Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

The Wheels on the Bus go Round

In GCTC on November 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm

I’ve been taking the number 14 bus to work for, oh,  about 5 years now.  It’s a wonky little route, overcrowded and underrun.  It starts in my dodgy low-rent neighbourhood, through some mini-burbs, past the mental hospital (and I don’t mean the theatre, but that too), down through the nicer end of Hintonburg, little Italy, centretown, and on to the Rideau Centre and St.Laurent.  I’ve seen some crazy shit on that route over the years, heard some crazy rants, and been accosted by more than one crazy goddamned rider.  So I didn’t need convincing of the theatrical possibilities of life on the buses.  Reg Varney is a teevee God for a REASON, after all.

All hail.

All hail.

Apparently, I was far from the only one who noticed this, because it turns out Axis Theatre outta Vancouver has  been slaying audiences the country over for some twenty-odd years now with their bit of bus-driven spectacle, THE NUMBER 14.  It even played at the GCTC a decade back, when it was still at what is now the Gladstone Theatre (which our #14 oh-so-coincidentally runs right past), and outgoing Artistic Director Lise-Ann Johnson figured this would be a dandy time to bring it back for another ride.  And without breaking decorum or anything, HOLY BLUE BLAZING SHITBALLS am I glad she did.  And so are you, even if you don’t know it yet.

All aboard!  Or, just insert your own generic bus joke here.

All aboard! Or, just insert your own generic bus joke here.

Starring an inhumanly talented crop of out-West actors…Chris Adams, Morgan Brayton, Stefano Giulianetti, Neil Minor, Tracey Power and Scott Walters…and directed by Wayne Sprecht,  the Number 14 is essentially a series of sketches relating to the perils and pitfalls of mass transit, from noisy kids and chatty patrons to leadfooted drivers and spraypainting hooligans.   But to call this a sketch show would be to damn it with mighty faint praise indeed.  The Axis gang pulls out every trick in the theatrical book, including masque, acrobatics, song and dance, and a pretty rough treatment of the fourth wall on occasion, to fill the stage with dozens of terrifically enjoyable characters and scenes that, if they don’t leave you smiling and wanting more, might be solid proof that you actually died on the way to the theatre.  I was lucky enough to be there on the same night as the two best laughs in town, Brian Carroll and Zach Counsil…but don’t worry, whatever night you go on (if you can get a ticket), the room will be filled with laughs from the get go.

It’s pretty hard to pick out any specific highlights…this is the kind of show that I thought only existed in the wildest fantasy fever-dreams of theatre nerds like myself.  But the above-pictures musical number is certainly a personal fav’rit…an amazing acrobatic number featuring a tumbling granny was singularly impressive to watch…solo routines by both a Vanilla Ice-esque rapper, and a guru-tastic homeless tramp were both brilliant…and a needs-to-be-seen-to-be-believed encounter between a gaggle of seniors and a kindergarten class, that serves as an amazing reminder of what you can accomplish on a stage, if you just have the imagination and the sheer brazen nerve to try it.

THE NUMBER 14 is sheer joy to behold,  a family-friendly mashup of styles and genres that blend seamlessly together into one of the most memorable experiences you’ll ever have in a theatre.  I’d be seriously remiss if I didn’t mention the AMAZING masks by designer Melody Anderson, or the terrific original score from Douglas Macauley.  And kudos the the GCTC for an impressive vernissage in the upstairs Fritzi Yale gallery, with bus-themed multimedia art on display from Stuart Kinmond and Chris Brown.  It’s good stuff…and the OC Transpo gear on display was the icing on the cake (LOVED the old tank of a bus parked outside the theatre).  And thanks too to my company for the evening, the delightful Vicki Mavraganis…glad you enjoyed the show too!  The 14 runs until December 16th, and just trust me…Don’t miss the bus.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

The Five-Year CRUSH

In Improv on November 29, 2012 at 6:00 pm

So I think, at some point in the distant past, I went into how I finally got into Improv.  I was one of those folks who just had no interest in the ‘prov, didn’t see the attraction, and considered it pretty much a waste of time.  I no longer think these things.  What cured me was CRUSH IMPROV.  From the very first show I caught, an edition of their Arts Court jam MY SUMMER CRUSH IMPROV back in 2010, I was hooked.  Since then, they’ve begun their epic regular monthly show at the Elmdale Tavern, ‘BOUT TIME, a giddily popular three-vs-three improv showdown that has regularly been packing the joint on thee first Monday of the month for almost two years.  The event’s future is a little up in the air just now, as the Elmdale is due to be taken over and remodeled by the Whalesbone gang in the new year, but that still leaves time for one last December ‘Bout.  Featuring supper-winning-team TWO AND A HALF WOMEN (with Crush’s resident tall man Tim Anderson, and ladyprov masters Kristine Shadid and Brooke Cameron), up against the Crush gang themselves (which, I presume, will be Dan Lajoie, AL Connors, and Desiree Connors-Warmington), all to the inspired tunes of mister Glen Gower on Keyboards.  It’s a combo that’s proven to be a winner time and time again, and there’s a reason you have to get there early to get a good seat.

