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DEATH OF A SALESMAN – Q&A with Donnie Laflamme

In Theatre on March 24, 2014 at 9:24 pm

Donnie Laflamme is a man who loves him some classic theatre. Maybe even as much as he loves vintage cars…I can’t tell, but either way he has plenty of passion for both subjects to go around. He’s brought this fire to bear as he and the company he co-founded, Chamber Theatre Hintonburg, are tackling the modern days epic DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller. It’s quite the challenge, and has been plagued by its share of troubles and traumas, everything from a cancelled initial run and enormous rehearsal process to one its cast members getting hit by a car just a month ago (I’ll let you guess which one). Donnie is the artistic director of Chamber, a professor at Algonquin College, playwright of the beloved MECHANICSVILLE MONOLOGUES series, and will be hitting center stage as world-weary Willy Loman when Salesman premieres at the Carleton Tavern this Wednesday. I fired Donnie a few questions about the show and Chamber, and got some goddam lovely answers in response. Enjoy.

 

Donnie Laflamme as Willy Loman, in rehearsal for DEATH OF A SALESMAN.  Pic by Jen Vawer.

Donnie Laflamme as Willy Loman, in rehearsal for DEATH OF A SALESMAN. Pic by Jen Vawer.

1 – Tell me a little bit about Chamber Theatre, and what makes it unique in the Ottawa Community.

Donnie – Chamber Theatre is unique in that we performed where others did not see the potential to perform or create theatre. I think that has changed, there’s a Joe’s Pub vibe happening in our main venue and the idea of doing a play in a pub is no longer new here, which is good. This production is part of our Mechanicsville Collective ensemble.

2 – Why DEATH OF A SALESMAN?

Donnie – I rented the text Death of a Salesman from Dramatists Play Service because the story is so universal. It calls on the cast to do the simplest yet perhaps most difficult thing, not bullshit anyone with an impossible story line or fake character work. It’s a play it for real or fuck off script. You start off with the usual build a character thing, and then recall what a fuck that whole situation is, then move into pulling the character out of your own experience however you do that and I think it’s different for everyone. No hiding behind physical or emotional décor. I don’t give a shit if I don’t succeed at something, or if anyone else doesn’t for that matter. But nothing less than 100% honest effort is required from the start till end of the productions so that you can hold your goddamned head up after.

Leslie Cserepy (Biff) and Cory Thibert (Happy), in rehearsal.  Pic by Jen Vawer.

Leslie Cserepy (Biff) and Cory Thibert (Happy), in rehearsal. Pic by Jen Vawer.

3 – Any praise or comments about the cast and crew?

Donnie – First, I don’t know anyone else who could have directed it other than Lisa Zanyk. She’s mastered cabaret theatre or whatever you want to call it. When you’ve directed as many plays in tight spaces as she has, who else would you call on to put this together. Plus, the goddamned play is so heart wrenching, once the band starts feeling it, you need someone who’s grown up enough to give a shit about the player’s brains and souls. What we have here is a fully developed worker, a sane director at her full power, who can pay her own way out there in the big bad. The cast and crew have put every ounce of their creative effort and blood, sweat and tears into the sonovabitch of a bastard of a play. Somehow we got the very best everyone had to offer, and that’s the director-not me to be sure. I can’t think of a single thing I’d change about any of it. Everyone involved has made it their business to give their best. There are moments and movements in the piece where the whole truth of life is laid bare by the cast, one in particular that grabs me by the heart and shoves what it means to be a human right in my fuckin’ face. What more could anyone ask them or anyone to do. They are doing it.

4 – How has the extra rehearsal time (due to the delay from the original start time) helped the production?

Donnie – The extra rehearsal time was very wise. I understand that Chekhov, and those who staged his plays, held long periods of rehearsal. We will always use this process in the future, and only work on plays that require this approach. It’s a huge piece, and we gave it what it deserved. I’m not into pulling out a car or motorcycle with a half arsed approach to structure and form-same goes for a play. The director, actors and crew all take this same approach-it’s got to be done right. Yes, and then hide the craft, yes.

