst a nice size crowd, the gang took the stage and took off running with the first of six short stories of the evening, THE TRANSGRESSION. I noticed a few things rather quickly…first, that listening to Andy and Kristina read is a grand bloody privilege.  And second, that I’ve been missing out by ignoring messr. Chekhov all these years.  His stories were beautiful, heartbreaking and hilarious, often all at once, and the actors did marvelously at bringing his tales to life, even in a simple reading setting.

Amidst the other stories (MISERY, FAT AND THIN, THE CHORUS GIRL, THE BEGGAR and VEROTCHKA) were also readings from the love letters shared between Anton and his actress-amour Olga Knipper, aptly performed by Richardson and Watt.  Some wonderful humour amidst the sadness and longing in those words, and it was rather remarkable to hear them read aloud like that.  It was an absolutely gorgeous evening…Bravos all around!
The decision to go with the works of Chekhov didn’t spring out of nowhere…Third Wall’s first show of the season WAS to have been a production of AC’s THREE SISTERS, in conjunction with the Ottawa U drama guild.  It was happily relayed at the reading that Ottawa U will be going ahead with the production come this December, joined by some of 3rd Wall’s resident acting company, and ya know I’ll be looking forward to THAT one.  As for the company itself, the next Empty Space series will take place on January the 18th, with a reading of Henry Beissel’s WHERE SHALL THE BIRDS FLY.  And if you wanna help the gang out before that (and get all classily tipsy while you’re at it), their OFF THE WALL wine tasting event is coming up on October the 29th at Mercury Lounge, which I think you know you want to check out.

I’m hoping for nothing but the best during this time of restructuring and planning by James R. and the 3rd Wall gang, and can’t wait for the next reading.  And, of course, next year’s triumphant return to a full season…oh yeah, I’m calling it.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Faster than a Speeding Plow

In Theatre on October 6, 2011 at 7:49 pm

So how great of a triple-win day was yesterday?  Started off with a coffee date downtown with Fringe superheroine and Ubermom Natalie Joy Quesnel, wherein we discussed all things Fringey, plotted against our enemies, and just generally had a swell time chillin’.  Then it was, of course, new comic day, and I scored myself the new MIGHTY SAMSON and TUROK, not to mention a little Grant & Rags ACTION COMICS action.  Win.

51 titles too many in this 'relaunch'? Perhaps. Perhaps.

But of course, this being a theatrical-centric bit of bloggery, ya know there’s gotta be some showtime coming up for the grand finale.  And yes indeed, not only was there a show last night, but a premiere no less!  And at the swanky Gladstone ‘Still not condos’ Theatre, one of my fav’rit places to go and take in the sights.  I put on my Sunday best and hustled on down for Plosive Productions‘ kick-off to their part of the new Gladstone season, David Mamet’s SPEED-THE-PLOW.  And I wasn’t the only one…I was doing lots of famous-person-gawking in the opening night crowd (Katie Bunting! Zach Counsil! Dave Dawson!  So much coolness under one roof…).  Even got a chance to chat up director Teri Loretto-Valentik just before it was time to head on in.  Her hubby, certified mad Genius Ivo Valentik, took care of the set for this one, and holey god damned Hell, folks, I haven’t had this much of a gorgeous headache trying to absorb a set since LITTLE MARTYRS.    Very seriously, the slick, sleek forced perspective on the deceptively simple set just HAS to be seen first hand.  It’s a thing of twisted beauty.  Oh, and David Magladry’s lighting is boffo, too.  Killer job all around.

Now, I’d been very much anticipating this show…and not just because I got the chance to ‘do’ a little Mamet myself in the last few classes I had at the OSSD, with my scene partner Julie (John…John…John!  John…).  No, this was also going to be the professional debut of recent Ottawa Theatre School grad miss Kyla Gray, who aside from being a generally fantastic gal, has already been in a couple of the best shows of the last year.  I was stoked to catch her on such a big night.

The play, by the pretty much legendary David Mamet, deals with Bobby Gould (John Muggleton), a newly-promoted head of production for a bigtime Hollywood movie house.   One of his underlings and, theoretically, friends, Charlie Fox (Chris Ralph) shows up one day to drop a golden opportunity in both of their laps..  The only catch is they can’t pitch it until the next morning…and in between them and their golden opportunity is temp worker Karen (Kyla Gray), who Gould has his eye on.  What ensues is a razor-sharp dissection of the duplicity and inhumanity that suffuses the entertainment industry, all told with Mamet’s trademark stop/start swearing-laced dialogue, that’s just damn beautiful to listen to.


