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In Theatre on April 30, 2014 at 8:46 am

Right! After a good long spell of being pretty obviously lazy with this blog, I’m gonna try and rack up some solid theatre hours this week and spread the love about some cool shows, like I’m damn well supposed to. I’ve been slipping lately, I know, I know…but in my defense I AM getting pretty old and have begun creaking quite badly when I move. Thank goodness I’m still so pretty.

First stop this week was a long overdue return to the Ottawa Little Theatre, shamefully my first visit this season (their 101st, by the way…how many seasons of community theatre have YOU successfully produced? That’s what I thought). So after a couple hours killing time at another long-neglected hangout, the Bytowne Cinema…by the way, Jason Bateman’s BAD WORDS totally fucking rocks… I headed on up to the OLT for their latest offering, Theresa Rebeck’s MAURITIUS. Directed by Chantal Plante, which is usually a very good sign, and staring a few familiar faces, I was looking forward to this one, as good a return to the OLT for me as any I could hope for.

The story dives headlong into the wild and wacky, and apparently occasionally violent world of the philatelist, aka the stamp collector. Now I personally do not collect stamps, and have thus decided that stamp collecting is stupid. I mean, comic books, that’s perfectly acceptable, but STAMPS? Get real.

More like Philate-LOSER, am I right?

More like Philate-LOSER, am I right?

But I digress…the stamps are just the medium in this one, not the message, which is a lot more fun. See, Jackie (Laura Hall) has come across some potentially rare as balls stamps in her late Mother’s estate, and wants jaded expert Phil (Lawrence Evenchick) to give them an appraisal. When he brushes her off, mysterious stranger Dennis (Chris Cottrell) lends his eye, and likes what he sees…quite a bit, in fact. After relating the news of his potentially incredible find to his imposing benefactor, bazillionaire supervillain and stamp afficionado Stirling (John Collins), he stalks Jackie to her home, where she’s busy squabbling with her stuffy half-sister Mary (Cindy Beaton) about various sundry issues, not the least of which is which of them actually owns those goddamn stamps. Before long, everyone is hatching their own plans about what to do with the ‘crown jewels’ of the collection, a pair of ultra-rare stamps from Mauritius with the wrong wording printed on them…it’s the errors that make them more valuable, as we’re told, just as it’s thee flaws in all these characters that make them so damn engaging.

MAURITIUS is a very solid thriller, with a lot of humour to buoy it throughout, and plenty to recommend it. Right away, that set from designer Graham Price is some sweet, sweet business, and holy Hell that soundtrack..? I’m assuming sound guy Bob Krukowski gets the props for the music in this show, and it is serious cool, setting the mood perfectly. And then, oh yeah, the cast. Cindy Beaton’s Mary is so maddeningly superior and demeaning it’s a thing of beauty, and Evenchick’s has-been philatelist Phil is solid throughout, with one particularly wonderful moment that comes to mind. And Chris Cottrell’s Dennis is intriguing throughout, keeping you guessing as to just what kind of a man he really is, as opposed to what he wants you to think he is.

OLT_101st-posters_7

It really comes down in the end to two performances, tho…John Collins’ terrifyingly commanding Stirling, a power-obsessed alpha male quite obviously willing to do whatever he needs to get what he wants. Dude just oozes danger when he walks on set. And Laura Hall’s Jackie is perfectly riveting, practically seething throughout the entire show with mute (and sometimes not so much) rage, desperation and conviction…both opposite and equal to the calculating Stirling. When they finally meet in the second act, it’s fucking GOLD. And yes, I’m using a bit more of my salty language in this post that in recent years, pardon, but the show kind of brings it out of you. Way more f-bombs in this production than the average OLT joint, but each one feels well-earned. So there.

This is a fun, cool, and offputting show, an exercise in tactics as power shifts rapidly from character to character, alliances rise and fall, crosses are doubled and the stakes rise much higher than anyone anticipated. That all this firepower is over two tiny scraps of paper is almost the icing on the cake. If you wanna get your thrill on, you won’t do much better in Ottawa these days than checking this one out. So check it out already! Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

 

Monday Foofarah!! – April 28 2014

In Foofarah on April 28, 2014 at 9:15 pm

I know, I know…you never thought it’d be back. You HOPED it’d never be back. But you can’t keep a good Foofarah down! Also, it’s Monday, I haven’t been posting much lately and I’m kinda bored. FEEL THE LOVE!!!

Lots to get to, especially as it’s been about two fuckin’ years since I bothered doing one of these, but as always, first things first…what’s going on in Ottawa Theatre this week?? Well, we’ve got MY BRILLIANT DIVORCE at the Gladstone. HUFF at the NAC studio. CORPUS at Arts Court Theatre. ALBERTINE EN CINQ TEMPS at the NAC Theatre. LE PROJET TURNADOT at Studio Leonard-Beaulne. MAURITIUS at Ottawa Little Theatre. YOUNG LADY IN WHITE (a reading) at Arts Court Studio. And THE WEDDING POOL at the Avalon Studio. It’s a good full and fun week, folks, and I plan to hit at least 4 of these this week.  And once I see them, I’ll have shows to write about!  But in the meantime, I got other stuff to say.  Read on if you will!

