Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

Lear of the Glebe

In Theatre on March 30, 2012 at 12:48 am

I’d never seen KING LEAR before tonite.  Do ya believe that?  To be honest, tho, there’s plenty of theatre classix, Shakespeare included, that I’ve never partook in…and I hear I am, taking in my first of TWO Kings Lear in almost as many months.  In May, the National Arts Centre will take their stab at it, which I’m sure will be FINE and all that….but tonight the good folks at GNAG theatre (aka the Glebe Neighbourhood Activities Group, FYI) earned the right to shout FIRST!  …you know, at least for this year.

And while I’ll admit to being a TOUCH hesitant about taking in  a three hour rendition of one of the Bard’s most ponderous epics, by a community group I’d never even heard of no less, I was buoyed by a few important facts.  One:  The show was being directed by Eleanor Crowder, who is kind of a big noise in the local Shakespeare scene, recently of the Salamander Shakespeare company (soon to be making waves with her new gang, Bear and Company).  Two: the intermission was licensed.  Oh, GNAG, you do know the way to an aging sinner’s heart, you do.

"That way lies madness! I'll...oh no, here it is, next to the booze."

The story, for those like me who have spent most of their lives avoiding culture, centers on titular and aging King Lear, who wants to divvy up his kingdom among his three daughters.  Two of them fawn over him with false praise, and he showers them with land and titles. The third and most loving, Cordelia (Shakespeare was a Buffy fan?  Cool!), refuses to give in to temptation and holds on to her dignity, keeping her love in her heart rather than her words.   Then, in perhaps the most spectacular display of parental overreaction in fictional history, Lear disowns her for failing to tell him what a cool guy he is, and banishes his closest advisor for good measure.  He…he doesn’t make the best of first impressions, our man Lear.

What follows is a…well, frankly, Shakespearean series of events involving a fool, a bastard, a madman (or is he..?), lots of messengers, a few untimely slayings and some cringeworthy eye-gouging.  It’s likely one of Billy Shakes’ most daunting works, and props to the GNAG gang for tackling it, and pulling it off quite so nicely as well.  Not all of the performances are great, but all ARE enthusiastic, which is just what you should hope for in an amateur production.  And leading man Ron Hagglund cuts an imposing and booming Lear, never failing to command when he is on stage.  Jennifer Hurd is appropriately angelic as the noble Cordelia, while Angela Perry and Reena Belford shine as her wicked sisters Goneril and Regan, who chew some impressive scenery as the show goes on.

Some of the other players in the byzantine plot do themselves proud also…Steve Gluck as framed hero Edgar, who disguises himself as gloriously mad ‘Poor Tom’, seems to be having great fun with the multitude of sides to his character.  And Joel Westheimer as Edgar’s scheming brother Edmund the bastard, a villain after Blackadder’s own heart, cuts a great damn villain.  Tom Lips as the King’s fool is another delightful presence onstage, and then there’s Bryan Morris’ stalwart servant Kent…lots to enjoy here, folks, is what I’m saying.

But there are two other things I really want to mention about this production, besides the performers.  One is Elanor Crowders VERY cool use of sound in the show.  Staged basically in the round, she makes copious use of off-stage sounds, crashes, shouts, crowd noises and what have you, sometimes to the point of nearly drowning out the action onstage.  And I have NO PROBLEM with that, and neither should you.  Heck, I’m a David Lynch fan, I’m gonna complain about ambient noise?  The sounds from the King’s gaggle of offstage knights in act one are especially effective, as are the cries of ‘CORNWALL!” from all around you during the final battle scenes.

Which is the OTHER thing I wanted to mention …the fight scenes.  Now, it’s an amateur production, so you’re not exactly gonna get CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON when the fighting starts.   So I ask you…why NOT use small children do do the dirty work?  It’s a bloody brilliant touch, and the sight of those little kids storming on stage, swords in hand, and doubtless having the time of their lives, is worth the price of admission in itself.   Kudos to fightmeisters John Brogan and Chris McLeod for good fun work on the choreography (and yes, a few adults get in on the action, too).

