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Archive for September, 2012|Monthly archive page

Finding the Good in Grief

In Uncategorized on September 30, 2012 at 11:50 am

Continuing with my busy little week of drudgery, but still frantically fighting to squeeze in as much of the theatre packed into this town as I can.  It’s now a given that I’m missing the two cool French shows on this week (Apologies, DELUGE and CINEMASSACRE!), but I would be damned if I was gonna miss thee latest offering from the cutting edge theatre hoodlums that make up Red.Collective.  The second show in their current full season, Bert V.Royal’s DOG SEES GOD: CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BLOCKHEAD, was on the third night of its four night run last night, and I was pumped for it.  I sidled on into their HQ in the cozy SAW Gallery and took my seat, and OMG HAS SAW GALLERY HAD THOSE RISERS ALL THIS TIME???  Seriously, did we suffer through years of terrible Fringe show sightlines for nothing?  Damn!

But I digress.  DOG is a trippy piece of work, essentially an extended work of speculative fanfiction set in the PEANUTS universe.  As a veteran of the Fanfic wars of the 90’s, this tickled me plenty.  Taking place in High School, where the gang has become a hormone-riddled, angsty bunch of poorly adjusted malcontents, we quickly meet our hapless hero ‘C.B.’, played with straightforward honesty by Dave Rowan.  His dog has just died, you see, and he’s having a little trouble letting go.  Of little help in dealing are his flaky sister (Caitlin McNamee) and spaced out pal Van (Will LaFrance, aka ‘Linus’, who has switched oral fixations from thumbsucking to smoking pot).  School is little better, where ‘Pigpen’ has cleaned up and reinvented himself as homophobic, germ-fearing jock Matt (Dan DeMarbre), and’ Schroeder’, here called Beethoven (Liam Murphy) is a depressed victim of bullying, finding comfort only in his music.  Tricia and Marcy (Rachel Gilmore and Shelby Fairbairn) are would-be queens of the social scene, and an impending party at Marcy’s place seems to be where all the troubles in the air are going to explode…

This is a pretty harsh, occasionally grim, and very brutally real piece for something based on a newspaper comic strip about children, that takes issues of sexuality, death, sporks, drugs and identity and shoves them quite unflinchingly in your face, using familiar childhood characters to soften the blow.  The nature of the use of the Peanuts gang (names changed just enough onstage to avoid liability, a trick Alan Moore has used to great effect in his LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN comix) tends to offer up maybe one or two too many ‘wink,wink’ moments in the script, but it really never gets too bad.  And there’re some dandy performances in this show, lemme say.  Dave Rowan’s haunted, searching CB is very solid throughout, right up to the powerful ending.  And Caitlin McNamee as his sister brings the comedy highlight of the show as she attempts to workshop her one-woman show, in her one-woman drama club.  Good guy Will LaFrance has never been better than as stoner guru Van (especially a lovely scene where he trades repartee with the very funny Shelby Fairbairn and Rachel Gilmore over repressed sexuality).  DeMarbre and Murphy bring good work as Matt and Beethoven, even if the characters themselves are a touch one-note for my taste.  And special shoutout to the mid-show high point, when CB goes to visit Van’s sister (never named in the play, but think Lucy from the strip) in the psych ward/prison where she spends her time now, ever since setting fire to a certain red-headed girls hair.  Mina Delic’s ‘Lucy’ is terrific, knocking out rapid-fire stream of consciousness dialogue with multiple versions of her remembered reality, and never really letting people know which one (if any) is the truth.  It was cool, yo.  As for the play as a whole, I’ll admit that some of the scene transitions could have been smoother, but for the most part director Laura Young put on a great show.

Red.Collective is doing great work down in the SAW, and DOG SEES GOD (one night left as of this posting!) continues a solid lineup of shows.  I’m a little sad to see that BENT has been removed from the upcoming schedule (hey Reddies, what up with that?), but Morris Panych’s 7 STORIES is, I have to say, a very acceptable substitute.  That’s their next show, by the by, at the end of November.   I expect y’all to be there, or else you’ll be missing some cool, youth-driven theatre.  And why would you wanna do that?  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

The Picture of Dalton and Charlie

In Uncategorized on September 28, 2012 at 10:14 am

Gonna be a busy, busy week for me, and I only wish I meant here at the Visitorium.  Not that there isn’t enough to see to keep me gawking and reviewing for a solid week.   Oh Ottawa, I kind of love/hate you when you program five 3-5 day show runs IN THE SAME WEEK.  Only you.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve said before and I’ll say again, too much theatre to choose from is a great problem to have.  Being short-staffed at your place of work and having to work overtime DURING that crowded theatre week…that there, my friends, is a regular old-fashioned shitty-ass PROBLEM.  Especially when I started off one of my dwindling nights off this tuesday realizing I’d mis-scheduled one of those shows, then having a mini-panic attack that kept me from seeing one of the other ones. 😦  I had ground to make up, and no fooling.

