Archive for October, 2012|Monthly archive page

If We Were Violently Traumatized Birds

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Yay, it’s Halloween!  Wow, I totally can still remember when that meant something to me…you know, before I died inside?  Sweet memories.

One day, I’ll don this uniform again. One day..!

Alas, I wish this were gonna be a properly Halloween-themed post, but no such luck…you’re even LUCKIER, and it’s a writeup of the latest theatre piece from the Ottawa University Drama Guild!  Got myself all invited to the show last night, by Ottawa U’s Theatre kingpin himself, Joel Beddows, who was on hand for the premiere.  The show was Erin Shields’ IF WE WERE BIRDS, directed by Andre Perrier.  It had been a while since I was back in the hallowed Academic Hall, and I always welcome any excuse to see a show there.  I was stoked, and happily clueless about whatever the show was about.  From the title, I figured SOMEthing lighthearted and gay, no doubt.

…Yeah, not so much, as it turns out.  But then, preconceived notions are best shattered, eh?  BIRDS tells the story of sisters Philomela (Annik Welsh) and Procne (Lydia Riding), daughters of the somewhat dippy King Pandion of Athens (Samuel Dietrich), who spend their days idly wondering about love and marriage, with amusingly frank euphemisms about sex tossed in there.  It’s all very lighthearted and gay, to be sure, and it all starts to go sour pretty darn quick, with the arrival of warrior-king Tereus (Jan Swiderski) of Thrace.  He’s just quelled a rebellion for the King, and brought along as gifts a passel of beautiful slaves (Meaghan Flaherty, Sophia Lyford-Wilson, Stephanie Mazunya, Mahalia Golnash and Mekedes Teshome), who double as the chorus for our far-reaching tale.  In recompense the Kind gives Tereus Procne’s hand in marriage, leaving doting Philomela alone with the slave girls.  A wonderful scene ensues where the naive daughter listens to the terrifying list of crimes committed against the women when they were taken into captivity, and trying vainly to justify or deny them, to maintain her fragile worldview.  Procne, meanwhile, gives Tereus a son, but misses her sibling.  She finally persuades hubby to cross the seas and fetch Philomela…vastly underestimating the violence that lurks beneath Tereus’ surface.

I usually leave things like ‘trigger warnings’ to my good pal Nadine, but in this case (and given some of the more noticeable reactions in the crowd around me on opening night), I do feel the need to make a few things clear…this is a show about Rape.  And at times, a pretty shockingly unsubtle one.  Then again, it’s not exactly a subject matter that lends itself to subtlety, to be honest.  The chorus, often seen moving sensually about in the background of the sprawling set (kudos to designer Julie Giroux, and choreographer Sarah Algozino), alternate between group and solo turns speaking directly to the audience, and a cleverly used camera.  They tell all-too-believable tales of sexual assault in wartime from across the ages, even as the spectacle of Tereus, Philomela and Procne reaches it’s terrible depths.  It’s hard viewing (and there WERE a few walkouts that night), and the cast deserves full credit for pulling it all off.  Annik Welsh is terrific as Philomela, as is Lydia Riding as the slightly more worldly Procne.  Jan Swiderski does a great job indeed making Tereus more than one-dimensional.

Lots to like in this awfully daring production…great sound from designer Nick Komarnicki, innovative staging, and the chorus is a treat…but it won’t be for everyone.  It’s VERY hard for a show like this to not come off as preaching,  and I have to admit even I felt like I was getting sternly lectured from time to time.    But then I think of the stats on Rape coming from every corner of the world, especially in times of war…and wonder if  maybe that’s not exactly what we all need.  Certainly food for thought, and props to the Drama Guild for tackling this difficult piece, running until November 3rd, with style.  But please…something lighthearted and gay next time, eh? I think I need it. 🙂  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston says Happy Halloween!)

Monday Foofarah! — October 29th 2012

In Foofarah, Uncategorized on October 29, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Gonna TRY and get the Foofarah out today, but I’m fighting the clock, lack of ideas, and soul-crushing depression (Seriously, gang, it’s getting kinda dark over here…I need major reinvention or else!).  Still, the coffee is sorta helping,not to mention that there’s lots of STUFF going on these days!!  And ya know I like me some stuff.


GLACE BAY MINERS’ MUSEUM at the National Arts Centre. The mining, bagpiping epic continues all week!

THE HOLLOW at Ottawa Little Theatre.  Get some (Agatha) Christie Love, courtesy of the OLT gang.

JULIUS CAESER at Centrepointe Studio, from Ottawa Shakespeare Company.  I don’t know if Shakespeare INTENDED the use of an X-Box, but…let’s just assume he did, okay?  Great fun, go see it!

DEATH OF DRACULA at the Gladstone Theatre, from Phoenix Players.  Hard to argue that this is well-timed for Halloween, eh?

YOU NEVER CAN TELL at Elmwood Theatre, from Linden House.  Lovely period fun, in the rich part of town.

IF WE WERE BIRDS at Academic Hall, from the Ottawa U Drama Guild.  I finally get invited to the Ottawa U shows, yay!   Man, it pays to pester Joel Beddows. Gonna be a good show, starts tuesday night and runs this week ONLY!

FLY ME TO THE MOON at Great Canadian Theatre Company.  Premiering on Thursday!  The Marie Jones\John P.Kelly 2-hander that’s NOT Stones in His Pockets.

