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Archive for July, 2014|Monthly archive page

The Great Screwtape Divorce Letters

In Theatre on July 29, 2014 at 7:15 pm

So the GCTC is on Summer holiday these days, but lucky for us they decided to put that sweet space to some good use and let some locals throw a little much-needed theatre into the Studio while it’s quiet. It’s a gang that have been in that space before, 9th Hour Theatre, and they’re back this summer with an ambitious double-whammy of repertory style theatre based on their current fancrush, CS Lewis. They already started on the Lewis love with a children’s show of THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW, a sort of Narnia prequel that hit Centrepointe a few months back, giant-sized Superlion and all. This time they’re going straight for the Christian jugular with a couple of Lewis meatier theologically themed works, playing in staggered formation alongside one another and featuring the same cast in both shows. It’s a nice, old school idea and I was stoked to see what they managed to do with the challenge.

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Featuring a multipurpose ensemble cast consisting of Nick Amott, Elizabeth Chant, George Dutch, Robin Guy, Jeff Lefebvre, Ellen Manchee and Paul Washer, my journey into 9th Hour’s wardrobe for this2-part theatrical adventure was THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS, adapted by Nigel Forde. I’d actually read this one (sometimes I read things…!) so was especially looking forward to seeing it on stage. Set in a sort of finishing school for aspiring young devils and headed by the legendary Screwtape (George Dutch), this one followers their attempts to subtly corrupt the souls above, and keep them from, you know..HIM (aka ‘The Enemy’).  Screwtape comes up against a tricky dilemma when one of the souls he’d been working on (Jeff Lefebvre) suddenly finds him some unexpected religion. He enlists junior corruptors Wormwood and Slubgob (Nick Amott and Elizabeth Chant) to try and clean up his mess, with mixed results. The fun comes in the array of subtle methods Screwtape and company try and employ to keep the souls from salvation, reminding us of all the myriad ways we sabotage ourselves on a daily basis, Christian or not.

The show gets some fun direction and stagework to make the devilish goings-on a touch more playful, and Dutch is a solid Screwtape, chewing just the right amount of scenery. Amott and Chant shine as the aspiring devils, providing some great energy to the proceedings. Robin Guy and Jeff Lefebvre work well together as the budding Christian couple trying to keep his soul on the right path, and Ellen Manchee has some wonderfully nasty moments as a paper-pushing devil giving Screwtape the gears (she and Paul Washer also have a fantastic scene together as a bitter older couple…its great stuff). It’s a fun show with a lot of Lewis’ razor insight into human nature on imaginative display. There are a few slower, disjointed moments, which is likely just the strain of this goliath collective repertory undertaking showing through. Its never too bothersome, and happens a bit in the second show as well. Speaking of which…

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I was right back at the studio the following night for THE GREAT DIVORCE, with the same cast back for a rather different kind of adventure. On a stage littered with a daunting pile of luggage, our characters enter and jostle for position, waiting for a bus. But no merry #14 this, our gang are off on a proper trip, heading to the hallowed grounds themselves, to see if they’ve got what it takes for eternal salvation…or not. The show jumps from story to story, watching as a myriad of different characters (more than 20, all told) try to enter Heaven for an even wider array of reasons, often being met by enlightened souls from the other side, trying to help them along. But, as implied by SCREWTAPE, we humans are our own worst enemies, and many of the travellers just can’t get the right message through their heads. Be it a skulking Jeff Lefebvre refusing to accept the forgiveness accorded a murderer he once knew, a desperate Mother (Ellen Manchee) refusing to let go of her long-dead son at the expense of everything else, or a controlling wife (Robin Guy) just wanting one more crack at telling her husband what to do with his life, the foibles brought to bear are common and maddening, and we all likely share a few of them with the poor saps on the stage.

Everyone gets a good chance to shine in this well-staged show…George Dutch gets a great scene as a merry and boisterous angel, a wonderful counterpoint to his snarling, glowering Screwtape. Nick Amott as an intellectual talking his way out of Heaven is great fun, and Guy as the aforementioned heartless wife is terrific (she makes a great Angel too, in a marvelous scene facing down a former lover and his bitter alter-ego, played by Dutch and Amott in one of the best scenes of the whole show). The show follows around bemused everyman Paul Washer as he tries to sort things out, questions being raised as soon as they’re seemingly answered. And okay, this one comes off a touch more religiously heavy-handed, but that’s just to be expected. CS Lewis WAS a touch religiously heavy-handed, after all, but most of what goes on in DIVORCE translates to all sorts of faiths and non-faiths alike. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t shoutout to Jessica Rousseau’s amazing costume work…it’s flippin’ gorgeous, folks, and no fooling.

So there…a midsummer double-bill from a literary legend, featuring a solid repertory cast of local heroes doing good work in fun and thought-provoking plays. AND there’s nice weather. What more do you want out of July and August? Get on out! Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

Money and Masks

In Theatre on July 28, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Hey, I have a blog..!

Sorry, folks, that post-Fringe break turned into a doozy of a nap as I whiled away the bulk of July doing precious little but practicing my camping and questioning my fragile sanity (it still hasn’t answered). I have seen a handful of shows in the last few weeks, at least one of which I may yet write a little something about, but hadn’t actually donned my official ‘reviewer’ fedora since Ottawa Fringe last made all our lives worth living.