Come for the blank stares…stay for the laughs.    Andrew Alexander photography, yo.

This ‘Bout Time, taking place on December 3rd and starting at 8, features the usual pay-what-you-can door price (5$ suggested, payable to the lovely Jen Jarvis) has a twist for the holidays.  Crush is encouraging everyone to bring along a non-perishable food donation for the Ottawa Food Bank, which you will cast as your vote at the end of the night towards the team you want to win.  Personally, I challenge everyone who plans to attend RIGHT HERE AND NOW to bring more stuff than me!  Bring as much cans and pasta as you can carry, I say…that way your fav’rit team is SURE to win (or, you could vote honestly, and just donate extra stuff later on…entirely up to you, I’m sure)!  Also, it’d be a nice thing to do, and cool on Crush for doing this and warming up a chilly winter.  And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that earlier in the day AL Connors will be leading an improv workshop which you should totally go to (starts at 430 at the Hintonburg community centre).  That’s a solid day of Improv right there, folks.

But wait, there’s MORE!  Because somehow, incredibly, IMPOSSIBLY, Crush Improv has been around for FIVE WHOLE YEARS now!  And by golly, they’re gonna celebrate.  This December the 7th at Academic Hall, the gang will be assembling with a cavalcade of guest-talent in an epic Improv team-up that will be all the entertainment you need to tide you over ’til the New Year.  What’s the evening all about, and how did Crush get to where they are today?  I sat down with Crush co-founder AL Connors, and swell guy Tim Anderson, and they talked all about it…which was AWESOME, and then my phone deleted the interview spontaneously, so I’m just gonna copy some stuff off of their website now if that’s okay.  Okay?  Great.

Along with the current spectacular  Crush lineup of AL, Desiree, Dan, Tim and Glen Gower, the gang will be joined onstage by enough improv talent to choke the biggest horse in the WHOLE WORLD.  Hopefully they won’t be doing that, of course, but you never know where these things will end up.  I’m getting off topic.  Who’ll be there?  Kirsten Rasmussen, that’s who!  Recently in town to deliver a workshop that I missed because I suck, the amazingly funny co-founder of Monteal Improv is just the first of much monumental guest-starrage.  Crush alumni Jordan Moffat will also put in an appearance, which is great because Jordan is pretty goddam funny, and wrote the book on Elvis Costello jokes.  Plus ya got Micheal Grajewski who, from his writeup on the website, has worked everywhere and with everyone.  And Sean Tabares, who recently got paid to be funny on a cruise ship, and also won a Canadian Comedy Award…have YOU won a Canadian Comedy Award??  I bet not.  And CRUSH co-founders Cari Leslie, live from Amsterdam, and the Brad MacNeil himself, not-so-live via somebody else (or something like that).  Can you beat THAT for $25 ($20 in advance)?  Of course you can’t, you were dumb to even try.  But I forgive you, and so does Crush Improv.  So come on out and celebrate with the mightiest gang of improvisers in this town, and get yer funny on, because it’ the right thing to do.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

The Tao of Pim

In Theatre on November 28, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Yesterday was a day off from the drudgery, and a pretty sweet theatre day to boot.  Had me a lovely afternoon visit to the GCTC to check out the media preview of THE NUMBER 14, premiering this Thursday night…it looks pretty spectacular, I must say.  I booked some volunteer time for the run while I was there, and delivered cookies to the purtiest box office staff in the whole wide world (I know how to suck up to MY bosses…do you??).  Then, after a poorly-thought-out pizza dinner which made me terrible logy, it was off to the market (on the number 14 bus, represent!) for my second theatrical stop of the day.  And the third show in  the Ottawa Little Theatre‘s epic 100th season.

Running a production from every decade of the company’s existence, the new show comes to us from 1919, courtesy of Winnie the Pooh creator (and, as it happens, prolific playwright) A.A.Milne.  His comedy MR.PIM PASSES BY was first produced at the OLT back in ’22, and I suppose you have to admit it was about time for a remount.  I collected myself a ticket from the lady miss Kiersten Hanly (speaking of purty box office staff..!) and sidled upstairs to the theatre, where the show was about to begin.

The titular Pim is a rather dotty gent, played with genial humour by Barry Caiger, who wanders innocently enough into the stodgy, comfortable home of the Marden clan and manages to upend their entire lives with a few carelessly placed words.  Stuffy and traditional George (the always terrific Bob Hicks) likes his life as it is, you see, which is the same way his great-grandparents liked it too.  This doesn’t always sit well with his whipsmart wife Olivia (Jenny Sheffield) or his progressive, chatty niece Dinah (Katie Norland).  Dinah, it seems, is dead-set on marrying upstart painter Brian Strange (William Verreault Miner), but George strongly disapproves of Brian’s ‘futuristic nonsense’, which as good a term as any for abstract expressionism from the elder Marden’s POV.   Into all this comes Pim, with a startling bit of news, quite idly dropped indeed, that may put George and Olivia’s marriage into question and threaten his comfortable country life.  Lording over it all from a high horse indeed is Lady Marden (Jane Morris), George’s Aunt and a pleasant late addition to the gaggle of great imperious ladies we’ve seen on Ottawa stages this year.