ALIX’S LAB(AN): I recently finished up a three-evening workshop, under the tutelage of that most amazing of superwomen, Alix Sideris. I’ve been blessed to know miss Alix for some time now, and had been very, very much looking forward to her being one of my instructors in my second year at theatre school. But, well, that didn’t play out like expected, so I jumped at this next-best-thing opportunity, when she offered this intensive workshop on Laban. For those not in the know, Laban is a sort-of theory of physical theatre created by dancer and architect Rudolf Laban back in the day. It’s intriguing and demanding and exhausting, and I really should have booked some time off work around it, but in I dove anyways. Happily I was surrounded by good folks, each far more talented and beautiful than I, who lent me their inspiration for the duration of the ‘shop.

Day one got us all into playing with some of the opposite motions that seemed to excite Rudolf so much…pushing and pulling, falling and rising, high and low, heavy and light, direct and indirect, bound and unbound, etc. All the while we were encouraged to play with a monologue we had been instructed to have ready, to see how the different modalities affected how the text came out. I dug falling and rising the most, even if my butt is still sore from a few of my more excitable falls.

Day two we got into a little ‘circles of speech’ territory, which gave my classmate Kathryn ‘Laban Mouse’ Reeves a big giddy smile. The three circles of speech range from 1st (inward), 2nd (conversational), and 3rd (outward). It’s cool, as the 1st and 3rd are both essentially rhetorical, but for completely different reasons. Our play this day ranged from shouting like lunatics to the heavens at the top of our lungs, to shriveled, fetal balls hugging the walls, whispering to ourselves. It was a trip. Then we got back into Laban proper and met some of the ‘characters’ of the technique, like the Puncher (who is goddamned tiring), and the Floater (or was that day 3? I was awfully tired after the Puncher).

Day three started with me getting a good deal more intimate with Nick Amott than I had ever planned (not complaining), then playing with a few more Laban ‘characters’, most notably the Wringer. This involves deliberately and painfully contorting yourself on the ground like a dishtowel being wrung out, and I highly recommend it to everyone. After a bit more play we had some time to work on our monologues again before actually resenting them to everyone, using a little of what we had learned. Then Alix got into it, doling out some awesome directorial flourishes to bring even more out of us. For my part, I ended up a drunken Iago having a loud session at the pub with my boys, while glaring Desdemona down across the room. Many thanks to Madeleine Hall for playing along on that one.

It was an intense and VERY emotional three days…Laban work like this doesn’t allow for much to be held back, and the day after it was all I could do to not burst into spontaneous tears on my brunch shift at work. I was inspired, however, and I feel like I got about a month’s work of theatrical instruction in less than half a week.  But eternal thanks to Alix Sideris for conducting this I hope to Hell there’s another one coming soon, and next time…time off work for SURE. And epsom salts. LOTS of epsom salts. Again, ouch. The best kind of ouch.

AWARDS: I was so beat up and woozy after my Laban workshopping, plus regular old work and an evening volunteering with Vacant House Theatre, I just could not make myself spend another night doing anything but going to bed early. So it was with some regret that I passed on this year’s PRIX RIDEAU AWARDS GALA…something I was initially supposed to be performing in (long story), but scheduling conflicts boggled that. Still, I would have liked to have seen the show, and I hear it was a swell evening all around. Looking at some of the photos swirling around the net from the night, it’s likely just as well that me and my ugly mug stayed home, because people was dolled UP, yo. Also, apparently some awards got doled out somewhere along the line:

Hroses

My old pals at Evolution and MiCasa Theatre cleaned up, with lots of well-deserved love for the amazing HROSES: AN AFFRONT TO REASON, winning for AL Connors’ great sound design, Katie Swift’s great acting, and Emily Pearlman’s great directing. The WE GLOW gang got a nice collection too, with wins for Brad Long’s smashing acting, as well as a best original creation nod. Again, so well-earned.

Best overall productions went to Same Day Theatre’s IN THE NEXT ROOM (THE VIBRATOR PLAY) and Theatre la Catapulte’s IK ONKAR. I sadly missed that production, as my French theatre habits are a little down in the numbers recently. But at least I did catch FOOL FOR LOVE, which picked up the Franco nod for best male performance for Yves Turbide. Plenty of other amazing people won well-deserved awards…Melanie Karin, Magali Lemele, Lissa Leger, David Whiteley, Tina Goralski, Caroline Yergeau…there are full lists out there, but you’re probably way cooler than me and were at the gala anyhow. Much love to all the nominees, attendees, organizers, and a special shoutout to my fellow OTS orphans who did end up performing that night…send me some pictures, and I’ll post’em right here if ya like!

#VISI4IUM: And what better reason to resurrect the Foofarah, however briefly this lasts, but to pimp the upcoming 4th Anniversary Foofarah LIVE! Coming on Sunday June the 1st downstairs at the Clocktower Bank street, this will be the event that 4 years of dull-witted bloggery have been leading up to, and hopefully it won’t be the disappointment you’re rightfully expecting. But HOW COULD IT BE? Seriously, have you seen the talent I somehow talked into being a part of this thing already? I feel like I just personally assembled the Avengers over here. Check it out…we got Tony Adams and Tess McManus teaming up, as well as Cory Thibert and Mado Manseau, because I couldn’t bear it if all of May Can weren’t there for this special evening. Them AND Little Green Hat? That’s a show right there.

visi4ium banner 2

But there’s MORE! OTS keener that I am, there’s plenty of classmates and alumni on hand to entertain. Hannah and Jodi of Pretty Ugly productions will be there, as well as Alexa and Phil from Loose Cannons Collective, both I think performing previews of their upcoming Fringe shows! Plus Nick Fournier (aka Nick Fuckin’ Wade), goin’ solo which is gonna be amazing. AMAZING.

