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Archive for April, 2013|Monthly archive page

Wang Dang Doodle

In Theatre on April 30, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Running so far behind on this thing it ain’t even amusing (or noteworthy, but here I go making a note of it).  I think I might take a bit of a break until YOUTH INFRINGEMENT kicks in next week, get my mojo working.  But first things first…there’s still at least one show I just GOTTA blabber about before recharging, resetting, and various other what-nots.

A few days past now, myself and the lovely Caitlin O were down NAC way for opening night of Belfry Theatre’s BIG MAMA! THE WILLIE MAY THORNTON STORY by Audrei-Karen, and starring the inimitable Jackie Richardson.    The story of the titular real-life legend of the Blues herself, MAMA is set up to be about as entertaining as humanly possible while still telling the story of Thornton’s life clearly, vividly, and beautifully.  Set in a wood-panelled Blues joint at Christmastime in the early 70’s, The onstage band of Kevin Belzner (drums), Ron Casat (keyboard) and Tim Williams (guitar) get the crowd good and warmed up before the lady takes the stage and immediately has the crowd exactly where she wants them.  From there the show takes a foot-stompingly joyous road, alternating incredible blues standards, belted out with Jackie Richardson’s astonishing voice and undeniable charisma, and stories of Thornton’s life and times, from the sweet highs to terrible lows.  Growing up in poverty in the deep South, working back-breaking jobs (literally ‘cotton-picking’), and eventually joining the growing number of blues musicians, travelling the juke joint circuit across America until her incredible talent just couldn’t be ignored anymore.  I especially had a soft spot for Mama’s retelling of her doomed love for fellow musician Johnny Ace.


A few famous names get dropped along the way…Thornton grudgingly dismisses Elvis Presley for getting rich off of her ‘Hound Dog’ without a red cent coming her way, while giving credit to the Rolling Stones and Janis Joplin for their contributions to the Blues.  And the Blues, as Big Mama reminds us time and again, is Life…and seeing this show, it’s hard to argue with her. She had the crowd at the NAC on their feet, clapping and singing along with the kind of joy you can only feel when someone’s belting it right from the heart, and this is one of the most easily guarantee-able good times you’ll ever come across.  Jackie Richardson was flat-out born to play this role, and if this show don’t get your blood pumping and your soul soaring then you should probably buzz for the nurse, as you may have flatlined already.

The best of both worlds, MAMA is a brilliant blues show AND terrific theatre in one punch.  Can’t recommend a visit enough…it’ll get yer motor running, and that’s the truth. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

the War of the Tractors

In Theatre on April 25, 2013 at 8:29 am

Still behind on my reviews here, it’s getting bad folks.  Not even gonna bother trying to do my usual PRIX RIDEAU AWARDS writeup…but let’s face it, I shouldn’t even have gone without my perma-date Nadine Thornhill to dance with.  I was all grumpy and lonesome…should’a gone to Burlesque instead.  Ah well.  Loved the hula-hoop bit, tho.

Thankfully, there’s plenty of actual theatre to go and see, which is keeping me hopping.  After catching Algonquin Theatre’s FLYING SOLO show on Monday (and hopefully I’ll have time to write something about that soon), last night was my first chance to run over to my soon-to-be Alma Mater at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama, for the last of three public shows from the graduating Ottawa Theatre School class.  They’d previously done the Greek classic THE EUMENIDES and Lawrence Aronovitch’s world premiere FALSE ASSUMPTIONS, and now, as is appropriate, it was time for something completely different.  An apt description, I think, for the great Canadian staple THE FARM SHOW.

A collective creation, spearheaded I do believe my one Miles Potter for Theatre Passe-Muraille in Toronto back in the 70’s, FARM SHOW is an amazing piece that feels part verbatim, that provides an incredible opportunity for the OTS kids to really stretch out and show what they can do. Entering the Studio with a rousing victory cheer and introducing themselves, the gang soon launches into a series of vignettes and stories collected from Clinton, Ontario about the great highs and terrible lows about rural farm life.  Comparable to UNDER MILK WOOD from two years past, this show is a brilliant showcase for the talents of the graduating class, and they hurl themselves into the challenge immediately, transforming themselves into chickens, tractors and cows as the scene requires.  Director Andy Massingham, a lad who knows a thing or two about physical theatre, is just about the perfect helmsman I can think of for this piece, and it shows.