PIM is a pretty delightful period comedy (that’s three in a row now from the OLT with full British accents…if they keep this up for STEEL MAGNOLIAS, I’ll be very impressed)…maybe not as fall-down funny as HAY FEVER, but with a keen underlying wit about it.  Milne clearly had a few things to say about the concept of morality versus tradition, and he gets a lot of it off his chest in this one, in fine and funny fashion.  The cast does great work on a coolly stylized Robin Riddihough set (kudos on working the name drop into the play, by the way guys).  Katie Norland and William Milner make a likeable and energetic pair…I imagine Norland’s Dinah being best friends with Jenny David’s Dolly from YOU NEVER CAN TELL (In fact, somebody write that script!).  Jenny Sheffield’s cheekily wise Olivia does marvellous onstage sparring with Bob Hicks’ George, a seemingly rigid stuffed shirt with a romantic heart beating just underneath (a little like the show itself).  And as mentioned, Jane Morris stern Lady Marden is a scene-stealing joy.  Director Joe O’Brien has put together a very heartfelt and enjoyable show, and I’m happy to say the centennial season at OLT continues to make good.

You’ve got until December 15th to catch this lively bit of period fun and support Ottawa’s longest running gang of theatre lovin’ fools.  And buy a mug while you’re at it!  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

All aboard the Piggy Plane

In Theatre on November 26, 2012 at 9:51 pm

The Gladstone Theatre has, in my estimation, been having a pretty kick-ass season start thus far.  John P.Kelly got things underway with the dandy two-hander STONES IN HIS POCKETS, followed by Plosive‘s killer version of Danny Mac’s HOW IT WORKS (that I came back to catch a second time, it were so sweet).  So I was both nervous and expectant about their third show, another one from John P and Seven Thirty Productions.  He’s been having himself a busy, and very successful year, having followed up STONES with the damn-near sold-out run of FLY ME TO THE MOON at the GCTC.  I dearly loved MOON, and had my fingers crossed that JPK would make it three for three great shows in a row.  After trying and failing to nab a date for the evening (YOUR LOSS, internet!), I sped on over to the Gladstone and prepared myself for the best.

The show that had me in such a state was David Mamet’s NOVEMBER, a political satire/farce set in what look to be the dying days of a lame duck US president, Charles Smith (Todd Duckworth).  Smith faces an almost certain loss in his attempt at re-election, an outcome attributable to the simple fact that everyone hates him, as his unflappable chief of staff Archer Brown (Steve Martin) has absolutely no problem letting him know.  But Charlie Smith isn’t a quitter (he isn’t a LOT of things), and he spends most of the play in a desperate last-minute bid to eke victory from the jaws of defeat.  Problem being, he’s such a stupid, short-sighted, foul-mouthed bigot that he keep shooting himself quite hilariously in the foot.  Between his attempts to extort cash out of a national Turkey rep (Tom Charlebois), threaten a native leader (Bruce Sinclair) into backing one of his crazier schemes, and forcing his sickly lesbian scriptwriter Bernstein (Chantal Plante) to write him a career-saving speech, there are few President Smith doesn’t manage to offend, demean or insult.   And it couldn’t be more of a giddy, guilty thrill to watch.

Like this, if Sorkin had Tourettes.

A lot of hay has been made out of how offensive and politically incorrect NOVEMBER is, to which I can only say, who gives a shit?  It’s FUCKING FUNNY!  Oh my silly imaginary God is it funny!  Todd Duckworth may be giving a career-defining performance (he said, having seen Todd Duckworth in, like, two things EVER) as the moping, dimwitted President Smith.  And I’ll gladly trade our hometown Steve Martin for that glory-days, family comedy sellout in Hollywood any day of the week as long as he keeps knocking it out like he does in a gloriously straightfaced performance as CoS Archer.  Ottawa Little Theatre heroine Chantal Plante is a serious delight as uptight writer Bernstein, proudly defending her ‘liberal agenda’ even as she proudly serves a man who couldn’t care less for it.  Tom Charlebois makes a marvellous southern shill as the ‘Turkey Man’, and Bruce Sinclair as Chief Dwight Grackle makes maybe the best unexpected entrance in Ottawa theatre history.

Mamet’s script here is a little less Mamet-ish than, say, OLEANNA, but is still chock full of his bleak, no heroes allowed worldview…but with a laugh track this time.  It’s almost funnier when you think that a President that acted like that would, sadly, probably have no trouble at ALL getting re-elected. Almost, but not quite (but then, that’s where Mamet GETS ya).  Kudos to the sweet Oval Office set by designer David Magladry, doing double duty on the lights as well.  A helluva show, as good a bang for your theatre buck as you could hope to get.  I’m already telling all sorts of my non-theatre acquaintances that this is the show they HAVE to see.  And myself?  I saw the last Gladstone show twice, and I have a feeling I’ll be back for a second term (sorry Rich Hemphill, I’m stealing your line!) of this show as well.  Hail to the Chief already!  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Pride and Prejudice and Smashing Outfits.