And two of my fantastic Laban Workshop-mates round out the current bill…Madeleine Hall has graciously agreed to remount her fantastic final Vocal Masque for the evening, and Derbygirl extraordinaire Nancy Kenny will be doing…something! It’ll be great!! (it actually will be, trust me)

And then there’s me. I suppose since it’s my damn blog and all, I have to do SOMEthing at my own party. Well, I’m beating that by doing TWO somethings. I mentioned ‘vocal masques’ above, which is OTS speak for a performnace piece we had to do at the end of semester. I’ll be remounting the one piece I ever managed to get out in my short time there, a little ditty (silent, despite the word ‘vocal’ in the descriptor) I call The Flower. And then, because I’m buts, I’ll be debuting what WOUDL have been my 2nd semester masque, going by the few groundrules I ever was told about it. Those are: 5 minutes long. Solo. Spoken, but with text culled from 3 different published plays, strung together in a single narrative. I have my script ready, and there may be a prize for anyone who can guess the 3 sources I used. I’m starting to get nervous about the whole thing, actually…thank goodness I’ve just brought Rebecca Laviolette on board as official Foofarah Wrangler for the event! With her help, the party just might actually happen after all. Stay tuned!

CROWDFUNDER OF THE WEEK: Because who knows, maybe I’ll keep doing these again! Smooth Tim Oberholzer, longtime friend and fav’rit of the Visitorium, had himself a bit of a show at the Gladstone recently. You may have heard of it, or even just heard it if you were standing within ten blocks of the theatre, because HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH rock loud and hard. It was a short, micro-run from his newly minted Vanity Project Productions, a labor of love, and also one of the best, most exciting and absolutely picture-perfect shows Ottawa is gonna see this year. And it’s not just the Foofarah that is making a comeback, folks, because this show too is gonna happen again. This October, like Superman and Batman before him/her, Hedwig Returns! By popular demand…hell, even the people who SAW it are demanding a remount…Tim and the band will be back to rock the capitol in this brilliant fucking show, that is absolutely a game-changer for Tim Oberholzer. This is a take-it-on-the-road-and-get-famous kinda show, and you gotta, GOTTA catch it while you can. But Hedwig isn’t the best with finances, and needs a little help. See your way to spotting a measly 25 buck to the fundraising campaign, and you’ll secure your seat for the remount! That’s as good a deal as anyone needs. Help make this magic happen, folks…seriously, Montreal WISHES they were cool enough to have this show in their town.  Click the link, and do the right thing: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/hedwig-and-the-angry-inch-returns-to-ottawa#home

Well, that’s all I got for tonight folks…I have to make a bowl of soup and finish watching IRON MAN 2.  Hope you enjoyed the return of the Foofarah, and I’m gonna try and keep it coming at least for this month, in the runup to the anniversary show.  So as always, good people of the internet, this has been Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston).  Highwaymen…play me out:

the Butterfly Effect

In Theatre on April 22, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Wow, long time, no blog…apologies, whoever you are reading this, I have most definitely been slacking off for the last few weeks. Missed some shows I shoulda seen, didn’t write about some others I meant to…thank God I don’t get paid for this, or someone would have fired me a long time ago.

But somehow I keep getting invited to a few things, and that’s how I managed to sleaze my way on down to the NAC last night (Southam Hall, no less) to catch the latest from the cool kids at Opera Lyra, as they finished off what looked to be a very successful 2013/14 season. The show this evening was Puccini’s heartstabber MADAMA BUTTERFLY. Set at the turn of the last century, the story starts almost innocently enough in Nagasaki, where a visiting yankee solider named Pinkerton (Antoine Belanger) is renting a spacious house on a hill from local jack-of-all-trades Goro ((Joseph Hu). Goro being a somewhat enterprising businessman, he’s also finagled a marriage into the deal, selling Pinkerton the hand of local geisha Cio-Cio-San (Shuying Li) as a bit of n incentive on the lease. Pinkerton thinks little of it, fancying himself a mighty American citizen of the world, sampling its wares. But as American consul Sharpless (James Westman) warns him, his bride-to-be has different ideas. And indeed, the long suffering ‘Butterfly’ has fallen head over heels for her handsome Yank, renouncing her own religion to ingratiate herself to him. This doesn’t sit well with her family, especially her roaring priest uncle, ‘the Bonz’ (Valarian Ruminski) who disowns her. Still, act I ends on a peaceful, happy note, with the two young lovers settling in for a night of wedded bliss, with the world as their oyster and the future bright.

The 'Happy' ' Couple' ...Shuying Li and Antoine Belanger in MADAMA BUTTERFLY (pix by Kathryn 'Photography Mouse' Reeves)

The ‘Happy’ ‘ Couple’ …Shuying Li and Antoine Belanger in MADAMA BUTTERFLY (pix by Kathryn ‘Photography Mouse’ Reeves)

Somewhere between acts I and II everything goes straight to Hell, however, as is kind of par for the opera course. Pinkerton has left the country on business, which has taken more than 3 years, leaving Butterfly alone and near destitute, only her faithful servant Suzuki (Armine Kassabian) left to stand by her side. She insists that her love will be back for her, however, steadfastly refusing her earnest suitor Prince Yamadori (Gene Wu), despite his peculiar habit of clearly being the better choice. Eventually of course, Pinkerton DOES return…but not alone. And we all immediately wish he hadn’t.