So I was ready and raring to go when, exhausted, I got off of work on Thursday.  I fortified myself with a hearty burger and beer dinner at the Carleton Tavern, then off to my beloved GCTC…the studio space, specifically, for a new show by one of Ottawa’s most beloved indie theatre groups, Gruppo Rubato.  The little company that Pat and Tania built is celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, and they’re doing it in proper theatrical style with the debut of Karen Balcome’s SNAPSHOT.  I caught a wee glimpse of this work earlier on at their fundraiser party, so my appetite was well-whetted.  I got there on the second night of the run, after a sold-out opening (yay!), and mingled with superstars Ray Besharah, John Koensgen, my old acting boss Barry Karp, and darlin’ Jacki B at the box office (note to my fellow GCTC volunteers: BE NICE TO JACKI!  I will smack you, I swear to God..!)before settling in for the show.

Peter Froelich as Dalton, and Teddy Ivanova as Charlie, takin’ 5.  Photo by Andrew ‘THE MAN’ Alexander.

The show stars local legend Peter Froelich as Dalton, a senior who has just lost the love of his life Leona, and is struggling to cope.  Into his struggles marches his almost maddeningly casual granddaughter Charlie, played by Teddy Ivanova.  Running from some demons of her own, Charlie forces herself into Dalton’s grief, even as each of them are haunted in their private moments by startlingly different visions of the late Leona, embodied by the always amazing Kate Smith.  And across the walls of the theatre, the work of the unofficial fourth cast member of the show, photographer Andrew Alexander (whose pix grace this very entry, and whose website you should totally hit up if you want some cool beans theatre snaps taken) were frequently displayed, making themselves part of the unfolding story.  Sorry, EDWARD CURTIS PROJECT, Gruppo Rubato done stole your thunder!

SNAPSHOT is a pretty beautiful piece of theatre, that drew me further in than I even realized until I was getting the emotional suckerpunches director Pat Gauthier had set me up for.  Weaving text messaging and internet chat boards into the visual landscape (with some able assistance from master designer Pierre Ducharme), along with a nicely cluttered Sarah Waghorn set, things always stayed fresh despite the 2 hour run time.  Okay, maybe Pat leans a little too heavily on the modern hipster folk-music for my tastes, but I suppose Motorhead can’t be in EVERY soundtrack, can they?

Dalton gets up close with Kate Smith’s Leona (or someone like her…), photo by Andrew Alexander (who else??)

Peter Froelich lives up to his reputation as the stubborn Dalton, lost without his guiding light but refusing to admit any weakness.  And Teddy Ivanova seems to inhabit Charlie perfectly, treading the line between teenage strongheadedness and emotional wreck.  Their relationship becomes the central focus of the whole play, and the interplay between the actors is natural, believable, and pretty wonderful.  Ivanova and Froelich end act one with a killer good scene that’s among the best of the year, I’m calling it right now.  Kate Smith is strong and graceful in her supporting roles, adding a welcome extra element to the story. I’m still a little fuzzy on the exact mechanics of some of the more ghostly scenes, but then, I always was a little slow.  And Snapshot is Rubato in top form (although I’ve missed a criminal amount of their work, sad to say…you guys can remount THE CHURCHILL PROTOCOL any time now…), and Ottawa independent theatre at its best.  If you’re not out seeing it during it brief run this week (show ending on the 29th), you’d darn well better be out seeing something ELSE.  This show moved me, and that’s all I can ask.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

PS:  with John Koensgen in the audience, Peter Froelich in SNAPSHOT, and Paul Rainville performing in THE SECRET MASK in the mainstage, it was a mini-HEROES reunion at the GCTC last night.  Don’t think I didn’t notice that.

Monday Foofarah! – Sept 24, 2012

In Uncategorized on September 24, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Well, after a wasted week in which I got nothing done (I’m feeling more than a little grim about the future of this blog, lemme tell ya, but more on that later), I figure the very least I can do is pump out a wee spot of Foofarah to entertain the ten or twelve of you my utter sloth hasn’t driven permanently away.  With the promise that I’m gonna try and actually SEE and REVIEW some plays this coming week, despite a hectic schedule of drudgery that’s cramping my ‘style’ but good.  And some of those shows might be some of these:

– IN THEATRES THIS WEEK:

STONES IN HIS POCKETS From 730 Productions, at the Gladstone.  Last week for Irish goodness from John P.Kelly, Zach Counsil and Richard Gelinas!

THE SECRET MASK at the GCTC.  Also final week for this gem from Rick Chafe!