In Theatre on November 25, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Two  nights ago I somehow ended up at ye olde NAC, in the radiant company of Team Visitorium superstar Grace Gordon.  We were there for the Ottawa premiere of their latest, a co-production with Theatre Calgary of Jane Austen’s PRIDE & PREJUDICE, in a new adaptation by Victoria’s Janet Munsil.  Naturally I was excited, because this was the long-awaited return to Ottawa of the lady miss Alix Sideris, without whose presence we are all poorer.  That, and P&P had debuted nearly a month earlier IN Calgary, where it managed to sell out like nobody’s business, and generate some epic buzz in the process.  Word on the streets of cowtown was, this show was THE one to see.  So yeah, I was excited.

The story, by Jane ‘Freight Train’ Austen, tells the well-mannered tale of the Bennet clan, a gang ostensibly led by an imposing Mon and Pop combo (Allan Morgan and Elizabeth Stepkowski Tarhan), but more honestly ruled by the gaggle of five unmarried (gasp!) daughters always running about the place.  Young’uns Lydia and Kitty (Laura Huckle and Leda Davies) are a lively pair of flirting machines, prim Mary (Pippa Leslie) is too smart for her own good, and optimist Jane (Gemma James-Smith) is, in most every male suitor’s eyes, the prettiest thing that ever was.  Which leaves eldest daughter Elizabeth (Shannon Taylor), a premature cynic and scathing wit, to try her darnedest to carve the world to her liking.  Enter nearby rich lads, Misters Bingley (Brendan McMurty Howlett) and Darcy (Tyrell Crews).  Bingley and Jane seem a perfect match straightaway, while Darcy and Elizabeth are almost at one another’s throats.  And you know what THAT means.

Clearly, they’ll hate each other forever. The End! – Photo credit: Trudie Lee.

The Austentatious one pretty much invented the modern romantic comedy, and the NAC/Theatre Calgary crew do not disappoint with this incredibly lively and fresh rendition of what many might think to be a well-worn classic.  Taylor and Crews are a joy as our combative would-be lovers, and are surrounded on all fronts by a pretty amazing collection of talent.  The aforementioned Alix Sideris does indeed shine in her scenes as sharp Auntie Gardiner who, along with her husband (Michael Spencer-Davis) do their best to keep the Bennets in good shape.  Another local hero, Pierre Brault, manages some pretty heroic comedy scene-stealing as the opportunistic minister Mister Collins.  There are so many good little performances (and good BIG performances) it’s gonna take too long to try and list them all.  I’ll just say Terry Tweed as imperious Lady de Bourgh is villainous comic gold, and leave it at that (but there’s SO MUCH MORE!)

Director Dennis Garnhum (also AD at Theatre Calgary) crafted a slick, smooth, sexy show, with an amazing set and costumes from designer Patrick Clark, and some scene transitions that were so sweet I didn’t even notice them until they were all over.  More importantly, he made a show that was unabashedly romantic and proud of it…lush, lovely and just downright gorgeous.  I fell in love with this show just a little…which, I realized as I was leaving the theatre, is in direct violation of my New Year’s resolution!  Way to go, Garnhum, I only had a month left to go!  Sheesh..although I may still be TECHNICALLY safe, I’ll have to consult the rulebook.  In the meantime, any of y’all who have even one or two romantic bones in your body should probably do the right thing and run screaming to the NAC box office, before the most opulent and bighearted romance on Ottawa stages this year sells out even faster than it did in Alberta.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Groove is in the ‘Hood

In Theatre on November 25, 2012 at 6:50 pm

If there’s one thing you can say with certainty about Chamber Theatre Hintonburg…they pick fucking cool venues.  Having already run shows at the legendary Elmdale AND Carleton Taverns (the latter spot where I saw their MECHANICSVILLE MONOLOGUES II and MARCEL PURSUED BY THE HOUNDS), but apparently not content to get stereotyped as ‘that tavern company’, Chamber gurus Donnie Laflamme and Lisa Zanyk scoped out an even more unique neighbourhood hotspot for their latest show, the Collected Works bookstore on Wellington.  And it’s even appropriate, as the first scene of their latest production, Amy Friedman’s TONGUE AND GROOVE, takes place in a bookstore.

Starring Sweet Tarts Takeaway alum Jerome Bourgault as J.D., a rather self-obsessed authour launching his new book inspired by his life with his ex-wife Lily (Manon Dumas), who just happens to turn up at said book launch.  One thing leads to another, and the flame seems to be briefly rekindled.  Well, maybe not brief for J.D., who’s convinced he can’t live without his beloved Lily, while she’s less than certain she can go down that ‘bad boy’ route again.  Working at a women’s centre, Lily gets wildly different relationship advice from co-workers Hannah and Ruth (Gabrielle Lazarovitz and Anna Lewis, fresh from a stint together in 9th Hour‘s AGNES OF GOD, just across the street at the GCTC), even while being tepidly wooed on the side by poetic professor Grant (Sean Kemp).  Before long, Lily finds herself being tugged in several directions at once, and edging closer and closer to a well-earned ‘I’m not gonna take it anymore’ moment.

