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Prix Rideau Awards – Nom Nom Nom!

In Theatre on February 28, 2013 at 10:52 am

Get it..?  Ha, but no, the Prix Rideau Award nominations are out for the last year, and once again I kept up my streak of completely missing out on the nomination party.  Which sucks, I bet there was food and pretty people and EVERYthing. Still, as with the two previous years, I won’t let a silly think like my absence stop me from benignly blathering about the list of nominees for this year, because people seem to enjoy it when I do that sometimes.  And since I may-or-may-not have been a member of the Rideau jury this past year (BOMBSHELL), the list this time around is particularly close to my heart.  And there’s some gooders in there, you bet!

For those not in the know, the Prix Rideau Awards are an annual, bilingual awards series honouring local professional productions in the Ottawa-Gatineau area.  It’s a swell idea, and always makes for a pretty sweet party.  I’m afraid I don’t have TOO much to comment on as far as the French list of nominees goes, as I saw a criminally low amount of Theatre Francais last year, it seems.  Although I TOTALLY called ALBERTINE EN CINQ TEMPS, so yay Theatre la Catapulte!  Kudos as well to the multi-niminated BOEING BOEING from Theatre de L’Ile, ABC DEMOLITION and II from Theatre de la Vielle 17, QUELQUES HUMAINS from Theatre Belvedere, and many more.  I promise I’ll see more of your stuff this year, deal?

On the the Anglos!  Here’s the tale of the final list of nominations, written as I hide out from an especially goofy blizzard:

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival;

East of Berlin, GCTC;

The Players’ Advice to Shakespeare, New Theatre of Ottawa;

The Secret Mask, GCTC;

Vernus says SURPRISE, Emanate Productions.

A fine list indeed (and I saw them all, hooray!), and hard to argue with any of the included shows.  If I were a rooting man, I’d have to go for my man Ken Godmere and VERNUS, and not just because I recorded some of the vocal track (but for sure partially).  But with two shows nominated for the top prize, I’d say Lise-Ann Johnson is going out with a bang as GCTC Artistic Director.

OUTSTANDING DIRECTION:

Catriona Leger, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival;

Joël Beddows, East of Berlin, GCTC;

Patrick Gauthier, Live from the Belly of a Whale, MiCasa Theatre;

Jodi Sprung-Boyd, The Open Couple, Sasa Theatre;

John Koensgen, The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare, New Theatre of Ottawa.

And people were worried that Fringe wouldn’t get represented in the awards after the ‘Outstanding Fringe Production’ category was cut this year.  First Vernus, now Open Couple!  And Jodi definitely is worth the nod, folks, although she’s up against killer competition (including Joel Beddows, who won in both French AND English last year).

THE OPEN COUPLE from Theatre Sasa

THE OPEN COUPLE from Theatre Sasa

OUTSTANDING GIRL PERFORMANCE:

Kristina Watt, Extremely Short Play Festival, New Theatre of Ottawa;

Margo MacDonald, Fly me to the Moon, GCTC;

Michelle Leblanc, How it Works, Plosive Productions;

Kathi Langston, Mabel’s Last Performance, Abalone;

Madeleine Boyes-Manseau, The Open Couple, Theatre Sasa.

MADO!!!  So excited for Madeleine…I’ve been singing this gal’s praises since SACRED SITES IN SUBURBIA way back at the Youth Infringement 2010, and finally someone has listened.  Although she’s up against some genuine powerhouse actor-ladies, of which Michelle LeBlanc was a particular fave of mine in HOW IT WORKS.  I’m also curious which specific play Kristina Watt got nominated for in the Short Play Fest.  Also a big YAY to Ottawa Fringe, for clearly being a major showcase for female theatrical talent in Ottawa (and to the more mainstream theatre companies…start taking more advantage of all these amazing ladies the rest of the year round, ‘kay?  Okay.)

OUTSTANDING BOY PERFORMANCE:

Pierre Brault, Blood on the Moon, Sleeping Dog;

Simon Bradshaw, East of Berlin, GCTC;

Todd Duckworth, November, Seven Thirty Productions;

Greg Kramer, The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare, New Theatre of Ottawa;

Paul Rainville, The Secret Mask, GCTC.

Yeah, I pretty much called this category ages ago, and it’s anybody’s game.  Always rooting for good guy Simon Bradshaw, but Todd Duckworth’s smarmy president in NOVEMBER would make me pretty happy too. Heck, they were all amazing (Rainville is nominated for a French performance in ABC DEMOLITION too)…the only one missing is Gelinas’ CYRANO.  Maybe 6 spots next year..?  Kidding (sort of…)!

OUTSTANDING DESIGN:

Ivo Valentik (Set Design), East of Berlin, GCTC;

Martin Conboy (Lighting Design), East of Berlin, GCTC;

Guillaume Houët (Lighting Design),Live from the Belly of a Whale, MiCasa Theatre;

John Doucet (Set Design), Live from the Belly of a Whale, MiCasa Theatre;

Snezana Pesic (Costume/Set), The Game of Love and Chance, Odyssey Theatre.

Always a tough category…well, okay, we all knew Ivo was gonna be in there, he always is! 🙂  And his towering masterpiece of a set for BERLIN will be hard to top (pardon the pun).  I’m sorta rooting for Odyssey here, almost the odd show out against two each for WHALE and BERLIN.  Also, damn lovely masks.  Sorry to not see Jock Munro’s gorgeous lighting from SECRET MASK in here, tho.

OUTSTANDING NEW CREATION:

Melanie Karin and David Benedict Brown, Hip-Hop Shakespeare Live Music Videos!, 411 Dramaturgy Co.;

Emily Pearlman and Nick DiGaetano, Live from the Belly of a Whale, MiCasa Theatre;

Brian K. Stewart, The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare, New Theatre of Ottawa;

Ken Godmere, Vernus Says Surprise, Emanate Productions;

Cory Thibert and Tony Adams, Wolves>Boys, May Can Theatre

Fringe, Fringe and more Fringe!  Ya know I still gotta pull for Vernus, especially if he doesn’t nab the top prize…but huge kudos to May Can Theatre for getting nominated the second year running.  There’s no stoppin’ those kids, I tell ya!