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Every actor gets a chance to shine in this show, from Nick Fournier’s harrowing account of baling hay to Alis Rainier’s cautionary tales about the darker side of farm living.  Holly Griffith and Dilys Ayafor have a mightily memorable over-the-top battle as a pair of clashing tractors at a Farm equipment show, huffing and snarling with a gusto that brought me back to pro wrestling in the 80’s (honestly, they should have had someone taking bets in the audience).  Tiffani Kenny steals a beautiful moment as eccentric collector of oddities Harry Thompson, and Alyssa Gosselin makes merry as aging matriarch Alma Lobb (lots of Lobbs in this show…lots and lots of Lobbs, oh yes).  Hannah Gibson Fraser gets a marvellously manic monologue as a struggling Farm Mom, Alexis Scott as yet another Lobb gives an epic retelling of a cavalcade of town weddings, and Karina Milech gets a couple of memorable turns both as a travelling preacher and Clinton outsider Charlie Wilson.

This is a terrific joy of a show, with some especially impressive physical teamwork, mirroring the collective origins of the show itself.  Toss in a few musical numbers, some from the original script, some added by director Massingham, and some amazing insights and windows into the realities of rural farming life that every Canuck needs to see, and you have just about the best all-around theatrical bet in town right now (and that’s saying something).  I’d see this one again in a second, and I just might have Saturday night free, so we shall see.  Kudos to Andy and the gang for a dynamite show (and yes, it’s fun for the whole family, even..!) that ends this OTS season with a bang.  Or at least, a resounding Moo.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

The Taming of the Dude

In Theatre on April 24, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Wow, am I ever falling behind.  I saw this last show, like, YEARS ago (okay, Friday) and I’m only just now getting around to writing about it.  Sorry, gang…I think I’m feeling a little blogged out lately.  Either that or I’m a lazy little shit, but let’s try and think positive, hey?

At any rate, last Friday I caught the premiere of Bear and Company’s very first Gladstone Theatre production, Billy Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, just in time for his birthday.  Now, Bear and Co. (and show director Eleanor Crowder) know them some Shakespeare, so I was fairly sure I was in for a good time with this’un.  And I’d never even seen SHREW before, so it was a bit of a Shakespeare newbie for me, always fun.  The action got started right out in the lobby, as the all-male cast (yes, folks, men in drag for this production…a cheap gag, admittedly, but it still works) rattled off a tune or two on the Gladstone Piano, and maybe caused a little trouble among the crowd.  This was a nice touch, and not entirely unexpected…Crowder seems to enjoy treating the stage as more of a suggestion than anything else, and once the show got underway there was still plenty of action in the aisles and wings to enjoy.

The story centers around Baptista (Brie Barker), an English businessman seeking to marry off his two lovely daughters.  There’s a catch, though…he won’t allow his younger, sweet’n’sexy daughter Bianca (Chris Bedford) get hitched until his eldest Kate (Nicholas Amott), a willful, harsh-tongued gal who strikes fear into the hearts of men, finds her match first.  This is troubling news for would be suitors Gremio and Hortensio (Jim Murchison and Guy Buller), as well as posh Lucentio and his manservant Tranio (Scott Humphreys and Tim Oberholzer).  That is, until even more willful gold-digger Petruchio (Company of Fools’ Scott Florence) arrives, determined to make Kate his whatever it takes.  A few wacky misadventures ensue (including Lucentio and Tranio switching identities for reasons I can no longer really recall), plenty of rousing musical segues courtesy of Bear’s musical director Rachel Eugster, and a stage full of entertaining performances.  Always a delight to see my old acting Coach Brie Barker in a show, and he was terrific and likeable as patriarch Baptista (and a smaller role as dimwitted manservant Curtis).  Nick Amott made a very outstanding Kate indeed, more than keeping his own in several notable clashes with Scott Florence’s Petruchio.  Everyone made a good show of it, and helped this to be a hugely fun and enjoyable production.

Now, as for the PLAY…holy shit.  As I said, I’d never seen SHREW before, and had always just sort of assumed there would be some kind of hilarious feminist come-uppance at the finale.  But no, it would appear this script got written shortly after Billy Shakes had the worst break-up of his life, because this play hates women in a way you will likely (hopefully) never be able to understand.  It’s a bit of a mystery to me why we’re still celebrating it the way we do, and I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that this is the show Bear and Co. decided to go with the all-male cast on.  I’ll leave that to wiser heads than mine to figure out, and just reiterate that this is a terrifically fun and well-done production (of an astoundingly misogynistic play).  And there ARE an abundance of laughs in this one, folks, and maybe that’s the best thing to do with a tale like SHREW…laugh at it.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Laramie

In Theatre on April 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm

I’ll say it…THE LARAMIE PROJECT is a hard show to review.  Not that I wasn’t looking forward to seeing it again, after having my first experience with this amazing play last year at the Saw Gallery, courtesy of Red.Collective.  And this time, it was the cool kids at Algonquin College Theatre who would be putting it on, as the third and final full production in their season, and with the help of Teri Loretto-Valentik in the Director’s chaise.

