Death on Stage at the Gladstone

We’re entering into the final month of the inaugural, and hopefully not last, stretch of the Gladstone Theatre’s ONE NIGHT ONLY series.  The brainchild of Gladstone guru Steve Martin, the series gives a big-stage opportunity to a different act every Thursday, Friday and Saturday for three months during the dry theatre days of summer.  Not that it’s confined to theatrical acts,…numerous music groups have taken advantage of the offer so far as well.

I’ve made to just a handful of the shows, and had a grand time…my man Jonah Allingham in SUMMER OF ‘34: REDUX and Jesse Buck in BUBKUS, to name a couple of personal highlights.  This past week I actually got invited to an evening there, by a show I’d been definitely looking forward to, and couldn’t resist.  This writeup is certainly a bit late, but then again, it was one-night only, so who’s counting?

It was a double bill that night, with a lovely Death-theme running through the evening that appealed to the grim nihlist in me.  First up was long running local improv gang GRIMProv and their successful REQUIEM FOR A DREAMPROV show.  Taking the Darren Aronofsky neo-classic drama about the horrors of addiction and turning it into comedy gold, members Joel Garrow, Drew McFadyen and Mike Kosowan each take a different iteem or subject from the audience, and spin a collective tale about how said suggestions ultimately destroy the lot of them.  Soundtrack is provided by the always reliable DJ Helicase, and I’d say it was a pretty spectacular series of improv death that night.  I’m proud to say I contributed the Slinky suggestion that finished off Mike Kosowan (Props to him for attempting to physically portray getting slinkied down the CN Tower).  I’ve been seeing the GRIMProv lads on and off for a few years now, probably since an early appearance at Crush Improv’s BOUT TIME, and they get better and better, aging like a fine and funny wine.  Make sure ya check out their regular gigs at the Cock and Lion!

Next up was the show that gave me the invite for the night…specifically, show creator and star David Holton and his one-manner, I’M READY WARDEN: WORDS OF THE CONDEMNED, directed by Eleanor Crowder.  A piece of verbatim theatre that can’t help but grab your attention, culled from the final spoken words of death row prisoners in Texas.  Holton is excellent indeed, believably and respectfully mimicking the wide variety of inmates as they share their final words…sometimes defiant, or pronouncing their innocence, and others decrying the futility of the capital punishment they are about to receive.  Interspersed with the words of the condemned are thoughts from two prison wardens (one of whom has become a strong advocate against the death penalty as a result of his involvement) and a sharp tongued Pastor, piously espousing the necessity and virtues of ‘an eye for an eye’.  It’s not a preachy show…with the source material, it doesn’t need to be.  It is, however, powerful medicine indeed, and I’d love to see it return in longer form (running a scant half hour at present, but still packing a wallop).  The direction is tight, using minimal props and lighting cues to great effect…I’d actually like a sound cue or two added here and there, to help some transitions.  And if it were to expand, as Messr.Holton has intimated it will, I’m excited to see what new voices will be added…there’s certainly no shortage of stands being taken on the subject, and Holton could make the show as controversial as he cares to.  It’s food for a lot of thought as it is, and one of the highlights thus far of the One Night Only series.  I will definitely be there to see it again, when it returns.

And that’s not it yet for One Night Only!  Tomorrow night is gonna be a gooder…Caitlin Corbett’s great MORNING STAR returns from the Ottawa Fringe festival, freed from its one-woman purgatory of the Avant Garde Bar and unleashed on a proper stage (no ‘one drink minimum’, folks, tho the bar WILL be open!).  This was a great, underseen bit of dark fantasy that showcases the great miz Corbett’s writing and acting in vivid fashion, and I hope to see some of you out there.  Double billed with Steve Martin himself in THE PICK UP ARTIST, which may or may not have a script, but will definitely be fun to watch.   Plus more improv upcoming with Crystal Basement in the BI-SCI-FI SHOW, dance fun with DABDA, and the final fate of Kurt Cobain in NEVERMIND.  Pick your poison, and drink up!  There’s still plenty of summer fun left to be had.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s