EMERGING ARTIST:

Melanie Karin (Playwright);

John Doucet (Set Designer);

Brian K. Stewart (Playwright);

Cory Thibert (Actor/Creator); Tony Adams (Actor/Creator)

Are you feeling appropriately shamed if you missed PLAYER’S ADVICE TO SHAKESPEARE last year yet?  All those nominations aren’t by accident, folks.  I for sure hope it walks away with something on gala night, and playwright Brian Stewart for sure is deserving…but Cory and Tony?  If one of you wins this, you both have to go up to the podium, all right?  You’re a package deal.  Cony/Tory for the win!

BEHIND THE RIDEAU AWARD:

Rachel Dawn Wallace, Mabel’s Last Performance / My Name is Asher Lev;

Andrew Alexander, Snapshot;

Chantal Hayman, Snapshot;

James Fritz, The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare

Yay, this category actually made it IN this year!  Although I don’t mind saying, there still should have been LOTS more letters written to the Awards committee on behalf of them hardy behind-the-scenes players than were received.  Folks, don’t wait until the last minute to do this…you know you couldn’t make the theatre you do without your Stage Managers, techies and other backstage heroes!  Make those letters a part of your show-to-show schedule.

It'll give you an excellent opportunity to practice your cursive!

It’ll give you an excellent opportunity to practice your cursive!

So, good folks all, and all deserving of the win on gala night…which will be on April 21st at la Maison de Citoyen in Gatineau, with an ‘Under the Big Top’ theme, so bring your clown-repellent.  I’m personally a little sad that neither of Evolution Theatre’s excellent double-bill shows got any love in the awards this year, tho at least [boxhead] will get a remounted kick at the can this May at Academic Hall.  But that’s about all I got for this list…best of luck to all the nominees, and I suppose I’ll see you at the gala if I’m feeling a little more like a person by then, and if Nadine hasn’t split for San Fran yet.  Here’s hoping!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Monday Foofarah! — February 25 2013

In Foofarah on February 25, 2013 at 9:36 pm

And another missed week, ho ho ho…thank Heavens no one with anything better to do reads this!

IN THEATRES THIS WEEK:

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE at the Ottawa Little Theatre. Until March 2nd!  Go cheer for Liz and the Bennet sisters!

GOD OF CARNAGE at the Irving Greenberg Theatre (GCTC), from Third Wall Theatre.  Until March 2nd too! Pick your side (Vallon or Reille), and watch the tulips fly!

OULIPO SHOW at the NAC Studio.  From the 27th to March 2nd (in French).  A ‘dazzling choreography of the endless possibilities of language’…sounds good to me.

INNOCENCE LOST at the NAC.  Previews start on Feb 27, premiere on March 1st.Beverly Cooper’s dramatization of the true story of Steven Truscott.

OUTSKIRTS OF TOWN at the Ottawa Dance Directive Studio (Arts Court).  The 28th to March 2nd, some ODD dance goodness.  And speaking of goodness, here’s this sweet ’79 tune I just found, from The Dogs:

UNDERCURRENTS REVISITED:  So we’re into the crappy half of February now, and suddenly we’re all noticing how cold and shitty is outside.  Has it always been like this?  Yes, yes it has…it’s just that UNDERCURRENTS was running for the first two weeks, and everything seemed so much better.  And yes, I was SUPPOSED to write about this last week, but my Foof got sidetracked by an emergency 12-hour shift at the drudgery.  And then I was gonna do something  DURING the week, but depression won that battle.  February, am I right?

Anyhoo, I wanted to take a moment and reminisce on the festival that was this year, the third Undercurrents, and just maybe the best?  Hard to quantify, but I loved the shit out of almost every show.  My adoration of LITTLE ORANGE MAN spans two years and several provinces, and it was wunnerful having both performer Ingrid Hansen AND director Kathleen Greenfield in my town for the show.  HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE LIVE MUSIC VIDEOS was likewise dandy to catch again, and I think I’m starting to get the hang of this hip-hop jazz (pro tip: it actually is NOT jazz).  Theatre Columbus seem to have scored the hit of the fest with their fully sold-out THE PUBLIC SERVANT, which was pretty worth the buzz…and hopefully it’ll be back again in some capacity.  Same can be said for SKIN, the gorgeous and brilliant piece from our own Deluxe Hot Sauce.  Amazing movement in that show, something it had in common with Skeleton Key’s moody-cool LADIES OF THE LAKE.

Seth, stop making Ruby so agitated..!

Seth, stop making Ruby so agitated…she’s trying to bake!

Of course there was the delightful lobby show BREAD  from Geoff McBride and Karen Balcome, that had lots of satisfied attendees eating well during the festival.  And my pick for the sleeper of the festival, the amazing and haunting LITTLE ILIAD from Evan Webber and Frank Cox-O’Connell, taking theatre and technology to a truly special place.  But I suppose I’ve talked about all of these shows at length in my previously posted reviews.  What else is there to say about Undercurrents 2013..?

…oh right, the PARTIES!  That’s right, there were not one but TWO Undercurrents shindigs, and yours truly (not exactly a social butterfly, but maybe sort of a social parasite or barnacle or something) was at both of them.  The first one, the ‘opening’ party, took place upstairs at the GCTC on the first Saturday.  DJ AL Connors was spinning his usual fine tunes, and a sweet spread of schwarma fixings was laid out for the eating.  I’d already stuffed myself earlier on at the FACE2FACE closing party at Arts Court (Social parasite, definitely), where I’d come from with Ingrid and Kathleen.  I soon joined fellow superfan Rich Hemphill in some oversized bottles of Beau’s, but not before experiencing the secret, final performers of Undercurrents 2013…Two Little Birds and RECESS.  Travelling through the crowd with an oversized fortune-teller (or Cootie Catcher, or one of the other dozens of names it’s known by), the Birds cornered various partygoers to help them navigate their fates.  That’s right, folks…if you missed this party, you didn’t experience ALL the theatre that Undercurrents had to offer this year.  Sneaky, hey?  After receiving my commemorative catcher, I settled in to the party and had some fun…okay, I wallflowered it for a spell and then embarrassed myself on the dance floor, but who’s keeping track?  I ended up splitting after last call with some of my future castmates (more on that another day) and vaguely recalling having a great time.