HAY FEVER at the Ottawa Little Theatre.  OLT’s 100th season opener continues!

PRIVATE LIVES from Kanata Theatre, at the Ron Maslin Playhouse.  Second week for Kanata’s take on Noel Coward.

SNAPSHOT from Gruppo Rubato, at the GCTC Studio Space.  Yay, GR is back!  A can’t miss event.

DELUGE from Theatre de Trillium, at la Nouvelle Scene. An amazing company, and sure to be an amazing show.

DOG SEES GOD from Red.Collective, at Club SAW.  The Reddies do Peanuts courtesy of Bert Royal, and you want to be there.

CINEMASSACRE at Theatre Rene-Prevost. A second run for the popular French comedy!

And one More…

FRESH MEAT:  A while back I got the opportunity to head out to the cozy One-Drink-Minimum bar, not too far from Arts Court, for a special media preview evening for an exciting upcoming event, namely the much anticipated FRESH MEAT FESTIVAL running from the 28th to the 30th of this month at the Pressed Cafe on Gladstone.  The festival, produced by Jonah Allingham of BackPack Theatre (recent Ottawa Theatre School graduate to boot), promises to showcase six of the coolest, squinkiest up’n’coming theatre companies the city has to offer.  I got to see some cool stuff that night, and talk to some especially cool people, and I left more excited than before about the newest mini-festival Ottawa Theatre has to offer, which I expect will become the best thing to happen to O-town since UNDERCURRENTS.  Don’t believe me?  Check it out:

That’s wee Tess Mc Manus, who sang us a bee-yoo-tee-ful Irish song (Not ‘Irish Rovers’ Irish…the other kind of Irish song) to preview her show TALES SHE TELLS.  At least, that was the title last time I talked to her.  Tess’ recent one-woman debut DONKEY DERBY was a breath of fresh air across the Fringe circuit, and I’m definitely looking forward to what she’s cooked up next.  After her, Jake William Smith (coming off the successful remount of Fringe hit SPACE MYSTERY…FROM OUTERSPACE! at Arts Court) gave us a tiny taste of his new one-manner THE HENCHMAN’S SURVIVAL GUIDE, directed by May Can Theatre’s Cory Thibert.  And speaking of May Can…

Their latest is DUSK AND DAWN, starring the above-pictured Madeleine Boyes-Manseau and Cory Thibert, which I’m seriously jazzed about.  This one’s directed byMay Can co-founder Tony Adams, who talked a bit about the show.  As did Mike Doiron of Dead Unicorn Ink. on their contribution to the festival, Sylvie Recoskie’s CAUTION: DO NOT FEED THE MERMAIDS, which they promise will be a bit of a thematic departure for the young company. And of course, producer Jonah Allingham was there to preview his latest piece, SUMMER OF ’34.

Following Backpack’s mandate of providing uniquely Canadian stories, this show looks to be a pretty genuine slice of Canuck lore, riding on the momentum of the Fringe sleeper IN WAVES.  Hosting the festivities and finishing off the evening with a round of their high-octane improv were local heroes GRIMPROV, who will be reviving some of their more fan-fav’rit ‘lab’  improv styles for the festival.  You can’t kill a lawyer!

Every show in the festival is only 20 minutes long, with beer and paninis readily available throughout the evening.  I’m disheartened that I won’t be able to go on opening night (stoopid work!), so I hope this wee mini-preview will make it up to the gang!  And guys, don’t think I’ve forgotten…Dinosaurs on the Moon.  I expect great things.

ANTI-SOCIAL:  I’ve been a touch of a loner for many years now.  It’s not an intentional thing, it’s…just sort of how I turned out. Quite honestly, I don’t really care for it, it gets in the way a LOT, but I don’t seem to be able to quite kick it, and lately it’s been getting worse.  The other day I had to go on a staff boat cruise, and it felt like a living Hell. Granted, if you’d heard the music the DJ was spinning, you might agree with me, but being trapped on that cramped space with dozens of total strangers was driving me absolutely mental (which is how I must have looked, trying my best to sit as far apart from everyone as I could the entire time).

But like I say, lately things seem to getting a bit out of control.  Last week, anytime I wasn’t at work, I was home alone.  I skipped seeing the two shows I’d planned on seeing, because I figured if I was going to BE alone, might as well do it at home.  I’m making that decision an awful, awful lot these days, and I’m getting into some pretty bad habits.  Most noticeable among those is the obvious fact that I don’t update this site anywhere near as much as I used to, and it ain’t because there’s not enough to write about.  Not to mention that historically, I tend to use my self-isolation as an excuse to drop out of things…I worry sometimes that I’ll start using it as an excuse to drop out of all this.  Theatre, blogging, the whole shebang.  It really, truly is NOT healthy, this looming apoptostic state.