AGNES OF GOD at GCTC Studio, from 9th Hour.   Starting the same night as MOON, making two all-female cast plays debuting on the same day, in the same building.  Yay Ottawa!

SOUS-SOL A LOUER at Theatre de L’Ile.  Roughly translated as UNDER FLOOR AT RENTING.  That’s pretty accurate, right?  Starts on Halloween!

KASPAR HAUSER at Old Town Hall (61 Main Street) from Anthropos Theatre.  One night only on the 2nd of November, with storyteller Glen Williamson.

Lots going on, yay!  And I didn’t even mention SERIES DANCE #10 – ROAD TRIP from the Ottawa Dance directive, from the 1st to 3rd at Arts Court.  Which I would love to check out.  By the way, here’s how much I love me some theatre…I missed these guys last week to see a play.  THAT is dedication:

REPEATS:  Never did make mention in these pages that I hit up the Gladstone Theatre a few weeks back, to catch a second viewing (on closing night, in fact) of Danny MacIvor’s HOW IT WORKS.  It was an amazing show, from director Stewart Matthews and the spectacular troupe of Michelle leBlanc, Genevieve Sirois, Hannah Kaya and David Whitely.  They’d lost a few performances shortly after I saw it on opening night due to an illness, and I was all too happy to see it return.  I really did love that show, and it did me some good to catch it again.  Remember, you kids, it’s cool to see the same show twice…it means you’re FUCKING HARDCORE when it comes to your theatre, dig?  Also, we need moree MacIvor on stage in this town.  Next time a company starts up, instead of a Shakespeare company, can we just get a MacIvor company instead?  I think that would rock.  You do too.

RETURNS:  Here’s something else I haven’t mentioned yet in the blog, and shame on me for my sloppiness in that regard…THIRD WALL is back!  Yeah, you know Richardson’s gang wasn’t going to stay down and out for long, and now they’re officially back in action, with a shiny new website to go along with it.  They’ve already been hard at work, continuing their Empty Space reading series (next one is Charles Dickens on December 5th), and come February they roar back into mainstage life with Yasmina Reza’s GOD OF CARNAGE at the Irving Greenberg, strring the pretty much incredible lineup of John Koensgen, Mary Ellis, Kristina Watt AND Todd Duckworth.  Bam!

Roar, get it??

And speaking of John Koensgen (and why not?), his NEW THEATRE OF OTTAWA is back as well, announcing the return of THE EXTREMELY SHORT PLAY FESTIVAL coming next April.  The first one was a big hit, and they’re already looking for new shortie submissions to fill up round two.  This time I’m entering, this time I’m entering, THIS TIME I’M ENTERING!  Always good to hear about new stuff coming up from cool companies…hey EVOLUTION THEATRE, how about you?  I need me some more evolution, you know I do!  I’m starting to devolve over here.  Help me out!  But in the meantime, it’s almost Halloween, so…Halloween song!

IMPROV: So I ended up going to that Ken Godmere Improv workshop a few weeks back, preceeding the last BOUT TIME from Crush Improv.  It was great fun, and much needed, and I think I definitely need to do more along these lines.  Which is why I’ll be doing my darnedest to make it to the NEXT workshop, this coming Monday the 5th and led by the renowned Kirsten Rasmussen!  I’ve heard great things about this lady, and I’m gonna try and get there early because I suspect she’ll pack the joint.  And be sure to stick around at thee Elmdale for the show, featuring seemingly unbeatable returning champs TWO AND A HALF WOMEN taking on GRIMPROV!  Gonna be sweet, yo.

Right, that’s all for me…I need to buy me some dumplings and comfort Pho before the evenings drudgery.  Still, I get the day off tomorrow , so PLEASE HANG OUT WITH ME!  I even have an extra ticket to IF WE WERE BIRDS tomorrow night, so, y’know, be cool and come on along.  Why wouldn’t you wanna be cool? Doesn’t hardly make no sense.  Peace, love and soul, everyone,

The Visitor (and Winston)

You Never Can Tell

In Uncategorized on October 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Getting off to a slow start this Monday, TOO slow.  The mean reds got me down once again, and they’re way past beginning to cramp my style, they’ve all but eliminated any style I once laid claim to.  But blogging waits for no man, nor any manic depression, and I have my fifth show of the week to write up yet!  Made it out to this one on the day off yesterday, out at the Elmwood School Theatre where the buses don’t run (because that’s how the extraordinarily wealthy residents like it, thank you very much).  It was that time of year again, when the Linden House Theatre Company puts on their annual show, and it would mark my second time catching the action.   Had a great time at last year’s production of THE CIRCLE, and so had high hopes for their latest effort, George Bernard Shaw’s YOU NEVER CAN TELL.  And not just because Visitorium fav’rit Jenny David was in it, after way too long an absence from Ottawa stages.  Shaw is, after all, one of the most celebrated writers in the English language, and this is a play he pretty much wrote on a dare.  Who could resist?

After the usual Elmwood hospitality (free food and drinks both times now!  I frickin’ love this place!), the show got underway courtesy of musical accompaniment from pianist Jennifer Ross).  Shaw’s version of the English seaside comedy follows a down on his luck dentist called Valentine (Danny McLeod) who gets sucked into the whirlwind that is the Clandon family by nosey parker Dolly (Jenny David) and her twin brother and self-appointed expert on human nature Phillip (Adrian Manicom).  They introduce Valentine to their progressive Mom (company founder Janet Uren, impressive as ever on stage) and older sister Gloria (Susan Nugent), who our hapless dentist instantly falls for.  There’s some disarray in the family, as the children are pestering their proud Mother for information on their real Father, whom they have never known…and who, of course, turns out out be in the very same resort.  Lawyers are called in (Corey Reay as Finch, AND Dan Demarbre as Walter), tempers flare, feelings are hurt, and sometimes it seems as if gentleman butler William (an absolutely terrific Tom Charlebois) is the only sane one in thee bunch.  Which, truth be told, is likely accurate.