This LEAR is a pretty fun night out, running a neat three hours counting intermission.  I’ll be curious to compare it to the all-aboriginal version the NAC has cooking next (and yes, I know there will be a SLIGHT budgetary difference…never fear, the Visitor does not discriminate).  Thanks for the show, GNAG gang…I’m glad I came.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)


Dostoyevsky vs. Chekhov

In Theatre on March 29, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Gots to be quick about this one…late already, and less than 90 minutes until I gotta catch the NEXT show!  A visitor’s ridiculous work is never done, folks…

So as you can see from the title, there’s a nice Russian double-bill going on in  this post.  The first I caught a couple of days ago in the studio space at the GCTC, 9th Hour Theatre‘s production of CRIME AND PUNISHMENT by mad Fyodor Dostoyevsky.   Paring the classic down to a sparse 75-minutes in a new adaptation from Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus, director Megan Piercey Monafu stages the show in a sort-of 3/4 round, surrounding 3 simple set pieces that serve as the various locales in the story.  The tale of a rather gruesome murder centers around bitter intellectual Raskalnikov, played quite solidly by David Benedict Brown, who knew both victims.  This connection, and his more alarming theories on evil and responsibility bring him to  the attention of mild-mannered inspector Porfiry (Paul Washer, delightfully unassuming a the bloodhounded detective), as well as complicating his relationship with a haunted woman in his life (Gabrielle Lazarovitz, who is highly engaging as the unshakeable Sonia).

The play bops between events and their retelling, with Washer and Lazarovitz doing good double-duty from time to time as other supporting characters…Waher is especially grand a Sonia’s drunken father, challenging us to feel sorry for him even as he wallows in sin.  The whole play is an examination of morality and faith, and 9th Hour pulls it off nicely.  Expecially cool is the use of live music, courtesy of cellist Jordan Dyck, who’s sounds deepen the mysteries unfolding.  C&P is a nifty production, and deserves some bigger houses than it’s been getting.  Ya still got a few more days (and it’s right nearby if EAST OF BERLIN is sold out.  Which it is, by the way).

And because one Russian legend just isn’t enough for me, the very next night I took in Third Wall Theatre‘s CHEKHOV REVISITED at the St.James United Church (coincidentally, right now is when 3rd Wall’s second show WOULD be playing in the aforementioned GCTC studio, if things hadn’t gone a little wonky for them…but they’ll be back!).  Thanks to the splendid Vicki M, who helped me out with a ticket she had one, we both got to check out the company’s second run at Anton C.’s gorgeous prose, as well as some of the love letters he exchanged with actress Olga Knipper.  Performing the reading duties one again were Andy Massingham, Kristina Watt, and artistic director James Richardson.  From the endearingly amusing A WORK OF ART to the profoundly heartfelt LADY WITH THE LAP DOG, it was an utter joy to hear, splendid words from amazing talents.  If you weren’t moved, you were likely comatose.  Probably just as well you were already in a church, I suppose…

Wow, these are really short, but I really AM in a hurry right now…gotta dash, but thanks to both these companies for great nights out.  Show’em some love, would ya?  See you at the theatre, Ottawa.  Peace, love and soul,

the Visitor (and Winston)

Out with the Doubt

In Theatre on March 27, 2012 at 9:59 am

Another late show review! oh well, at least I’m consistent.   In your FACE, Ottawa weather patterns!

This one was a couple nights ago, and I was actually planning on doing something ELSE that same evening.  But there was a thing, it was crowded, I was cold, and one thing being equal to another I thought, ‘Fuck it, the OLT is right down the street’, and I was off.  The OLT being, of course, the venerable Ottawa Little Theatre, on the verge of making history with their One-Hundredth season of community theatre here in O-town, and more power to them.  I darted on in to the biggest little theatre of them all, picked up a ticket (and compared cat photos with the lovely Kiersten Hanly, because why the Hell not?), and hustled up the stairs.

The show that evening was SELF HELP by playwriting machine Norm Foster, and if I’m not mistaken this is one of his…well, how else does one put it?  One of his ‘zanier’ works, and happily, it DOES work.  The story of two struggling actors, Hal and Cindy Savage (Dale MacEachern and Chantal Plante), who decide to ditch their workaday grind and live the high life, faking it to make it as a pair of self-help gurus spouting platitudes and nonsense to the adoring masses.  The plan works like a charm  and the pair end up living in the lap of luxury…but completely miserable with one another.

Miserable, but famous. Could be worse.

After a few introductory scenes, including a frankly perfect staging of the Savages working their stage mojo at a convention or workshop, or WHATEVER it is self-help ‘gurus’ do, we settle in to the meat of the plot, which as said is a fairly wacky affair involving a troublesome gardener, dim housemaid, and the most penis jokes this side of a Kevin Smith movie.  All of it centers around Hal and Cindy, played wonderfully by MacEachern and Plante, who inhabit the endearing power couple with charm and relish.  They make it very easy indeed to root for the Savages, even when things are at their weirdest and silliest.  There’s solid supporting work all around them…Andrew Stewart as sneering reporter Andrew Cash, Ian Fraser as marvelously deadpan Detective Snow, Michele Snyder as brash agent Ruby Delvecchio, and Cindy Beaton (stealing scenes-a-plenty) as scatterbrained housemaid Bernice.