But LARAMIE is a gutpunch no matter how you slice it, and giving it a critical review (not that that’s my forte or anything) feels a little…crass?  It’s hard to describe.  Created by the members of the Tectonic Theatre Company outta New York via interviews with the townspeople of Laramie, Wyoming following the hate-fuelled kidnapping and murder of gay teen Matthew Shepard in 1998, the play puts the paradox of a brutal small town murder in full display.  ‘We don’t raise our kids like this,’one vehement citizen demands, only to think about it a second later and admit that, ultimately, it turns out that yes…yes they do.  But of course, that’s too simple, too, and the shades of grey in this deceptively simple theatrical project are as many as there are characters.

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The cast for the show, almost all portraying multiple characters along the way, are Elizabeth Chant, Annie Clarke, Shannon Collins, Katherine Dermott, Bruno Khoueiry-Jaber, Curtis Kupkee, Kiersten MacDonald, Sam McCarthy, Sarah Patrick and Nick Surges, with somber narration provided throughout by Sean Mason.  I’d hesitate to call any performance a ‘standout’, as this is as textbook a case of an all-or-nothing ensemble you could try and find.  If anyone fell flat, it could have brought the whole affair crashing down…happily, none did, and as far as I’m concerned, all of them did goddamn great in an emotional and pretty wordy script.  Merry props to Laramie veteran Nick Surges, who was in the production that I saw last year, and is rapidly becoming Ottawa’s go-to dude for this play.  It was also nice seeing ubiquitous stage manager Katherine Dermott on stage for once, and doing a great job of it (my fav’rit was the boy on the bicycle).  Curtis Kupkee got to shine in a key late-play scene as Shephard’s Father, and Sam McCarthy had good fun as the play’s most memorable character (for me), ‘Doc’  the limo driver.  As I said, everyone was very good (honest…I’d drop more names but, well, there are an awful lot of you this time around! 🙂 ), and more importantly they worked smoothly as a unit to tell this important, horrible, disarmingly funny, and oddly beautiful story.  This LARAMIE works and works well, aided by some simple but splendid video projection designed by Andrew Alexander.

That’s it for me…the next time I see this play I think I’ll just be the audience, letting the show work its magic over me.  Or maybe not…Shepard’s story deserves to be written about, even now, and it sure as Hell needs to be told, and seen.  So go see it, while you still can until this Sunday at Algonquin College (studio Theatre building N…give yourself some time, the place is a bit of a maze).  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

 

GCTC 2013/14 Season…Launched!

In GCTC, Theatre on April 16, 2013 at 11:10 am

So Eric Coates took a slightly diff’rent tactic for his season launch than fellow newb Jillian Keiley over at the NAC.  While her launch was in the AM with coffee and cookies, his was a late-night affair with DJ, discoball and plenty of hooch.  Once again, I like how this man thinks (though cookies WOULD have been a nice touch).  The lot of us packed the Oiving Greenboig Theatre at about 7:30 last night to see what the Man Who Hated Cell Phones had up his sleeve for his first season at the Great Canadian Theatre Company.

'Bee' Fearless.  It says Fearless..!  And there's a picture of a Bee on it..!

‘Bee’ Fearless. It says Fearless..! And there’s a picture of a Bee on it..!

After some hearty onstage shenanigans with his Season Launch Players (John Koensgen, Alix Sideris and Andy Massingham…excellent choices), the affair got underway.  Up first..?

PROUD by Michael Healey, directed by Miles Potter.  A properly political tale for Ottawa, featuring Conservatives vs.Quebec in a show that should have more than enough in-jokes to keep our capitol crowd in stitches.  And danged if Coates didn’t have Michael Healey himself there to read the opening scene!  (Note: if you want an earlier taste of Healey, catch his DRAWER BOY in August at the Ottawa Little Theatre!)

YOU FANCY YOURSELF by Maja Ardal, directed by Mary Francis Moore.  This one was originally programmed by Lise-Ann Johnson a couple years back, but got sidelined due to a sudden ‘medical adventure’ as Eric Coates put it, so I’m thrilled to finally get the chance to see this one-woman show (my fav’rit form of entertainment) about childhood, fitting in, and overweening imagination.  And danged if Maja Ardal herself wasn’t there to perform a scene for us!  I’m sensing a theme…

GOODNIGHT DESDEMONA (GOOD MORNING JULIET) by Ann Marie MacDonald, directed by Ann Hodges.  Ha! I’ve totally got a copy of this one!  Looks like I’m finally learning, and will learn more when this innovative feminist Shakespearean mashup hits the stage in November.  And danged if Ann-Marie MacDonald herself wasn’t there to read a scene for us!  Dammit Coates, is there anyone you DON’T know??

THIS IS WAR by Hannah Moscovitch, directed by Eric Coates his own self.  From the red-hot author of EAST OF BERLIN, a modern classic about a Canadian mission gone wrong in Afghanistan.  Always a pleasure to see some Moscovitch on the big stage, and I think this will be no exception.