There were, I’ll admit, one or two things I didn’t dig about the script itself (like why Lily was interested in either of these duds, but perhaps I’m just turning into a cynical old bastard in my solitude…in fact, yes, yes I absolutely am), but plenty I loved about the show.  The cool beans setting for one, that gave one a nice bohemian frisson even before the show started. Bourgault is pretty much perfect as overly-romantic narcissist JD, and plays well with the powerful Manon Dumas.  Her performance was electric, her Lily seething with barely-restrained frustration the entire time until POW!  It’s pretty cool to watch.  And awesome supporting work all around…Anna Lewis and her buzz-cut damn near made me lose my shit when she delivered a stern Dworkian feminist rant right at me (perils of the front row, newbies), and Gabbie Laz’ goofily upbeat Hannah got plenty of laughs out of the opening night crowd.  Chamber mainstay Matt Smith was fantastic as JD’s burnout pal Mack, and smooth Tim Oberholzer and his epic moustache nearly stole the whole show.  Sean Kemp made some great hay out of stuffy Grant and his endless quoting…his faceoffs with polar opposite JD were plenty harrowing, and mixed funny and dangerous quite nicely.  Director Lisa Zanyk did a pretty sweet job with a good cast, and in a crazy space.

As they WERE holding court in a bookstore, opening night kind of doubled as a dress rehearsal.  I didn’t notice any great missteps…good guy Leslie Cserepy made good with his soundscape, to my ears…but I can only assume they’ve gotten even tighter since that opening day.  I’ve had a silly crazy week, and that’s not even completely an excuse for being lazy..! So this writeup is much, much later than it should be.  But lucky you, you still have a whole ‘nother week of both Tongues AND Grooves to enjoy over at Collected Works. And, if you want to encourage local, exciting theatre that pushes the boundaries of what we think of as places to see a show, and employs foolishly talented local actors, then maybe you should go.  If that’s your thing, obviously.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Bienvenue a Unity

In Theatre on November 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Hey, do you know what we have in downtown Ottawa? A Public Library!  Manoman, it had been so long since I was back there, I had plum forgotten all about it!  Trust my good ol’ pal Theatre to reintroduce me, though (in fact, the LAST time I was there was to see some roving maskwork courtesy of Odyssey Theatre, now I think of it).  I had another French show to see, a translation of an English work, so I hit up the book building to read thee original, to give my still weak Franco-skill-set a leg up.  They had the play in question, and I spent two visits having a very pleasant read of what turned out to be a pretty squinky piece of work.  I left aching to see it performed, and especially curious to see how it translated.

The play was UNITY (1918) by Kevin Kerr, and was being performed at Academic Hall by Ottawa U’s Comedie des Deux Rives troupe.  Having already produced one of my fav’rit shows this year, CIMITIERE DES VOITURES, I couldn’t wait to see this one…especially once I realized that it would be directed by none other than Joel Beddows, the director who wins ALL the awards, yo!  It was an exciting enough combo to make me skip the Evolution Theatre launch party just a few blocks away (more on that in another post, coming soon) and hunker on down to Acky Hall, with fellow Remote Planet recording superstar Caitlin in tow.  Unity (mil neuf-cent dix-huit), here we come!

You may thank multitalented Danielle Savoie for the cool beans poster.

The story of UNITY happens in the Saskatchewan town of the same name, in the final days of WWI.  The three Wilde sisters (Beatrice, Mary and Sissy, played by Alexandra Beraldin, Gabrielle Boucher and Caroline Lefebvre) are the central characters around whom the events of the story revolve.  Earnest Mary is pining for the return of her sweetheart Richard from the war, even as responsible Beatrice longs for her would-be sweetheart Glen.  Smart-aleck Sissy, however, is more interested in shirtless beau Michael (Samuel Menard), and stirring up trouble about an end of the world prophecy she read in a book.  News of the impending arrival in town of a deadly Flu virus, however, lends too much truth to her ides for comfort.  And people were already dropping like flies…as we start, farmer Stan (Chancard Lemvo) has just lost his wife in childbirth, and has to rely on  Sunna (Chloe Tremblay), the mortician’s daughter, as her Father has also just passed away.  Poor timing, as his long-estranged son Hart (Guillaume Saindon) has just arrived, blinded from a gas attack in the war.