John Muggleton, an old hand at the Ottawa Little Theatre, wears weary and worn-down Bobby Gould like a glove here, giving the embattled exec a surprising tenderness, but still oozing the sleaze when the moment calls for it.  And Kyla indeed impresses as seemingly naive Karen…her mid-play scene with Bobby Gould, slowly wearing him down in his apartment, is charming and powerful.  I did actually have a little trouble with some of Mamet’s dialogue for Karen, though…seriously, who says ‘needn’t’ anymore?  But whatever.  Kyla Gray can take your ‘needn’ts’ and turn them into gold, Mamet.  So there.

And I really kinda do have to give a little extra praise to Chris Ralph, playing much against type as the ambitious, and occasionally vicious Charlie Fox.   Ralph positively rocks the joint as the single-minded Fox, a desperate animal ready to use whatever tools are at his disposal to lift himself out of his current sorry state.  It’s awesome to watch.  As is the whole of STP, really…Teri and the gang did a smashing job, and Plosive’s follow up to THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST is a gooder, for sure.  Here’s to a successful run, and hopefully more Mamet in Ottawa, too.  Really, it’s just nice to not being the ONLY one swearing in theatrical circles. Fuck.

Peace, love and soul, Ottawa,

The Visitor (and Winston)

PS:  If you were wondering…there is TOTALLY not a plow in this play, like, ANYwhere.  I looked.  Just a heads up.

May, Can, Do!

In Theatre on October 5, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Last week (late again, I know, I KNOW…) was a very special weekend here in the Ottawa theatre community, you bet.   That’s because it was the second anniversary of that little theatre company that could, MAY CAN THEATRE.  The high-powered mutant offspring of local boys Cory Thibert and Tony Adams, May Can is fresh from a cracking good first run at the Ottawa Fringe Festival with their sleeper hit SOUNDS FROM THE TURTLE SHELL (along with chanteuse extraordinaire Erin Lindsay), though I’d seen them previously in their killer production of MacIvor’s YOU ARE HERE, and the delightfully insane DANGER PROJECT at Avant Garde.  Basically, the May Can gang are talented, fun and raring to go, and for a couple of days at Cafe Alt on the Ottawa U campus, they celebrated like theatre people do…with more theatre (and cheap beer).

The party, given the fairly accurate title of MAYHEM WITH MAY CAN, featured a two-day roster of original work, guest artists, live music and all around fun-ness.  Looking at some of the pictures, I see I missed a few bits of awesome on the first, Friday outing…I KNEW I should have gone both nights!  But no time for regrets, lets cover what cool stuff I DID get to witness.  I made my way into Cafe Alt on the Saturday nite of the event to a decent crowd that grew as the evening went on.  Cory and tony were there, being their usual good-host selves, and treated us to a few original songs once the entertainment got underway.  There were also a few cool stories by Martin Glassford, one of which included a spot-on Fresh Prince lyrical recitation, and some Happy Pun-Time with Leslie Cserepy.

But the main event, for me, were two new and original mini-plays from May Can.  The first up was 297 BAYVIEW CLINIC, co-written by Cory Thibert and EXES AND OHS star Fiona Green, and directed by Mekdes Teshome.  Starring Emily Carvell and Danielle Savoie, and set in the waiting room of a sex clinic, it tells the meeting of two extraordinarily different young women, each there for very different reasons.  CLINIC is a great, funny bit, marked by Danielle Savoie’s growling tough-girl Sasha, and Emily Carvell’s hysterically bubbly Karen.  The banter between them was awfully damn funny, and happily rang true throughout.  As I said, it was a short one, hardly ten minutes, and it wasn’t enough!  Short, sweet, smart, seriously well-acted…more, please.

I stole this picture from their Facebook page! I kind of hope that's ok.

And happily, there WAS more, with the second playlet of the night, this time written and directed entirely by Cory T, THE ROOM OUTSIDE THE ROOM.  Another waiting room theme story, and a rare one-manner for may Can, ROOM starred Tony Adams as a somewhat askew aspiring actor, anxiously waiting for his turn at an audition.  As he waits, he tells us of his dysfunctional home life, and the bizarre lengths he goes to to try and nail a part.  Tony delivers the goods and holds his own on the solo stage, pulling off an original, funny  and tender performance.  Once again, I found myself wantin’ more when the too-short scene was over.  The lad’s got some chops, and it was nice to see him stretch a little.  Also, I’m getting jealous of Cory’s playwritin’ mojo.  Gotta get me some of that.

The night wrapped up with Erin Lindsay and her musical partner James rockin’ out some tunes, as I sadly rushed out to catch a last bus home.  But it was mighty sweet seeing the boys (and girls) indulge themselves in some pure theatrical fun, with the promise of more on the horizon.  I’ll keep y’all apprised of whatever comes next for May Can…trust me, you’re gonna want in.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

PS:  I almost forgot…Happy Anniversary!