DANCING WITH RAGE by Mary Walsh.  The NAC has some Corner Gas royalty this season, so Coates has countered with a little This Hour Has 22 Minutes pedigree with this one-woman theatrical assault from Marg: Princess Warrior herself.  I was almost stunned when Walsh did NOT appear to perform a scene, though Andy Massingham in drag made a more than adequate sub.  And finally…

THE BURDEN OF SELF-AWARENESS by George F.Walker, directed by Arthur Milner.  Yes, it’s a World Bloody Premiere from Canuck superstar Walker about a rich man looking to give away his fortune to assuage his conscience, only to have his wife take a contract out on his life before he can go broke.  Sounds perfectly dark and delightful, and might already be the show I’m most looking forward to. Although it has plenty of competition in this, a predictably wicked looking season from the GCTC and Eric Coates, who does not disappoint.

Wish I could have stuck around for the happening afterparty, but a day-long mental breakdown was having hilarious effects on me and I needed to bolt before I started bringing people down with me.  Hope everyone had a blast, and I expect we all definitely will next season…though we still have a merry bit to go on THIS season, first.  Bring on LIKE WOLVES already!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

NAC 2013/2014 Season…Launched!

In Theatre on April 16, 2013 at 10:26 am

Hey, you know what I forgot to write and rave about in all my lethargy and comic shopping..?  The New National Arts Centre English Theatre Season, that’s what!!  And seeing as how yesterday was the GCTC launch, and I’m now backed up TWO season launch raves, well…right, I’d best get raving.  It’s a twofer kinda day, kids!

So it was a week or so past that I hit the NAC 4th Stage for the announcement of new Artistic Director Jillian Keiley’s inaugural season, and the packed house was pretty stoked, or at least I sure was (and not just on account of there were cookies for afterwards).  And it’s all old news to the rest of you by now since I’m OVER A WEEK LATE writing this, but here’s the skinny for those of you even lazier than I am:

TARTUFFE by Moliere, featuring Andy Jones and the NAC ensemble, and directed by Keiley herself.  Moliere’s still a bloody funny rascal after all this time, and to have one of his comedies adapted into 1930’s Newfoundland seems a particularly demented stroke of genius.  If Newfie Moliere doesn’t tickle your funny bone, then you probably don’t have one

THE SOUND OF MUSIC by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse, music and lyrics by Rogers and Hammerstein.  Directed by Joey Tremblay and starring the NAC Ensemble.  You know I’ve never seen Sound of Music? And it’s a singalong!  Eliza Jane Scott, in her mini-preview at the launch, charmed the socks offa me, and I actually am now pretty excited to see (and sing) this one.

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KIM’S CONVENIENCE by Ins Choi, from Soulpepper Theatre.  I’ve heard of Soulpepper many, many times, and can’t wait to see this show of theirs featuring a big stage slice of intergenerational Korean life.  And I can already bet it’s way better than CLERKS (I said it).

SEEDS by Annabel Soutar, from Porte Parole and Crow’s Theatre.  Directed by Chris Abrahams and featuring Eric Peterson, a mainly (or maybe all, I’m not exactly sure) verbatim tale of man vs. Monsanto, which is a fight I’m very, very interested in.  And featuring some Corner Gas royalty, no less!

OIL AND WATER by Robert Chafe, from Artistic Fraud and directed by Jillian Keiley.  Another Keiley bit, this time from her old gang in Newfoundland and featuring the story of the first black man to appear in St.Lawrence after a shipwreck in WWII.  Sounds like another beauty, and this one rounds out the mainstage season.  Meanwhile, in the studio…

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HAMLET (SOLO) by Willy Shakesepeare, starring Raoul Bhaneja.  And here’s that moment you’ve been waiting for where decorum goes out the window and OHMIGOD HAMLET SOLO IS COMING BACK!!!  I was lucky enough to catch this flat-out fucking marvellous one-man rendition of Hamlet at the GCTC back in the early days of my blog, and to me, THIS is what acting is all about.  I’m gonna see it at least twice when it comes back, and you should too.  So there.

ENRON by Lucy Prebble.  Directed by Ron Jenkins, and featuring the NAC Ensemble.  If there’s better real world fodder for dark comedy than Kenny Lay and his gaggle of white-collar gangsters, then I can’t think of it.  This, along with SEEDS, are giving this season a good political kickstart that I quite enjoy, I gotta say.

HUFF by and starring Cliff Cardinal, directed by Karin Randoja.  Another one-manner, this time a multi-character First Nations tale that sounds trippy, tricky and intriguing as Hell.  Sounds like powerful medicine indeed.  Meanwhile, in the family series…

DIB AND DOB AND THE JOURNEY HOME from David S.Craig and Robert Morgan, a Roseneath Theatre Production directed by Andrew Lamb.  Musical, brotherly shenanigans at the 4th stage with a couple of talented cats going on a classic quest.  I’m in.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak, from Presentation House Theatre, directed by Kim Selody.  An interactive, retelling of Sendak’s howling kids classic…you can get an early taste of this one when it appears at the Ottawa International Children’s Festival in just a short while!