Which is why I’m REALLY looking forward to next Monday, even though I’m sure I’m  going to try and talk myself out of it at the last minute (DO NOT LET ME).  The superstars at Crush Improv, and in this case in particular Ken ‘The God’ Godmere, is running a short improv workshop before the next ‘Bout Time show at the Elmdale, and come Hell or high water, I’m-a gonna be there.  I most definitely need to remind myself that I’m still capable of playing with others (it’s probably quite telling that I dropped out of the ‘Talking Theatre’ podcast after only 1 episode).  And the extra-incentive/terror that Ken will be choosing two of the workshop contestants to join him on stage as his improv team that very night, well…no promises, folks, but I really need to scare myself right about now.  In a good way.

That’s about it for this week, I think…festival promotion and painful honesty is more than enough for one post, and I’ve got TIME TUNNEL to watch.  Hope to see you out at the theatre this week, I really do.  I n the meantime, here’s the theme song to the next show I really want them to release on DVD and soon, THE MAGICIAN:

Peace, love and soul, everyone,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Monday Foofarah! – Sept 17 2012

In Uncategorized on September 17, 2012 at 9:33 pm

That’s it!  No more excuses, internet, we’re getting back to your weekly face full of Foofarah, even if it costs me your lives!  It helps that Crush Improv has FINALLY taken a week off, so I don’t have that built-in excuse to happy-trail it down to the Elmdale and drink the monday away until writing is well-nigh hopeless.  I’m no Hemingway, after all.   But then again, did Hemingway ever provide you with weekly internet updates of theatrical productions in the Ottawa area?  I THOUGHT NOT.  Eat it, Hemingway!

– IN THEATRES THIS WEEK:

STONES IN HIS POCKETS from 730 Productions, at the Gladstone.  Fun and good times from Ottawa’s rising team supreme, Zach Counsil and Richard Gelinas.  Don’t miss out.

THE SECRET MASK at the GCTC.  Terrific, warm, and VERY funny show starring some powerhouse talent and wicked design.  Another gotta-see-it.

LE TOUR DE L’ILE at Theatre de L’Ile.  A French musical tribute to legend Felix LeClerc, and a knee-slapping good time.

HAY FEVER at the Ottawa Little Theatre.  Noel Coward helps the OLT kick off their centenary season, which is quite frankly awesome.

PRIVATE LIVES from Kanata Theatre, at the Ron Maslin Playhouse.  More Coward, this time out Kanata way, for their 44th season debut.  Which calls for a song!

TEEVEE:  Lately I’ve been indulging in a bit of a hobby of mine: genre teevee.  See, back in the day I concocted a bit of an ambitious writing project (read: fanfiction), that I’ve never really forged ahead with but still toy with in my head from time to time.  The idea is simply trying to figure out what would happen if every live action television show ever existed in the same shared universe.  I actually do have a story or two written in this project, and every now and then I really wanna do more.  So of late I’ve been researching (read: watching loads of teevee on my couch with Winston) two particular areas of interest: water and time.  The first is a fun dig through all the marine-based shows I can find, and there’s a lot: Seaquest, Ocean Girl, Surface, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, City Beneath the Sea (both of them), Goliath Awaits, and my current personal fav’rit, Man From Atlantis.

The Man From Atlantis is so badass he literally saved Romeo and Juliet, I shit you not.  Meanwhile, I’ve been working hard to make sense of all the various time travellers in teevee history.  It actually hasn’t been quite as hard as I’d imagined…lots of them, like Quantum Leap and Seven Days, are very limited in their scope.  The big three so far are Time Tunnel, Voyagers, and of course, Doctor Who (not to mention the various temporal adventures of the Star Trek gangs).  So far, I think Doug and Tony from Time Tunnel, Phineas, Jeffrey and Olivia from Voyagers, AND the Doctor were all present on the Titanic.  I have a theory that everyone on that boat was actually a visiting time traveller.  I’m still researching.  In a related story, the new season of Doctor Who fucking SUUUUUUCKS.  Moffat has lost the plot, gang.  That Western ep was a piece of shit. Hey, everyone who finally wanted to see me negatively trash something theatrical, this is as close as you’re gonna get!

Whatever.  I’ve gotta get working on that 70’s story where Kolchak the Night Stalker, Samantha from Bewitched and a few others lead a rescue mission into the Land of the Lost.  It’s gonna happen, folks, mark my words.  In the meantime, here’s Ghostface Killah.