Hart’s appearance seems an ill-omen indeed, and things begin going badly for the town in their new war against the flu…masks are strapped on, quarantine is called, but how much good any of this will do is anyone’s guess.  Joel strikes a macabre tone in the show almost from the word go, although Kerr’s script (even translated) still has so many genuine laughs in it that everything still balances out wonderfully.  And holy blue freakin’ Hannah, but they’ve assembled a crack cast for this show.  Beraldin shines brightly as put-upon elder sister Bea, and Lefebvre is a firecracker playing bratty, lively Sissy.  Saindon as the (mostly) soft-spoken Hart has some wonderful scenes, ditto Chancard Lemvo as crestfallen Stan.  And Chloe Tremblay (who I caught in the great PETIT KOCHEL a while back) as solitary Sunna is absolutely wonderful in a performance that’s not to be missed.  There was some choice scene-stealing going on as well, most notably from Julien Dancause as Glen, all grins and struts, and Chantal Labonte and Isabelle Jeaurond as Doris and Rose, the memorably snappy telephone operators.  There weren’t really ANY missteps in this, a stunningly beautiful and haunting production that serves as maybe a picture-perfect example of why I love going to student productions so god-damned much.  It also makes me VERY glad that I’ve started catching more and more French shows, because even missing the occasional word here and there, this is a fantastic two hours, and no fooling.

Props to Lewis Caunter for a lovely soundscape, and some cool lighting effects from Margaret Coderre-Williams.  Icing on the cake for a show that would likely have earned Joel ANOTHER best director nod at the Rideaus, if this were a professional production.  Certainly couldn’t tell it wasn’t from the quality.  The kids done good, and you’d be doing yourself wrong to pass on this production, which I’d happily sit through again.  Vas-y!  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

PS:  Caitlin loved it too.  So it wasn’t just me!

Monday Foofarah!! — Nov 19 2012

In Foofarah on November 19, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Hurray, no fake meetings have yet been called at work today, so it looks like I may be able to get this edition of the Foofarah out on time!  Those 6 of you who have the appalling taste to read this thing should be duly overjoyed.  I thank you for your loyalty…but seriously, you’re just terrible.  To business!


THE EUMENIDES from the Ottawa Theatre School.  The kids make Aeschylus cool again! Until the 24th.

SOUS-SOL A LOUER from Theatre de L’Ile.  Comedy on the island continues, all month long.

UNITY 1918 at Academic Hall, from Comedie des Deux Rives.  A french translation of Kevin Kerr’s celebrated piece, directed by the man himself Joel Beddows!  From the 20th to 24th.

TONGUE AND GROOVE at Collected Works, from Chamber Theatre.  Yes, Mechanicsville has a bookstore, and they’re putting it to good use for this Chamber Theatre show!  Starts on the 21st.

ABC DEMOLITION at la Nouvelle Scene, from Theatre de la Vielle 17.  Last week for this show, starring Paul Raiville and

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE at the National Arts Centre.  After conquering Calgary, our Austen mob is set to tackle the capitol, previews starting on the 21st.

NOVEMBER at the Gladstone Theatre, from Seven Thirty Productions.  John P.Kelly tackles that polite, clean-spoken young playwright David Mamet, for those of you that haven’t gotten your political fix yet.  Starts on the 21st.

FOOTLOOSE at Centrepointe Theatre, from Orpheus Musical Society.  Dancing, in the town that outlawed dance?  I smell conflict.!  You’ve gotta cut loose starting on the 23rd.

WORKSHOP II: FOURTH YEAR ONE-ACTS at Studio Leonard Bealune.  A couple of free shows, from up’n’coming Ottawa U talent, this Friday and Saturday at 6 pm!

All this, plus 2 AND 4 from NAC Dance, a special edition of THE BRAD MACNEIL on thursday night at the Mercury Lounge (special guest Eric Coates of GCTC, among other luminaries), and the Saturday night post-November edition of Crush Improv‘s SPOTLIGHT ON… at the Gladstone, this time with Nicole Milne in the chair of honour!  Lots to do, great stuff to see, and please tell me if there’s anything i’ve missed!  In the meantime, just listen:

RECORDING:  So some of you may recall that many months ago now, I participated in the voice recording sessions for Ken Godmere’s one-man Fringe hit, VERNUS SAYS SURPRISE.  Thanks to Ken and his ace director Tania Levy, my turn as bus driver #1 (classic!), toy store announcer, and some crazy wizard toy got heard all across the country on Ken’s tour.  They seemed pleased with the things that came out of my voicebox, and Tania suggested I seek out Richard Hemphill, who runs the REMOTE PLANET radio show on Carleton’s CKCU radio.  I already knew Rich, as he’s a fellow Fringe fanatic, so it was just a matter of co-ordinating our schedules and me finding a free Saturday to join in on one of their legendary recording sessions.

The magic finally happened this past weekend, when I made it into the studio with Richard, his fellow writer Bill Demmery, Tonia Snow, Richard Parks, and lovely wee perfectly-sized Caitlin Oleson (great meeting you again after the Stage Manager Battle, by the way), to take my first crack at pre-recorded community radio sketch comedy.  I like to think I acquitted myself halfway decently, at least once I got into the swing of things.  I think I was a bit rocky on THE FERRY FAIRY, but had a good time on my episode of KANATA 911, and had some good goofy bits on the iBABBLE spoof ad.  They were a great bunch to get my start with, and I do hope they’ll stoop to having me back the next time.  Heck, I even got  done in time to catch the new Bond flick before work.  Who could ask for more?  And yes, I’ll let you know when any episodes with yours truly show up on air, unless the RP gang wises up and scrubs my voice clean from the master tapes.