YNCT is a lovely and fun comedy, always kept light and with a troupe more than capable of tackling Shaw’s mightily verbose script.  McLeod and Nugent were both great in this June’s DANGEROUS LIAISONS at OLT, and their scenes together are pretty damn delightful as they spar and parry their way to romance.  Bill Horsman’s gruff and bombastic landlord Crampton is hilariously ill-mannered, and he makes a worthy ‘villain’ of the piece.  And yes, Jenny David is perfectly wonderful as dotty Dolly with her endless and inappropriate questions, and she and partner-in-crime Manicom make some merry mischief on stage (and wear some smashing outfits while doing it…thanks to Janet Uren and Jane Sadler on costumes).  A few of director George Stonyk’s transitions could use a little speeding up, and one or two times the odd actor didn’t project as well as needed, but for the most part things flow pretty smoothly.  It’s a terrific fun, seriously witty romp with some pretty canny insight into the way people act snuck in there.  Every Mother should probably force their daughters to read Valentine’s monologue on Artillery and modern wooing, just to be prepared.  Because after all…you never can tell.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

The Dogs of War

In Uncategorized on October 28, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Decided to slack off a bit this week after all, and only see five shows instead of six.  Apologies all around, especially to the good folks at Tale Wagging Theatre, whose CRACKERS I ended up missing.  I just couldn’t talk myself into that kid-packed 95 bus ride back from Orleans on a Friday night.  Brrr.  Feel free to remount any old time (that doesn’t require time, planning or money, right..?).

But Bloggery blogs on, and I had a ticket booked for show #4 of the week last night.  And, when I finally managed to rather painfully extricate myself from the drudgery (note to every cook ever: if you’re slow on prep, I HATE you today), I hopped on the 95 (there’s no escaping it!) and headed on over to Centrepointe Theatre.  This was opening week for the second ever Ottawa Shakespeare Company production, and a long delayed one at that, JULIUS CAESER.  There was some serious buzz about this particular production heading in…it sounded like director and company co-founder Charles McFarland was pulling out all the stops to make this an evening to remember.  And in the end, it’s hard to argue with that.

Eugene Clark’s Caeser takes command.

You may have heard that the ticketing for this production is split into two groups each night…audience, or ‘participant’.  The participants are taken aside before the show  and coached in their roles, mostly consisting of being part of several raucous mob scenes, including the one that kicks the play off.  They later get to watch the stage action from the sidelines, or the balconies overlooking the staging area.  It’s a fun idea, and the gang looked like they were having a blast being part of the show.  It certainly added a pretty unique kind of energy to the proceedings.

The show itself, Billy Shakes’ epic about regicide and its down side (regicide is, like, TOTALLY frowned upon in some places), gets the usual McFarland update, visually setting it in modern times with lots of flair.  Gemini winner Eugene Clark headlines as Caeser himself, coming off nicely larger than life, a rockstar Caeser who rules by sheer force of charm and will.  At his side are loyal Mark Antony (Brad Long, who’s having quite the Shakespearean year after A MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM and MACBETH), and slightly not-so-loyal Brutus (Mac Fyfe, a pretty impressive force on stage his own self).  Brutus is led into conspiracy against Caeser by the envious Cassius (Michael Mancini, very earnest in his scheming and lots of fun), along with a host of other plotters.  The bloody coup backfires against Brutus and Cassius, who find themselves at odds with Antony and Octavius Caeser (Diego Arvelo, who has great presence on the stage…glad to see him back up there).  Along for the ride are Casca, played by the ever-wonderful Richard Gelinas, David Dacosta as Cinna, Stavros Sakiadis as Titinius, Spencer Robson as Decius Brutus (Two Brutuses? Really, Shakespeare,  that’s just lazy), and yay, Jonah Allingham as the soothsayer!  Katie Bunting and Sarah McVie are in there as well, as the wives of Brutus and Caeser respectively, and have all too little stage time.  Shakespeare wrote great plays, but not a lot of great roles for women.  Maybe I’ll cast them in the all-female version of HAMLET I have running around in my head these days…

JC is a highly entertaining and energetic production, faithful to the themes of the classic work but adding in just enough updated tweaks to make it feel fresh.  Some of the high-tech effects are VERY impressive,  and I suspect we haven’t seen the last of them in Ottawa.  Kudos to Stage Manager Becca Wiseman for calling this tech-heavy show so smoothly (and sitting in the back row of the balcony as I was, I could occasionally even hear them talking in the both…kind of funny).  Nods as well to Paddy Mann’s costume design, and a typically amazing AL Connors soundscape.

