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Posts Tagged ‘brad long’

Ottawa FRINGE-COMA 2014 – TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 25, 2014 at 4:16 pm

The rain just kept on pouring down on a gray and cold Tuesday, but happily that didn’t seem to be dampening anyone’s Fringing spirit. A whole soggy mob of us made the dash out, and subsequent climb up to Studio 311 for what I believe is the latest premiere of the 2014 Ottawa Fringe. It was a show I had sort of seen before, but not exactly. Kind of a recurring theme at this year’s Fringe (along with shadow puppets, but more on that in the NEXT post).

A solo work by the wonderful Madeleine Boyes-Manseau, TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET premiered in shorter form at last year’s Fresh Meat Festival (the same festival where TALES SHE TELLS and WAKE saw their inception). Now reworked and expanded, with new direction by Brad Long, the show stars Mado as Joy, a hospital worker working on a strange experiment indeed…it involves hurling vicious insults at a jar of rice (STUPID RICE!!), and it’s actually really kind of important. It all has to do with her estranged sister Sarah, her oddball nephew, and Joy’s whole somewhat difficult task of empathizing with…well, anyone, really.

Madeleine Boyes-Manseau in TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET (pic by Cory Thibert)

Madeleine Boyes-Manseau in TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET (pic by Cory Thibert)

A performance you absolutely cannot ignore or take your eyes off of, Mado proves again why she’s an actor people should be taking serious note of. The bold choice to star in a one-woman show as a woman who is, essentially, not a very good person is terribly refreshing and she pulls it off spectacularly. Joy may be the most brilliantly flawed character I’ve seen on a stage in a long time. Staged almost excruciatingly intimately by Long, we’re quite literally bedside as Joy recalls the events that have led her to this bizarre place in Mado’s fantastic script. Featuring the best apology letter of all time, and one of THE standout performances at the Fringe, this is more than worth the long climb up the stairs to studio 311. It’s worth an extra ten stories. Get going. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid

This is War

In GCTC, Theatre on February 7, 2014 at 8:43 am

Phew!  Over a week between trips to the theatre and I was starting to go a little stir-crazy over here at the Visitorium…I think Winston is starting to get sick of me hanging around, frankly.  Well, okay, I have been doing some theatrical stuff in a non-reviewing capacity (details soon), but sometimes you just like to take your seat, wait for the lights to dim and see the magic happen, you dig?  Which is just what me and classmate Kathryn did yesterday when the GCTC had its gala opening night for a new piece from Canuck playwright phenom Hannah Moscovitch, THIS IS WAR.  Hannah’s writing had last been brought to impressive life at the Irving Greenberg with EAST OF BERLIN in 2012, and I was definitely hankering for more.  And this time around, the show was being directed by none other than new GCTC Artistic Director Eric Coates himself!

The tale…‘controversial’ to some, I’m told, which is usually a good sign…takes place in a particularly roughshod Canadian military camp in Afghanistan. Coalition forces are fighting a dirty, slippery slope of a war with the Taliban forces, with no end in sight and little cause for celebration.  We follow four soldiers being questioned after a dubious finish to an especially grisly mission, and look back at the moments leading up to it, from each of their perspectives.  Sergeant Stephen Hughes (John Ng, in a goddam powerful performance) tries to maintain command over his troops, while trying to keep a hold on his own increasing instability.  Newly arrived Private Jonny Henderson (Drew Moore, Ottawa Theatre School graduate…shoutout!) has to deal with a rocky first day at camp to say the least, not exactly helped by instantly falling for Master Corporal Tanya Young (Sarah Finn), who has more than enough baggage of her own to deal with already.  The tenuous voice of reason in all this is Sergeant and Medic Chris Anders (Brad Long), moving from soldier to solider and trying to keep both psyches and morale intact, when possible.  But that ain’t always the case.