RAGS AND BONES:  I was all planned to catch FLY ME TO THE MOON, the GCTC‘s smash sold-out two-gal wondershow, one more time this Sunday afternoon.   I’d booked an extra volunteer shift a few weeks previously,  working the concession stand in the lobby, and was excited at the opportunity to see Mary and Margo one more time.  But then the whole concession setup changed, and they didn’t need me anymore, and…well, sigh.  What’s a poor, unwanted Visitor to DO?

…volunteer for the other show in the studio, of course!  As it turns out, Rag and Bone Puppet Theatre, a group I’ve long heard of but never seen, were performing one of their pieces, THE NIGHTINGALE, in the GCTC studio, and I jumped at the chance to lend my hand to their cause.  Okay, it would mean sharing that small space with a bunch of tiny children…and I mean a BUNCH, Rag and Bone packed the joint with the little scamps!  But it was well worth it.  Founders John Nolan and Kathy MacLellan performed the piece, about a Chinese emperor and the tiny songbrd that changes his life. Along with being terrific with children, John and Kathy are terrific entertainers as well.  Their puppets are just bloody gorgeous, their sets and stories perfectly inspired, and the accompanying onstage music by Russel Levia was more than the icing on the cake.  Most of those kids were in the palm of their hands from the word go.  As I heard one 5-yr old lad opining to himself in the lobby afterwards, “…that was one GOOD show.”  Amen, kiddo.  Keep on keeping on, Rag and Bone, and I hope to see you again someday.  And yes, I know I posted a Lynch music clip LAST week, but this one just works out too well, so fuck you:

I was going to rap for a minute about what teevee shows I’m watching these days, but you know what?  I think we’ve got ourselves a good Foof as it is, and I’m getting bored here at the coffeeshop, so I’m calling it a Monday.  Hope to see some of you out at the theatre this week (still looking for a date for, like, three shows so far this week, and it would be nice if I didn’t strike out on all three…because then you’re OUT, right?  Is that the sports thing?)   Peace, love and soul, y’all,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Undercurrents 2013 — Launched!

In Undercurrents on November 15, 2012 at 10:34 pm

It’s a rare and merry time indeed when I get to roll out of the drudgery at 4pm, hop on a bus across town to the GCTC, and have a sweet hangout for a few hours in a roomful of awesome theatrical folks…drinking beer, having some snacks, and listening to a dream of a lineup for an upcoming festival being announced. It actually DOES sound like a nice dream when I talk about it, but nah, it’s just UNDERCURRENTS launch time again, which is even better.  We’re all familiar with Undercurrents, right?  Let me refresh your memories:

Yes, it’s the little festival of theatre that makes February, the shortest and coldest month of the year, one of the best and brightest here in O-Town.  Taking place over two weeks (this time from the 5th to the 17th) in the GCTC studio space, the fest showcases six shows from across Canada…3 local, and 3 national.  Producer Pat Gauthier, who sees himself an amount of theatre across this nation that even makes ME jealous, picks the shows, and he’s scheduled us a doozy this time around, in what may be the best  Undercurrents to date.  Is the third time the charm?  Check it out, and you tell me…

– SKIN from Deluxe Hot Sauce.  A World Premiere from the Saucies, last seen in the gorgeous First Dusk, Last Light at the SubDevision festival.  Featuring some of the most talented humans you’re ever likely to meet, in a devised piece featuring original music from Nick Carpenter, created by mapping the marks off of the skin of the performers themselves.  You want innovative?  Yeah, we’ve got that shit covered.

THE PUBLIC SERVANT from Theatre Columbus. From the 28-year strong Toronto company, a tale perhaps eerily familiar to Ottawa audiences about life in the Federal employ.  Another girl-centric show (yay!), featuring GCTC fav’rit Sarah McVie!

LADIES OF THE LAKE from Skeleton Key.  World Premiere again, from the gang that brought the ultracool She Hath Done What She Could to SubDevision.  Cat Leger, Kate Smith and John Doucet give you the secret origin of the Lady of the Lake, and I couldn’t be happier to see this team making their big theatre debut at last.

HIP-HOP SHAKESPEARE LIVE MUSIC VIDEOS from 411 Dramaturgy.  A Fringe hit here AND in Vancouver, theatre faves Dave and Melanie are back with their filksong epic matching the bard with the finest hip-hopping to be had.  Will this remount feature any NEW songs, you ask?  I heard a rumour to that effect, but I may be making Much Ado About Nothing…

LITTLE ILIAD from Evan Webster, Frank Cox-O’Connell, and Harbourfront Centre (in association with Cork Midsummer Festival and Banff Centre…phew!).  I don’t know much about this show other than the gobsmacked awe in the voices of everyone I talked to who HAD seen it…and they were people I take seriously when the get their gobs smacked, let me tell ya.  An intimate show featuring smaller audiences than the other shows here, but getting two shows a night to compensate.  It sounds bloody incredible, and I can’t wait.  And speaking of can’t waiting…

LITTLE ORANGE MAN from Snafu Dance Theatre.  I’m not sure I can invent any more superlatives to heap on this, the Fringe show to end all Fringe shows, than I have already, so I’m just going to repeat myself from this past June: missing Little Orange Man would be the stupidest mistake of your stupid life.  And if you HAVEN’T seen it, you’ll have your work cut out for you getting a ticket before all the loyal fans who HAVE seen it nab them up, because believe me, they want to see Ingrid Hansen as Kitt again if it’s the last thing they do.  You will too.