GOOD CAUSES:  That Indiegogo thing is catching on like gangbusters, folks.  Now that Ottawa expat Nancy Kenny has had a successful fundraising campaign to get the ROLLER DERBY SAVED MY SOUL cross-country tour happening, more companies are jumping on board.  Like local heroes GRUPPO RUBATO, hoping to raise some funds for their upcoming world premiere show SNAPSHOT.  Plus, PLOSIVE productions has a campaign in association with their upcoming Danny MacIvor piece HOW IT WORKS, and I quote,  “designed to help its community’s neediest and most deserving members, by giving free tickets to How It Works to at-risk youth (and the local staff and volunteers in the Ottawa agencies that serve them) in exchange for donations to the campaign.”  The links to their respective campaigns are HERE and HERE.  If you’re feeling a little flush these days, here are a couple of places that you might consider donating.  Because seriously, FUCK that Tesla museum bullshit (you know what I’m talkin’ about).  I think he was kinda cool too…invented cool stuff, for an essentially crazy person, and WAY more likeable than Edison. But that’s a waste of a million bucks, and you know it.  Stop trying to be cool  little hipsters and put your money where it’s needed, okay? Okay.  Sheesh. Here’s a little something from the GHOST BRIGADE soundtrack to wind us down.

That’s enough for tonight, I’m gettin’ all fired up!  I’m gonna find me some GOOD Doctor Who to watch and enjoy the evening.  Peace, love and soul, y’all,

The Visitor (and Winston)

 

 

 

Theatre de Tour de L’Ile

In Uncategorized on September 16, 2012 at 9:43 pm

“Plus fragile que la feuille à l’arbre, la vie.  Plus lourde que montagne au large, la vie.”

     -Felix LeClerc, ‘La Vie’

Today I enjoyed one of my first Sundays off in a good long while…a little schedule-restructuring at the drudgery finally paid off (even if I did have to come in this morning at 7:30 ANYWAYS to let the other cooks in, but that’s another story).  After that came some breakfast at Ada’s, a pitstop at the GCTC to book me a volunteer shift for SECRET MASK, and then….a whole lotta nothin’.  I never DO seem to know what to do with my days off, and the usually devolve into a rather sad display of drinkin’ and mopin’.  But then I  remembered…this was Sunday!  Sometimes theatres have matinees on Sunday!!  A plan was forming, oh yes.  I hit the intertubes and looked for an option, and found it across the river in Gatineau-Hull.  Which was, quite frankly, just what I needed…I’d been LOOKING for an excuse to hit up the Theatre de L’Ile over there for the first time.

I took a trip on good old #8 and went out in search of the Theatre, which I found in short order.  And, let me just say this and get it out of the way…Holy Blue Freakin’ Hannah, Theatre de L’Ile is just about the most gorgeous little slice of Theatrical Heaven I’ve ever stumbled upon.  A wunnerful lady by the name of Marie-Nicole told me  that it was the most beautiful theatre in the world, and I’m hard pressed to argue.  They could charge admission just to hang out in their picturesque backyard, and no fooling.

Oh yeah, and there was a SHOW on, too!  Almost icing on the cake, but I was game.  The show was LE TOUR DE L’ILE, which I soon discovered was a combination musical cabaret/theatrical piece, based on the works of a fella name of Felix LeClerc, a man who I came to understand is rightly revered in French-Canadian culture, and who I now feel a right ass to have not been familiar with before.  The show, starring a killer talented cast including Richard Benard, Marc-Andre Charette, Micheline Marin (who I caught in the flat-out amazing TARAM last year), Claude Naubert, and Frederique Therien (who I also saw recently in the great PETIT KOCHEL…thanks for the reminder, Marie!), features song after song from the madly prolific Leclerc, as well as other more theatrical bits, all staged with style from director Sylvie Dufour (and with some lovely lighting effects from, I think, Michael Brunet…loved the backlighting that opened the show).

That, I believe, was the song the gang opened with, and there was lots of goodness to follow.  A few parts were slower than others (partly because my French skills still get me lost from time to time), but I definitely had some fav’rits, including two of the spoken word bits in the second act.  There was a beautiful piece called ‘Violin a Vendre’, apparently a short story of LeClercs, presented here in radio-show style.  Another bit followed, a more madcap romp involving a would-be widow played with gusto and glee by Marin, who is so much fun to watch onstage it should be illegal.  Everyone was just grand…Richard Benard’s voice is just amazing, and Claude Naubert did killer work as the guitar-wielding troubadour for the duration.  Lovely Frederique Therien sang beautifully, and showed some pretty sweet comic instincts along the way.  And I especially dug Marc Andre Charette in an act 1 scene he shared with Benard, a great comic bit that had the audience in stitches.