M Butterfly

Opera Lyra puts on sold, spectacular shows and BUTTERFLY is no exception. Shuying Li is flat-out terrific as our tragic heroine, a role she’s played on opera stages before and is already slated to again with the Colorado Opera. She absolutely lights up the stage when she makes her entrance, cranking the whole production up to eleven as she takes us through Cio-Cio-San’s trials, temptations and torture. If I can find a flaw in her counterpart, Antoine Belanger’s Pinkerton, it’s that the bastard actually comes off fairly likeable, when you really just wanna hate him. I did have a BIT of trouble hearing him at times in Act I, but I’ll chalk that up to the orchestra. Valarian Ruminski, a name even a dummy like me recognizes now after his smashing showing as Colline in LA BOHEME, puts his boss bass pipes to great scene-stealing use as the merrily over-the-top Bonz, who is officially my fav’rit opera character EVER. James Westman shines as the helpless Sharpless…Armine Kassabian’s fiercely loyal Suzuki is also a highlight, likewise Joseph Hu as scheming Goro. And of course, Tyrone Paterson and theNAC orchestra rock the house throughout.

Throwing flowers makes EVERYTHING bearable.  Shuying Li and Armine Kassabian in MADAMA BUTTERFLY (Pic by Katrhyn Reeves)

Throwing flowers makes EVERYTHING bearable. Shuying Li and Armine Kassabian in MADAMA BUTTERFLY (Pic by Katrhyn Reeves)

This is a bit of a change from the last couple of shows I’ve seen from Lyra, just due to the pared-down nature of the story itself. Just the one set, and after the hubbub of the wedding scene, remarkably little actually happens in this story. That’s not a dig…the story revolves more around what DOESN’T happen, and it’s an intriguing watch as a result. There a few dragging moments in Act II, but they’re almost designed to do just that, as we wait helplessly along with Butterfly for a happy ending that just isn’t coming. So, yeah, spoiler alert…but it’s opera, they pretty much ALL end badly. It’s half the fun. And there’s plenty of fun in this one, folks, two chances left (tho not many empty seats when I went, so get on that!). Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Sans Sense

In Theatre on April 11, 2014 at 8:45 am

Well, the hustle and the bustle of the big-time GCTC launch party was sadly over and done with. Plus I had a fun time a couple days later at the Opera Lyra MADAMA BUTTERFLY photoshoot with my killer photog pal Kathryn Reeves. It’s been a rather posh few days in theatre for me, I don’t mind saying. Which is why it was kinda nice to go a little lower key last night, with the debut of brand new company of theatre kids just looking to try something new and shake things up. Because if that’s not what it’s all about, then I happily don’t know what is.

The kids are WeArt, and the show was SANS SENSE, a collection of four separate original works from three spankin’ new writers, assembled together by killer up’n’coming director and all around good guy Fraser MacKinnon, and featuring the onstage talents of Marissa Caldwell, Will LaFrance and Joel Garrow. I’ve reviewed Caldwell and Lafrance a few times each before in these pages (Will somewhat recently for his lovely turn in Sock’n’Buskin’s LOVES LABORS LOST, and Marissa most notably vamping it up in Dead Unicorn Ink’s SPACE MYSTERY…IN OUTER SPACE!), and local improv fans will know Joel as a regular member of GRIMProv…he’s the beardy one! It was an interesting mix of creators, also including Stuart Ross, Sean Callaghan and Todd Hammond, who wrote the four short works that comprised the evening. Set up very smartly in the OddBox (aka the Ottawa Dance Directive studio in Arts Court), the show starts off with Garrow…who also acts as a sort-of narrator for the evening, in a weird way…in a beautifully absurd short called SHOOTING THE POODLE by Stuart Ross. It was a delightful slice of nuttiness, and it was pretty swell seeing the gregarious Joel Garrow act, as I’ve only seen him do improv up until this point. The story provides him ample opportunity for both comedy and storytelling…and the sunglasses gag is worth the price of admission all by itself.

sans sense

Up next (via a wonderful, wonderful linking piece) was Will LaFrance in FISH by Todd Hammond. I’ve dug TheFrance’s work for a good while now, and was glad to see him back at the acting, I believe his first time onstage since getting into a heated argument with a motor vehicle last year. It’s a wonderful script he gets to work with, a touching and slightly mythical coming of age story and he does it justice with a straightforward and vulnerable performance. It’s a bit that could easily be expanded and explored further into a full-length show all by itself. Act 1 finished up with Joel Garrow and Marissa Caldwell waiting for a train together in THE ENGAGEMENT by Stuart Ross again, a sweet little shorty about communication and connection. It was a trifle light, but well done and a nice aperitif for what was to come.

The second act was taken up with one longer piece (about 45 minutes, I think), Sean Callaghan’s NO. PLEASE – and it was a doozy. Featuring the whole group together at last and exploring sex, death, violence, and other great conversation starters, it appears to be set in an alternate, dystopian reality of rampant authoritarianism and seriously degraded interpersonal dynamics. Everyone gets a chance to shine in this one, with moments flinging from joyously absurd to painfully dark. I may never be able to listen to HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY the same way again, thanks very much. Some cool directorial touches in this one especially, a few gorgeously awkward pauses, which is fantastic…a production like this is the perfect place to push the envelope a bit and play with how to get the story across. And the kids came out to play. Especially nice to finally see Marissa Caldwell have some moments to sink her teeth into, playing an officer’s wife struggling with the society around her.