Party #2 was the ‘closing’ party, held one day prior to closing the festival (who wants to WAIT to party??), at the splendid home of Pat’n’Kate.  A more traditional BYOB, and soon enough packed to the rafters with performers, creators, theatre elites, and, well, me (parasite!).    It was a fine and friendly affair, with ace foodstuffs provided by darlin’ HM Connors (COOKIES!!).  Spent quality time with awesome people (including my future director…more later!!), almost hit on a couple of girls, but didn’t (you’re welcome, ladies), and had a pretty darn nice walk home after missing the last bus.  I do believe I have failed to properly thank Pat and Kate for hosting this amazing party, so in that spirit THANK YOU!!  And thanks double to Pat Gauthier for assembling this amazing lineup for Undercurrents 2013.  Can’t wait to hear official numbers on the festival, and what we might expect next year…hopefully some of this will be forthcoming on April 15th when GCTC big man Eric Coates announces the 2013/2014 lineup, about which I am SERIOUSLY excited.  So congrats again to everyone involved for an incredible Undercurrents.  And now there’s less than four months til FRINGE!

Oh phooey, that’s enough for this one, late or no.  I was hoping to write about the dandy shows I caught weeks ago at the MFA director’s workshop series at Ottawa U…namely Martin Glassford helming Paul Rainville and Nick DiGaetano in AUDIENCE, and Sarianna Monette-Saillant directing Nathaly Charrette and Sasha Dominique in CATOBLEPAS, but a little too much time has passed for me to get my thoughts down proper. Suffice to say, the shows were night and day in setting and style, featured great performances that really deserved to be seen, and Martin and Sarianna are gonna be forces to be reckoned with.  Also, I think my French is improving!  And shoutout to Danielle Savoie, who handles a sound board with the best of them. 🙂  Until next time, kids…peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Kiwi

In Theatre, Theatre Francais on February 22, 2013 at 11:13 pm

A late-night quickie post for you all, because I gotta work early and the show I’m writing about only has one performance to go.  Time is of the essence, yo!  And even though it’s a show billed as being aimed at ages 12 and up, I can honestly vouch for the ‘and up’ part.  Having burned my way through pretty much every scrap of English Theatre this town has to offer LAST week (and I even saw GOD OF CARNAGE a second time last night, in volunteer capacity), it was time to head on back to the NAC for some more in their French series, which in my brief time attending has impressed the Hell out of me.  Tonight’s show was in the studio but, this being French Theatre, of course they couldn’t just let us in the front door.

Just follow the signs...

Just follow the signs…

Down the stairs we were brought (the second time in a row that’s happened at a French NAC show, and I kinda like it…), then told to take off our shoes and make our way into the studio from the rear of the stage for Daniel Danis’ KIWI, where actors and puppeteers Dany LeFrancois and Sara Moisan of la Tortue Noire were awaiting, peddling a table full of knickknacks and apparent junk to the entering crowd.  Some of the folks really got into it, haggling for this and that while the show waited to begin.  Eventually we settled down, the backdrop went up, and a beautiful and heartfelt story started to unfold.

My poor French notwithstanding, it seemed to be the tale of young runaway Kiwi, who is taken in by an underground (literally) collective/gang.  Her saviour is punk hero Litchi, who takes a quick shine to blue-bonnetted Kiwi.  Stealing and prostituting themselves to survive, and under constant threat by the secret police (who want to clear they land they’re occupying to build an Olympic Village), the entire story is told via adapted objects on and under the main table (a theme at NAC French Theatre?), including a lot of finger figures, licence plate buildings, and the most sinister fucking Mickey Mouse EVER.   Featuring scenes of absolutely childlike imaginative beauty (how they pull off a day in the park is just gorgeous) to desperately stark and brutal reality, this is DIY theatre that’s right up my alley.  Reminiscent once again of Ottawa’s Mi Casa Theatre, which is a VERY GOOD THING, need I remind you.  LeFrancois and Moisan are utterly charming as our somewhat hard luck heroes, assisted ably by some killer sound and lighting from Michel and Isabeau Cote, all under the direction of Guylaine Rivard.  A solid show, clocking in at less than an hour, but it’ll stay with you for plenty longer.  It’s always great to be reminded how few limits there really are on storytelling, and la Tortue Noire do that impressively in KIWI.

As I said, as of this writing, there’s only one more performance at the NAC, Saturday night at 8pm. Even if your French sucks, I’d urge you to check it out.  And remember to wear clean socks.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Four for the Apocalypse

In Theatre on February 15, 2013 at 11:42 pm

Here’s something that I’m gonna do that it feels like I have not done for a while…write the review of the show on THE SAME DAY as I see the show!  I know, right?  I used to do it all the time, but lately I’ve been wimping out like a spaz and, like, going to bed (I feel your mocking judgement, and I deserve it and more) or some other weak shit.  But this time it’s in my favour…I won’t have any reviews to write tomorrow, and if I get this one done tonight, then I get the day off tomorrow!  Well, except for the drudgery, but that’s just one of those things you can’t avoid, right?

Good thing I’m still plenty buzzed ABOUT the show I saw tonight, so it shouldn’t be a problem working up some writin’ mojo even at this almost-late hour.  And this one was exciting on a few different levels, not the least of which was that it was the long-awaited return of Third Wall Theatre after a sadly lengthy absence, not only to the stage itself, but the GCTC mainstage at that!  Shoot, I don’t think they’ve played that room since, what, AS YOU LIKE IT?  Is that right?   Here’s how long ago that was…I brought my girlfriend to that show.  Let THAT sink in.