The show fits the lovely Theatre de L’Ile space perfectly and, while not exactly a play, certainly kept me entertained mightily for its duration.  Be prepared tho, and come ready to clap, smile and laugh.  Foot stomping would also not be out of place, as the music is pretty fantastic and comes on strong throughout, right up to the powerful ending.  The show runs until October 13th in the most beautiful theatre in the world, so get on out there.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Secrets and Masks

In Uncategorized on September 16, 2012 at 10:13 am

Ding dang these new responsibilities and such at work, aka The Drudgery…this shit is interfering with my bloggery schedule but good!  So this post SHOULD have gone up a couple of days ago, but it’s all good.  Still early in the run and all that.  Could be worse, my laziness, is all I’m saying.  Go easy.

As it stands, all the exciting stuff took place a couple of days back in dear old Hintonburg, where the Great Canadian Theatre Company was gearing up to launch their brand new season, yay!  I got to the area early, partook of a little veggie nosh at The Table with a famous Actor, an award-winning Director, and the new playwright in residence at the GCTC…not too shabby, hey?  Then it was off to the Oiving Greenboig Theatre for the premiere that evening of Rick Chafe’s THE SECRET MASK, directed by Ann Hodges.  It was a packed house, and we were treated to a pretty fun opening night speech from incoming Artistic Director Eric Coates, who I kind of like already (although I reserve crush status for outgoing AD Lise Ann Johnson, thanks very much).  Then, in the shadow of a looming, deceptively simple-looking set from designner Karyn McCallum, the show (and the season) got underway.

Now, I’ll admit to being hesitant about this show going in.  I didn’t know the writer or director, and the subject matter…a family dramedy about an estranged Father and Son…didn’t exactly set my imagination ablaze.  I’m a simple comic book lad, you understand…I like things like dinosaurs, and spaceships, not relationshippy stuffs, dagnabbit!

Although DINOSAURS ON A SPACESHIP? Oddly disappointing.

It turns out I need not have worried.  The play centers around the budding relationship between stroke victim Ernie (Paul Rainville, as good as I’ve ever seen him, and that’s saying something) and  stressed-out George (a coolly understated Michael Mancini), the son Ernie walked out on 40 years earlier.  Suddenly thrust into the position of caring for the Father he never knew, George and Ernie both get put to the test, not just from the strain of their awkward position, but the crippling aftereffects of Ernie’s stroke, AND George’s slowly crumbling home life.  They are variously helped, hindered and occasionally upstaged by Kate Hurman in a variety of roles, but chiefly as Ernie’s determined caregiver Mae.  Between the three of them, the onstage dynamic never fails to be fresh and engaging.

The wonderful thing about this script is how ridiculously funny it is, which might not be what you’d expect from a play about a stroke victim and a manchild with abandonment issues.  But Rainville scores comic home-runs at a pretty rapid clip, every time without looking like he’s even trying (kind of the point, really).  Hurman, too, gets great laughs in some of her cheekier supporting roles, leaving Mancini as the show’s straight man, something he wears quite well.  The connection between Father and Son solidifies as they battle their mutual demons, and it ends up being damn near impossible not to be hopelessly drawn into caring about their story.

Paul Rainville, Michael Mancini and Kate Hurman in THE SECRET MASK, courtesy of photog Andrew Alexander.

A special shoutout to an often unsung hero of the GCTC who positively shines in this show, and that’s lighting wizard Jock Munro, who does top-notch work with the gorgeous effects on this show.  Trust me, you’ll notice, and you’ll like.  The whole show lasts just over two hours with an intermission, but it breezes by all too quickly.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, all that good jazz.  A mighty fine start to the season, and I’m looking forward to more.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Helping Destiny Along

In Uncategorized on September 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm

A few years back I got to take a vacation in Aruba, thanks to a pretty cool pal of mine  But I was oddly lacking excitement about the endeavour in the days leading up to the trip.  See, I’d never been what you call a sun-worshipper…I was pale WAY before those TWILIGHT kids tried to make it all trendy…and I honestly didn’t get what all the fuss was about beach-vacation destinations.  It sounded pretty boring to me, to be honest.  But as life would have it, I was about five minutes off the plane and standing in the Aruban sun, when I IMMEDIATELY switched gears.  In an instant, I ‘got’ what being a beach bum was all about.  Just like that.

I had much the same experience when I attended Opera Lyra Ottawa‘s season premiere of LA BOHEME last night at the National Arts Centre’s Southam Hall, with Fringe Goddess Catriona Leger along for the ride.  I had never, ever been to the Opera before…the closest I’d come in the past was that Ride of the Valkyries episode of LOONEY TUNES.  But it only took about one or two bars before I got right into the swing of things, and by the end of the first act I was pretty damn hungry for more.  The show, by Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini (or GADMSMP for short) tells a classic tale of love and loss in Moulin Rouge-era Paris.  A gaggle of broke but lovable artists…Rodolfo, Marcello, Colline and Schaunard…are living the bohemian life, pursuing their dreams, and the odd free lunch. Things change when Rodolfo (Michael Fabiano), the poet of the group, meets beautiful neighbour Mimi (Joyce El-Khoury) and falls in love.  Those of you familiar with the show’s modern day reinterpretation RENT already know the basic story.

