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?
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)