GCTC-2013-14-posterloop-War
THIS IS WAR tells multiple stories in one, showcasing some of the more brutal and insidious ways the monstrous shit-beast we call war manipulates, mutilates, and just generally fucks with the regular human beings we call soldiers.  Moscovitch has written an especially intriguing role for Tanya, here played by the always great Sarah Finn.  I had some expectations and fears about what might be seen in this show as far as women in the military was concerned…those expectations were dashed, but I can’t decide if what I ended up seeing was better or much, much worse.  I’ll certainly be thinking about a lot of aspects of this play for a while to come, and so, I expect, will a lot of folks.  Drew Moore’s prairie boy soldier Jonny is alternately endearing and heartbreaking, with Brad Long’s Anders almost too calm to be true.  John Ng, the only actor I hadn’t previously been familiar with, is just great as the big-talking Sergeant trying to carry worlds on his shoulders.  A killer ensemble that’s gonna be hard to beat on Ottawa stages this year.  Consider the bar set.

Eric Coates keep the production clean with a minimal set, assisted by some spot-on lighting from Jock Munro, awesome soundscape from Steven Lafond and great costumes courtesy of Brian Smith.   This is one that will sit with you for a while, as it should, after it is seen.  And it should very definitely be seen.  Hannah Moscovitch is rapidly becoming as close to a household name as modern playwrights can in this country, and there’s a reason.  Go find out for yourself…THIS IS WAR plays until the 23rd at the GCTC (and check out some UNDERCURRENTS there starting next week while you’re at it!)..  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

5 Fringe Questions with EMILY PEARLMAN and BRAD LONG

In Fringe Fest, Theatre on June 20, 2013 at 7:11 am

Emily Pearlman has long been a fan favourite in Ottawa, with celebrated shows like COUNTRIES SHAPED LIKE STARS and LIVE FROM THE BELLY OF A WHALE from her company Mi Casa Theatre with Nick DiGaetano.  Brad Long is a smashing local actor, recently seen in DREAMS OF WHALES from New Theatre Ottawa, MACBETH from Salamander Theatre, and JULIUS CAESER from the OTtawa Shakespeare Company.  They’ve now joined forces with Kevin Orr’s Theatre 4.669 for the original Fringe production, WE GLOW.

Brad Long and Emily Pearlman in WE GLOW.

Brad Long and Emily Pearlman in WE GLOW.

– Tell us a little bit about WE GLOW.

Two corporate powerhouse up-and-comer’s get married as a business arrangement hoping that it will normalize them in the eyes of co-workers and friends. Along the way there’s a promotion, a well catered Halloween party, a not so well catered Christmas Party and a giant metaphor about baby crabs. You’ll just have to come to see how it stews.

– What made you two want to do a team-up like this?

We bring out the best of the worst in each other, which is fun. We have a mutual hatred of animals which is the real glue that binds. Allergy sufferers UNITE! And we both like the long process of writing aimlessly in search of a new play.

– Is skewering corporate culture something one or both of you have
just been dying to do?

Yes! Although it’s not as easy as it seems. The challenge is actually to find what we all have in common-the humanity behind the corporate mask so that people might relate. We spent alot of time thinking about what it is that constitutes that corporate mask and settled on some very fun things to play-vindictiveness, selfishness and power-walking. Then we thought alot about failure to meet expectations and how that works in the corporate world.

– How did you end up working with director Kevin Orr?

We pitched him an idea a couple years back for the Theatre 4.669 summer creation lab, which is like the Large Hadron Collider of Ottawa creation-a place where you can smash together a couple of ideas to reveal their hidden potential! He has an amazing energy and passion for making new work that is infectious.

– What’s up next for both of you after Fringe?

Emily: Is planning to celebrate International Nap Month in July then touring Countries Shaped Like Stars to Picton and Edmonton.
Brad: Is having a baby girl in July!

 

WE GLOW plays at the Ottawa Fringe Festival this year at Tabaret Hall in Room 0083 (the Senate Room).  Showtimes are:

June 21st 8pm

June 22nd 8pm

June 23rd 8pm

June 24th 8PM

June 26th 8pm

June 27th 8pm

June 28th 8pm

June 29th 8PM

June 30th 2PM

Advance tickets are available HERE at the Fringe website.  $10 at the door with a Fringe pin!