SANS SENSE is a fun, borderline experimental night…performances are solid across the board, a few wobbles once or twice on the bigger monologues but always quickly recovered. Some stories are more fully fleshed than others, but all entertain, and there’s enough variety to please multiple sensibilities (although there’s a fairly dark undercurrent to the whole affair, so thumbs up, you dig?). All in all I had a really good evening seeing a lot of cool new theatre from people who clearly love what they’re up to. And I’m looking forward to seeing what the WeArt crowd comes up with next. Check it out if you can the next couple of nights at Arts Court! Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

GCTC 2014/15 Season — LAUNCHED!

In GCTC, Theatre on April 8, 2014 at 11:44 pm

Been looking forward to this one for a bit now…a few weeks ago I got an invite for me and a guest to hit up the GCTC to check out the launch of the upcoming 2014/15 season, also their 40th anniversary. I didn’t bring a guest, as I’ve been feeling intensely anti-social of late, and it was rough enough to haul myself out to something that I knew would be so damned, well…SOCIAL. But season launches arrive but once a year, and the show must go on and all that, so out of my cozy little Visitorium I ventured Took a pitstop at Bridgehead to read a little Eugene O’Neill, which got me into the theatrical mood soon enough, and I made it to the corner of Holland and Wellington just as the large and enthusiastic crowd was starting to form outside of the Irving Greenberg theatre. Lots of familiar and friendly faces were abounding, and I could feel my anti-social armour starting to crumble when, thank Heavens, the theatre doors opened and we started going in. I ran to a seat and eagerly awaited the evening’s announcement (ignoring the full disclosure media release I just spotted being delivered by e-mail to my cellphone…no wonder Coates hates those things!).

After a swell into delving into the 40 year history of the GCTC, Artistic Director Eric Coates himself took the stage to helm the launch. And he started out with a strong vision of what the ‘theme’ of the new season would be. “If you want a theme, go to Santa’s Village” he shouted to a pretty joyous response from the crowd, and I have to agree…the notion of theming a theatre season has always seemed pretty dubious to me, and I’m happy to see the idea so merrily disowned. Good theatre is theme enough.

The new season begins with Emil Sher’s adaptation of THE BOY IN THE MOON by Ian Brown, a book that is apparently amazing but which I have not read (longtime readers know that I am , of course, functionally illiterate). Starring Peter James Howarth, the show tells a Father’s true-life story of raising a son afflicted with a rare disability. Howarth gave us a short reading from the play (the first of two directed by Coates himself, who last helmed the great THIS IS WAR), and I think this one’s gonna be a gooder.

Next up is a double bill, FISH EYES and BOYS WITH CARS, both written, performed and choreographed by Anita Majumdar. She stars in the paired shows as Indian Canadian teens Meena and Naz, both dealing with life, tradition and dance in Port Moody BC. I love one woman shows, I love double bills, I am SO THERE.

The Holiday show is next, and I’m so excited for this one I cannot tell ya. But I’ll tell ya ANYWAY. A joint production with a Company of Fools (who last paired with the GCTC to bring us the sublime MIDWINTERS DREAM TALE), Ottawa’s fav’rit homegrown clown duo return to the stage in POMME AND ’RESTES: SHIPWRECKED! ON THE TEMPESTUOUS LOST ISLAND OF NEVER. To be directed by AL Connors, and written whenever, this show is brilliant news to a wee budding clown like myself (have I mentioned yet in this post that I’m going to clown island this summer? Because I am). If you miss this show, then good luck in the next life, friend, because you have hopelessly fucked THIS one.

P&R

Hitting 2015, we start the second half of the season with the second dose of George F.Walker in 2 consecutive seasons (following the upcoming premiere of BURDEN OF SELF-AWARENESS to finish off the current season), with Green Thumb Theatre’s production of MOSS PARK. Directed by former GCTC artistic director Patrick McDonald and starring Graeme McComb and Haley McGee as a down and out couple looking for a future…a dark comedy for what will likely be a dark January, if this crappy winter is any indicator of things to come.

Next up would likely be UNDERCURRENTS, and it will of course be having its fifth iteration in 2015….but that news no longer belongs in this post. In what may be the biggest bit of news to be revealed at the lunch, Undercurrents is officially following producer Pat Gauthier to the Ottawa Fringe Festival, and will happen next year under the Fringe umbrella at Arts Court Theatre! And while it while be sad indeed to no longer lounge at the Greenberg while waiting for my February awesomeness, I’m stoked that Gauthier will continue to helm the series, and a marriage with Fringe does indeed make perfect sense. The studio at GCTC will still get some use, as they’ve partnered up with local heroes Propellerdance to work up there in anticipation of a mainstage show later in the year. Good news all around, I say.

Speaking of the mainstage, the next show in the roster is another one that makes me smile, Daniel MacIvor’s THE BEST BROTHERS, a play I only recently bought and read my own self! Directed again by boss Coates, and starring the dream team of Andy Massingham and John Ng as two estranged brothers dealing with the drag-queen-related death of their Mother (as well as the disposition of her dog Enzo, surely a nod to our own Richard Hemphill), I can attest to how great this play reads and cannot WAIT to see it brought to life in front of me. Very, very happy to see my teacher Andy back on the GCTC stage. 🙂

BB

And the season caps off with a former UNDERCURRENTS show making the jump to the big stage (falling in BLUE BOX’s salsa-dancing footsteps), as THE PUBLIC SERVANT returns to town. The breakout hit of the 2013 festival, the civil-service-skewering comedy by Jennifer Brewing, Haley McGee, Sarah McVie and Amy Rutherford was a goddam laugh riot in its original form, and will be expanded into a full length show for its triumphant return to the GCTC next June. It will be very, very great to see this show and this ensemble again.  And a show about civil service will sell in this town, folks, so get your tickets early.