DEATH OF A SALESMAN plays from the 26th to 29th of March and 3rd to 5th of April at the Carleton Tavern. Tickets are 30$, and worth every goddamn penny.  Get’em HERE.

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

DEATH of a SALESMAN – From New England to Yonkers

In Theatre on March 24, 2014 at 8:59 pm

 

From New England to Yonkers – the long road to Chamber Theatre’s DEATH OF A SALESMAN

Like a lot of folks, I was very much looking forward to DEATH OF A SALESMAN when it was due to hit the Carleton Tavern last November, courtesy of local heroes Chamber Theatre Hintonburg. Their previous outing, David Mamet’s EDMOND at the same venue, was one of my fav’rit shows pretty much ever and I couldn’t wait to see what Lisa, Donnie and the gang would come out with next. So it came as a shock to me (and a lot of others) when the show suddenly got cancelled mere weeks from opening. A variety of unforeseen difficulties and circumstances combined and convinced Chamber to postpone the show…they had toiled long and hard with their cast and crew, and from all accounts had themselves a show ready to go. But not the show they wanted. Not just yet.

ChamberTheatre

Fast forward to 2014, when the rehearsal process, already thought completed, starts up a second time, months in advance of the newly announced late March premiere. I let out a solid cheer at the news that the show wasn’t dead after all…some Salesmen it turns out, are harder to kill than others, and Willy Loman is one of them. Arthur Miller’s play zeroing in on the futility of the American Dream is a classic…SUCH a classic, in fact, that people hardly ever even seem to touch the blasted thing. According to Chamber, this will be the first time the show has been professionally mounted in Ottawa (if anyone can contradict that, I’d love to hear from ya!)…and having had the privilege of sitting in on a number of rehearsals as an extra pair of eyes for director Lisa Zanyk, I can understand why. Death of a Salesman is not a play to be trifled with…it is, in the words of Chamber Artistic Director Donnie Laflamme, who plays Willy Loman in this production, a “…sonovabitch of a bastard of a play”, and he’s not fooling. With a lengthy run time, huge cast, long monologues galore, stripped down emotional barriers and the occasional spate of hopelessly outdated wordplay (seriously, who ‘blows’ someone to a big meal? But I digress.), it isn’t a show you want to tackle lightly. And Chamber’s challenge is even greater, thanks to their dedication to setting shows in unconventional but just plain fun venues. Now this show whose stage directions call for a multi-room set somehow has to be managed in a narrow alleyway between the bar and the patio doors at the last of the great Ottawa dives, the Carleton Tavern, surrounded on both sides by patrons being actively encouraged to get with the boozing. Let it never be said that Chamber Theatre doesn’t love, or a least wholeheartedly tackle, a challenge.

Happy, Bernard and Biff  (Cory, Matt and Leslie) in rehearsal for Death of a Salesman.  Photo by Jen Vawer.

Happy, Bernard and Biff (Cory, Matt and Leslie) in rehearsal for Death of a Salesman. Photo by Jen Vawer.

The cast and crew has undergone a few changes in the intimidatingly long rehearsal process they’ve marathoned through, but from my vantage point as the most unnecessary Assistant Director of all time (seriously, Lisa Zanyk has this thing nailed, but I still thank them SO much for asking me on board) the group they’ve assembled could make good with just about anything. The stage management team of Alain Chauvin and Maggie Matian have rallied the troops in rehearsal with only a minimum of bloodshed (all in the name of art, folks), and the finalized cast is going to be one that makes serious waves in this theatre year. Plenty of faces familiar to Chamber Theatre fans, starting of course with Donnie himself as Willy Loman, and Manon Dumas as Linda. Chamber regulars will also recall the great Bob Reynolds, appearing in the show as the nearly-mythical Ben, while Matt Smith (who starred in Chamber’s MARCEL PURSUED BY THE HOUNDS) plays Bernard.

Venetia Lawless and Donnie Laflamme at rehearsal (with boss Lisa looking on). Pic by Jen Vawer.

Venetia Lawless and Donnie Laflamme at rehearsal (with boss Lisa looking on). Pic by Jen Vawer.