I love the fun of this season, the politics, the humanity of it all.  I loved watching Jillian Keiley have a blast introducing it all, and I especially loved her embracing of this years ensemble, who each got not only a video introduction at the launch, but are featured prominently on the season program cover.  Peter Hinton brought the resident company back, but it looks like it’s Keiley who’s making them part of the family, and it feels great.  I’m looking forward to everything in this season (HAMLET SOLO YAY!!!)…although out of courtesy, I’ll wait until THIS season is finished.  Bring on Big Mama already!

Meanwhile, at the Great Canadian Theatre Company…continued next post!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

the Return of the Valiant Era

In comix on April 14, 2013 at 6:23 pm

With all apologies to my usual crowd of theatre nerds, this post is going to be a bit of a departure…let’s face it, it was a slow week anyways, so a decent enough time to work on some side projects.  In this case, I’ve been feeling the need lately to ramble a bit about one of my other obsessions, and this one something that’s been with me my whole life…Comix.  I’ve been a pretty constant comic book collector since as far back as I can remember…my Mother tells me I taught myself to read at age 5 with Batman comix, because she wouldn’t read them to me like I wanted her to.  I’m assuming that’s one of the reasons, along with reruns at an early age of the classic ‘60’s Batman teevee show and Chris Reeve’s Superman movie, that I’ve been a lifelong DC fan.  I grew up on the capes and symbols crowd, and while I always dabbled in Marvel just to keep in the loop, DC was always my fav’rit.

But not for long.

But not for long.

That changed for a while in the early 90’s when an upstart company called VALIANT hit the stands with a refurbishing of a trio of old Gold Key comix characters (Magnus Robot Fighter, Doctor Solar, and Turok Son of Stone to be specific), along with an entire universe of new characters and concepts.  I was hooked from the first issue, and before long my comic life started revolving around my weekly Valiant intake.  Titles like Harbinger, X-O Manowar, Shadowman, Eternal Warrior , Archer and Armstrong and many more kept impressing me more and more as the line fleshed itself out.  But time takes its tool, and the company folded for a variety of reasons a few years later, a shadow of its former self.  Some time passed, and Acclaim Entertainment picked up the Valiant characters and tried a relaunch, completely redesigning the characters (and quite often badly missing the point of what made them cool in the first place) and adding a few new ones along the way.  A lot of their focus was on incorporating the characters into their video game line and, although there WERE a few gems among their titles (the hilarious Quantum & Woody, and a brilliant new take of Valiant original Bloodshot), the relaunch died a relatively quick death.  And that, I supposed, was that.

Which brings us to last summer.

My comic collecting days were at about their lowest ebb ever.  Marvel, coasting from event to mega-event, has become pretty baffling to me these days (how many Avengers titles ARE there now, anyone..?) and, after more than 30 years of hardcore dedication, DC’s ‘New 52′ reboot a couple years back has officially cured me of being a DC fan.  There’s a feeling of quiet contempt for the readers among the higher-ups in that company these days…just flood the racks with book after book, and who cares if there’s any internal consistency?  The joy of the characters is pretty much gone, replaced by a Hollywood-friendly sheen, paper thin and soulless (and I’ll NEVER forgive them for putting Superman in that ridiculous suit of popped-collar armour). Once Grant Morrison finishes up his run on Batman Incorporated, I’ll likely be dropping out entirely.  And…what then..?

It was around then that the news broke…another Valiant relaunch was on its way, courtesy of a couple of diehard Valiant nerds from back in the day who couldn’t bear to let the old line stay dead.  Ads appeared announcing the return of four classic titles that summer…X-O MANOWAR, HARBINGER, BLOODSHOT and ARCHER & ARMSTRONG.  I got excited despite myself…after all, the last reboot did NOT go so well.   But the promos looked good…for starters, the characters were actually recognizable as themselves, so no major facelifts were underway.  And the passion from the creative and editorial lineup was palpable in interviews…it seemed like they GOT what was so cool the first time around.  My only major concern was the absence of the ‘Gold Key Three’, as that was a separate license that has since passed to Dark Horse (who started new comix with said characters a few years back, rapidly fucked it up beyond repair, and Magnus and friends are currently stuck in comic book limbo, to return who knows when).

As I write this, the new Valiant has just passed the one year mark, and I’m happy to report I’m a raving goofball of a fan once again.  I didn’t think it was possible!  But the five monthly titles (SHADOWMAN has since been added) are just about all I look forward to at the comic shops these days, and the newly begun HARBINGER WARS miniseries crossover is phenomenal.  These are smart, fun comix, occasionally brutal and always entertaining, and clearly with a plan in play.  Let’s go title by title, shall we..?

