So I’m nearing the end of my own personal week two of isolation/quarantine, and boy do I appreciate it more and more the days when the sun comes out to shine, hey? I think we’re all getting pretty squirrely in our hidey-holes worried about our world and the people we love in it, and that looks to be our future for some time to come. But that doesn’t change what day it is, and by golly, I’m making at least a weak blogpost out of it! Because check your calendars, its…
WORLD THEATRE DAY. The 27th of March is supposed to be a celebration of all things theatrical, and I expect nothing less this time around, even IF the legendary Ottawa Theatre Challenge had to be postponed indefinitely. What form that celebration will take, well, like theatre itself, is gonna be pretty much up to us. Have your very own staged reading? Find some old videos you forgot you bought from Fringe artists and give them a look? I’ve got 3 Martin Dockery shows on dvd stacked up that I’ve bought from him at Fringes, and they all might get a lookin’ (God I miss Martin Dockery…)! Ottawa’s own musical might Alli Harris will be streaming her solo show HIGH SCHOOL HIGH courtesy of the National Arts Centre at 7pm on World Theatre Day, so let’s all be smart and totally crash the internet for that, because Alli’s amazing and you need that show in your life. Can Rhythm and Burgundy be next???
(And yes, I’ve already seen some pretentious noodniks on the net smugly remarking ‘if you’re watching on a tv or computer, it’s NOT THEATRE’. Which is an important thing to point out, because it is useful to realize that perhaps THE most useless quality to possess during a global pandemic is, in fact, being pretentious.)
For my part, as this started out and is primarily known as a theatre blog, it’s time to get down to some theatre blogging! I’ve got a pot of coffee, put my Fringe-playlist on shuffle (oh, I got me LOTS of Fringe tunes, gang), and am now settling in to announce my…
TOP 13 SHOWS OF 2020!!
(A little early, yeah, but it might be a while before I get anything else to add to the ist. Besides. if the last 3 months don’t qualify as a whole damn year, then fuck it. Just fuck it.)
(Also, it’s a top 13 list because I’ve only seen 13 shows so far this year, and why leave 3 shows out? Now everyone’s a winner!!)
PART ONE: the shows I’d already seen! Because thanks to the newer format Undercurrents has been playing with, which if more of an expanded Fringe Encore style, there are a lot of previous Fringe shows in their lineup. And being a huge Fringe nerd like I am, that means I’d already caught a lot of their lineup before. Fortunately, I was happy as a dimwit to see them again. Great shows like…
UNBRIDLED FUTURISM. From the raging raccoon mind of Nick diGaetano came this rocking musical sci-fi adventure about multiple universes, so-so space travellers, wizards and more. Nick is a wizard himself when it comes to music AND theatre, and the fun that comes out of this show is high–octane merriment indeed.
AWKWARD HUG. From one half of Ottawa’s beloved May Can Theatre, Cory Thibert takes to the solo stage for a storytelling journey that takes an unflinching look at his early years and, among other things, his occasionally rocky relationship with his oddball parents. A hugely inspirational show for a schmoe like me, currently working on a solo storytelling tale of his own. Heartwrenching and fantastic.
KITT & JANE. It’s Snafu, by gum, which is just about all ya need to hear! If you’re weird and need more, It’s Ingrid Hansen and Rod Peters as mismatched students highjacking the school assembly for a timely, and hilarious, message about the environment. With the great Kathleen Greenfield at the helm, this semi-sequel to the legendary Little Orange Man does not disappoint. How could it? It’s Snafu, you fool!
And there was one other show on this list, but we’ll get to that a little later. In the meantime, time to get to…
PART TWO: the new (to me) shows! A few of these had already played in Ottawa, but I’d never seen’em, so here they are on the new list! So there!
THE WIZARD OF OZ. Okay, technically a dance show, but it’s always nice to throw a little love towards little rinky-dink outfits like *checks notes* the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Yea, it was fun, and bright and special-effect-y and a right good time.
CRIPPLED. From the aptly named Power Productions, a powerful and stripped-down piece about love and identity, starring Paul David Power, Pat Dempsey and Matt White. A hard-hitting love story that leaves absolutely nothing on the table.
WILL SOMERS: LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT. First of two from national treasure Pierre Brault, this one a sequel to his previous Will Somers, This continuing misadventure of the quick-witted Tudor fool has him trying, once again, to keep his head amidst royal double-dealing and an ever shifting roster of friends and enemies. Brault doing what Brault does best, and wonderful to behold.
BARE: A POP OPERA. From TotoToo comes a tragicomic musical about young men and women coming of age against a backdrop of religious schooling, sung through by a surprisingly solid roster of talent young and older, all impressively corralled by director Josh Kemp. Some very catchy songs and a healthy dose of melodrama make this one a memorable and emotional romp.
TAKE D MILK, NAH? Jivesh Parasram presents his identity play! And wotta play, packed with heart and laughs (Oh, the laughs..!), trials and tears and mythology and some stunning direction from Tom Davis. Entertaining, engaging and challenging.
THE WOLVES. My old mates at Theatre Kraken are back with Sarah deLappe’s day-in-the-life play about a young women’s soccer team having a helluva few days. With an overlapping dialogue style, almost verbatim-style in its honesty and intimacy, and a killer cast of local actor ladies, the result is possibly one of Kraken’s strongest shows to date.
THE NEVERENDING STORY. Big budget, wildly imaginative fun at the NAC with their deep pocket stage version of the book/classic 80’s movie about a young boy and his adventures with reading a magic book. The real magic happens on stage with a brilliant light design that boosts up some terrific puppetry to turn this into a psychedelic romp.
5 O’CLOCK BELLS. More Brault, this time with a much anticipated (by me at least, you if you knew what was good for ya) return of one of his classic solo shows of the past, a tragic and fantastic look into the life and death of Canadian guitar legend Lenny Breau. Another show with terrific light design that perfectly acentuates Pierre’s canny storytelling and masterclass acting.
6 GUITARS. Yes, I somehow missed this one when it was Fringe a while back, so very happy when it got scheduled for a one-nighter at Centrepointe this year. And having at least managed to see Chase Padgett in his other show Nashville Hurricane at Winnipeg Fringe, I knew I was in for some goodness. Like Pierre Brault, the unassuming Padgett is a wonder at embodying different characters, and the characters in this one will stay with you for a lifetime. Add in his considerable guitar chops over a myriad of styles, and the result is sheer theatre magic.
And right, there was one show on my ‘already seen’ list I hadn’t mentioned yet, and I was saving it for last because it still just has to go at the top of my list for this short, chaotic year. It is, of course,
CARDINAL. Saw this one at Fringe a couple years back, then again at this years undercurrents. Then again again, because it was that good. Aplombhusrhombus (Mitchel Rose and Madeleine Hall) present a wordless clown exploration of alzheimers with live music, expert physicality, a clever set design and an inventive and exhausting use of chairs. Beautiful to behold and deceptively powerful, it sneaks up on you with whimsy and delight, and by the time you realize the grip it has on your emotions its too late, the trap has sprung. A goddamn masterpiece.
And that’s it! Happy World Theatre Day everyone! I’ll be back next week with some whining about comic books, and probably not much else. What else is even going on?? Nah, I’ll think of something. Be kind, take care, stay the Hell away from each other. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin and Caitlin (and Winston, 6 feet away in every direction)