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.
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?
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.