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X-O MANOWAR was always Valiant’s premier original creation, a hybrid Conan/Iron Man starring Aric, a visigoth from 408 BC who is taken prisoner by an invading horde of spider-like aliens.  Taken aboard their ship and turned into a slave, Aric eventually escapes by stealing their most powerful suit of high-tech armour..but thanks to the effects of near lightspeed travel, thousands of years have passed on Earth by the time he makes it back.  Then the fun starts.

Written by Robert Venditti, the new X-O is a solid return to the roots of the character, who was so badly mishandled in the Acclaim reboot.  Setting the scene for the rest of the Valiant titles, X-O has been following 4-5 issue story arcs (a smart move that makes trade paperbacks a dream) and reintroducing his classic alien enemies, now dubbed ‘The Vine’.  The action has been nonstop and bloody, and if I have one complaint about this book so far it’s a strange one, but here it is: too much X-O, not enough Aric.  Our fav’rit visigoth needs to get out of the Good Skin every now and again (note: could he start calling it that again?  Pretty please?) and let us see what he’s made of.  At the moment, we’re in the midst of the ‘Planet Death’ storyline, with Aric taking on an entire planet full of alien supermonsters single-handed, so…well, I can’t really complain about that, now can I?  Next!

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HARBINGER is easy to pass off as just another X-Men clone, but is so much more.  As much about the villain as the hero, Harbinger follows Peter Stanchek, a disturbed young man who’s been plagued by voices in his head and uncontrollable powers since he was a kid.  When we meet him he’s self-medicating and on the run from Government stooges out to harness his power for their own use.  Enter Toyo Harada, corporate billionaire and the most powerful Psiot (read: mutant) on the planet.  He scoops Pete up and ushers him into his Harbinger Foundation, where he’s training folks like them for his own purposes.  But Peter eventually chooses a different path, going on the run once more, but with a clear head this time and a few allies to boot.  An unflinching look at power and its effects, and featuring some of the most wonderfully realized characters in the comics world.  Writer Joshua Dysart has been working miracles on this book, surpassing for me even the pretty damn good original run.  And huzzah for Faith!  Faith, aka Zephyr, is another returning character, somehow even more perfect this time around.  And I was a bit worried at first…see, Faith is a pretty big girl, a serious rarity for comic book ladies.  I recalled DC’s recent reboot, when one of their only larger women, Amanda Waller, was recreated with a supermodel figure.  Thankfully, Valiant has a LOT more guts than anyone at DC editorial, and if anything Faith’s put on a few pounds since we last saw her, and I love it.  The recently wrapped up Renegades storyline was a flat-out joy, and it only looks to be picking up steam.

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BLOODSHOT follows the violent adventures of Angello Mortalli, or maybe Raymond Garrison, or…we’ll just keep calling him Bloodshot for now, yes?  A perfect soldier whose blood is coursing with nanomachines that repair even the most catastrophic injuries with ease, Bloodshot takes on some ridiculously dangerous missions for his bosses at Project Rising Spirit…until a little outside interference frees him from their control and sets him on a new mission of self-discovery and high explosives.  Easily a major improvement over the original series (as was the Acclaim reboot, actually), writer Duane Swierczynski tells an impressive story, along with gorgeous art from Manuel Garcia.  Relentlessly brutal and bloody, with flying body parts and some of the funnest fight scenes in any comic ever.  A great comic taking its time to tell great stories.  Can’t wait fer more!

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ARCHER AND ARMSTRONG follows the misadventures of Armstrong, a ten thousand year old immortal reprobate, and Obadiah Archer, an inhumanly gifted martial artist.  Raised by fanatical parents who work for an ancient sect, Archer is sent to kill Armstrong but ends up abandoning his mission and forming one of the best odd couples in comic book history.  The original run of this series was marked by an amazing 12 issue stint by legend Barry Windsor Smith (I can barely even remember what happened in the title after he left, to be honest, and Acclaim once again missed a lot of the point of these characters).  But if writer Fred van Lente keeps up what he’s got going, we’re looking at what may be one of the most enjoyable ongoing books on the stands.  With some sweet artists along for the ride, A&A has been a rude, crude delight, already spotlighting the Valiant return of Armstrong’s brother Gilad (more on him in another post) as well as more secret societies than you can shake a stick at.  Keep yer eyes peeled for the upcoming Zero issue, which I have a feeling is gonna rock.