It ain’t a deep show, folks, but it IS a funny one, with lots of borderline farce action, satirical skewering of the self-help industry,  and rapid fire double (and occasionally single) entendres flying all about the place.  Really, it’s kind of hard NOT to like the show, and director Joan Sullivan-Eady gets props for keeping everything light, fast and fun.  A silly good time out at the theatre, and what the Hell else do you want?  She runs until April 7th, so plenty of opportunities to help yourself to some laffs.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

My Mamamouchi

In Theatre on March 27, 2012 at 1:32 am

I’m working on day 4 of having a cellphone/personal hate machine, and I think I’m finally starting to suss out its function.  It’s there to remind you that nobody loves you, right?  Also, to tell the time.  Both  useful functions, to be sure, and I thank my dark and hateful god for my PHM, every lonely second of every awful day.  I’m thinking of loading ANGRY BIRDS, too.  I hear that’s cool.

However, despite having the voice of destruction in my breast pocket, there’s still fun work to be done, ie: theatre to see and review (fun theatre fact: the reason they make you turn your cellphones off during a performance?  They love you.), and in tonite’s case that was back at good old Ottawa U, and Academic Hall.  Now, as a semi-useful amateur fan/reviewer, even I have learned by now that if at all possible, you don’t review preview shows, OR dress rehearsals.  But in tonite’s case, I happen to have been invited to do exactly that, and so I headed out on normally dark theatre Monday to check out a much-anticipated show…MAMAMOUCHI, aka Le Bourgeouis Gentilhomme, from that French rascal Moliere.  The show was directed by Jodi Sprung-Boyd, who helmed last year’s dee-liteful EURYDICE and…

…okay, confession time.  I had actually planned on auditioning for this show, when the offers started coming out late last year.  I read the play, and even prepared a monologue from another Moliere play (which I still have half-memorized, if you should feel like challenging me to a read).  But in the end I chickened out, worried that the play was more of a student thing and I’d be the creepy old man at the auditions.  Which I totally WOULD have been, but I was still really intrigued to see the show…after reading the play, and realizing what a fucking funny cat Moliere WAS, little would have kept me away.  And now as I HAVE seen it…shit, I wanna see it again.

The play, a skewering of class structure and ambition, centers around the hopelessly deluded Monsieur Jourdain, a working-class man of wealth who longs to be part of the ‘noble’ aristocracy.  To this end, he hires several different Masters (a music master, dance master, fencing master, philosophy master…) to better him…and he perfectly fails to grasp even one of their lessons.  After nearly starting a war between the lot of them, we learn that the boastful Jourdain has a hopeless crush on the Marquise Dorimene, whom he maintains contact with through the ‘friendship’ of the leeching gentleman Dorante.  Meanwhile, his wife and maid suffer his indignities, while his daughter is denied the marriage to her love she desires, because he lacks the station  Jourdain holds above all else.

Amidst all this class warfare and self-hatred/delusion, a fantastic show emerges.  From the opening moments in the lobby where the action gets underway, to the astonishingly opulent set decoration awaiting inside the theatre, Jodi has managed to quietly put together what I’m happily calling one of the most outstandingly fun shows of the year in this town.  Set to a rousing musical score by Jean-Baptiste de Lully, and featuring loads of positively gorgeous singing and dancing (worthy of the masters indeed), MAMAMOUCHI is a joyous, raucous hit from moment one.  And I admit…I was kinda tired when I arrived, and when I saw in the program that the runtime was 2 and a 1/2 HOURS…I kinda cringed.  I didn’t know if I’d make it that long.  But trust me…you won’t want it to end.

The performances are solid all around, and in some cases just bloody wonderful.  Alexandre Gauthier fucking KILLS it as Monsieur Jourdain, dimwit and underdog all in one.  Zach Raynor does epic double-shift work as both the Dance Master, and the scheming fop Dorante, and excels at both roles.  Likewise Dramturge Adriane Epprecht as the Music Master and loudmouth maid Nicole, a joy every moment on stage. Matthew Harding as the slightly-too emphatic Philosophy Master and hopeful boyfriend Cleonte, does great work here, as well as his man Friday Covielle, aka Kyle Cunningham (who himself doubles as the splendidly dismissive Tailor earlier on).  And Mado Manseau knocks it out of the park several times as Jourdain’s wife, easily the most sensible member of the mostly insane cast.  Jess laFrance as Dorimene, hoop skirt and all, is perfectly endearing, as well as Rideau-award nominated Cory Thibert and Tony Adams as the ever-present lackeys of Jourdain, lending new meaning to the term ‘supporting role’.  Seriously, they have to lift things a LOT.