The Public Servant..photo by Jacqui Jensen-Roy.

The Public Servant..photo by Jacqui Jensen-Roy.

That was the end of the launch and the beginning of the afterparty where, despite myself, I found a little bit of non-anti-social behaviour creeping in. But what else could I do when confronted with the likes of Emily Pearlman, Michelle leBlanc, Alexis Scott, Alix Sideris, Zach Counsil, Karen Balcome, Rich Hemphill, and so many, wonderful more. I love my life in theatre (also known as my life), and am delighted to look forward to the next year of it at the GCTC. Heck, I might even volunteer again this year. I’m sure they miss me anyhow…and I just KNOW I’m gonna need to see Pomme and ‘Restes more than once…

Peace, love and soul, GCTC fans,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

PS  the entire Box Office staff danced onstage, and Tony Adams got naked.  Sorry NOW you missed the launch..?

It’s the Furnace, Ernest!

In Theatre on April 6, 2014 at 7:17 pm

I’d been excited about the debut production from Vacant House theatre since I heard of their forming, and for one glaring and personal reason. The co-founders, Karina Milech and Alexis Scott, were both graduates of the Ottawa Theatre School and good pals of mine, and of course my soft spot for my OTS alma mater is a poorly kept secret. So when I found out the two of them were forming a company and striking out on their own, I was over the moon. They chose for their first production THE ANGER IN ERNEST AND ERNESTINE by Leah Cherniak, Robert Morgan and Martha Ross, and vowed to stage it as a site-specific piece of theatre. I remember them searching high and low for a literal vacant house to use for the show, until they eventually settled on the unusual but intriguing choice of the basement of the Ottawa Backpackers Inn in the Byward Market. Okay, it turns out it’s sort of right next door TO the Backpackers, but they have two buildings at 403 York (near the corner of King Edward), plus a volunteer outside to help guide the incoming traffic, so it was all good. Once in, Stage Manager Natasha Graham offered the small group of attendees (barely a dozen per showing…it’s one intimate venue indeed, folks) some tasty tea while we waited in the kitchen, with a few understanding but doubtlessly confused ACTUAL backpackers, for the show to begin.

Anger in Earnest and Ernestine

Soon enough we made the steep trek down the stairs to the cramped laundry room basement that serves as the adorably intimate setting for the seriously impressive debut Vacant House has readied down there. Directed by Plosive’s David Whiteley, the show stars Patrick Kelly and Karina Milech as newlyweds Ernest and Ernestine, who just moved into the first basement apartment. It also stars Nick Fournier and Alexis Scott as the ANGER in Ernest and Ernestine…they shadow all of the action, speaking up when one of our supposed lovebirds starts losing their cool. Which, as the name of the show implies, starts happening with alarming regularity.

Alexis Scott, Patrick Kelly, Nick Fournier and Karina Milech in THE ANGER IN EARNEST AND ERNESTINE.  Photo by David Whiteley.

Alexis Scott, Patrick Kelly, Nick Fournier and Karina Milech in THE ANGER IN EARNEST AND ERNESTINE. Photo by David Whiteley.

All four actors are alumni of the Ottawa Theatre School, and they do their school proud with some killer work in a tremendously entertaining one-act show. The sheer amount and quality of physical theatrics that accompany their performances, in such a crazily cramped space makes me not only doff my reviewer’s cap to them as a collective, but also wonder how they hell nobody got trampled or steamrolled in the ensuing theatrical madness. Not that you’re actually in danger, folks (tho watch out for flying cornflakes), the Vacant House kids are pros and no fooling. The story ranges from sweet to wrenching, comic to patently absurd, and they throw their all into every exceptional moment of it. Patrick Kelly was the only one I hadn’t seen in action previously, and he was pretty damn hilarious as nebbishy Ernest, matching up nicely with Karina Milech’s flighty Ernestine. Alexis Scott and Nick Fournier (Nick fuckin’ Wade!!) add airs of both comedy and menace as the darker halves, occasionally interacting with the unofficial fifth member of the cast, the furnace.

The Furnace sometimes gets the better of Ernest and Ernestine .  Photo by David Whiteley.

The Furnace sometimes gets the better of Ernest and Ernestine . Photo by David Whiteley.

This is a very special theatre experience, folks, and I definitely urge you to strap on your backpack and head down to the Inn (NOT the Jail Hostel, like I dimwittedly headed for the first time…but then, I’m much dumber than you, whoever is reading this) for a basement outing you won’t soon forget. And yes, I know it sounds like I’m gushing because they’re OTS gangsters, which is my weakness, but seriously…a great job, and a wonderful accomplishment. This show is just a fucking joy to be part of, and I expect I’ll be back before its run is out. Reserve your tickets early if you want to beat me to the couch! And did I mention there’s tea..? Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

 

Sowing the Seeds

In Theatre on April 4, 2014 at 3:57 pm

A few days late to the newest show at the NAC…sorry about that, but even the National Arts Center takes a distant second to my Nieces Brynn and Clara when they’re performing in the church play, which I just HAD to check out last week. You’ll be happy and relieved to know they killed it, and they absolutely owned that production of HURRY ON DOWN, the touching story of some trivial bit character from the bible that you’ve never heard of. Zachias? Something like that. They took the material and ran with it, is what I’m saying.  My nieces are the most amazing people EVER.