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SHADOWMAN stars New Orleans dude Jack Boniface, who through no fault of his own finds out he’s a voodou-powered, evil-bustin’ generational superhero, just in time to get attacked by hordes of gruesome undead led by maybe the most beloved villain in any Valiant Universe, Master Darque.  Kind of a mashup between the original run and the darker, more mystical Acclaim reboot, Justin Jordan’s take on the Shadowman has been a pretty fun ride, although I’m not as sold on it as the other titles JUST yet.  The art by Patrick Zircher has been awfully sweet, though Zircher does seem to have trouble putting emotions on people’s faces from time to time.  And I’ll admit, I do have a major soft spot for Bob Hall’s great run on the original book, and sort of miss Jack’s sax-wielding day job from the old days.  Also, bring back Nettie!  But the series is promising, has lots of mood and zombie action, and it’s great to see Darque properly evil and sinister again after his metrosexual reboot in the Acclaim years.  Shadowman #0 is on its way as well next month (zero issues are kind of a Valiant tradition), and promises to be a gooder

So, five regular monthly titles plus one miniseries (the just begun HARBINGER WARS) are on the go as of this writing, and I’m enjoying the lot.  Nicely affordable trade paperbacks of the opening storylines for each series are already available, and highly recommended if you want some superheroics with smarts.  I’m excited and overjoyed that Valiant is back, and it feels like it’s being done RIGHT this time.  I’ll end this rambling post with a quick wish to ask of the new powers that be: KEEP DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING.  Leave flooding the market to DC and Marvel (although they could cut that shit out ANY time now and just try telling some good stories), and continue the slow rollout.  The original Valiant too often launched titles for new characters, only to have the books run out of creative steam within a year.  Wait for creators with vision and commitment.  It’s been working great for ya so far.  Keep it tight, keep it manageable, and for flip’s sake, keep it Valiant.  That it for now, might be back in the future with some ongoing writeups if my enthusiasm keeps up, my theatre backlog lightens up, and of course, if anyone reads this.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Murder, 70’s Style

In Theatre on April 10, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Been a while since I was last haunting the Gladstone Theatre walls (or at least it feels like it), and I certainly needed me some theatre last night, so a trip on down to see the latest from the community kids at Phoenix Players was just the ticket.  The second week of their latest production, Ron Clark and Sam Bobricks’ MURDER AT THE HOWARD JOHNSON’S was just getting underway, and who isn’t game for some homicide-themed hijinks?

Directed by Tim Picotte, this threefold comedy stars Sasha Gilchrist as Arlene Miller, a flighty 70’s housewife looking to ditch her bland hubby Paul (Dan Desmarais) and shack up with lothario dentist extraordinaire Mitchell Lovell (Mike Schilder).  Striking on murder as the best way to achieve this goal (because none of our three characters are particularly bright bulbs), a plot is concocted at the local HoJo’s to do the deed.  Naturally, things go awry in comical fashion, and over the course of the play (spanning three separate holiday-themed criminal conspiracies) the alliances between the three protagonists shift and sway until it’s hard to figure out who wants to murder whom and why.

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I was actually pretty pleasantly surprised at how laugh-out-loud funny MURDER got at times, and gotta say the Phoenix gang did a pretty sweet job with it.  Gilchrist as the sensual but dim Arlene was good vapid fun (and kudos to costumer Anne Melrose for making her period outfits look so smashing), darting from one ill-timed piccadillo to the next in ridiculously high heels…how she stayed upright I’ll never know. Mike Schilder made for a wonderfully egocentric Mitchell, charming the audience handily even as he swooned over his reflection in the mirror.  And Dan Desmarais really surprised Paul, a desperately bitter and hopelessly dull businessman on a slow burn to crazytown that turned into one of the finer comic elements of the whole show (the very funny script helped plenty too).  The show was a little rough around the edges, okay, but had lotsa heart, a swell soundtrack, and plenty of laughs.  And that’s just about exactly what I was hoping for.  Nice job, gang, and we’ll see you next season for THE LAST OF JANE AUSTEN and THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Three-Card Monte

In Theatre on April 5, 2013 at 12:02 am

It’s been too long since I saw theatre at the Carleton Tavern.  Too long I say!  In my natural anticipation I arrived about an hour and a half early to begin supping on beer and wings, to prepare for the long night ahead.  And oh, it was indeed a long night, in the best sense.

The only company in town with the stones to host theatrical productions at one of the last remaining true dive bars in this town is, of course, Chamber Theatre Hintonburg, who last graced the space with their killer interpretation of Tremblay’s MARCEL PURSUED BY THE HOUNDS.  Tonight, tho…tonight was to be all about Mamet.  This particular slice of David M. was EDMOND, an especially controversial and contentious throat-punch of a play set in late 70’s New York, and centering on the titular Edmond (Donnie LaFlamme, Chamber Theatre head honcho and co-Director of the play with Manon Dumas).  After a rendezvous with a fortune teller, Edmond decides to up and leave his wife one uneventful day, venturing out into the mean streets of NYC to find himself.  Along the way he meets barflies, pimps, whores, hustlers, crooks, cops, charlatans, and the surprising depths of his own soul.  It’s one of the most brash and intimate plays you’ll ever come across, and I have trouble imagining a better point in time and space for it to happen than here in Mechanicsville with Chamber, at the Carleton. Because, and this is the honest God-Damn truth, when the Chamber Theatre gang put shows on at the Tavern, something very special happens, a kinda magic. And a more brutally honest, grimy, punch-drunk magic you’ll never find than with this production of EDMOND.