Ha ha, I've been alone for a LONG time now! PUNCHLINE!

Ha ha, I’ve been alone for a LONG time now! That, uh, that’s the punchline. (rimshot)

But seriously folks, I was stoked for the show tonight, Yasmina Reza’s GOD OF CARNAGE, already having been given the movie treatment by ol’Polanski himself.  And Third Wall head honcho James Richardson pulled out all the stops for this one, from an all-star cast to guest director Ross Manson (AD of Volcano outta Toronto).  Hell, even the Assistant Director on this show, Tom Davis,  helmed the great MAHMOUD at last year’s Toronto Fringe, which I consider myself lucky to have seen…a solid pedigree going in.  And on entering the theatre,  the sight of the sweet, sweet Brian Smith set gave me giddy chills.   Stark and elegant, it looked like the ideal setting for Reza’s tale of the stripping of civilization’s thin veneer.  Now onto that supercool cast…

Two sets of parents meet up after a schoolyard altercation between their boys leaves one child in the hospital in Paris.  The Vallons, Michel and Veronique (John Koensgen and Mary Ellis) invite the Reilles, Annette and Alain (Kristina Watt and Todd Duckworth) to hash things out in a polite, congenial manner.  Coffee is served, expensive art books are displayed, platitudes are offered up.  And, slowly but surely, nerves are frayed, veiled insults are trotted out, and Alain’s damn cellphone never seems to stop ringing.   Before long, the recriminations are flying along with the bile (literally), terrible truths are revealed, and the children are starting to look like the civilized ones.

carnage_poster

There’s plenty going on beneath the surface in Reza’s tragicomedy of manners (or lack thereof), and this cast comprised of Ottawa’s acting elite do an unforgettable job bringing it all up for us to see.  Mary Ellis as the haughty and steadfast moral center Veronique, John Koensgen as buttoned-down businessman (with a barbaric heart) Michel, Kristina Watt as ever-polite but fierce Annette, and Todd Duckworth as slimy lawyer with a philosophical bent Alain…everyone is pitch perfect. The staging, boxed in almost claustrophobically, is constantly moving and never dull, and the script is a joy from the first word.    A couple of the more violent outbursts didn’t really work for me, but those were the only weak spots I could find in an otherwise amazing show, and one that in any just universe will have Third Wall packing that house from now until the end of the run early next month.  Kudos again for the choice of Manson as director, I think he did an incredible job bringing these actors and this script together into something this cool.  Duplicity, violence and the fall of civilization haven’t looked this good in a while.  Peace, love and sou,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Ubu, King of the Table

In Theatre, Theatre Francais on February 15, 2013 at 6:02 pm

If May Can Theatre and Mi Casa got together and had a hyperactive French love child, it would be le Theatre de la Pire Espece. Last night I hopped over to the NAC to indulge in a little Franco-theatre, which I’m increasingly becoming convinced is an absolute necessity for any theatre fan with even a smidgen of French language skill in them.  The current show was UBU SUR LA TABLE, based on the 1896 French play UBU ROI (Ubu the King) from Alfred Jarry.  To see this show, the audience is led away from the main theatre and even the studio, down the stairs, past some likely curious customers in le Cafe, through a door marked ‘must remain closed at ALL times’, and into the bowels of the NAC itself until we reach the mythical land known as Rehearsal Hall A.  There, on a makeshift stage littered with props, and standing behind a simple table draped with a black cloth, are Olivier Ducas and Francis Monty.  Together, and armed only with an array of household objects and their oodles of talent and charm, they retell the farcical tale of the rather nutty Pere Ubu (here personified as a sort of sauce decanter).

15_ubu__large

Urged by his wife, a dishrag, to assassinate the king and seize his throne, Ubu leaps to power along with his right hand man, a hammer.  The entire tale gets told in this fashion, culminating in a huge battle scene with legions of fork soldiers astride baguettes, egg-beater helicopters raining squishy-tomato death, and Ubu trying to avoid comeuppance at the hands (sort of) of the Kings son, an upside-down teapot.  It’s insanely inventive and entertaining stuff that seems almost impossible to dislike, and even with my meager French skills I had no problem following along.  Jarry’s tale plays with theatre and lifts liberally from Shakespeare and others, and Olivier and Francis have a ball adding their own jabs and gags into the mix. Having performed this piece some 700-odd times, they have a clearly polished rapport with each other and aren’t afraid to improvise. The result is an absolute giddy, childish joy, and one that shouldn’t be missed.  English theatre fans, I’ll say it once again…if you’re missing French theatre, you’re missing out, period.  See this show (twice nightly tonight and tomorrow)…and watch out for flying spoons.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

the Master and the Mistress

In Theatre on February 14, 2013 at 4:44 pm

My day off of drudgery is off to a smooth start so far, with breakfast at the Wellington Diner, and company from the fabulous Jackie Brabazon herself, yay!  And here I was dreading Valentine’s Day, but so far it’s pretty painless, my Carleton Tavern hangover notwithstanding.  But of course, it’s not all fun and games as I have all this writing to do that you’re reading right now, which is weird to think about.  But no worries…what I have to write about pretty much IS all fun and games, and that’s a very good thing.

Last night, to get things started, was the kick-off night for the new season of theatre from Algonquin College, about which I was very excited indeed.  It had been too long, and the first show in their 3-show season sounded like a helluva lotta fun.  Director-in-demand Catriona Leger (whose LADIES OF THE LAKE is still running in the GCTC studio as part of Undercurrents) was at the helm for Carlo Goldoni’s Commedia classic THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS, featuring a cast stocked with the Gonq’s newest and brightest.   It was to be a daunting challenge…Catriona knows the challenges presented by Commedia Dell’Arte, and says it requires the ‘discipline of a good student and the spirit of a naughty student’.  From the results, I’d say she got both in spades.