But right, the acting!  There was that too!  And can I just say that good old Brad Long is on a roll these days?  His Mark Antony was seriously impressive…he gives a mean ‘Cry Havoc’ speech, lemme tell ya.  Likewise Mac Fyfe’s idealistic Brutus, who has great interplay with Mancini’s Cassius.  The whole ensemble, many doing double duty as minor characters, deliver excellent work throughout.  And, of course, the eager crowd of participants, proving that Ottawa audiences aren’t always content to just sit and watch.  The show, running until November 3rd at Centrepointe Studio, is only 10 bucks for the first 100 people every night!  If you have an excuse not to see this show, I don’t believe you.  Hail Caeser!  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Real Vampires Wear Capes

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Day three of three plays-posts in a row, and while work is doing its best to wear me down, I remain defiant.  Started off with Ottawa Little Theatre’s THE HOLLOW, then some Franco-theatre with ALBERTINE EN CINQ TEMPS.  And midway through the week, it was back to Community Theatre, this time at the Gladstone for the latest show from the venerable Phoenix Players, and their first ever two-week run.  Always nice to see the smaller players busting out, and the Gladstone seems to be suiting the Players just fine.  Their latest was a pretty intriguing break from the average Community fare, Warren Graves’ THE DEATH OF DRACULA, based on the novel by Bram Whats-His-Name.

Just kidding…Who isn’t stoked for some STOKER? Am I right??

Directed by Phoenix Artistic Director Jo-Ann McCabe (who helmed the last Phoenix production I caught, last year’s I REMEMBER MAMA), the play tells the familiar Dracula story in truncated form, tweaked and modified by playwrite Graves in a way that…well, that I’m really not a fan of, I have to reluctantly say.  I know, I know, I’m all about the positive in this blog…I haven’t forgotten.  But after a promising start with fiction’s fav’rit lunatic Renfield (Ron Langton, tossing himself nicely into the role of madman), the play nearly stops itself cold as Professor Van Helsing (Andre Dimetrijevic, a lovely fit for the quirky vampire-hunter) and doctor Seward (a VERY entertaining William Morrison) sit down for about fifteen minutes, politely explaining to us everything that happened in the first, oh, 200 pages or so of the novel.  It’s almost deadly, and I really wished Graves had found a better way to convey that volume of information.  That being said, kudos to the actors (especially Dimitrijevic, who gets the lion share of the exposition in the production) for keeping it all straight with hardly a misstep.

Things get cooking at last, and ain’t it always the way, when the ladies show up.  First is Brigitte Aube Harrison as Mina (Mina Seward, tho, not Murray…for whatever reason, the playwrite has switched Mina’s and Lucy’s surnames…another gripe I have with the text), who radiates the brains and poise of Stoker’s heroine wonderfully as the plot slowly begins to thicken.  Shortly after, we meet her ailing pal Lucy (Tina Prud’homme, who vacillates very effectively between retiring maiden and glowering vamp as the play moves forward), suffering from a mysterious ‘disease of the blood’ that no one seems able to explain.

Hint: It was the vampire what done it.

Soon we meet the ladies significant others…Mina’s Beau Jonathan Harker (Jake William Smith) and Lucy’s fella Arthur Holmwood (Aaron Lajeunesse).  Both of them are somewhat rankled by the mysterious new heartthrrob in town, Count Dracula (Bill Brown, sporting a swell cape), and soon enough the terrible truth comes out, thank to Van Helsing’s dogged kookiness.  I was disappointed that Jake Smith had so little to do, as the script has essentially turned Harker into little more than mild comic relief.  But Lajeunesse gets more to sink his teeth into (pun!), and both lads impress with what they have.  Bill Brown’s Dracula has some good moments, especially a visit to the Seward home that culminates in a surprisingly steamy bit with Lucy, yoinks!  Although he’s really kind of a supporting character in his own play, which I actually get.  There were times when the straight approach didn’t go over so well, and you wished they had just gone full on camp with the part (come on, that CAPE..!), but things all moved along to a satisfyingly fun finale.  The costumes and set were damned lovely, with the occasional nifty light and sound cue to set the mood…could have used a few more of those, actually.  And the cast is definitely worth watching…this is a good ensemble.

All in all, a good, fun night out with the Phoenix Players. And while it didn’t completely rock my world, I feel safe to say it’s at least WAY better than TWILIGHT.  The show runs until November 3rd (you can see it on Halloween!!  You know you want to…), so lots of chances left to check it out.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

5 x Albertine

In Uncategorized on October 25, 2012 at 1:54 am

Day two of my first hardcore theatre weeks in WAY too long, and it’s feeling good, folks.  I’m still trying to decide if I’m seeing five shows this week or six, and either way…yay ME!  And if you know me you know that ain’t a sentiment I express too often.

Tonight, I’m expressing that yay about some other people, namely the cool kids at Theatre la Catapulte and Theatre Francais de Toronto, who just co-produced the premiere of ALBERTINE EN CINQ TEMPS, de Michel Tremblay, that I just caught tonight at La Nouvelle Scene.  It’s the latest in a series of co-productions both companies are undertaking, and take it from me, Ottawa…it’s a good thing they did.  As a general rule, I seem to be very impressed with Franco-Theatre, even given my somewhat spotty conversational French. This time, however, I came prepared!  I read up on an English translation of Tremblay’s piece (which would actually be the 3rd Tremblay play I’d seen, but only the 1st in his native French…after the NAC’s ST.CARMEN OF THE MAIN and Chamber Theatre’s great MARCEL PURSUED BY THE HOUNDS), and it was an impressive read.  After getting through it, I could not WAIT to see how Catapulte and friends carried it off.

