Verona in Kanata

So I FINALLY made it out to Kanata!

Okay, so maybe that’s not SUCH a big deal, but it’s a cool milestone for me.  I’ve been pimping their shows in my COMING SOON… posts at the top of the month for over a year now, yet I’ve never seemed able to muster up the will to make the trek out there.  Living in Ottawa regular as I do, Kanata just has this faraway feel to it that tends to intimidate at the last minute, when I’m trying to decide if I want to spend hours on a bus, or if I just want to stay home and drink beer with the cat.

It’s a valid lifestyle choice!!

But this time I was resolved, and after an exciting meeting at the Ottawa Fringe offices with Natalie Joy Quesnel (the Visitorium is going to OWN Fringe this year, folks…stay tuned!), I hopped on the 96 to make the journey out to the Ron Maslin Theatre in Kanata.  I figured it would be about a half-hour trek…then the bus driver missed the on-ramp for the Queensway, and that made things interesting.  Oh well, I was still early.  Got off near a Wendy’s and scarfed down a burger to tide me over for the show (and what a good omen is it that, on my way to a Shakespeare play, I got served by Hamlet?  Inside joke) and then hustled over to the playhouse.  And the Ron Maslin?  A beautiful little place…no wonder they hide it all  the way out in Kanata, they’re afraid the rest of us will make a mess of it.

Got my ticket, and went inside for the show, the beginning of the second week of Kanata Theatre‘s production of ROMEO AND JULIET by Billy Shakes.  Director Tom Kobolak made the choice to set the classic tale in 1848, amidst a kerfuffle of Italians and Austrians.  And while it didn’t necessarily add anything special to the proceedings for me (except for some cool new costumes), it didn’t detract from the story, either.  And you all know the story…Warring clans (Capulet and Montague) wreak havoc on the town of Verona with their ancient feud, reaching a head when young Montague Romeo falls head over heels for Juliet, on the Capulet side of the fence.  Things, uh, don’t end well.

The grudge is set early on, with a rousing streetfighting scene starring a few of the important players…Montague men and Romeo backers Benvolio and Mercutio (Mark Bujaki and Leslie Cserepy), duelling with Capulet strongman Tybalt (Aaron Lajeunesse) and some inspired henchmen.  The Prince of the city (Gordon Walls)  breaks things up, but the peace won’t last long.  Young Romeo (Jake William Smith) is pining for the fair Rosalind, and his buds Mercutio and Benvolio are going to sneak him into a Capulet shindig later that night to get a closer look at her.   That’s where Romeo gets a glimpse of Juliet (Megan Carty, in the process of being ineptly wooed by Major Paris, aka Paul Behncke) and,  young love proving somewhat fickle, immediately forgets Rosalinds name.  A whirlwind romance follows…Juliet is the East and all that.  A secret wedding from a friendly Friar (Lionel King) seals the deal, and everything goes downhill from there.

I found an awful lot to like in Kanata’s R&J, and the 2 and a half hour running time went speedily by.  I was already familiar with a few of the younger faces in the cast from various student productions, and was not disappointed with them tonight.  Jake Smith made a wonderfully emo Romeo, wallowing in his predicament with teenage abandon and playing well off his many co-stars.  For his first time at Shakespeare, as the program says, he pretty much knocks it outta the park.  Likewise, Leslie Cserepy’s brash Mercutio had great presence on the stage, bringing some memorably bawdy comedic moments.  And, wow, but Aaron Lajeunesse cuts a mean Tybalt indeed, skulking and sneering across the stage like a particularly angry ghost.  His battles with Mercutio and Romeo, wonderfully staged by fight choreographers Chris MCleod and John Brogan, were pretty impressive to watch.

Megan Carty’s Juliet was a treat as well, a happily outgoing and radiant version of Shakespeare’s tragic heroine, trading repartee well with her distant Mother (Sandra Wickham, shining in her time on stage) and loyal Nurse (Lorraine McInnis-Osborne, hamming it up with glee and getting some of the best laughs of the night).  But when the dark turns arrive, Carty nails the shifts, taking Juliet from glowing to grieving without missing a beat.  She kinda broke my heart a time or two, and I always appreciate that.  And a special shoutout to the Friar, Lionel King, who was just bloody marvellous.  What a voice!  I was mesmerized and delighted every time he spoke (especially his upbraiding of a sulking Romeo…goddamn classic).

There was some lovely work being done with the lights and music as well, and James Fritz’ set was simple and effective.  There were some projected backdrops that changed from time to time, helping with the scenery changes, and some worked better than others, ’tis true.  I’m not sure their tech was up to the challenge, but it was still a cool idea.  And might I say that the show in its entirety was actually a lot more risque than I was expecting from a community theatre group?  Good on you, Kanata, you’ve got some life in ya after all!

The tragic conclusion most of us are so familiar with played out beautifully, and ended a pretty damn satisfying night out for me.  Kanata Theatre done impressed me, and I’m kicking myself now for all those times I stayed home drinking with Winston.  What a bad influence that cat is!  I’ve learned my lesson now, and I’ll be back, long commute or no.  Maybe I should make friends with some car-driving theatre fans before next season…

Peace, love and soul, Kanata,

The Visitor (and Winston)

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