But eventually, the pull of the NAC managed to bring me back, and with the amazing Nancy Kenny as my galpal for the evening, we made it in for the start of week two for SEEDS, Annabel Soutar’s documentary/verbatim show about the (in)famous court case of Monsanto v. Schmeiser. Percy Schmeiser, that is, portrayed in this most excellent production by the legend Eric Peterson, notable in Canada for his Gas Cornering and Street Legalling. Coming from Porte Parole outta Montreal and directed by Chris Abraham, SEEDS follows both Percy (Peterson) and the playwright herself, played by Christine Bealieu, as she conducts interviews and examines court transcripts to turn this story into a piece of theatre. Not that it needs much of a push…the real-life battle between Schmeiser, a lifelong canola farmer in a tiny town in Saskatchewan, and bipolar corporate giant Monsanto, as successful as they are despised, is plenty dramatic by itself. Monsanto insists that Schmeiser has stolen some of their genetically modified seeds for use on his farm, while he insists that he has no idea how any of them made it onto his land. As the case goes on and on, the battle turns less into an infringement issue, and becomes a global ethical dilemma about the nature of life itself, with Percy becoming something of a folk hero on the farmers’ rights frontlines, much to Monsanto’s annoyance.

The cast is excellent across the board, and yes, Peterson himself is just goddamn splendid as pigheaded Percy, refusing to back down an inch from his stand (even when doubt about his claims start to creep in in act 2). He has many great moments, especially a great speech about the attraction of farming, and the singular wonder of the seed itself:

Okay, I don’t actually have the right clip, but you get the gist. The rest of the troupe (Bruce Dinsmore, Mariah Inger, Alex Ivanovici, Tanja Jacobs and Cary Lawrence) fill out the sprawling storyline as a half dozen different characters each, from aggressive Monsanto lawyers to research scientists, farmhands, Percy’s wife Louise, and a particularly enthusiastic nun. It’s a dynamic and fun show to watch, making great hay out of the rich material at hand, including an ethical dilemma or two encountered by the playwright herself during the process. It’s as educational and eye-opening as it is entertaining. Video projection backdrops are used to great effect throughout, amid a sprawling multi-use set from Julie Fox. A lot of people will just come to see this show for Eric Peterson, and that’s just fine…but they’re going to come away with a whole lot more. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

PS Shoutout to the lone Monsanto booster in the audience the night we attended, who would applaud all by his/her lonesome anytime something went well for the corporate giant in the play. Nice to see that, even in theatre, someone out there is rooting for the overdog.

 

Coming up in April 2014

In Theatre on April 1, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Not much going on in Theatres this month, really…

…April Fools, you dull-witted suckers!  There’s LOTS!  Come along now…

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.

DEATH OF A SALESMAN at the Carleton Tavern, from Chamber Theatre Hintonburg. After a killer opening week, the Loman family is back for another run at the Carleton Tavern. Plays there from the 3rd to 5th, but returns later on the 25th for a night at Southminster United in the Glebe (15 Aylmer ave., near the Mayfair Theatre) and then on May 1st at the BlackSheep Inn, out in Wakefield! Seriously, do not miss this one, gang. Shows like this don’t come along very often.

DANCING WITH RAGE at the GCTC, from Mary Walsh. Marg just keeps on coming, as the almost sold-out one-woman show from Canada’s comedy legend continues. Check the box office for any last minute seats! Until the 6th.

noirville

MURDER IN NOIRVILLE at the Ron Maslin Playhouse, from Kanata Theatre. Film noir fun in Kanata, until the 5th.

SEEDS at the National Arts Centre Theatre. Another Canuck legend Eric Peterson headlines this biggie about everyone’s fav’rit real life supervillains, Monsanto. Until the 12th.

DRAMA AT INISH at the Ottawa Little Theatre, co-pro with Tara Players. A few more chances to get some Irish on at the OLT! Until the 12th.

hedwig

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH at the Gladstone Theatre, from Vanity Project Productions. Already generating awesome buzz, tickets are moving fast for the hottest musical in Ottawa, starring Tim Oberholzer. Check it out for yourself! 2nd to 5th only.

ruddygore

RUDDYGORE at Algonquin Commons theatre, from the Savoy Society. The first of two operas that I’ve found for the month, some Gilbert and Sullivan coolness to start us off. 3rd to 6th at that big new theatre at Algonquin I haven’t been to yet. It looks cool, though.

Anger in Earnest and Ernestine

THE ANGER IN ERNEST AND ERNESTINE at the Ottawa Backpackers Inn, from Vacant House Theatre. Premiering this week is the inaugural work from a new company I’m especially excited about, so I’m gonna ramble a bit more than usual in this post. Vacant House Theatre is the creation of Karina Milech and Alexis Scott, two graduates of my beloved Ottawa Theatre School and two fabulously talented actors, as should be expected. They were in the same year in the OTS, and were seen by Ottawa audiences in great shows like THE EUMENIDES, FALSE ASSUMPTIONS and THE FARM SHOW. They’ve picked THE ANGER IN ERNEST AND ERNESTINE as their debut play, and are even inaugurating a new Ottawa venue, the basement of the Backpackers’ Inn, for the occasion. It’s a cozy spot as I understand it…only 12 seats per performance (although discounted floor seats may be available to the adventurous theatre-goer), so book your tickets early! The cast also includes OTS vets Nick Fournier and Patrick Kelly, and the troupe has come upon an extremely clever reason for casting 4 actors in a 2-actor play, I can’t wait to see how it works. Directed by the Gladstone’s David Whiteley, this one looks to be a serious don’t-miss-it piece from an exciting new troupe. It plays over three weeks (4th-6th, 11th-13th, and 25th-27th), so you have few excuses to miss out. Say you were there when Vacant House got its start! Well, okay, they had a bit at the OTTAWA THEATRE CHALLENGE last week, but I’ll almost forgive you if you missed it. Though you might have trouble forgiving yourself.

sans sense

SANS SENSE at the Ottawa Dance Directive Studio (the ‘Oddbox’), Arts Court, from We ART. Short works by cool new talent, and featuring the onstage talents of Will Lafrance, Joel Garrow and Marissa Caldwell! From the 9th to the 13th.

THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK at the Gladstone Theatre, from Phoenix Players. The Phoenix gang return with the true-life tale of the most famous Belieber of them all (sorry). From the 10th to 18th.

 

2 SMALL BODIES at the Avalon Studio, from New Ottawa Repertory Theatre (NORT). 11th to 20th. Another slice of lighthearted merriment from Doug Phillips and NORT. Bring your tissues.   Sadly, this production has been postponed until further notice.  Here’s hoping they come back soon!

MAMBO ITALIANO at the Algonquin College Studio Theatre, building N. The Gonqs close out their season with a show that I can only assume will include lots of dancing…so, thumbs up! 16th to 19th.

M Butterfly

MADAMA BUTTERFLY at NAC Southam Hall, from Opera Lyra. More Opera, this time from the Lyra gang and what promises to be a lush production indeed of Puccini’s classic. From the 19th to 26th.

MAY CAN THEATRE DOES: FLIP IT! at Arts Court Studio, from May Can. A live improvised game show, featuring special guest, Bloody Underrated’s Al Lafrance!  One night only on the 19th.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM at the GCTC.  AKA the Lawyer play, the annual fundraiser event starring some of Ottawa’s gutsiest lawerly types. The 23rd to 26th.

SPRING AWAKENINGS IN SEASONS OF BLOOD at St.James Church (650 Lyon st. in the Glebe), from Third Wall Theatre.  The latest in 3rd Wall’s ‘Empty Space Series’, featuring readings from the work of Henry Beissel.

MY BRILLIANT DIVORCE at the Gladstone Theatre, from 730. Finally, some John P.Kelly in the Gladstone season! Better late than never. 25th to May 17th.

MAURITIUS at the Ottawa Little Theatre. A Cool sounding entry for the OLT’s 101st season…Laura Hall’s in it, so you’ve already got your reason to go. From the 29th to May 17th.
HUFF at the National Arts Centre Studio. Cliff Cardinal brings his acclaimed one-manner to the NAC,and I can’t wait. 29th to May 10th.

Plus the continuing fun every Saturday with Eddie May Mysteries at Scarlett’s Dinner Theatre, at the Velvet Room in the Market.  CLUE-LESS plays on the 5th, with DIAL M FOR MOUNTIE starting up the following weekend!
      THEATRE FRANCAIS

A TOI, POUR TOUJOURS, TA MARIE-LOU at Theatre de L’Ile. Michel Tremblay! Until the 19th.

CHARLOTTE at L’Ecole de la Salle, from Cie Voix Theatre. A show for children playing on April 5th.

UN VIE POUR DEUX (LA CHAIR ET AUTRES FRAGMENTS DE L’AMOUR) at the NAC studio. 9th to 12th.

CARTE BLANCHE at L’Espace Rene-Prevost. More experimental French art and theatre, from the 3rd to 5th.

CE QUI NOUS RELIE at Arts Court Theatre A one-night event. “It started with a genuine desire to meet with teenagers and create a space for discussion and exchange. The concept was full of promise: anything could happen, but nothing was forced. The important thing was to stay receptive to what took shape: a vibrant constellation of personalities, points of view, declarations and opinions. A writer connected the dots with words, and the result was a unique, dynamic and unfettered script that the teens themselves will present in a staged reading for one night only. Come watch and listen!” On the 25th.

ALBERTINE EN CINQ TEMPS at the NAC Theatre, 30th to May 3rd. MORE Michel Tremblay! Whee!

projet turandot

PROJET TURANDOT at Studio Leonard-Beaulne, from Theatre Tremplin w/Theatre la Catapulte. The 30th to May 10th.

     IMPROV and Other Stuff

CRUSH IMPROV has their monthly BOUT TIME at the Mother McGintey’s stage (Heart and Crown Irish Village, in the Market) on the 7th. Plus AL Connors is leading an improv workshop at Centrepointe Studio on the 1th, which you should totally go to.

GRIMPROV plays the first and last Wednesday of every month at the Cock’n’Lion, with this Wednseday’s show titled ‘What Else Could go Wrong?” Find out for yourself!

THE PRIX RIDEAU AWARDS 7th annual gala takes place on April 27th, this time moving to Bate Hall at All Saints Anglican Church, 44 Blckburn Ave. in Sandy Hill.  As good as any reason to go to church, I say.

sq 2014

And finally, April 17th is the STIFF QUICKIES event at Arts Court Theatre, featuring short films, tall drinks, and Ottawa Fringe Festival fundraising all night long. Good fun for a good cause, kids. That’s one to grow on.

As always, if I missed stuff (and I did), let me know and I’ll try and update quick as I can. Have some sweet times in the audience, folks. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)