The Loman boys, Biff and Happy, are brought to you courtesy of Leslie Cserepy and Cory Thibert, respectively. Cory should be pretty familiar to Ottawa audiences as one of the co-founders of Fringe fav’rits May Can Theatre. And if you don’t know Leslie’s name yet…boy, will you after this show. Trust me. The cast is rounded out by some great folks, many of whom I was seeing for the first time in rehearsals, but a few familiar faces too…Emily Carvell and Jen Vawer (aka ‘the Chippies’), Louis Lemire, Venetia Lawless, Charlie Ebbs, and Jeff Leiper (currently running for councillor of Kitchissipi Ward..!) as Howard. Add in some sweet hair, makeup and costuming by Lesley Haye and Kristen Saar, and sound design from Glen Macintosh, and this is going to be a goddamned SHOW. The sheer effort these people have put into the labour of love that Salesman has become to Chamber Theatre is just inspiring, to put in plainly, and I can’t thank them enough for including me into their production. It’s been an honour and an incredible learning curve, and now I just can’t wait to finally see the fruits of their blood, sweat and tears pay off, and see this play knock Ottawa’s socks clear off.

DoaS

The show runs from the 26th-29th and April 3rd-5th at the Carleton Tavern. And it will be back later in April on the 25th, at Southminster United Church on April 25 (And there could even be a road trip to Wakefield’s Black Sheep Inn in early May). So plenty of chances to see some great people tackling a mighty piece of theatre, and bringing it to life with serious style…you ain’t seen the Loman family like this before, I promise. See you at the Carleton! Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

PS: Stay Tuned for part two of this preview posting coming up shortly, with some questions and answers with Donnie Laflamme!

 

 

 

Dancing with Marg

In Theatre on March 21, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Ha!  Now THAT was a mighty fun opening night!  I mean, sure, opening nights at my beloved GCTC down at Holland and Wellington are always a hoot, for the people-watching alone.  But last night kinda took it up a notch, and I just had an epic swell time from arrival to very late return home.

Got there to meet up with my classmate Kathryn Reeves, who I’m also overjoyed to announce is joining me here at the Visitorium as my new regular photographer.  She’s pretty handy with her sweet camera, something we got to test out at the media photoshoot for the show a couple of days prior.  We had a drink or two in the lobby, checking out the latest art offerings in the Fritzi Gallery…I’ve been a bit remiss in my postings in that I’ve never mentioned the always cool artwork accompanying each premiere, currently being curated by the awesome Malika Welsh. The latest showing spotlights painting and sculptures from Csaba Andras Kertesz, Allan Andre, Janet K.Mckay and Rosemary Breault-Landry, and there’s some pretty goddamn great stuff on display.  Frankly, y’all should stop in and check that out anytime you’re in the neighbourhood, premiere or no.

Eventually it was showtime, and Kath and I took our seats for the Ottawa premiere (of an already sold-out run, although do check the box office for the odd ticket that gets freed up here and there) of Mary Walsh’s one woman show DANCING WITH RAGE.  Mary is pretty much Canadian comedy royalty, being a founding member of CODCO, and serving many illustrious years on the classic THIS HOUR HAS 22 MINUTES.  It was on that show, I do believe, that she debuted her alter-ego Marg Delahuntey, aka Marg Princess Warrior, a sort of political-themed parody of Xena Warrior Princess, who was totally big news at the time, I swear (although I’m rather convinced at this point that future generations will consider Xena a parody of Marg, and not the other way around).  As Marg, Mary would fearlessly ambush politicians, including several Prime Ministers, and ask the questions that more traditional journalists would have aneurysms working up the courage to utter.  To paraprhase Mary herself from the show, she already looked so ridiculous in that get-up, why the Hell NOT just go for it?

Some outfits just never go out of style.  Photo by Kathryn P.Reeves!

Some outfits just never go out of style. Photo by Kathryn P.Reeves!

The show, directed by Mary’s CODCO cohort Andy Jones,  takes the character of Marg and goes to town with her, adding in a few of Walsh’s other fav’rit characters to create a story loosely inspired by events in her own life (but this ain’t no autobiography, folks).  The tale finds Marg diagnosed with macular degeneration (loosely translated, she might be going blind), which inspires her to track down the love-child she mothered way back at Expo ‘67, but has never seen.  Things get a little complicated when she does some digging, and becomes concerned that her offspring might be none other than the devil himself, or Stephen Harper as he’s more commonly known.