The show is a gem, a perfect fun ride from beginning to end, and as crowded as my current week is already, I’m trying to figure out a way to see it again.  The name of the show, MAMAMOUCHI, is taken from a nonsense word used in a closing-act deception against the witless  Jourdain that culminates in a musical number that will be hard to beat for sheer fun in this theatre year. Gotta mention the choreography from Rachel O’Brien, and Pirate Jenny Gabby Lalonde, as well as the wicked costumes from Patrice-Ann Forbes.  And, well…everything else.  It’s so much god-damn fun…why are you still reading this?  Clear your evening, because this only runs until the 31st (tho I personally think they should consider extending it an extra week).

Also, there’s dancing at the end.  What more do ya want?  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Back to Berlin

In GCTC, Theatre on March 22, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Been having a slow kinda week here at the Visitorium…aside from the NAC season launch, I haven’t caught a single show.  I blame the unseasonably warm weather, which is giving me a bad case of the lazies.  Thank goodness I already HAD tickets for something tonite, or I probably would have stayed home yet again, rewatching old British sitcoms or finishing off my latest FANTASTIC FOUR trade paperback.

This evenings show was the opening night performance of Hannah Moscovitch’s EAST OF BERLIN at the GCTC.  Directed by the (safe to say) brilliant Joel Beddows, currently nominated for best directing Prix Rideau Awards in TWO languages, Hannah’s play tells the story of Rudi (Simon Bradshaw), a young German growing up in Paraguay in the late ’50s/early ’60’s,  who makes some unfortunate discoveries about just what his Father did for the Nazis during the war (hint: it was pretty much the worst thing you could think of).  His revelation, and his initial knee-jerk retaliation, both center around his friend Hermann (Pierre Antoine Lafon Simard), with whom he shares a fractured relationship to say the least.  Fleeing back to his homeland, Rudi meets his first real-live Jew, the beautiful Sarah (Catherine Boutin), searching for answers to her own past as the child of a deathcamp survivor.  They fall in love, even while Rudi keeps the truth of HIS past a secret.  Not that things like that EVER end well…


First things first…the set, by mad genius Ivo Valentik, is bloody AMAZING.  He may have topped himself with the towering, vaguely disturbing and off-kilter madhouse that frames all the onstage action.  And for Ivo to top himself, well, that’s saying something.  Martin Conboy’s lighting, and Jean Michel Ouimet’s haunting soundscapes also hit all  the right marks.  And the performances are solid indeed…Simard as too-smart-for-his-own-good outsider Hermann, and Boutin as clever, searching Sarah both turn in great work.
But it’s Simon Bradshaw, who is onstage for every scene of the 100 minute runtime, whose show this is to make or break, and sweet motherfucking HELL does he ever make it.  Simon’s flawless performance as the deluded, tortured, chain-smoking Rudi is absolutely inspiring, and makes this easily one of the most must-see shows of 2012.  He especially has a way with Moscovitch’s particularly dark and funny gallows humour (more than one Hitler joke abounds in the savvy script…who says Ottawa stages don’t take chances?) that both endears and horrifies at the same time.   Joel’s put together one impressive show here gang, and if there’s any justice the GCTC has a hit on their hands.  I know I’ll be more than happy to catch it again when I do my volunteer shift in a couple weeks.  Hope to see some of you there!  Peace, love and soul

The Visitor (and Winston)


Girl Power at the NAC

In Theatre on March 21, 2012 at 10:09 am

In my ongoing case of mistaken identity, wherein people of influence continue to confuse me with ‘media’, I had something of a first last night…I got myself invited to the new season launch at Canada’s National Arts Centre, which is every bit as swanky as it sounds.  I gotta admit, I was pretty stoked…the only thing that overshadowed my excitement was the fact that I finally joined the cellphone generation earlier that day (now text me, you fiends, and justify my existence!).

My first ever phone-pic! Say hi, Winston!

But, since I wouldn’t be able to make the damned space-phone work for some time yet…something about simcards and technobabble and whatnot…I put the damnable thing away for the time being and sidled into the NAC studio space with a goodly crowd of fellow seekers of knowledge.   It was a solid turnout, and mayhap because this was the last season to be launched by outgoing Artistic Director Peter Hinton.  And it looks like he’d going out with a bang.