ServantTwoMasters

Centering around a cast of classic Commedia characters, SERVANT brings us to 18th century Venice (courtesy of lovely Judith deBoer set and costumes), where some merrily confused mayhem is about to get underway.   A wedding is about to take place, between dreamy-eyed lovers Clarice and Silvio (Shanon Collins and Jean-Luc Carrie), under the careful gaze of their fathers Pantalone and Dr.Lombardi (Jenna Brown and Curtis Kupkee).  Trouble hits when Clarice’s first intended husband, Federigo Rasponi, believed dead, shows up in town very much alive and looking to collect monies from Pantalone.  Only ‘Federigo’ is, in actuality, his twin sister Beatrice (Melanie Grant) in disguise.  She’s also looking for the man who killed her brother, the well-coiffed Florindo Aretusi (Jonah Lerner), but not for revenge…they’re in love, see, which is what led to the unfortunate dispute between Florindo and Federigo.  Beatrice has brought along a new servant, the eternally hungry Truffaldino (Ryan Nadon) who stumbles upon a nifty scheme to make some extra coin, by finding a second master to serve at the same time.  As fate would have it, his second master turns out to be none other than Florindo, which leads to the expected chaos.

Making extensive use of some sweet masks (I think on loan from Odyssey Theatre, someone correct me if I’m wrong…ETA: Someone corrected me! Catriona sez the masks actually belong to Algonquin College, and came from Montreal mask makers Atelier Pirate), SERVANT is a deliciously fun farce of a show.  Director Leger has coached her gang well, playing with the script and the audience alike to great effect.  Several off-book asides are included, as in an early audience quiz on the byzantine plot from Amanda Rickets as Smeraldina the maid, giving the fourth wall the good, swift kick in the nuts it so richly deserves.  But the cast does great with the verbally dense and broadly comic script, including more than a fair share of tongue twisters that would intimidate even the most seasoned of actors.  Melanie Grant as the cross-dressing Beatrice has a great presence on the stage, making for a very engaging hero/heroine indeed.  Jonah Lerner is all bombast and wig as the loudmouth Florindo, and always fun to watch, as is Shannon Collin’s hyper-emotional Clarice.  Great mask and body work abounds, most notably from Jenna Brown as the perpetually stooped Pantalone, Curtis Kupkee’s grimacing Doc Lombardi, and Souness Rathedi as the seemingly all-knowing innkeeper Brighella.  But it all comes down to the Harlequin himself, Truffaldino, and that works out just fine, because it would appear Ryan Nadon was positively made for this kind of work.  His cowardly, tricksterish clown is always moving, always funny and always spot-on, and in tandem with the rest of the great cast helps put the lie to the ghetto term ‘student theatre’. Even the wordless Muffeletta, played by Jessica Said, is terrific (and hats off too to the ‘porters’ David Hania and Benoit Lavalee, doing the bulk of the heavy lifting and plate-tossing in the show).

This is a show you really want to clear a spot on your calendar for, people.  Seriously playful, and an amazing spotlight on new talent to watch out for.  The show runs nightly until Saturday, with a 2pm matinee on Sunday in the theatre arts building N on Algonquin Campus. Only ten bucks, and I can definitely recommend the Smore cookies at halftime, if you can nab one fast enough. Yummy!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

From Austen With Love

In Theatre on February 13, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Trying to get back in the swing of ‘conventional theatre-going after wrapping up my personal assault on the Undercurrents Festival (still a few more days to catch shows as of this writing), is tricky business…almost getting to be like that post-Fringe ennui that sets in late June.  I suppose it’s that rare social aspect that gets me…I tend to know a whole lot of the folks on that circuit, and never seem to feel all alone when I’m there. Sorry, that was a bit melancholy…It’s almost Valentine’s Day, isn’t it?  Shit, I gotta remember to stock up on whiskey!

But seriously folks, don’t you worry about grim seasonal depression rearing its ugly head, because I have the cure!  A trip down to the Ottawa Little Theatre for the fifth show in their historic 100th season, this time double dipping into both the 1930’s and the 1800’s, with Helen Jerome’s stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s little known 200 year old romantic charmer, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

Just funning.  It's actually kinda famous.

Just funning. It’s actually kinda famous.

With the lavish NAC production just a few months past, some might say it was a little too soon for another Ottawa staging of P&P, but to that I can only say…tough.  Here it is!  And it’s fun!  So there.  And while the OLT rendition is necessarily a little smaller in scale, I’m pretty sure my Mom will like the dresses better in this one.  The story, as it goes, follows along with the Bennet clan of Hertfordshire, and specifically their three knockout daughters. Flighty Momma (Janet Uren) is a well-intentioned but tireless schemer, moving Heaven and Earth to find rich husbands for her girls.  Pragmatic Mr.Bennet (George Stonyk, with some hilariously deadpan scene-stealing) is less concerned, but the arrival of wealthy neighbour Mr.Bingley (Kurt Shantz), and a potentially sinister visit from opportunistic relation Mr.Collins (Ian Stauffer) sets things into motion.  Plans are made, a ball is held, and the matches, for better or worse indeed, start to be made.  Bingley takes a quick shine to eternally optimistic eldest daughter Jane (Niamh O’Kelly), while sparkly young Lydia (Katie Volkert, aptly described in the program as one of OLT’s ‘go-to players’ for petulant British teenagers) starts swooning over a shady soldier (Jeremy Piamonte).  Which just leaves proud middle daughter Elizabeth (a wonderful Sara Duplancic) and Bingley’s haughty best pal, Mr.Darcy (Josh Sparks, also excellent) to spar, argue, match wits, and , okay, almost certainly end up madly in love and OMG ISN’T IT ROMANTIC???