Mary bursts into the theatre going full-tilt with her trademark political zingers, including riffs on stuff that happened within, like, 24 hours of showtime, and hardly stops to take breath for 90 fun minutes.  As a piece of theatre, RAGE is perfectly serviceable, but it works best a showcase for Mary Walsh’s very funny character work, and her uniquely Canadian comedic assault on the complacency of bureaucracy, feminist issues, and of course politics.  The opportunity to watch a legend like her strut her stuff doesn’t come along too often…which explains the sellout status this show already earned, even before opening.  Mary Walsh is fearless, bold and pretty feckin’ hilarious…the show is replete with quotable one-liners and skewerings of sacred cows galore, along with half a dozen costume changes, slow-mo sprints, multimedia bonus materials and one heckuva funeral.  I hope I still have half her energy when I hit Mary’s age, which she merrily does not act.

The night kept going in fine form with a tasty beer’n’snack spread from my mates at the Clocktower Brewpub (mmm, those lettuce-bacon wraps..!), then a lovely nightcap at the Carleton with mates Tony, Chelsea and Catriona.  Now THAT’S how you do an opening night, folks.  And as for DANCING WITH RAGE, it’s homegrown comedy fun well worth checking out, if you can finagle yourself a seat, and like I said, check back with the helpful box office ladies and gents at the GCTC on that note.  There’s always hope!  Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Blood, Rum and Diddling

In Theatre on March 15, 2014 at 8:11 pm

This is a show that’s both a delight and an impossibility to review.  One I’ve been looking forward to ever since it was announced, as of course have all well-informed citizens of good taste.  I was sorry as Heck to miss opening night of this show, but how could I legitimately resist a one-night only show of actors reading anonymously donated but true masturbation stories, called JERK IT?  On a side note, nice job with the evening, May Can Theatre, ya done good.

But that’s another post, that never happened!  This one is all about the long-awaited MUCH ADO ABOUT FECKIN’ PIRATES, taking place at the Gladstone Theatre courtesy of Parry Riposte Productions, aka Richard Gelinas and Margo MacDonald.  Richard and Margo, two of THE best actors in this city hands down, have been working on this piece of pirate performance for several years now, along with their collaborator/director AL Connors.  It’s wonderful that they’ve finally managed to bring their work, which originally begun as some back-and-forth pirate banter backstage at a Company of Fools show, to the stage, and we lucky viewers, at last.

Feckin Pirates (cred Pascal Huot)

Richard Gelinas and Margo MacDonald…two feckin’ pirates if ever I saw one. (Photo by Pascal Huot)

It’s a shockingly simple setup as a story goes…two pirates (Gelinas and MacDonald, natch) are tightly bound and consigned to the crow’s nest of their ship as punishment for fighting.  Some dispute involving a parrot. Is at the heart of it, and blood may be spilt…later on.  First, though, they’re both immobile and bored and in need of something to talk about o pass the time.  That’s where the audience comes in…they get the chance to vote, before the show and hopefully while enjoying a rum shot or two, on which topics our pirate duo will converse.  A wide array of topics are provided so that no two shows will ever be the same (although I’d bet several pieces of eight that ‘diddling’ will somehow always make it into the conversation).  And yes, as is implied, the bulk of the dialogue in this show is improvised, a spontaneously devised ongoing pirate-themed argument between two people I am now declaring to be the grandmasters of Pirate Improv.  Which is where the ‘impossible to review’ comes in..after all, rather tricky to review a show that necessarily changes every night, although there IS a structure, and a plan, at the heart of FECKIN’ PIRATES, and Margo and Richard never lose sight of the goal even while they’re threatening to crack one another up with drinking songs, reminiscences of Fake Ireland and her many bogs, and oddly hilarious tales of murder and diddling (there’s quite a lot of that last bit).