For the first time ever, the NAC has scheduled an entire season of shows completely created by female playwrights.  It’s actually kind of a brilliant non-gimmick, in that it’s only a gimmick if you’re sexist.  As Hinton himself pointed out, when he announced the LAST season, that happened to have naught but MALE playwrights at its core, nobody said boo.  But in interviews now, people are madly curious about why anyone would do such a thing as let the girls out to play.  It’s beautifully telling.  Myself, I’m more embarrassed at how unfamiliar I am with most (not all, tho!) of the works and scribes involved, but I’m happy that I’ll get a chance to remedy that next season.  The showlist is:

THE GLACE BAY MINERS’ MUSEUM by Wendy Lill – Based on the book by Sheldon Currie, and the same source that inspired the flick MARGARET’S MUSEUM.  Andy Massingham himself told me at the launch that it was one of the most beautiful  pieces of theatre he ever done seen, so that’s more than good enough for me.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen – Okay, okay, ya knew they HAD to have an Austen in an all-gal season, right?  Funny tho, that they picked the SAME Jane Austen piece that the Ottawa Little Theatre is doing in THEIR next season.  Let the comparisons begin!

METAMORPHOSES by Mary Zimmerman – Based on the works of that ancient madman Ovid, there’s lots of mythic retelling AND a swimming pool in this one.  So there.

INNOCENCE LOST by Beverley Cooper – Based on a real-life murder case in 1959 that ended up convicting a young boy, later proven innocent in 2007..!  Sounds creepy cool.

BIG MAMA! THE WILLIE MAE THORNTON STORY by Audrei-Kairen – Starring the great Jackie Richardson, and telling the story of the larger than life jazz legend who wrote Hound Dog, and got paid a whole 500 bucks for it.  This one sounds AWESOME.

THIRSTY by Dionne Brand – Brand’s one of the NAC playwrights-in-residence, and she’s adapting her own poem into a full-blown play here, in the only piece this season to be directed by Peter Hinton hisself.

THE EDWARD CURTIS PROJECT by Marie Clements – A joint NAC/GCTC production, following the highly succesful VIMY team-up, as well as being a fusion of theatre and photo exhibit.  Remember to head over to the Oiving Greenboig theatre for this one!

MISS CALEDONIA by Melody A.Johnson – YAY, one I know! Okay, okay, I know PRIDE AND PREJUDICE too, of course, but I’ve actually SEEN this production!   It was one of my fav’rits at SUMMERWORKS two years ago (I seen it twice), and I could not be happier that it’s coming to the NAC, along with musical accompaniist Alison Porter.  Trust me, you’re gonna LOVE it.

And rounding out the season in the family series, there are the amazing sounding SANCTUARY SONG by Abigail Richardson Schulte and Marjorie Chan, an opera for children from the pov of an elephant, and TULUGAK: INUIT RAVEN STORIES by Sylvia Cloutier, presenting Inuit legends and stories for all ages.  And I’M an all-aged person!  So I’m going.

I think the NAC and Peter Hinton (who got a lovely warm standing ovation at the launch)  done good here, and they couldn’t have made this season more girl-powerish unless they’d staged a full-blown musical theatre rendition of SPICE WORLD…which, now that I think of it, they TOTALLY should have.

Oh great, now I’m gonna be dream-casting a Spice World production in  my head for the rest of the day.  Let’s see, Tess McManus can be Baby Spice, Nadine Thornhill for Scary…Oh man, this is gonna be AMAZING!

Peace, love and soul, ladies,

The Visitor (and Winston)

the Magic of the Marionette

In Theatre on March 20, 2012 at 10:15 am

Running a few days late with this one, but what else is new?  And I’m still good…even theatrical genius madmen take part of the weekend off, and that seems a fairly apt description of one Ronnie Burkett.  The founder and creative force behind his company, Theatre of Marionettes, Ronnie B is what Jim Henson might have turned out to be if he’d had a few really memorable nightmares as a child.  Which, after having caught his new show PENNY PLAIN at the NAC this past Friday, turns out to be a very, very good  thing.

This is as normal as this show gets.

Taking place on a tiered stage, allowing Ronnie to command his marionette troupe from above, and set in an end-of-days time not nearly far enough from the world we all live in, the titular star of the show is kindly, blind Penny Plain.  I don’t want to give too much away about the rather daunting course of events…one of the first things that sprang to my mind when the show was over was ‘how the Hell do I review THIS??’…but it’s a dark, often hilarious, and occasionally tragic tale, with only the occasional glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.  Featuring a staggering collection of gorgeously handcrafted puppet players who turn out to be one of the most memorable cast of characters you’ll ever catch assembled on any stage…aside from Penny herself, there’s Geoffrey the dog, Jubilee Karloff and her mad mother Queenie, Tuppence, Melvin and Barbara…no, I won’t even TELL you their last names.  There’s lots more, including an almost LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMAN appearance by maybe the only puppeteer (fictional tho he may be) who might be Ronnie Burkett’s better.