A brilliantly framed character piece, ALBERTINE tells the life of the titular character in exquisitely theatrical form, hearing from the character in 5 different decades of her life, all at the same time.  Alongside them all is sister Madeleine (Genevieve Dufour), never changing herself even as she listens to the laments of all 5 iterations of her tragic sister.  We  start with Albertine at 30 (Melanie Beauchamp), still hopeful but filled with a terrible darkness that threatens to overwhelm her.  Albertine at 40 (Celeste Dube) is at times 30’s dark mirror (they stare one another down more than once in the show), consumed with anger and bitterness.  Albertine at 50 (Patricia Marceau) is almost jarringly happy, until we realize what a terrible price she paid for that contentment.  At 60 (LynnTremblay) everything has gone wrong again, soothed only by a parade of pills from a friendly doctor.  And Albertine at 70 (Marie-Helene Fontaine) seems the most grounded of all, finally looking back on her mess of a life with something like perspective.  It’s one of the most beautifully-crafted character pieces I could even imagine, and it’s imagined into pretty amazing reality here by director, and Catapulte Artistic Director Jean Stephane-Roy.

It’s hard to pick out or spotlight a performance here, because all 6 actors are so uniformly great.  I expect that the acting lineup for this play will look extremely similar to the nomination list for next year’s Prix Rideau Awards for French Theatre, Female.  There wasn’t a sour note in the bunch, and there were plenty of moments to shine.  Celeste Dube as the combative Albertine at 40 was a Helluva sight to see, and Albertine at 70 Marie-Helene Fontaine was easily one of the crowd’s fav’rits.  50’s Marceau was a cocky bombshell, perfectly content in her own carefully shielded world, and 30’s Beauchamp had just the right level of explosive lurking underneath her surface.  And 60’s Tremblay was amazing, snaking along the pared-down stage, dispensing slurred wisdom that none of them wanted to hear.  Bloody incredible, right across the board.

Albertine at 30, played by the wonderful Melanie Beauchamp. Photo courtesy of Sylvain Sabatie!

After reading the script (and knowing how wonderfully INSANE French theatre can get) I was actually kind of surprised how low-key Brian Smith’s lovely set was…until a few minutes into the show, and I understood how brilliant and wonderfully insane lighting designer Benoit Brunet-Poirier’s overhanging army of lightbulbs were going to transform the set, and the whole production. The effect they had…so cool.  I swear, if the show run weren’t so short, I’d catch it again..tho I believe it WILL be playing again in Toronto next year.  Hmmm…

An amazing text by Canadian legend Tremblay is brought to incredible life here, by the kind of talent you only ever dream you had backing you up.  I continue to wish my French language skills were better than they were, and French theatre is the best reason I’ve ever found to brush up.  I wish I had a good pull quote to give you in French, but I’m not quite there yet.  Heck, I asked a girl to be my date for this show in French, and…well, wow.  Let’s just say I went alone, okay?  Best I can do is this…

C’est Fou comme c’est Bon!

Peace, Love and Soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

PS: the show runs until Saturday, but check before heading out…I think some shows are already close to selling out (and rightly so)!

The 100-Year Whodunnit

In Uncategorized on October 24, 2012 at 2:35 pm

You know, I think I’m off to my best Ottawa Little Theatre Season start ever?

I mean, I’ll admit it, I have had a tendency to be a little truant on the OLT in the past…heck, I don’t think I caught a production until four shows in last year, and I know, for shame.  But now I’m two for two, right off the bat!  But then again, who can resist a centennial season?  Quite frankly, folks, it’s hard to argue with an entire god-damned century of theatrical history (to say nothing of John Muggleton, who can be pretty persuasive).  And so it was off to the Little Theatre that could once more, this time on premiere night no less, for a viewing of Agatha Christie’s THE HOLLOW, directed by Jim McNabb.  Now, the venerable Miss Christie is kind of a staple at the OLT as I understand it, so I rather expected the gang to know what they were doing going in (this particular bit of Christie-ness was produced at the OLT back in 1960).   But there was a flipside to that expectation as well…I mean, a community theatre production of Agatha Christie?  Could be a bit by-the-numbers, if ya know what I mean.

Agatha knows what I mean, but I suspect she does not approve.

The show itself ended up being a pretty satisfying blend of both expectations…while there wasn’t anything going on that would set your theatrical world on fire, this was a pleasing period whodunnit put on by a nice blend of seasoned performers and fresh faces, who made some pretty merry fun out of the dark subject matter.  Or at least, you’d expect a murder mystery to be dark, but old Aggie seemed to be having lots of fun with this one, and the characters drive the onstage action even more than the mystery.   Set in a picturesque country estate in England, the Angkatell clan (headed by Sir Henry and Lucy Angkatell) are hosting a slightly-too-busy for its own good weekend, hoping to secure a return to their ancestral home, or…something along those lines.  It gets a bit soap-operatic, but a myriad of half-cousins and distant relations (meek Edward, worldly Henrietta, and proud but ignored Midge) collide with brash Doctor John Cristow and his doting wife Gerda, a pair of skulking servants, and even a visiting movie star.  Scandal, vitriol, and of course murder ensue, and sharp-eyed Inspector Colquhoun and Detective-Sergeant Penny arrive to put the pieces together.

