So I was TOTALLY supposed to go and check out the new Ottawa Theatre School show last Friday, but found myself delightfully sidetracked on the night in question. Although I have to admit I’ve been chomping at the bit to catch this show, for a few reasons. First, their last show WE WANT LIFE was one of the high points of the theatre year. Also, it was directed by Pierre Brault, easily a de facto member of Ottawa Theatre royalty. Plus, any excuse to hit up my alma mater at the OSSD is good news to me.
Sputtering rain aside then, I headed over to Westboro and got ready for Nikolai Erdman’s suppressed Russian classic THE SUICIDE, written in 1932 and instantly banned from production by no less than Joey Stalin himself. It was rediscovered in the 70’s, and that’s good news for us. It’s a darkly satirical look at Socialism, Marxism, life and death…and there’s a tuba.
Starring the current graduating class of the OTS and featuring a finger-snappingly good soundtrack, THE SUICIDE is almost disturbingly hilarious considering the subject matter, but it works a treat. Drew Moore is our downtrodden hero Semyon Semyonovich, out of work, short-tempered, and harbouring particularly unlikely dreams of becoming a musician. He lives with his devoted, overworked wife Masha (Victoria Luloff) and her Mother Sarafima (Dyna Ibrahim). In short order, Semyon’s despondence leads him to thoughts of ending it all, and worried Masha calls on mysterious neighbour Alexander Petrovich (Mitchel Rose) to help them out. Alexander (and his gleefully wicked galpal Margarita, aka Jazmine ‘Jazz Camp’ Campanale) have other plans, however.
Before long, Semyon is being courted by one after another cloying strangers (James Smith, Caitlin Corbett, and Adam Pierre, all looking great with awesome, scene-stealing turns), each seeking to manipulate Semyon’s forthcoming suicide to their own self-serving, supposedly righteous ends. It’s actually a pretty wonderfully clever bit of writing that leads our hero slowly, and quite amusingly, to his inevitable (?) demise, as well as maybe a new way of looking at life. Rounding out the cast is Jonah Allingham as Yegor, the politically paranoid and permanently hunched Postman, providing more than a few choice comic moments. Likewise Dyna Ibrahim, especially the bit about the Wiener Dog (trust me). The whole cast is great, natch…it was nice to see Luloff back in action after being sidelined by illness for WWL, and she shone as Masha. And can I just say I’m becoming a big fan of Caitlin Corbett and Mitchel Rose? Because I kinda am.
But I hate to play fav’rits (except when I do), and the whole gang does great in a very smart, very funny, and fast-moving piece that deserved a WAY bigger audience that it had tonight. I didn’t hallucinate that huge turnout of so-called theatre lovers at the Rideaus on Sunday, right? Well, you know what’s even better than giving someone an award for their theatre work a year after the fact? Actually SEEING their work TODAY. So no excuses, you lot! Get on out there and commit to this Suicide (I said it)! Peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)
PS: All love to Andrew Alexander, for the above photo!