The real star of the show is, of course, Ronnie himself, who provides all the movement and voices for the huge cast, aided by sweet lighting from Kevin Humphrey and a soundscape from John Alcorn.  And it’s true that, at times, there may seem to be TOO much going on in PENNY PLAIN…for a one-act with no intermission, there’s a bloody good amount of plot threads to keep track of, lemme tell ya, and they might not all work for you as well as some others.  But seeing this show was, for me, an utterly unforgettable experience, and if you’ve never seen a Burkett show before, then you probably very much NEED to see this one.  The level of artistry is an utter joy to behold, and Ronnie’s passion for the performance comes across in every nuanced gesture.  Maybe the highlight of the whole show for me was just one, simple, quiet moment where Penny sat sadly, patting a dog that wasn’t there. It was so freakin’ gorgeous I almost cried.

The show is NOT for kids, whatever the word ‘marionette’ may conjur up in your mind’s eye.  Leave the little ones at home and come prepared for a dark-ass journey into an amazingly unique theatre.  PENNY runs until April 1st, and if you need even more Ronni B, he’ll be hosting an evening at the 4th stage on Monday the 26th of March, which sounds highly tempting indeed.  Trust me, you’re gonna WANT more marionette after this show.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Monday Foofarah!

In Just me doing stuff on March 19, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Sitting in the apartment with Winston the Cat, wondering why the Hell it’s so hot in the middle of March in Ottawa, and fighting off yet another bout of the mean reds.  And they’re really starting to annoy me, dig?  Tonite is like my Friday nite, I have the next two days off, and I have shit to get DONE. I’m way behind on my Penny Plain review (it’s coming, I swear!), I haven’t done a Foofarah in two weeks, and my mood is threatening to kibosh this one too.  Well, I’ve had enough.  Bite me, sour cloud of despair, you’re fucking FIRED.  At least for a few hours.

…Although, on the topic of grim worldviews, this is my new fav’rit Ramones song:

I just wanna walk right out of this world, ’cause everybody has a poison heart.  Nobody could sing like Joey, and that’s a Foofarah Fact.  Now, to business, if we must:

IN TOWN THIS WEEK:  I’m dropping the first/lat/whatever chance to see moniker, because quite frankly, this way is easier, and sometimes I’m lazy.  What, I’m getting paid for this?  Anyhoo, to start off there’s the aforementioned PENNY PLAIN at the NAC and yeah, it’s very worth seeing.  Plus Sock’n’Buskin’s COMPANY continues, and that’s a great fun time too.At the GCTC , EAST OF BERLIN starts up on the mainstage, and 9th Hour’s CRIME AND PUNISHMENT debuts in the studio.  SELF HELP gets underway at the Ottawa Little Theatre, and II kicks off at La Nouvelle Scene.  All this plus the NAC is announcing their next season lineup this tuesday, and for some insane reason yours truly will be there.  Seany must really like brunch at the Clocktower, is all I’m saying.

GRUPPO RUBATO:  Hey, so on Saturday nite this week, a holy Irish day of rest or some such affair, venerable Ottawa-based theatre kidz Gruppo Rubato held their 10th Anniversary fundraiser!  And although I had planned to catch WE WANT LIFE a second time at the OSSD that evening (sorry, OTS gang, hope ya packed the house without me!), in the end the promise of a well-stocked bar swayed me.  That, and GR’s show AIRPORT SECURITY was actually the second ever show I reviewed on this Chud, so they get props for starting me off on the right foot. Also, I feel kinda bad that, with their long and successful history, AS is the ONLY Rubato show I’ve ever seen.  So it was nice to catch a sneak preview-reading of their upcoming show SNAPSHOT, by the wunnerful Kate Smith, Peter Froelich and Teddy Valentine (who I’d never seen on the stage before, so THAT was coolness).  It was a fun little night, even though I was being a mildly panic-attacked stick in the mud throughout, but people expect that of me by now, right?  Part of my lack of charm and what not.  Bah.  Her’s a fun ’80’s music video to distract you!