But the impossible is, of course my business, so review this show I will.  It’s amazing!  There, see how easy impossible things are when you try?  But for serious, this is such a pitch-perfect showcase for two incredible theatrical talents that to miss it should be at least a misdemeanor offence.  Forget the crow’s nest, if you pass on this wonderful experience it’s the plank for ya! Personally, I hope to make it out for a second tour with the Pirates…if ever a show had replay value, this is it.   Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor, aka Bloody Squiffy (and Winston)

NAC 2014-15 – LAUNCHED! Witness them Wonders, people.

In Theatre on March 14, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Nothing like a good launch to liven up a wintery week, if I do say so.  Just a few days ago now, NAC English Theatre uberboss Jillian Keiley took to the podium at a packed 4th Stage to unveil her second full season as Artistic Director.  It was a fun, circus atmosphere to go along with the ‘Witness the Wonders’ theme of the 2014-2015 season.  Now, you gotta take season ‘themes’ wit a grain of salt…it’s really just a bit of fun for AD’s to play around with, but there really are some wondrous things to look forward to in this one, including several that I absolutely do not wanna wait for.

The mainstage Theatre series kicks of in Wilde style with THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, one of those never-gets-old classics that hits the stage this October.  Directed by Ted Dykstra and starring the new NAC ensemble (more on them later), seems like as swell a way to kick off the season as anything.

That gets followed up in December with the big family ensemble, ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, a co-pro with the Stratford Festival and fairly certain to be a big hit…I’m calling it.  From the sounds of it, this one’s gonna be a pretty sprawling cast, with the ensemble being joined by a host of other actors to bring Wonderland to Ottawa.  Should be a gooder, folks.

Lois Anderson and Natasha Greenblatt  in ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS.

Lois Anderson and Natasha Greenblatt in ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS.

Getting political after that with STUFF HAPPENS by David Hare, telling the tale of the runup to the invasion of Iraq and featuring Bush jr. and company, again as portrayed be the ensemble.  Kinda curious about this one, as at this point don’t all but the staunchest red state republicans consider the Rumsfeld White House as a bit of a punchline anyhow?  There may be a lot of preaching to the choir going on during this run…but hey, choirs LOVE preaching!  So there.

Next up is TAKE ME BACK TO JEFFERSON, and adaptation of William Faulkner’s classic novel AS I LAY DYING, a Southern tale about family, funerals and other horrors.  An amazing sounding piece devised by Theatre Smith-Gilmour, who have been at this for over 30 years and now what they’re doing, folks.  Don’t’ miss it.

Closing off the Theatre series is maybe the one I’m most excited for, Robert Lepage’s NEEDLES AND OPIUM, which looks so goddamn amazing they could just have run this all season and I likely would have been happy.  Check it out for yourself:

Moving on to the Studio series, Boss Keiley’s scheduled an awesome trio of shows for the season, starting with DO YOU WANT WHAT I HAVE GOT? A CRAIGLIST CANTATA.  Yes, it’s a musical based on actual Craigslist ads, so at the very least it should be crazy fun.  And considering how many Dora awards this show has already been nominated for, I think we’re getting way more than ‘least’.

Middle show is the Buddies in Bad Times hit OBAABERIMA (don’t worry, you’ll get it with practice), starring and created by ensemble member Tawiah M’Carthy.  A one-manner that sounds like on of those ‘tour de force’ things that you just have to see or never forgive yourself.  On my own must-see list, and that’s for damn sure.

Closing out the studio series is THE DOUBLE, and adaptation of the Dostoevsky novella of the same name, telling the ages-old tale of man vs.cello…or something like that.  It sounds pretty damn cool, anyhow, and a great note to go out on.

The Family series follows, including ALICE as its mighty centrepiece, as well as a couple of smaller, sweet bits, including THE QUEEN OF PARADISE’S GARDEN at the 4th Stage, a puppet adventure from Andy Jones (yes, that Andy Jones, recently strutting his stuff at the NAC in his adaptation of TARTUFFE) and THE GREAT MOUNTAIN in the studio from Red Sky Performance Productions, some right proper Canadian legendry for y’all.

The 2014-14 NAC English Theatre Ensemble, in all their fabulousness.