Ahem.  Sorry, but hey, even a curmudgeon like me can get caught up in the moment every now and again, can’t I?  A fluffy, quick-paced romcom in fancy dress, Jerome’s adaptation cuts down on some of the darker moments and plays up the laughs (or so it seemed to me), and director Geoff Gruson has just the cast for the occasion.  Former Zombie puppet victim Sara Duplancic is bright and enchanting as Austen’s forward-thinking heroine Elizabeth, and gives as good as she gets (or better) in not only her scenes with Josh Sparks’ Darcy (the two have a great chemistry, I’m happy to say), but Ann Scholberg as well, who makes the scene as the iron-willed Lady Catherine in Act  2.  Janet Uren and George Stonyk are marvelously funny as Mr and Mrs Bennet, eliciting a delighted anticipatory giggle from the audience every time they walk on stage.  Other great moments abound…Laura Hall as the mischievously manipulative Caroline, Ian Stauffer’s sycophantic, dimwitted Collins, and a few really lovely images courtesy of lighting designer John Solman.  It’s just a charmer of a show, folks, with some nice staging from director Gruson, making sweet use of Nancy Solman’s gorgeous set.  And hey, it turns out OLT evenings can be plenty social too…I not only got to chat with their marketing director (and occasional Viscount de Valmont) John Muggleton and little bird Kiersten Hanly, but director Geoff Gruson and Technical Director Tom Pidgeon as well…he gave me a nice overview of the wonderful set design display they have going this month, which is almost worth the trip in itself.  A good night out, and a sweet, smart show…and just in time for Valentine’s Day!
…stock up on whiskey, check.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Chris Ralph Goes to War

In Theatre on February 12, 2013 at 5:56 pm

I’m starting this week in a bit of a backlog…Only just managed to blather about the awesome FACE2FACE dance series in yesterday’s Foofarah, and get all caught up with UNDERCURRENTS, and I’m still late with a review.  Well, I’m racing to correct that now before I have to start on this weeks crop of new theatre, which is happily jam-packed with stuffs.

My overdue writeup for this post hails from Sunday, when (after a brunch at the GCTC and a spur-of-the-moment repeat viewing of HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE, because why the Hell not?) I booted it down Gladstone way to catch the latest from Plosive Productions, John Gray’s BILLY BISHOP GOES TO WAR.  An iconicly classic Canuck musical about the legendary flying ace of World War I, Owen Sound gent Billy Bishop himself, starring Chris Ralph in the title role (and a dozen or so others) and directed by Plosive’s Teri Loretto-Valentik.  Ralph shares the vintage era set with pianist James Caswell, who provides all the splendid musical accompaniment, plenty of singing, and even a character or two along the way.  The story follows ne’er do well Bishop from his days as ‘the worst student’ in his military academy, to the fields of war-torn Europe.  Deciding quickly that a muddied existence in the cavalry was NOT for him, Bishop signs up for the RAF, receives a wealthy but imposing Brit sponsor, and soon enough becomes one of the deadliest pilots around, racking up more than his fair share of Hun kills, even as his comrades are gunned down around him.

bishop

I’ll be honest with you…the story of BILLY BISHOP is not one that really hits home with me.  The idea of a merry, sing-song retelling of a vicious global conflict just gives me the heebie-jeebies, and that’s my cross to bear, no question.  So that being said, this is a pretty darn fun production, and the bulk of that comes from star Chris Ralph, who absolutely nails the many and challenging demands of his role.  Likeable from the start, Ralph gives us a mischievous Billy who doesn’t take too well to authority, or his eventual iconic status as a sharpshooter, preferring to stick to the skies and do what he does best.  The show blazes to life especially when Bishop takes to his ‘plane’ (okay, chair, but play along, it’s theatre) and strafes his foes with gusto, Ralph bringing it all to life with nothing more than aviator goggles and his well-honed voice.  He’s great at the many songs too, where he meshes delightfully with Caswell, and nearly brings the audience to an early stand with his chilling  reading of a poem about Brit ace Albert Ball.  As mentioned, Ralph plays numerous other characters in the show, from Bishop’s instructors and gruff superiors, to a snooty manservant and even a sultry nightclub singer.  He pulls it all off with charm and style, entertaining every step of the way.

BB is a long-ish (2 hours or so) show with one intermission, but Chris and James keep things moving along at a pretty decent pace as we follow Billy’s amusing, storied and violent career, and it never feels sluggish.  And while the story itself isn’t exactly my cuppa tea, audiences so far have been absolutely adoring it, and I suspect there’s a good chance you’ll find much to love about it too (the beautiful model airplanes courtesy of the Stetson Flyers are almost worth the trip to gawk at by themselves).  So kudos once again to Chris Ralph for a tremendous performance that really is a an impressive sight to see.  And you have until the 23rd to do just that!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Monday Foofarah! — February 11th 2013

In Dance, Foofarah, Theatre on February 11, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Have you ever noticed that 6:15 pm happens at almost the exact same time EVERY day?  That can’t be a coincidence.

IN THEATRES THIS WEEK:

METAMORPHOSES at the National Arts Centre. Last week for the incredible, watery, mythical ride!

V COMME CANARD at Theatre de L’Ile.  Last week as well, get your Franco-comedy fix right here!

RABBIT HOLE at the Ron Maslin Payhouse, from Kanata Theatre. One more week for the family drama out Kanata way.

BILLY BISHOP GOES TO WAR at the Gladstone Theatre, from Plosive Productions.  Chris Ralph’s one man tour-de-force in the Canadian classic!

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE at the Ottawa Little Theatre.  The NAC had their go, now it’s OLT’s turn at being Austen-tatious (I will never get tired of that). Starts on the 12th.

UBU SUR LA TABLE at the NAC Rehearsal Hall A. The 12th to 16th from the NAC French Theatre, an amazing sounding puppet show, that apparently actually travels!

THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS from Algonquin College Theatre Arts. The new season kicks off!  More about this show, that runs from the 13th to 17th, a little further down.