Rodolfo, Colline and Marcello in happier, poorer times.

Taking place in a gorgeous multifunctional set (inherited from a previous production in Montreal), BOHEME plays out in four acts.  The liveliest of the bunch is without a doubt the second, when the gang invades happening local nightspot Momus.  A spectacular crowd scene complete with children, waiters, seriously good-looking wardrobe, and the odd unicycling juggler is soon overshadowed by the scene-stealing entrance of Musetta (Laura Whalen), an operatic Mae West come to win her former beau Marcello (Joshua Hopkins) back with a pretty unabashed diva display of sex appeal that is pretty hard to argue with.  Act Three moves to an outdoor setting, complete with a beautiful snowfall, where events start to take a turn towards a potentially tragic ending.  And Act Four I still can’t talk abut without getting a little misty.

Laura Whalen’s Musetta demonstrates how to make an entrance.

As I said, I’m no opera buff by a long shot, so I can’t specifically comment on the vocal performances from an enlightened point of view.  All I can say is, if this isn’t amazing opera, then I’m not sure I could even HANDLE amazing opera.  Fabiano and El-Khoury, who together form the heart of BOHEME, have magnetic chemistry together that’s downright impossible to resist, and voices that hit you in the heart like finely-tuned magic missiles. Their meeting scene, filled with laughs and heart, and some genuinely lovely dialogue (translation notwithstanding) is a wonder, as is the interplay between Rodolfo and the other members of his entourage.  Schaubert (Peter McGillivray)is a lively force indeed on the stage, and the instantly memorable bass tones of Colline (Valerian Ruminski) won me over pretty good, especially his short but beautiful lament to a favoured old coat in the final act.  No, seriously.

Rodolfo (Michael Fabiano) and Mimi (Joyce El-Khoury), singing themselves some opera-style romance.

I can see now why people become such hardcore Opera afficionados…after the weak musical tea most of us listen to on the radio day after day, listening to pipes like these in action is a bloody revelation.  As a friend of mine remarked when I told him I was heading out to this show, ‘You can’t fake Opera’, and that be the truth, yo.  Artistic director Tyrone Paterson has good reason to be proud of this production, as does maestro Alexander Shelley and the whole gang.  Catriona and me were both pretty much in tears by the end of it…which may explain why we ended up at the Carleton Tavern afterwards (by the way, Kitty Leger can TOTALLY drink me under the table, but that’s another story).

A final note before I head out…the show features one very handy feature, in the form of surtitles, projected out of the way overtop the stage, providing translations of the ‘dialogue’ being sung by the performers.  It was a lifesaver, even if it can be a bit distracting dividing your attention like that (you get used to it).  Heck, now that I’m familiar with the lines, I’d love to see it again, so I could focus exclusively on the performances.  And just maybe I will.  Peace, love and soul, opera fans,

The Visitor (and Winston)

PS: thanks to Sheilagh D’arcy McGee for inviting me to the show, and providing me with the awesome pix above, from photog Sam Garcia!

a Pocket full’a Stones

In Uncategorized on September 8, 2012 at 12:07 am

Tomorrow night I’m going to the Opera with one of the most beautiful women in the city.  Now there’s a sentence I never thought I would type in a non-fictional milieu.  But I’m actually not making it up and, as such, can only assume that tomorrow night I’ll be living someone ELSE’S life.  So I had better get cracking and write this, one of my first biggie show reviews of the spanking new 2012-13 Theatre season, before Cinderella time chimes and I turn into this suave, opera-going motherfucker I seem destined to become.

Happily, there was no suave-ing on my part tonight…tonight, I was ALL BUSINESS, folks.  Did my day of drudgery (where I’m now finally the dad-blasted kitchen manager, no big), hustled home to Winston for some Pho with dumplings, a quick Podcast-pimping post, and away I went.  Off by the magic of busses to the Gladstone Theatre, for their triumphant return to a full season of programming after a couple of shorter mini-seasons.  Tonight’s premiere was courtesy of 730 Productions, and is part one of what I assume is a fairly unprecedented 2-month double-header of shows, at two different theatres, by two different theatre COMPANIES, from playwright Marie Jones and director John P.Kelly.  I know…awesome, right?  Late next month it’ll be FLY ME TO THE MOON at the GCTC, but tonight it was STONES IN HIS POCKETS at the Gladstone.