If you enjoy a good melodramatic mystery, this is a fine night out for ya, and there’re enough genuinely fun performances to make it worth your while.  Danielle Silverman’s batty lady Lucy is a treat every time she’s on the stage, like one of those sitcom extras who gets applause every time they burst in a door.  Heather Archibald is excellent as moody Henrietta, and has great scenes with Chris Cottrell as the self-obsessed Cristow (as well as with Mary Beth Pongrac, very good as Cristow’s shrinking violet wife).  A special shoutout to Sam Hanson and Meghan Murphy as Gudgeon and Doris, the house servants…I do love me a good onstage servant, and they pull their scenes off nicely (I caught just a bit of Michael Caine in Hanson’s accent…very cool).  And MAJOR scene-stealing props to the scenery-destroying entrances of Theresa Knowles as vain actress Veronica Craye, who brought the house down with sheer over-the-top exuberance.  And Barry Daley’s sensible, suspecting Inspector was a perfectly timed breath of sane air in Act Two.

THE HOLLOW was a nice night…good laughs, the usual lovely costumes and set, and a pretty nifty twist at the end (Aggie is the undisputed Queen of mystery for a reason, after all).  I’ll be looking forward to keeping up my OLT track record next month, when MR PIM PASSES BY continues the 100th season.  Peace, love and soul, OLT,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Monday Foofarah! – October 22, 2012

In Uncategorized on October 22, 2012 at 11:23 pm

I bet you thought the Foofarah was dead, didn’t you?  Well so did I, but then, a few times in the last 3 weeks I though I was dead too.Seriously, I’ve had a rough, dark time the last little while, and blah blah blah, boo fucking hoo, somebody hit me with a dead baby and shut me up.  Time to get on to some much-neglected BIZNESS!!!

…and, yes, I do mean Show Bizness.


GLACE BAY MINERS MUSEUM at the National Arts Centre. A terrific Canadian classic, co-produced with Neptune Theatre, a bagpipin’ good time. On all week.

THE HOLLOW at Ottawa Little Theatre.  Get Agatha Christied, starting on the 23rd, as the 100th season rolls on!

DEATH OF DRACULA from Phoenix Players, at the Gladstone Theatre. Community Theatre goes goth, starting on the 25th.

ALBERTINE EN CINQ TEMPS from Theatre la Catapulte and Theatre Francais de Toronto, at la Nouvelle Scene.  Michel Tremblay done right, from the 24th to 27th.

JULIUS CAESER from the Ottawa Shakespeare Company, at Centrepointe Studio.  Delayed but not defeated, the OSC is back with their anticipated, high-tech retelling of Billy Shakes’ Ides of March drama. Starts on the 25th, with your choice of interactive or spectator seating! I may have a couple of tickets to give away for the premiere later in this post.

CRACKERS from Tale Wagging Theatre, at Shenkman Center.  The folks who brought THE ROOF TOP GUY to Fringe are back with their latest, from the 25th to 27th.

YOU NEVER CAN TELL from Linden House, at the Elmwood Theatre.  George Bernard Shaw meets Jenny David!  Who could ask for more?  Starts on the 26th.

PLANS AND SCHEMES: I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but make no mistake, Operation ‘All Your Fringe Are Belong To ME’ is moving along nicely.  At least, in the sense that we’ve been understaffed at work for a month now, I’m working crazy overtime hours, and thus am saving up the necessary monies to make the several months-long trip to review the entire Fringe Festival circuit next summer.  Yes, there WILL be tee-shirts.  I think all the Fringes have announced their dates for next year by now, so once my schedule calms down I’ll be making a plan of attack and making contact with the individual festivals.  It doesn’t hurt my excitement any that the Ottawa Fringe recently had their early-bird entries, and local heroes Bear and Company and Smooth Tim Oberholzer are IN for next year, as well as a freakin’ Opera troupe from Toronto!  Squee!
That excitement notwithstanding, the opposite side of this is that all this crazy overtime at work is making me realize mre than ever that this cooking life, that I fell rather lethargically into decades ago, is very, very much no longer the life I want to lead.  Nothing like getting chewed out for doing a terrible job, twice, on day 20 of 20 days in a row without a break, to make you realize a change needs to be happening.  With that in mind, I’d like to announce my SECOND major initiative for 2013…VISITORIUM INCORPORATED.  I don’t know the hows and whys yet, and any suggestions or helping hands are more than welcome, but by this time next year (at the very latest) I want to have taken this blog to the next level…that is, the professional level.  Yes, I’m willing to sacrifice my beloved ‘amateur’ status, in what is nothing less than a desperate attempt to salvage what’s left of my sanity.  So, consider this a ‘feeling out’ for this planned change.  Anyone out there have any interest in advertising on the Visitorium, if I took it pro?  Anyone have any idea what advertising rates should be for a concern like this?  Any lawyers out there have decent retainer fees, in case Wen Bell-End feels litigious again??  So many questions!  Fuck it, just listen to Budgie and be amazed:

TREATS:  I bought myself some DVD’s the other day, a bit of a present to myself for time spent chained to the oars at work (and the ridiculously fat paycheck I just got as a result).  A trip to one of my fav’rit places in the whole wide world, Invisible Cinema, was in order.  Picked up six movies in three packages…DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME, one I really wanted to catch at the Bytowne a ways back but didn’t.  A 2-bill from the awesome Dragon Dynasty collection, GOLDEN SWALLOW and KILLER CLANS.  And a special little something from the good folks at Retro-Seduction Cinema, the Joe Sarno 3-movie INGA collection, which promises to be some seriously Swedish Softcore, a bit of a soft spot for me.  Hey I’m a child of the eighties, I was raised on illicit softcore viewings of Bleu Nuit on late night French teevee!