The Dogs of War

In Uncategorized on October 28, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Decided to slack off a bit this week after all, and only see five shows instead of six.  Apologies all around, especially to the good folks at Tale Wagging Theatre, whose CRACKERS I ended up missing.  I just couldn’t talk myself into that kid-packed 95 bus ride back from Orleans on a Friday night.  Brrr.  Feel free to remount any old time (that doesn’t require time, planning or money, right..?).

But Bloggery blogs on, and I had a ticket booked for show #4 of the week last night.  And, when I finally managed to rather painfully extricate myself from the drudgery (note to every cook ever: if you’re slow on prep, I HATE you today), I hopped on the 95 (there’s no escaping it!) and headed on over to Centrepointe Theatre.  This was opening week for the second ever Ottawa Shakespeare Company production, and a long delayed one at that, JULIUS CAESER.  There was some serious buzz about this particular production heading in…it sounded like director and company co-founder Charles McFarland was pulling out all the stops to make this an evening to remember.  And in the end, it’s hard to argue with that.

Eugene Clark’s Caeser takes command.

You may have heard that the ticketing for this production is split into two groups each night…audience, or ‘participant’.  The participants are taken aside before the show  and coached in their roles, mostly consisting of being part of several raucous mob scenes, including the one that kicks the play off.  They later get to watch the stage action from the sidelines, or the balconies overlooking the staging area.  It’s a fun idea, and the gang looked like they were having a blast being part of the show.  It certainly added a pretty unique kind of energy to the proceedings.

The show itself, Billy Shakes’ epic about regicide and its down side (regicide is, like, TOTALLY frowned upon in some places), gets the usual McFarland update, visually setting it in modern times with lots of flair.  Gemini winner Eugene Clark headlines as Caeser himself, coming off nicely larger than life, a rockstar Caeser who rules by sheer force of charm and will.  At his side are loyal Mark Antony (Brad Long, who’s having quite the Shakespearean year after A MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM and MACBETH), and slightly not-so-loyal Brutus (Mac Fyfe, a pretty impressive force on stage his own self).  Brutus is led into conspiracy against Caeser by the envious Cassius (Michael Mancini, very earnest in his scheming and lots of fun), along with a host of other plotters.  The bloody coup backfires against Brutus and Cassius, who find themselves at odds with Antony and Octavius Caeser (Diego Arvelo, who has great presence on the stage…glad to see him back up there).  Along for the ride are Casca, played by the ever-wonderful Richard Gelinas, David Dacosta as Cinna, Stavros Sakiadis as Titinius, Spencer Robson as Decius Brutus (Two Brutuses? Really, Shakespeare,  that’s just lazy), and yay, Jonah Allingham as the soothsayer!  Katie Bunting and Sarah McVie are in there as well, as the wives of Brutus and Caeser respectively, and have all too little stage time.  Shakespeare wrote great plays, but not a lot of great roles for women.  Maybe I’ll cast them in the all-female version of HAMLET I have running around in my head these days…

JC is a highly entertaining and energetic production, faithful to the themes of the classic work but adding in just enough updated tweaks to make it feel fresh.  Some of the high-tech effects are VERY impressive,  and I suspect we haven’t seen the last of them in Ottawa.  Kudos to Stage Manager Becca Wiseman for calling this tech-heavy show so smoothly (and sitting in the back row of the balcony as I was, I could occasionally even hear them talking in the both…kind of funny).  Nods as well to Paddy Mann’s costume design, and a typically amazing AL Connors soundscape.