The show, set in Ireland on a big budget film set, follows Jake Quinn (Richard Gelinas) and Charlie Conlon (Zach Counsil) who are working as extras for the big production.  The pair become friends, hopeful actor Jake meshing nicely with would-be writer Charlie.  The action start off with some amiable fish-out-of-water adventures, as Jake and Charlie interact with the gruff director, Hollywood crew, and sexy diva starlet, not to mention Jake’s myriad relatives on and off set.  Quite a cast of characters come and go through the scenes, each last one played by Counsil or Gelinas.  And you’d be mightily hard-pressed, I say, to find more talented or wunnerful lads for the job.

Coming off their team-up as the entire supporting cast of THE 39 STEPS last season, Ottawa’s own Dynamic Duo have upped the ante for this one.  The laughs are plenty, and they’re loud, amidst a constant chorus of giggles that I pretty much never stopped hearing from a clearly delighted audience.  If you don’t laugh when Zach Counsil, as the sultry Caroline Giovanni, tries to seduce Jake, you might as well just give up on having fun right now, because you don’t know how to do it.  And when the show takes a dark turn halfway through, it sets the stage for a seriously strong second act.  Richard and Zach are two of the best actors in this town, and they prove it a hundred times over in STONES.

Andrew Alexander Photography for the win!

This is balls-out fun theatre, folks, from seriously talented mooks.  I’ll leave it to the audience to decide how well the lads do with their myriad of Irish accents (tho the Irish Ambassador was in attendance tonight, and loved it, so take that into account), and I’m also curious to know if anyone else thinks Richard Gelinas’ flamboyant assistant director character isn’t just him doing a Stewart Matthews impression.

It was a great night out, and it was good to see many familiar faces back at the ‘Stone, including Kate Smith, Smooth Tim Oberholzer, Will Somers, the ICB…everyone! Glad to be back at the Gladstone, and especially glad it was such a jolly joyful show as this.  Peace, love and slainte,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Blogging Out Loud (with help)

In Uncategorized on September 7, 2012 at 5:32 pm

This here blog/chud has been lazily plodding along for over two years now. There’ve been some high points (Fringe!), some low points (Greedy Wedding Photographer!), and some poorly scheduled Foofarah even.  But something has always been missing…namely, my horrible, screeching voice.  Thankfully, thanks to the magic of the technologies, that oversight has been overcome at long last.

You see, a few weeks ago I hopped onto a makeshift caravan to Prescott (for the St.Lawrence Shakespeare Festival) with good guy Allan Mackey of Production Ottawa.  He pitched an idea on that trip, that we, along with old Tweedy himself Andrew Snowdon of Apartment 613, should maybe think of doing a podcast, yakking about theatre, since we see a lot of the stuff.  I said it sounded fun, then managed to completely forget about the idea by the time we hit Prescott.  Allan, however, had not.  He brought it up again when we all saw one another at the FLY WITH STONES event at the Irving Greenberg, and seemed more determined than ever.  I shrugged and said sure, why not, not realizing that Allan Mackey is one of those dudes who actually, you know, DOES things…within days we were all holed up in a tiny room upstairs at the Daily Grind, chatting about upcoming theatrical goings-on into Andrew’s smashing-looking microphone and just generally acting like we knew what we were talking about.

But seriously, that is one sweet lookin’ microphone.

Being the dumb one of the group, I faded away when the recording was done while Andrew did all the audio editing (made more difficult by the constant redactions I called on him to make, on account of I talk faster than I can think sometimes) and Allan took care of uploading the finished file, not to mention furnishing our killer music (closing lyrics, however, courtesy of your truly).  And with all the proper work done, I can now introduce you to the very first episode of…

THE DANGER BISCUIT CASCADE!!!
…or, you know, Three Guys Talking Theatre.  Whichever you think is catchier, it really doesn’t matter.  Much.  I guess. Ah, fuck it, at least I got to sing.

The cast is supposed to go up every two weeks, with this first ep being devoted mostly to chatter about the new seasons launching from the GCTC, Ottawa Little Theatre and Gladstone.  The next one will likely talk about the cool-beans Fresh Meat Festival, plus new stuffs from Gruppo Rubato and Red Collective, among others.

If you have the stomach to listen to it, go for it.  Despite one terrible joke I make in it which inspires calls of vanity upon me, I AM vain enough to want to know what people think of it.  So far all we’ve elicited is a single snarky ‘tsk tsk’ (everyone’s a critic), and I’m hoping we can do better than THAT.  So come and get yer podcast on, if that’s your thing.   Me, I’ll still be plugging away here on the print side of the internet…STONES IN HIS POCKETS tonight, LA BOHEME tomorrow, finally there’s lots to do again!  I haven’t even TALKED about the Fresh Meat Festival media launch I attended last night, and believe you me we’re gonna have words about THAT, and soon.

But for now…yeah.  Podcast.  It’s what’s for dinner.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)