Ah, nostalgia.  But I HAVE been neglecting my movie collection of late, which leads me to a new idea I had recently, that I want to start hosting at my place on a semi-regular basis…VHS MOVIE NIGHTS!  Seriously, I still have a buttload of VHS, many of which I haven’t even watched yet.  Anyone up for this?  BYOB, I’ll supply the movies and the snacks and the Winston?  Come on over, you fucks, I’m lonely.  And now, before I wrap up this overdue edition, here’s the latest old teevee show I wish they’d hurry up and release on DVD…CAPTAIN NICE (and yes, that is William Daniels from ST.ELSEWHERE in that outfit):

Peace, love and soul, folks,

The Visitor (and Winston)

PS I totally forgot!!  I have tickets to the October 25th premiere of JULIUS CAESER to give away!  PARTICIPANT tickets, even, whatever that ends up meaning! I don’t know yet, but it sounds fun!  Tell you what…first person to go to my Facebook Page (that’s the Visitorium page, not my personal page) and post the name of the actor who played Julius Caeser in XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS and HERCULES THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS gets the tix.  Simple enough?  You know you want it!

A Night at the Museum

In Uncategorized on October 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Now that was the week from Hell.  And when your ‘week’ lasts 20 days, trust me, you know what you’re talking about.  I was just near the end of that long stretch of drudgery (also, anyone wants to start paying me to do this blog business, you’re WAY overdue, I’m just saying) when at long last it was new playtime again!  Just what a growing boy needs to keep his strength of will up.  And speaking of will, my companion for the evening was none other than good guy and up’n’coming theatre gangster Will LaFrance (recently seen in Red.Collective’s DOG SEES GOD, soon to appear in GNAG’s production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL).  We duded ourselves up but good, as well we should, because it was season premiere night at the National Arts Centre, English Theatre division.  In fact, thanks to another show of theirs, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE opening up on the road in Calgary the same evening, it was actually a DOUBLE-Premiere for the NAC.  Exciting stuff, kids, and we were ready for the challenge.

The show was Wendy Lill’s THE GLACE BAY MINERS’ MUSEUM, directed by Mary Vingoe (who directed the very first production of this script back in 1995 in Nova Scotia), a co-production with Neptune Theatre.  Neptune has been doing what they do in Halifax for fifty years now, so it’s safe to say they know what they’re doing by now.  And adding to the fun of the evening was the first pre-show introduction of brand new NAC English Theatre Artistic Director Jillian Keiley, who seems a lovely and charming gal indeed…even IF she gave me no indication as to when I should unwrap my soothing lozenge.  Bit of a disappointment there (Peter Hinton inside joke…never mind me).

The show, based on  the Sheldon Currie novel and set in Nova Scotia, centers on the MacNeil clan, a family devastated by tragedy ofter losing a Father and brother in a mine disaster.  Iron willed matriarch Catherine (Martha Irving) keeps the ramshackle MacNeil household under tight control in between regular bingo runs.  Her Father, only ever called ‘Grandpa’ (David Francis) is ever-present and unmoving on his chair, speech gone and lungs failing from a life underground.  Surviving son Ian (Jeff Schwager) is the only breadwinner, still struggling in the mines to start a union and improve wages.  Which leaves Margaret (Francine Deschepper), the flighty, ill-fitting young girl who dreams of a better life, haunted b memories of her big brother Charlie Dave.  Into all this wanders boisterous, rum-soaked Neil Currie (Gil Garrat), a war vet and bagpiping roustabout who has no intention of living his life by anyone else’s rules.  He forces his way into Margaret’s, and by extension the whole family’s, life by sheer charm and braggadoccio. Slowly, his exuberance, and especially his passion for knowing your heritage, infects the downtrodden clan, and things start to look up (where else CAN you look in a mining town?).  Until, of course, reality comes crashing down once again.

From the opening moments, just settling into my seat and taking in the gorgeous Sue LePage set (OMG I want to LIVE in that thing!!) I had a feeling this was gonna be a special evening and, as usual, I WAS RIGHT.  Francine Deschepper brings out a foul-talking, dreamy-eyed Margaret, alternately shy and bellowing, and never dull.  She shines on the stage, and is more than a match for Gill Garrat’s wonderful Neil, all sound and fury, and maybe not even sure himself of what it is he signifies.  Jeff Schwager does a good angry young man bit as Ian, a cerebral loner living in his dead brother’s shadow.  Martha Irving’s no-nonsense Catherine is especially grand to watch, and pretty hard to argue with sometimes (not that anyone ever passes up the opportunity).  And David Francis gets some good scene stealing in, with little more than a thump or a gesture from his chair.  The script is terrific, balancing romance, drama, family conflict, comedy and tragedy with a fairly effortless grace.  And the lighting from Leigh Ann Vardy is pretty beautiful, to boot.  Bonus points if you’re a bagpipe fan, or just a lover of East Coast music in general.  This show’s sound is good for your soul, yo.