COMIX:  Yes, I’m still obsessing oddly about comic books, having spent a goodly chunk of my gold in the last month or so on classic Marvel comic trade Paperbacks…right now I’m making my way thru the first volume of CAPTAIN AMERICA and DAREDEVIL, as well as some big AVENGERS story arcs, like Englehart’s DEFENDERS WAR and Shooter’s KORVAC SAGA.  Still no joy in tracking down a copy of the KREE/SKRULL WAR, but maybe I’ll find a copy here:

Wowzers, how long has it been since Ottawa hosted a PROPER comic convention?  I remember attending MAPLECON way, WAAAY back when, and even then the best they had for guests was, like, Dave Sim and Fred Hembeck (tho I STILL am thrilled I got to meet Fred Hembeck).  I’m gonna go, almost entirely for the dealer’s room…don’t give too much of a shit about ‘special guests’ or the like, and I already HAVE Ferrigno’s autograph, thanx very much…I’m hoping to pick up some original HOWARD THE DUCK, and maybe a nice copy of MAGNUS ROBOT FIGHTER #1 from Gold Key.

It shall be mine!

Maybe some classic ZENITH, or that old OZ SQUAD series I always thought looked cool.  I dunno…whatta you think?

Well, that seems defeatist, Stranglers. Rockin’ tune, but still…

DEAR RADIO:  Here’s something that’s been kicking around for a while in my horrible, horrible brain.  See, I have to listen to the radio a lot at work, and the interesting thing about radio is what a dark ages, backwoods hellhole of talentless fiends it is.   Radio is what people who don’t like theatre THINK theatre is.  Radio advertising is where writers go to cry themselves to death.  Our kitchen dial seems to be stuck on Live 88.5 a lot lately, which at least means I don’t have to listen to Lowell ‘Feminazi’ Green or Randal ‘Clown-Shoe’ Moore too much, but it still grates on my remaining few nerves. A Couple of helpful suggestions, then, to the Live 88.5 team:
– Please tell ‘DJ Noah’ to stop whining at me to ‘make some noise’.  He’s the DJ, HE should be providing the god-damned noise.  Also, the last thing a good DJ needs?  A catchphrase (much less two).

– re: your current Ipod giveaway ads: Trend-SETTING and Trend-STARTING are the SAME FUCKING THING.  I should not have to point this out to anyone.

– I actually DO quite enjoy Jen Traplin’s VINYL RECYCLER show.  But does the intro HAVE to be so aggressively stupid?  You know we STILL call them albums, right?  And that vinyl is more popular now than it has been in years?  You haven’t unearthed the lost ark or anything, just play fun music and stop trying so hard to be clever.  It hurts my brain.

– I know you only host Alan Cross’ new show (a barely-disguised rehashing of every episode of his LAST, identical show…nice music, tho), and have no control over it, but…could you maybe suggest to him he could stop with the bit where he stammers and pretends like I, the listener, just got confused at some supposedly ASTOUNDING tidbit he just dropped, and he has to repeat himself?  It gets tiresome.  Yes…yes, that’s right…I said TIRESOME (see how annoying it is?  Make him stop.)

That’s it, I guess…sorry to bash, I guess it always IS easier to pick apart than to help.  So lemme help…PLAY MORE SCOPITONES!

Altho, true, it WOULD lose a lot without the visuals.  You lose again, radio!  If it weren’t for REMOTE PLANET and THE HEYMAN SHOW, you’d be fuckin’ lost.  But now I gotta go, time to chill out, plot my posting for tomorrow, and maybe watch a film.  MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA, anyone?  Or am I too drunk now?  Probably.  I guess I could manage some MENTALIST or NEW GIRL, shithead that I am…see ya at the theatre, gang. Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Keeping Good Company

In Theatre on March 16, 2012 at 5:43 pm

This is starting to feel like a busy week.  I’ve caught my third show in as many days, and am now trying to squeeze in a post about it in between shifts at work and the NEXT show, which as I write this is, oh, just over 2 hours away.  I guess ‘busy’ isn’t so bad, really, but I could stand with a cuppa coffee.  Oh well.

the show last nite, by the by, was Stephen Sondheim’s COMPANY, from the wired-up, go-getting, never-say-die hepcats at Sock’n’Buskin Theatre.  This’un was directed by Black Sheep Theatre’s Dave Dawson, who must be one busy lad himself these days, what with ’33 and the Black Box series over at the Gladstone.  And I’ll bet he’s bitching WAY less than me about it, too.

Now, COMPANY is a musical and, apparently, Stephen Sondheim is kind of a big deal in that regard, although until last evening I remained blissfully ignorant of any of his contributions.  Now I’m happy to have made his acquaintance, especially thru a nice, small-scale but big-hearted student production like this one.  Set against a kitchsy-cool cityscape backdrop from Awesome Jeff Cowen (hey, that’s what it says in the program, I’m gonna argue?) and featuring live musical accompaniment that was a pleasant surprise to me, Company tells the story of Robert (played with considerable charm by James Barron), a 35-year old singleton burdened with existential ennui and fabulous hair and surrounded by his happily married friends on all sides (even the divorcees are happier than he is).  It’s a tougher lot than it sounds…every new girl in Robert’s life seems to compare less than favourably to his corral of platonic galpals (played by Jesse Gronhvod, Gillian Ashton, Elizabeth McSheffrey, Tess McManus and Jenn Keay), and his bros (Mathie Charelbois, Alex Brunjes, Nick Diamant, Adam Moscoe and Justin Villanueava) seem to have less-than-helpful advice for him.  Along the way we witness his failed attempts to join the married set himself, through relationships with April, Marta and Kathy (Laura Eamon, Annie King-Smith and Ashley Matthews) that don’t so much blow up in has face, as simply fail to launch.