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Set on a makeshift stage midway through the main room at the Carleton, and aided by some killer bee sound design from Leslie Cserepy (who also co-stars), the story follows Donnie Laflamme as Edmond, on his poorly thought-out journey through the increasingly dark underbelly of the big city.  Some stunning and inspired direction from himself and Dumas, who appears as his estranged wife, gives Mamets unflinching script a brilliant push as the harrowing tale is told.  The ensemble cast is spot-on, many in multiple roles and making the occasional flamboyant entrance.  Bob Reynolds, who impressed me way back in MECHANICSVILLE MONOLOGUES II, has great moments as a convivial bar patron and a menacing detective both.  Anna Lewis and Jen Vallance shine as various ladies of the evening, endlessly haggling with Edmond over price.  Allison Harris, in the crucial role of Glenna the waitress, is fantastic, likewise Adam Pierre as a fast-talking pimp.  Leslie Cserepy, continuing his tradition of playing men of the cloth onstage, does great work both as a street preacher and a cardsharp, and my boys Cory Thibert and Jonah Allingham are great as always, especially in a key scene at a pawn shop.  And I can’t say too much about Karl Claude lest I spoil the plot, but..wow.  Want to see more.  As for Donnie himself, omnipresent in every scene, is just perfect as schlub Edmond, desperately seeking a freedom he has no idea what to do with.

In case my barely restrained gushing hasn’t made it clear, EDMOND is officially my must-see show of the year so far, and I have every intention of going back for more (and not just because I had 4 Quarts of 50 on opening night *hic*).  This is vibrant, unsettling, essential theatre made right, made real, and so personal it almost hurts.  Also, you can totally order chicken wings.  Go and see this show if you want your theatre to rock your soul (hint: you do).  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Temps et la Chambre

In Theatre, Theatre Francais on April 4, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Missed a day of posting there (actually a few days, but who’s paying attention?) So I have to hurry and get this one up before I get too far behind.  And I definitely wanted to get something written about what I think is the last show of the season from Ottawa U’s Theatre de la Licorne.  This latest offering is Botho Strauss’ LE TEMPS ET LA CHAMBRE, in a translation by Michel Vinaver, and directed by the increasingly impressive Eric Perron.

Now, be it a combination of my still-poor French skills, and the fact that Botho’s play is on e heck of a mindbender in and of itself, I can’t comment TOO closely on the plot…I THINK I got it, but just in case I’m completely off-base, I’ll stick to the basics.  The play is comprised of two acts, radically different and yet strangely connected.  The first, more surreal act (and hence my fav’rit) starts out with two men (Patrick Potvin and Guillaume Saindon) in a room…one constantly watches the room itself, while the other always looks out one of the huge windows.    As they watch, the front door keep son buzzing, and more and more oddball characters start filing in.  Marie (Chloe Tremblay), who seems to have some connection to the place, and soon becomes central to most of the action.  Plus there’s a couple of strangely menacing, yet childlike figures in trenchcoats (Chancard Lemvo and Alexandre Bazinet), a fellow who’s misplaced his watch (Nocolas Tremblay-Foisy) and the hyper, flirtatious mystery woman following him about (Virginie Houet).  All this plus a brief visit from a sleeping girl (Alex Beraldin…at least, I think that was her) and the heavy-coated fellow carrying her (Alexandre-David Gagnon).

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I missed some (a lot) of the dialogue in this act, but was enjoying the ambience far too much to care.  The beautiful set, lights and sounds all coalesced with a stage full of strong performances to create a first act that was truly something special to witness.  Moody, funny, harrowing, often all at once, and featuring a wonderful final moment.  Act Two turned everything on its head, and I don’t want to give any more information than that to A) avoid spoiling the fun, and B), again protecting myself in case I got everything completely wrong.  Probably.

Perron puts together a very intriguing show, and hats off to the wunnerful Chloe Tremblay, who always seems to be on stage when I see great French theatre at Ottawa U.  And Virginie Houet has some great comic moments in act one, as does Patrick Potvin.  Very good stuff, and I’d love to hear from any actual French-fluent fans as to what THEY thought of it.  The rest of you, you still have until the 6th to catch this one over at Acadmic Hall.  And if you needed even more incentive…they have ice cream. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)