I’ll admit to being a teensy bit unsold on the whole ending of the piece…it just didn’t feel as organic as the rest of the play (and yes, I COULD be more pretentious sounding, don’t test me!), but that’s just my own personal cuppa tea.  Overall, I was amazed and buoyed by the tale of Glace Bay, and would be happy to revisit it any old time.  Thanks again to Will the France for hanging out with me for the evening…nice tie, dude.  Let’s do it again sometime!  And folks, go get your Glace Bay on while you’s good for what ails ya.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Battle of the Behind-The-Scene Stars

In Uncategorized on October 19, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Y’all know I love me some theatre.  Stage actors are my rockstars, and even though my Facebook friends are comprised of more than 70% theatre professionals and enthusiasts at this point, I still get a little giddy when I see them in person.  But with Theatre, as with teevee and movies, it can be pretty easy to forget about the folks who AREN’T on stage.  And theatre especially has a specialized individual, quite literally calling the shots on every production of every show you’ve ever seen, and who almost never, ever, EVER gets the credit she or he so richly deserves. I speak of the mythical masters of the minutia known as Stage Managers, and yesterday a few of them got the chance to finally share the spotlight they so often spend their blood, sweat and tears making other people look good under.  Because over at the Gladstone Theatre (in between Salamander Theatre’s MACBETH and Plosive Production’s HOW IT WORKS), it was time for the first ever OTTAWA STAGE MANAGER BATTLE.

Put together by sometime SM (as well as actor and producer of the upcoming 15th Youth Infringement Theatre Festival) Christine Hecker as a way to highlight and celebrate the underdogs of the stage, the frankly ingenious event gathered three local SM’s (Anna Lindgren, Ashley Proulx and Jessica Preece), and paired them with three young, local companies (May Can Theatre, Glassiano Productions and Slattery Theatre).  Each company was premiering a new, approx. 20 minute show, heavy on the technical cues, and each SM had only 1 hour to prepare to call their show, assigned at random.  It was utter madness, a theatre fan’s fever dream, and a stage manager’s worst nightmare.  AND the bar was open.  Who could ask for more?

The show got underway with a perfectly fucking wonderful duet by the evening’s resident assistant SM’s Robin Thomas and Maggie Matian, sternly explaining the lengthy responsibilities inherent in stage management.  ‘Yes, you can borrow a sticky note. Our backpacks are ALWAYS full!  We bring the rehearsal snacks!!”  Battle organizer Christine Hecker then introduced our three competing SM’s, and sent our first contestant (Ashley Proulx) up to the booth to call the first show of the evening, Glassiano’s GUARD DUTY.  Starring Martin Glassford and James Graziano as a pair of easily distracted stooges on guard duty for a master criminal whose name no one can agree on…one wonders if they got their training from Jake William Smith’s character in THE HENCHMAN’S SURVIVAL GUIDE just last month.  Variously aiding, heckling, or outright demolishing them was Kyle Cunningham as a variety of characters, including a surly superior officer, and impressively named superspy Rock-and-Hammer (am I remembering that right?).  It was a fun show, mostly thanks to the over-the-top interplay between Graziano and Glassford…and, as I sadistically hoped from the start, just enough of the technical cues got missed or delayed to keep things even more hilarious.  Although under the conditions, I’d say miss Ashley did a pretty amazing job.  On to round two!

After a brief intermission, and Christine introducing our three celebrity judges for the evening (Kevin Waghorn, Tania Levy, and Natalie Joy Quesnel…an impressive lineup), Jess Preece took her place in the booth to call the second show of the night, STRIPS from Slattery Theatre.  I don’t know much about this gang, as there was zero info on them in the show program, but I’m told they’re the same folks responsible for the Fringe show 100 FIRST KISSES (which I adored) this summer. A cardboard-set-heavy piece about a superhero and villain (MORE supervillains!  Something’s in the water, I tell ya!) as narrated by an honest-to-gosh ten year old.  A fun show with appropriately over the top villainry (and his scene-stealing cloud-bearing henchman), a foxy, double-crossing dame, and tearaway pants.  And you KNOW I’m a sucker for a cardboard set.

Another brief intermission/beer break, and it was Anna Lindgren’s turn to shine, for May Can’ theatre’s two-manner LES ANIMAUX.  Starring company founders and show creators Tony Adams and Cory Thibert, sporting splendid moustaches (real!), and featuring possibly the best backhanded well wishes to SM Lindgren I’ve ever heard (“Good luck, and MacBeth.”  Classic.  Well played, mister Thibert.)  Probably the strongest show of the evening, in a story about a troubled man seeing a doctor to explore his dreams. Together they play out a hilarious scene at a coffeeshop (featuring Maggie Matian as the barista, and Tony’s ‘excellent’ Irish Accent), a clapper-heavy spat between gay lovers, and the intrusion of a mysterious, inhuman trickster figure known only as ‘Les Animaux’  The lads interplay is as good as ever here, the material has some real moments of originality and emotion…and if ever a show was custom-designed to mess with a stage manager, it’s this one.  A crowd pleaser, and one I hope we see again.

That was it for the performances, in one of the purest crazy-fun events ever staged in Ottawa Theatre.  After some deliberation (and a quick round of ‘Happy Birthday’ to Christine Hecker, whose special day it was (really, the whole thing was an extended birthday party), the judges returned with their verdict.  And the first ever winner of the Ottawa Stage Manager Battle is…JESS PREECE !  YAY!  She got a neat trophy, though I think all the competing SM’s did great with a wonderfully insane challenge.  And here’s hoping it happens again, because as I say, Stage Managers ain’t getting enough love!  A great night filled with new plays, wacky shenanigans, beer, and friends…Oh yeah.  We’re doing this again (and next time, Nick Alain, you’re getting in there!).  Peace, Love and Soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)