The 2014-14 NAC English Theatre Ensemble, in all their fabulousness.

So that’s the lineup as it stands, and it stands pretty tall from where I’m looking.  But what about that ensemble I kept mentioning?  Well, here’s the official lineup for the 2014-15 season: Alex McCooeye and Karen Robinson (returning members I recall from the Peter Hinton reign), Amy Matysio, Andrew Moodie , Christopher Morris, David Warburton, Herbie Barnes, Lois Anderson, Natasha Greenblatt, and as mentioned above, Tawiah M’Carthy.  It’s a solid bunch, most of whom are NAC veterans from some time or another, and will be joined along the way by some other stellar Ottawa talent, including my own much beloved Alix Sideris and Andy Massingham.  All in all, it was an exciting and superfun launch, and I’m very much enjoying Boss Keiley’s rule here at the NAC.  Okay, I’m not sure about that new logo (a little 70’s for my taste, and not in a cool way), but everything else..? Spot on.  And by all means, Jillian, keep the popcorn once the shows get underway. See you under the big top in the new year, folks.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Where DID they get the coconuts..?

In Theatre on March 8, 2014 at 8:55 pm

Let’s get it out of the way right now…Monty Python is one of the greatest treasures in the history of comedy.  They’re up there with the Marx Brothers and George Carlin, and the crown jewel in their incredible oeuvre is almost certainly their absurd 1975 classic MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL.  If you ever meet someone who boasts about how they can totally quote the entirety of that movie, punch that person in the face because EVERYONE can quote that movie, it’s that good.  We all know the coconut bit for a reason…it’s utter comedy perfection.

"It's just a flesh wound", yes, yes, we all know.

“It’s just a flesh wound”, yes, yes, we all know.

So the revelation that original Python Eric Idle scavenged their own original material and turned Holy Grail into the Broadway musical SPAMALOT seemed like manna from heaven, and the news that local heroes Orpheus Musical Theatre were putting it on as part of their latest season was welcome indeed. Yesterday was opening, and you bet your sweet bippy I was there to see how the Orpheus gang translated Idle’s concept to the Centrepointe stage.

The musical essentially follows the story of the movie, which loosely follows the Arthur legends themselves…King Arthur of the Britons (Thomas Franzky) along with his loyal manservant Patsy (Rejean Mayer) are recruiting knights for the round table at Camelot.  Eventually assembling the classic squad of tough guy sir Lancelot (Dennis van Staalduinen), not-so-tough guy sir Robin (Shaun Toohey), awkwardly flatulent sir Bedevere (Jim Tanner), and heroic sir Galahad (Gab Desmond), they set off Blues Brothers style on a mission from God, to retrieve the Holy Grail. Along the way, they receive a few assists from the glamourous Lady of the Lake (Andrea Black), a vicious taunting from the French, run afoul of the Knights who say Ni and a particularly tightly wound bunny rabbit…come on, you’ve seen the movie.  You know how it goes.

RUN AWAY!!  Photo courtesy of ValleyWind Productions/David Pasho

RUN AWAY!! Photo courtesy of ValleyWind Productions/David Pasho

This is a fun show, terrifically fun…it’s Spamalot, how could it NOT be fun? Orpheus assembled a very solid cast and crew for this one, and they’re clearly having as much fun as the audience.  I personally delighted in the 70’s variety-show style rendition of KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE, the Lady of the Lake’s several showstoppers, Patsy and King Arthur borrowing momentarily from LIFE OF BRIAN to indulge in ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE, Lancelot and Herbert (J.Taylor Morris) making some amusing musical discoveries about themselves, and many more.  Special props to Gab Desmond and Andrea Black, who have some major pipes on them and merrily let loose with them (especially in their comic take on Broadway sons THE SONG THAT GOES LIKE THIS).  Some of the only slow bits were the ones where scenes were played out directly from the movie…because how could anyone compare to the classic Python originals?  It’s like when that annoying guy you work with does his Austin Powers impression, and then wonders why you aren’t laughing.  But the cast still has a great time with this absolutely golden material, and the Black Knight bit is funny any way you slice it.