GOD OF CARNAGE at the Irving Greenberg Theatre (GCTC), from Third Wall Theatre. Back on stage in go big or go home style, Third Wall brings the controversial hit to the GCTC mainstage!  Preview on the 12th, premiere the 14th! And speaking of previews:

PAPER BAG PRINCESS AND OTHER STORIES from Ottawa Theatre School. Family theatre fun Munsch-style, from the 16th to 24th. Locations and showtimes HERE.

SANCTUARY SONG at the NAC Studio. An opera for young audiences, from the 16th to 18th.

– An evening of double-bill directing exercises, hosted by Ottawa U’s Unicorn theatre, and spotlighting the work of Martin Glassford and Sarianna Monette-Saillant!  Not sure what shows they’ll be doing, but this FREE series (got your attention now) runs from the 14th to 16th st Studio Leonard-Beaulne, and features performances by Nick diGaetano, Paul Rainville, Sasha Dominique and Nathaly Charrette.

– …and Week Two of the UNDERCURRENTS festival in the GCTC studio! Still time to catch SKIN, LITTLE ILIAD, LITTLE ORANGE MAN, LADIES OF THE LAKE, THE PUBLIC SERVANT, HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE LIVE MUSIC VIDEOS, and even bake a little BREAD! Don’t miss out, folks.

FACE 2 FACE 2 FORESKIN:  This past week was a busy one, theatre-wise.  Aside from seeing and reviewing all seven shows in UNDERCURRENTS, as well as BILLY BISHOP which I still have to get written up, I decided to expand my usual horizons a touch and take in some dance action.  It’s something I’ve wanted to branch out into for a while now, mostly since I enjoyed the hell out of HETEROLLECTUAL at Ottawa Fringe last year, from Pollux Dance.  I still felt pretty dumb about dance though, and not exactly ready for the Winnipeg ballet or anything like that…but fortunately, the NAC and the ODD (Ottawa Dance Directive) had a small series that looked right up my alley.  Called FACE 2 FACE, they had combined and put together 4 shows by four different companies, representing different countries, and each show a duet, ie: two dancers.  Sounded wicked cool, I bought myself a pass and headed on out Saturday after work ended.  It was an incredible night, I gotta say.

First up was THE MOST TOGETHER WE’VE EVER BEEN from Public Recordings and Provincija…specifically, the wonderful Ame Henderson and Matija Ferlin.  A Canadian/Croatian team-up with a twist, and staged in the ODD Studio at Arts Court, this oddball show featured Ame and Matija, sunglasses locked in place, entering and exiting the stage repeatedly, with a different micro-performance every time.  Devilishly charming, sometimes speaking, sometimes dancing, occasionally growling around on all fours, and very seldom predictable, it was a show with a dangerous amount of negative space in it, so to speak, but I found the time flew by, right up until the most intriguing show ending I’ve ever experienced.

Next was HOW ABOUT YOU? in the Arts Court Theatre, from choreographer Phillipe Blanchard and featuring the identical twin Stifani Brothers, if you can believe that.  Opening on one of the brothers frozen onstage in mid-stride, the show was an amazing look at how two people could create a whole world in front of our eyes.  Amazing music accentuated the Brothers’ constant freezing/interacting, as they set crowded nightclub and concert scenes with apparent ease, used one another as human dolls to explore dark themes, and just generally impressed the Hell out of me.

Off at a bit of a sprint to the NAC Studio for the duet double bill from Netherlandical Dance company T.R.A.S.H., who punched a few good holes in my senses with their ENCHANTED ROOM and T + BERNADETTE.  Spotlighting dancers Oona Doherty and Joss Carter, with concept and choreography from Kristel van Issum and Guilherme Miotto, both shows featured live onstage music…one with singers Michal Bitan and Joao Paixao providing vocal accompaniment straight out of David Lynch’s darkest fantasies, and the other with Cellist Jacqueline Hamelink.  It was heady, frenetic stuff, kids.  Check it out:

Back to Arts Court (where I met up with Ingrid Hansen and Kathleen Greenfield of LITTLE ORANGE MAN, yay!) for the last show of the evening, but for fucking sure not the least…STILL STANDING YOU from Campo, featuring the incredible Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido.

Contemporary Dance.

Contemporary Dance.

Recently programmed for next season by World Stage in Toronto, SSY features the utterly charming duo slowly but surely beating the merry shit out of each other in a playful, lyrical, and before long completely naked fashion.   I’m oversimplifying the action, but in my defense I have no idea how to properly describe the inspired insanity of this show.  Featuring horseplay on an epic scale, uses of the human body most of us haven’t even dared to think of, and the clear theatrical high point of the year (the bearlike Ampe bellowing a deafening barbarian roar straight into Garrido’s urethra), I’m not even sure where to go from here.  All I know is these lads are totally fucking fantastic, and now I want a pair of Superman underwear just like Pieter’s (which, I’m told, actually went missing after the final performance..!).  Nothing but respect for these two maniacs.  Enjoy your poutine, gentlemen.  You’ve earned it.  Also, this:

And now, in my very eager anticipation of the upcoming SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS at Algonquin College, and utilizing as few of my feeble interview skills as humanly possible, I now present you with FIVE QUICK QUESTIONS WITH CATRIONA LEGER (the director of the show, dont’cha know, and an incredibly good sport for going along with this on such short notice, as she’s working two shows at once just now because she’s awesome):

Catriona!

Catriona!

What is the show about, in a nutshell?The Servant of Two Masters takes us to Venice where young Clarice (Shannon Collins) is about to marry her true love Silvio (Jean-Luc Carrie), rather than the recently deceased Federigo Rasponi, a rich stranger whom her greedy father Pantalone (Jenna L. Brown) originally arranged to be her husband.  Silvio’s father, the clueless Dr. Lombardi (Curtis Kupkee), Clarice’s wily maid Smeraldina (Amanda Ricketts), Brighella a crafty Innkeeper (Souness Rathedi) and Pantalone all believe the lovers are set for matrimonial bliss.  That is until Truffaldino (Ryan J. Nadon) arrives to announce that his master, Federigo Rasponi, is outside, eager to claim his bride.  Unbeknownst to everyone, “Federigo” is really his disguised sister, Beatrice (Melanie Grant), come to Venice to search for her long lost love, Florindo Aretusi (Jonah Lerner). This twist sets the characters spinning into the realm of the ridiculous, setting up an evening of slapstick and physical comedy almost suitable for the entire family. Think: Bugs Bunny goes to Italy!