And I know I said six shows, but what the Heck, let’s add in a seventh…BREAD from Karen Balcome and Geoff McBride, in collaboration with Theatre 4.669 (Bifurcate Me) and Mi Casa’s Emily Pearlman!  A very limited seating show playing in the lobby at various times, and featuring hands-on cooking, long missing in local theatre.  And all this while Third Wall‘s GOD OF CARNAGE is playing in the Irving Greenberg!

It’s gonna be a hot time at the GCTC this February, gang, and if you aren’t excited to see this amazing collection of vibrant and innovative theatre, then I hope you’re very happy with your job at Sun Media, you goddamned fascist.  The rest of you can schmooze over the festival lineup HERE, and then I’d damn well better see you in a few months, hopefully making this the best-attended Undercurrents yet.  What, you’ve got something ELSE to do in February?  Heck, you can take your sweetie to see HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE or LITTLE ORANGE MAN on Valentine’s Day, even!  And sad sacks like me can assuage their loneliness that same day, by seeing LITTLE ORANGE MAN or HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE!  It’s win/win, people!!  Now get excited, and get to the theatre.  OUT.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Hell Hath no Furies

In Uncategorized on November 14, 2012 at 1:02 pm

It got a bit messy this week at my day job drudgery….I’ve whined about it already here and elsewhere, you’ve likely had your fill.  Well, so had I, and a night off with some good theatre was just what Doctor McHate-Your-Job ordered!  Luckily for me, it was that magical time of year when the graduating class at the Ottawa Theatre School begins putting on their slate of public performances, and ya know I love me my OTS gangsters.  A quick trek out to Westboro to my old alma mater at the OSSD brought me to the lovely Natalie Stern Studio, where the evening’s show, THE EUMENIDES, was going up.

Technically part three of Aeschylus‘ classic Greek trilogy (do I even have to mention it was a tragedy?   Come on, it’s Greek) The Oresteia, following the hilarious events of AGAMEMNON and THE CHOEPHORI…think lots of war, murder and revenge, and you’re getting warm.  Our story picked up with Orestes (Nick Fournier) on the run after having murdered his Mother Clytemnestra (Hannah Gibson-Fraser).  Sure, she’d killed his Father, and Sun-God Apollo (Alexis Scott) totally made him do it, but it turns out matricide is kind of a bugaboo with the Furies, a cabal of nightmare women from the bowels of the Earth who you do NOT want to get on the wrong side of.  The lot of them (Dilys Ayaforq, Karina Milech, Alyssa Gosselin, Alison Rainier, Hanna Gibson-Fraser again, and Holly Griffith, who also does double duty as a priestess in the opening scene) relentlessly pursue Orestes to Athens, where he appeals to the Goddess Athene (Tiffani Kenny) for justice, whatever that may end up being.  Athene, not being a small thinker, decides to invent the modern legal system right then and there to settle the dispute.

It was great to finally see this class of kids in action, and in such a cool beans show to boot.  Director Jodi Essery, a new and welcome addition to the OTS, put the gang to pretty solid use, and made a highly engaging spectacle out of Aeschylus’ well-aged work.  Right off the bat, I have to applaud the gaggle of Furies, who quickly became probably my fav’rit ever onstage chorus…they were ultracool and scary as Hell, and I had a hard time taking my eyes off of them anytime they were about.  Dilys Ayaforq was especially impressive as the head Fury, and Milech and Gosselin also did great work, slinking around joined at the arm.  Terribly creepy and fun, folks.  And wow, Alexis Scott makes for a bloody fantastic Apollo, swaggering about the stage like Han Solo after he’s just nailed Princess Leia.  It’s a great performance, and one of several…Griffith’s opening monologue is a stunner.  This is a terrific show that still holds up after, what, a thousand years?  Depending on what part of the world you’re looking at, the arguments in this show about Justice vs. the Law are just as important as ever.

Also? Kickin’ beard, dude.

Essery’s direction is spot-on, making sweet use of the cozy studio space.  The costumes are WICKED cool (the program only mentions a costume ‘consultant’, Deborah Hoeberg, but all props to her!), and really help sell the mood.  And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention stage manager Jodi Morden, herself a former OTS kid come back to help guide the talented new crop.  If you want to support new, exciting theatre (you do), and especially show some love to the great Ottawa Theatre School program (you REALLY do), then you need to get yourself out to catch this show while it’s here.  You’ve got until the 24th…don’t miss out, or the Furies’ll getcha (sorry, cheesy ending…sometimes I just can’t help myself)!  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)