'Slice'.  See what I did there?

‘Slice’. See what I did there?

Bottom line, SPAMALOT is as good a musical joybuzzer as you’re gonna get in O-town this year, I’m calling it.  Clappable, laughable, ridiculous fun that’s every bit as silly as it’s supposed to be.  AND there’s an orchestra.   So come on down, bring out your dead, and find your Grail.  It’s right there waiting for you!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

L’Anglais Sans Peine

In Theatre on March 5, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Feeling pretty outta steam and wasted the last few days.  Think it might be a bit of a post-show crash following the epic theatre sprint that was my involvement in TROIS, specifically playing with Dead Unicorn Ink in THE ACCEPTABLE APPEARANCE THEORY.  Or maybe I was still sobering up following the afterparty on closing night, who knows?  Thanks again to Victoria, Patrice, Sylvie, Aaron, Ted, Kathryn, Bobby, Chelsea and Nadine (and everyone else who volunteered, and came out to actually see the show) for a wonderful time.  I’ll miss confused, bilingual Daniel, and I hope he’ll be all right without me.  Is that a weird thing to wonder?

But I clearly needed something to get my mind off things, and what better than someone else’s theatre?  Maybe someone else’s student theatre even, since my own student theatre is currently, shall we say, inoperative (scroll back through the posts for more details, I’m not going into it right now, okay)?  How fortunate that the slice of Ottawa U known as Unicorn Theatre was gearing up for opening night of Eugene Ionesco’s THE BALD SOPRANO, directed by local bigshot and excellent dresser Martin Glassford, who is also a graduate student for some local university or another, I can’t recall which.

Braving the quaintly neverending Narnian winter currently holding thrall over Ottawa, I made it into historic Academic Hall, trying desperately to avoid Warthoom’s icy glare as I crossed the room (brr!  Visitor no like Warthoom!).  Met up with Visitorium fav’rit Rebecca Laviolette, and local Improv superstar Brooke Cameron, because apparently all the cool people had turned out to see this one.  This boded well.  I hit the front row, for a sweet view of Marcelo Donato’s sprawling set, including a squint-or-you’ll-miss-it tape cassette lampshade (worth the price of admission all by itself).  Soon enough the lights dimmed, the clock sounded, and the surreal adventure began.

Describing the plot of THE BALD SOPRANO is a little like trying to catch smoke with a net, so I’m going to mostly not bother trying.  Ionesco liked to keep things a little weird, and I’m okay with that.  We start off with a seemingly well-off English couple, Mister and Mrs. Smith (James Graziano and Annik Welsh) gabbing somewhat one-sidedly about their latest meal of very English fish’n’chips. A brief interruption from their somewhat distracting housemaid Mary (Mahalia Tahririha) segues us into the arrival of our guests, Miser and Mrs. Martin (Jake William Smith and Lily Sutherland), who seem to be having trouble recognizing one another.  And then, later on, there’s a fire chief (Paul Piekoszewski), and everything goes right and properly loco.

Bald Soprano
SOPRANO is a weird little ditty of a play ripe for goofing around with, and Glassford makes good and merry whimsy of the whole affair with the aid of a strong cast and some sweet design (props to my man Lewis the sound guy for some excellent soundscaping).  Graziano and Welsh as the Smiths are delightfully pompous, and Smith and Sutherland as the Martins have maybe the best non-sexual sex scene you’ll see this year, trying to remember how they know one another.  Tahririha makes an awesomely seductive narrator, slinking in and stealing the show whenever the mood seems to strike her, and Piekoszewski is a welcome blast of energy late in the game as the Fire Chief, just one in a string of odd characters in an odd play indeed.  Cool staging and fine-tuned timing are on display a lot in this show, and it’s clear the whole gang worked their collective asses off to bring this one to fruition.  Something I definitely appreciate.

The work itself is a meaty little meditation on the nature of communication and observation, and I leave you to make of it what you will…but you could do a lot worse with your chilly March evening than heading off to Academic Hall and taking that metaphysical plunge for yourself.  I had fun, I can tell ya that much, and that’s good enough for me.  You still have a few days to make it out.  So, you know, do that. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)