Did you pick this show yourself? – No I did not.  It was selected by a committee at the Algonquin College theatre department and I was approached with an offer to direct.  However, I love this show and am thrilled to be working on it.

How are the Algonquin students rising to the Commedia Dell’Arte challenge? – The students are rising to the challenge of Commedia Dell’Arte quite well.  They receive a solid foundation in the elements of mask play and Commedia in their first year of training at Algonquin so I am thrilled that these second year students are being given an opportunity to put the skills learned in the classroom to practical use.  Commedia can be a challenge for even the most skilled performer – it demands precision and skill with respect to the form and physicality of each individual character – honouring over 400 years of tradition – along with a sense of comic timing, improvisation and irreverence required to appeal to a modern audience.  In essence, Commedia requires the form and discipline of a good student and the spirit of a naughty student – something that each of the actors in this cast embody to a tee.  I think this style and production have been well suited to the students involved.
Why is student theatre important?  – I try to avoid using the term “student theatre”  because it can devalue the hard work that the actors and production team put into a show.  In every school I’ve taught at, the students are training to become our next generation of theatre professionals and each one is held to a rigid standard both in the rehearsal hall and on the production side.  These productions give future theatre artists an opportunity to showcase where they are at in their individual process and development as well as allowing them the chance to practice what they have learned in a gentle, supportive environment that eases the transition the classroom to the profession.
Are you finding directing a more fulfilling pursuit than acting these days? – It depends on which day you ask (today the answer is directing).  I often find myself wishing I was acting in the shows I am directing and directing the shows I am acting in!  Classic dilemma of “the grass is always greener.”  In all seriousness though, ultimately, I am really fortunate to be able to strike a balance between acting, directing and teaching given that so often in our profession we find the need to pigeonhole artists into one role.  The most fulfilling work of all however, is the type of work I am doing now on Servant – it is a gift to be able to mentor emerging artists  – and I am always grateful for the opportunity to help carve the way for future theatre professionals.
ServantTwoMasters
SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS kicks off on the 13th at the Algonquin Campus Theatre, runs until the 17th.  Shows at 7:30 nightly, except for the 2pm matinee on the Sunday the 17th.  Only Ten bucks!  Do yourself a favour and get on out, kids.  And now, here’s JAMES BROWN on Soul Train, because why the hell not?
That’s it for me tonight…I know these Foofarah’s are becoming pretty irregular, but that’s just the nature of the Foof, it seems.  Hopefully I’ll be back this time next week with a look back at UNDERCURRENTS, and a status report on how several of my New Year’s resolutions are already in serious jeopardy, yikes!  Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

UnderCurrents 2013: LITTLE ORANGE MAN

In GCTC, Theatre, Undercurrents on February 10, 2013 at 8:03 pm

So, how exactly does one review the same show for the fourth time?

I mean really, I think even the small-ish review I did about this show way back at the 2011 Victoria Fringe Festival was probably adequate (they even used a pull-quote from it on their recent posterage, to my giddy delight).  And when I wrote it up again after a second viewing in that fdestival, then AGAIN at last year’s Ottawa Fringe, I can’t recall if I had anything significant to add. You know, stunning new insights, layers of meaning revealed, etc.  So I might be stretching it a bit with a fourth go-round…though I hope it worth noting that I just happily saw this show for a fourth time.

Photos by the clearly wonderful Al Smith.

Photos by the clearly wonderful Al Smith.

This show is, I should also mention Snafu Dance Theatre’s LITTLE ORANGE MAN, starring Ingrid Hansen and directed (and co-created) by Kathleen Greenfield.  The story of a hyperactive young Danish girl nicknamed Kitt who is looking for a way to surf the dreamscape (she’s on a bit of a quest, see), it doesn’t take long into this one-of-a-kind show for the audience to see they’re in for something incredibly special.  Using multiple tools and styles, puppetry and shadows, song, and even some celery (actually, quite a lot), Kitt brings the audience along in her dream-experiments, a whimsical and magical experience with a heartbreakingly human payoff at the end.

I’m thrilled beyond the telling that Kath and Ingi have brought LOM back to Ottawa, AND that Kathleen herself has made the trip out from BC to help things along.  I met both these amazing ladies back at the Vic Fringe, and couldn’t be happier that I’ve been getting to spend some time with them both here in O-town.  I caught their supercool talkback session after the second performance, hosted by GCTC artistic director Eric Coates, which had some very informative tales on the origins of the show (formerly called GNOMEWARD BOUND).  We’ve shared a few drinks, done some dancing, and even caught an insane dance show together, about which I’ll talk at more length in the next Monday Foofarah.  They’re amazing and inspirational people, and meeting them and others like them has made this whole mad rush into the theatre world of the last few years utterly, perfectly worthwhile.  When people ask me to explain my love of theatre, I can sum it up in three words…Little Orange Man.

Al Smith!

Al Smith!

Sorry, I’d meant this post to go on at slightly more length, but I’m pressed for time.  Bus was late this afternoon, and I have to get back to the GCTC tonight for, if you can believe it, one more viewing of Little Orange Man (hey, they invited me..!).  Also, I have a dvd that Ingrid wants to borrow, and it’s always nice to give back a little.  I probably won’t get to see the ladies again before they finish their run and have to vacate our chilly town (LOM is playing next in both Montreal and Toronto), so I want one last chance to hug them farewell, and hope they make it back to Ottawa next Fringe, with the sequel show, KITT AND JANE.  I think that’d be swell.  And that’s it for my Undercurrents writeups, folks…back later with some sort of wrapup or other, if I can think of anything more to say.  In the meantime…Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)