But who can resist tickets to the opening night of an Odyssey Theatre show? Clearly not me, so I gathered up my wee theatre classmate Kathryn and headed out to Strathcona Park for a little play under the stars action, this year presenting a new adaptation of Alain-Rene Lesage’s Turcaret, here titled THE FINANCIER. Using Odyssey’s trademark masks (in fact featuring more masked characters than I personally have yet seen in an Odyssey adventure, which was swell), the show follows a gold-digging Baroness (Chandel Gambles) as she attempts to swindle the gullible and lovestruck titular Financier M.Turcaret (Andy Massingham) out of as much of his considerable fortune as she can manage, all the while seeing a smooth-talking Knight (Attilla Clemen) on the side. All seems well and backstabby, although some wily servants played by Jesse Buck and Alanna Bales do their best to tilt affairs to their own advantage. And when Turcaret’s estranged Sister (Paulette Sinclair) and supposedly dead wife (Nichola Lawrence) show up, things go from sneaky to downright destructive before you can cash a credit note.

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A play with no heroes or good guys, only villains of varying degrees of skill, THE FINANCIER is a merry time indeed, with a stellar cast put to great use by Director Laurie Steven (also the AD and founder of Odyssey itself, dontcha know). Chandel Gambles hits all the right notes, seducing while being seduced herself and struggling occasionally with fleeting glimpses of pesky morality. Andy Massingham wows as the tricky Turcaret, a seemingly love-addled simp who turns out to perhaps be the wiliest of the bunch…he’s just as dishonest as the rest of them, only he gets respected for it. John Doucet rounds out the cast as a variety of joyously slimy characters, popping up at opportune moments to stir the already sizzling pot. But a show like this about money and class inevitably gets ruled by the help, and we get some fantastic performances from Alanna Bales and Jesse ‘Bubkus’ Buck as the scheming servants who keep all the wheels turning throughout the action. The two of them are worth admission all on their lonesome. And I wasn’t kidding when I said ‘destructive’ up above…shit gets TRASHED in this play, and it’s a thing of beauty. The masks from Almut Ellinghaus are gorgeous as ever, as are James Lavoie’s stunning costumes.

This is ridiculous, indulgent fun and social satire at its brightest and zaniest, and pretty much a perfect night out if the weather is good. They even supply the bug spray! Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

Coming Up in July 2014

In Theatre on July 1, 2014 at 7:58 pm

It’s July! Fringe is over, and all us theatre types are really, really tired now, so there’s not that much on the agenda for this month. All the more reason to see EVERYTHING, am I right??

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GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS at the Gladstone. Just one more week to catch some local lads tackling Mamet’s most celebrated bit of bad boy raunch on the stage. Until the 5th.

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AS YOU LIKE IT at parks around Ottawa, from a Company of Fools. Torchlight Shakespeare continues in Ottawa from them what know it best, the Fools! From the 3rd to August 16th, check the Fools website for a show and park near you!

DRIVING MISS DAISY at the Ottawa Little Theatre. Some dignified summer fare to chill out with at the OLT, from the 8th to 26th.

WE GLOW at Tabaret Hall (Ottawa U Campus), from Theatre 4.669. Emily Pearlman and Brad Long reprise their award-winning 2013 Fringe play for two nights only, the 10th and 11th!

THE PLAYERS ADVICE TO SHAKESPEARE at the Avalon Studio, from New Theatre Ottawa. Brian Stewart’s terrific play returns for an all-new engagement before setting off to Edinburgh! Now featuring David Warburton in the starring role. From the 18th to 27th.

YOUNG FOREVER at Studio Leonard-Beaulne. A new youth dramedy about a New York group of friends who are rocked by a death in their tight-knit group. From the 12th to 18th.

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THE BOOK OF MORMON at the NAC Southam Hall. Broadway musical, ala South Park. From the 15th to 27th.

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THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS and THE GREAT DIVORCE at the Great Canadian Theatre Company Studio, from 9th Hour. Two plays in 9th Hour’s CS Lewis series are launching simultaneously (almost) in the GCTC studio, with alternating showdates during their runs from the 24th to August 9th. Check 9th Hours website to see which show plays when!

THE FINANCIER at Strathcona Park, from Odyssey Theatre. An original adaptation of Alain-René Lesage’s 18th century play Turcaret, featuring tax collectors, swindlers, and other shady characters who look lovely in masks. From the 24th to August 24th.

DIAL M FOR MOUNTIE at the Velvet Room, from Eddie May Mysteries.  Every Saturday night, killer theatre with your food and drink!

slsfAnd it’s summer so over Prescott way it’s time for the ST.LAWRENCE SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL, this year spotlighting THE TEMPEST (beginning on the 11th) and TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA (beginning the 15th).  Check the website for full schedule and details, shows run until August 16th!

– THEATRE FRANCAIS

SI C’ETAIT A REFAIRE from Theatre de L’Ile. Dark comedy about the wacky world of plastic surgery! From the 9th through August 30th.

– IMPROV

CRUSH IMPROV will be back on Monday the 7th for their monthly ‘BOUT TIME, this time featuring Fabio vs.the Alphabitches. Even better than it sounds!

the Lads of GRIMprov (pic by Brigitte Aube-Harrison)

the Lads of GRIMprov (pic by Brigitte Aube-Harrison)

GRIMPROV are at the Cock’n’Lion this Wednesday the 2nd for HALL OF JUSTICE, superhero improv done right with guest star Paul Piekoszewski. And look for them to return on the last Wednesday of the month as well.

THE EFT-UP COMEDY SHOW at the Cock’n’Lion, from Experimental Farm Theatre. Ottawa’s newest gang of improvisers hits the bar stage to make some merry, and it sounds like fun. July 9th at 8pm!

 

There’s one or two things I KNOW I’m missing, and I’ll try and track them down (or you could just let me know..) and update soon.  in the meantime, get out and support the scene!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid