Well, I’m not reviewing anymore, so I might as well use this space for SOMEthing. And the Monday Foofarah, why that certainly is something! It’s ten pounds of something in a five pound bag is what it is! Or IS it..??? Never mind just get your dancin’ shoes on already!
And when I said just now “I’m not reviewing anymore”, well, just take that with an apparent grain of salt, because…
THE BEST HAPPINESS: …I just saw two shows back to back that I simply GOTTA give a little public props to, because I feel a deep, gnawing need to have people fill their houses with adoring fans. First up is a gorgeous little slice of Daniel MacIvor with THE BEST BROTHERS, playing now at the GCTC. Starring John Ng and Andy Massingham as Hamilton and Kyle Best, two brothers who are just similar enough to make their differences all the more grating whenever they try and get along. And as the occasion of their meeting in the play is to handle funeral arrangements for their suddenly departed Mother ‘Bunny’, emotions are indeed flaring a little higher than usual between buttoned down Hamilton and flaky Kyle. And then there’s Enzo, Mother’s beloved pooch who has a tendency to eat all the things, and then defecate them wherever he likes. It’s a trying time.
A sneaky piece from Danny Mac, BROTHERS starts off looking like a wacky dark comedy, and somewhere along the way shifts into a multilevel character piece and exploration of grief, relationships, sexuality and family, among other subjects. GCTC boss Eric Coates sits comfortably behind the reigns on this one, and couldn’t have asked for a better tragicomic duo than John Ng and Andy Massingham, who play off each other like a human game of ping pong, as well as taking turns giving a posthumous voice to Mother Bunny. It’s a hilarious and touching play whose every moment bears close examination. 2015 is turning out to be a stellar Ottawa year for MacIvor!
Meanwhile, over at TACTICS, the third show in that inaugural series has rolled out this past week at Arts Court, as local heroes May Can Theatre hit the big time with a revamped and reworked version of their 2013 Fringe show HAPPINESS(tm). And while the show is still pretty much the same at its very core, or at least in the same ballpark, this is very much a bran new experience for audiences to take in. And I do mean experience, as Cory Thibert, Tony Adams and director Mado Manseau have turned this darkly comic tale of corporate shilling gone wrong into one of the most wonderfully immersive theatrical experiences of the year.
Working with a budget for likely the first time in their history, May Can puts every cent of it into the production and the results are fantastic, with an eye-popping opening that sets the scene perfectly, with high-octane HPL sales reps Peter Barrel (Tony) and James Lemon (Cory) getting ready to sell the ever-loving shit out of their new ‘Infinity Line’, products specifically designed to make you happier (including the cringe-inducing ‘Happy Hook-Up’). All of this takes place in the studio…audiences are then ushered into the Theatre for a look at what lies beneath the happy face of Pyramid scheming-sales in a genuinely inspired and clever twist in storytelling that goes from hilarious to grim when you’re least expecting it. Aided by some sweet light and projection effects, Cory and Tony deliver what is probably their fullest and most satisfying show to date, and one that should propel them into a new phase of their careers in theatre, if there’s any damn justice in the world. Amazing to think back to when I was sharing a venue with the original prototype of this show at TAN Coffee in Sandy Hill. And very proud of how far May Can has come since then.
YOU DAMN DIRTY APE: Counting the days now until THE HAIRY APE at long last clambers onto the stage, first for a preview show at Wakefield’s Black Sheep Inn, and then back in Hintonburg for the full run at the Carleton Tavern. Working with Chamber Theatre for the last several months on this beast of a show has been challenging, frustrating and fulfilling, sometimes all at once, and its hard to believe the end is at last in sight. Donnie Laflamme is poised to once again knock Ottawa audiences over with his performance as Yank, a steel-tough stoker on a liner who has his world turned inside out after a chance encounter with a high-society dame (the seriously amazing Laura Hall).
Director Lisa Zanyk continues to push the whole cast in wonderful new directions up to the last minute, and I think audiences are going to really enjoy what she’s come up with. Our cast is filled out with Madeleine Hall, Matt Smith, Louis Lemire, Ellen Manchee, Brent Rouleau, Jed “Rocket” Rached, Darren Jerome and Rebecca Laviolette, and rehearsals are starting to really cook as we near the finish line. Now, I’ve got a couple of comp tickets to give away for opening night here at the Carleton on April 2 at 7:30, and that means CONTEST!!! What do you have to do to get’em? Simple: get out your phones, use the hashtag #ChamberApe, and between now and next Monday post a pic (or a video, if you’re feeling ambitious) of yourself doing your best impression of a Hairy Ape. The winner will be announced next Monday right here…and keep in mind I may post some of the pictures here as well, if we get a good-lookin’ bunch. Trust me, this is theatre good enough to make yourself look silly for. 🙂
STRANGE VISITATIONS: Even as APE nears its destination, over in Fringe Festival territory my other show, HANNAH & GEORGE, is just starting to pick up steam. Just yesterday I sent in information to be printed in the official Fringe guidebook (guess there’s no changing the name NOW), version 2 of the script is in all of our hands, prop and costume scouting is on and rehearsal spaces are being booked. I am desperately anxious and excited about this show, which is almost a direct descendant of the short piece THE FLOWER I performed as my end-of-semester presentation at the late, great Ottawa Theatre School, so I feel pretty close to it.
Even got assigned my dream venue, the beautiful Studio Leonard-Beaulne on Ottawa U campus, where I’ve seen the likes of Amy Salloway, Celeste Sansregret, Nancy Kenny, Jem Rolls, Margo MacDonald, David Gaines, Peter’n’Chris, Chris Bange, Ken Godmere, May Can Theatre (of course), and so many more do so many amazing and inspiring things. I have a lot to live up to, and I’m confident that with the help of my radiant co-star Madeleine Hall (our third show together in a row, and if that could continue forever, I’d be quite content) and whipsmart director Jodi Morden (who also wowed me in SLB last year with RACHEL & ZOE) we’re gonna deliver something very, very special. Or at least silly. Silly is a good start.
See you next week, gang! Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid (and Winston)