The musical numbers are all pretty spiffy, ad the gang does a terrific job keeping the energy at a high pace throughout.  Some personal highlights for me: Jenn Keay’s bitter, drunken solo; a rousing full-cast tune to launch act two, that leaves leading man Robert ignoring the entire affair at times; Tess McManus’ manic wedding-day jitters belted out at triple-speed; and a lovely tune belted out by Annie King-Smith, that serves as the backdrop to Robert’s failed love life.  I was merrily impressed by the enitre company of COMPANY…although, as I was enjoying the show next to techno-wizard Jess Preece, I feel I SHOULD point out that they TOTALLY could have done more with that lighting board.

Altho we both agree the lightning was cool.

COMPANY has a longer run than most SnB shows, playing this weekend AND next, so your excuses are minimal.  If you dig a good musical, you’ll dig this one (because, you know, it’s good…and a musical).  So, thanks to the gang for a solid night out and, hey, I guess thanks for a dandy season as well!  Already looking forward to next year, Carleton U.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)


Theatre Noir

In Theatre on March 15, 2012 at 12:03 am

Why am I smiling right now?  A few reasons, and considering what a career frowner I usually am, I feel these reasons deserve illluminating.  For example, today was new comic day, and there was a new BUCKAROO BANZAI on the stands.  Trust me, this is always cause for joy.

God bless you, Doctor Banzai!

Also, I just found out that none other than Jayson ‘Giant Invisible Robot’ MacDonald has pimped this here website on his very own Facebook page!  I think I may be Geek-ploding at this moment…ain’t very often one of your heroes gets up close and personal like that, and I can’t stress the importance in my life of seeing BOAT LOAD back at the ’08 Ottawa Fringe.  Thanks indeed, Jayson Mac, and I hope Ottawa is showing you some love over at the Gladstone.

But of course, if I’m smiling, it probably means I saw cool new theatre tonite, and that is certainly the case.  Specifically, the second show in Algonquin Theatre’s latest season, George Walker’s THEATRE OF THE FILM NOIR, directed by he always amazing Teri Loretto-Valentik (who also took on the job of set design with this show…and now we know where hubby Ivo gets it from!).  After a little time-killing from arriving too early (And after getting carded at the College pub…is it my fault I look so boyishly handsome??), I took my seat, got annoyed by some critic-type who decided to sit NEXT to me (notepads…bah!), and waited for the show to begin.

Set in the early post-WWII days in France, the story follows a murder being investigated by hard-boiled Inspector Clair (Aaron Lajeunesse).  The victim is the brother of a beautiful and potentially dangerous young lady named Lilliane (Ali Caudle), who’s having troubles with her late brother’s unstable ex-lover Bernard (Dillon Rogers), as well as complicated relationships with a pair of soldiers (Mark MacDonald and Austin Fogarty) from opposing sides.  Things get pretty murky right quick in Walker’s deliberately morally dubious script, as it’s every character for him or herself, doing what they feel they need to do to survive, even IF the damned war is over now.

The cast is solid indeed.  Lajeunesse anchors the proceedings as the Trenchcoated Inspector, running straight into the kind of gray area he’s not built to deal with.  Dillon Rogers impresses as the shaky Bernard, striving to find a lifeline in a new world that seems to have little patience for him.  And Ali Caudle as Lilliane does a great job balancing the innocent victim with the conniving conspirator.  Mark MacDonald, fresh off of Sock’n’Buskin’s YERMA, is suitably imposing as German soldier Eric, and Austin Fogarty almost steals the show as dim American GI Hank, getting the biggest laughs of the evening.  And it IS a funny script, albeit a dark kinda funny, but that seems to be how George Walker rolls.  And while this is only my second time seeing Walker performed onstage (the first being ZASTROZZI last year, again at Algonquin), I can say that I’m really starting to dig the guy.  It’s a good, fun show, moral ambiguity and all.

Oh, and if you DO go?  Totally have one or five of the lemon treats at the box office.  SO yummy..!  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)