But right, the acting!  There was that too!  And can I just say that good old Brad Long is on a roll these days?  His Mark Antony was seriously impressive…he gives a mean ‘Cry Havoc’ speech, lemme tell ya.  Likewise Mac Fyfe’s idealistic Brutus, who has great interplay with Mancini’s Cassius.  The whole ensemble, many doing double duty as minor characters, deliver excellent work throughout.  And, of course, the eager crowd of participants, proving that Ottawa audiences aren’t always content to just sit and watch.  The show, running until November 3rd at Centrepointe Studio, is only 10 bucks for the first 100 people every night!  If you have an excuse not to see this show, I don’t believe you.  Hail Caeser!  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Murder, Betrayal, and Madness (for young audiences)

In Uncategorized on October 16, 2012 at 12:15 pm

I’m interrupting this long patch of inactivity on the blog to, hopefully, knock out a two-post day.  Yay, I finally have something to talk about!  I haven’t been catching many shows of late, thanks to a pretty evil work schedule that is only hinting at letting up anytime soon.   Between that and my hilariously deteriorating mental state, I haven’t been giving the old Chud the attention it craves.  This should be changing soon, and as long as we’re talking about slow, slippery slides into madness…MACBETH!

Yes, it’s time for the Scottish Play to get its second review in these electronic pages (the first was Sock’n’Buskin’s cool production last year), which always makes me feel like a real theatre-guy. I’m starting to get multiple Shakespeare viewings all OVER the place!  There is sadly no award for that, but since seeing theatre is a reward unto itself, I can live.   And if we’re talking about rewarding shows to watch, then we’re definitely talking about Salamander Theatre‘s MacBeth.  Directed by Catriona Leger (fresh off a stellar season helming the St.Lawrence Shakepeare Festival production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM) and starring the dream team of Brad Long, Katie Bunting and Zach Counsil, this is a streamlined, hyper-fun presentation of one of the bard’s darkest, and most celebrated works.

A three-hander of MacBeth sounds like a daunting task, but the talent assembled on the Gladstone stage that evening was more than up to the task.Each of the three actors naturally took on multiple roles throughout, although Brad Long stuck mostly to the title role of mad Mackers himself, a Scottish Thane who receives a prophetic pronouncement from three ‘weird sisters’ in the woods and, well…well, he really should have just ignored them and been the best Thane he could be, all right?  Unhappily for him (and everyone around him), he decides to take the sisters’ advice back to his overreachingly ambitious wife (Katie Bunting’s main role in the show), who decides that Regicide isn’t such a bad idea after all.  They soon find themselves at odds with all of their old allies, most notably Banquo and MacDuff (both played by the excellent Zach Counsil), heaping murder upon murder, and realizing the terrible consequences of their ambitions.  It’s a classic for a reason, really.

I could go on for a while about each of the three leads…I’ve never seen Brad Long better than he was in this show, and that’s saying something.  Zach Counsil is always a joy onstage, be it his bearlike king Duncan, fiery MacDuff, or my fav’rit bit when as Banquo he picked one of the audience members to be his son Fleance (this night it was award-winning director Joel Beddows, because, as long as he’s THERE…).  And darlin’ Katie Bunting continues to impress…her Lady MacBeth was an imposing creation indeed, and a nice counterpoint to her other onstage appearances, like bespectacled Lennox, or a marvellous few moments as all 3 weird sisters at once.  Inventively staged and never dull, this is indeed a MacBeth that will keep young audiences…and old ones, too…pretty much rivetted.  Cat Leger knows her Billy Shakes, folks, and she does this one up right.  Oh, and shoutout to Chris McLeod for some awesome fight choreography.

Newly appointed Salamander Artistic Director, and all-around amazing gal Kate Smith introduced the show, the newest in Salamander’s recently relaunched series of public shows.  Mackers has been touring  schools, and is making only a brief foray into the public eye, so catch it while you can…the next public performances are two shows on the 20th at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama.  And if you’re a teacher, get in touch with Salamander now to book one of their several planned productions…the next public show is Hannah Moscovitch’s WHERE POPPIES BLOW, and I’m already looking forward to it.  So should you be.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

A Prescott Night’s Dream – SLSF 2012 Part 2 of 2

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Hey, this took me longer than I thought it would…sorry, still getting the hang of this laptop ‘pooter of mine.  But the little beast seems to be working well enough,and even though I’m currently knee-deep in hilariously stupid potential legal woes, I can hold out no longer.  I have to talk about show number two at the St.Lawrence Shakespeare Festival afore I burst!

As mentioned in Part 1 of this post (in which I chatted up the awesome OTHELLO), I was out in Prescott for a day of sun and theatre by the St.Lawrence.  My travel mates Allan and David and I had some in-between show nosh at local pub O’Heaphy’s before it was time to head on back and get ready for the second half of our day of Shakespearing, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.  Featuring the same entire cast as Othello, and directed by Ottawa’s Fringe Goddess Catriona Leger, DREAM promised to end the evening on a very positive note (Othello is smashing, but let’s face it, a bit of a downer).  As with the earlier show, DREAM began each act with a spirited musical number from the cast.   Music director Melissa Morris also took center stage in this production as Puck, most famous fairie this side of Tinker Bell, and besides playing a mean harp, she made a memorable impression as the irrepressible elfin aide to Oberon (Quincy Armorer, also doing double duty as human lord Theseus).  Oberon is having a feud with his main lady, Queen Titania (a vivacious Alix Sideris, also doubling as Theseus’ fiance Hippolyta), and devises a plan involving a floral love-drug that’s TOTALLY okay because when Shakespeare wrote this, GHB wasn’t even a thing yet.  Meanwhile, over in the human camp Hermia (Lana Sugarman) is being forced to marry Demetrius (Brad Long), but she really loves Lysander (Warren Bain) and her best pal Helena (Kate Smith) is just loopy for Demetrius.

They all run off into the enchanted woods, around the same time as a woefully undertalented troupe of actors are preparing a terrible play to perform at Theseus’ wedding.  Loudmouthed thespian Bottom (Ron Klappholz, in a performance that leaves the scenery in tatters) impresses Puck so much with his witlessness that she transforms him into a donkey, then makes Titania fall in love with him.  THEN she makes Demetrius AND Lysander fall for the sadly self-conscious Helena, who isn’t buying this shit for one second.

As you might imagine, much merry mayhem ensues, before a flat-out hysterical happy ending.  Cat Leger uses every part of the theatrical beast to weave her magic…characters flit in and through the audience without a moment’s hesitation, the laughs come freely and frequently, and even Lady Gaga makes a cameo.  Every performer is bang-on, and the minimal set is simply perfect.  The final act, featuring the play-within-a-play PYRAMUS AND THISBE is an epic comic disaster that brings down the house and quite frankly MUST be seen, goddammit.  The whole production is a joy to behold, and I couldn’t imagine a more magical setting for it that Prescott’s beautiful by-the-sea outdoor amphitheatre.  An absolutely wonderful way to spend and evening, and if you can make it out for this show (OR Othello) during the festival run, fucking do it.  Come on, what the hell else do you have to do with your summer?  Nothing this good, that’s what I thought.  Now get going!  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Under an Ancient Sea

In Theatre on October 20, 2011 at 1:01 pm

I know, I know…you’re not supposed to review the ‘preview’ shows.   It’s a whole thing, and I don’t understand it, but you’re really not supposed to do it.  Well, phooey on that, what am I, REAL media?  Besides, it’s a busy couple of weeks, time is collapsing, everything is happening at once and the preview is all I could make it out for before the end of the damned run, so Hell yes, I’m reviewing it.  So there.

Reviewing what..?  Yes, I should probably get to that one of these days.  Well, a ways back, Arts Court here in Ottawa announced they were adding three groups as resident companies, to make the AC their home and play their respective seasons here.  Those companies were Evolution Theatre, Creations in Vivo, and the first to debut, New Theatre of Ottawa.  They hit the season running this week with the world premiere of Dean Hawes’ DREAMS OF WHALES.  NTO Artistic Director John Koensgen (also director, producer and star of the show…phew!) showed some pretty unabashed enthusiasm for the script in the run-up to this show, and it’s nice to finally see what it was that had one of Ottawa’s premiere theatre kingpins so giddy with delight.  Really, it’s hard to argue with him.

WHALES follows Walter (Koensgen), a retired dentist heading back to his childhood home, and his longtime unrequited love Ruth (the positively radiant Mary Ellis), who has recently her husband.  He arrives to find she’s ejected all the belongings from her home, and locked herself inside.  Walter calls Ruth’s children, timid Susan (Shannon Donnelly, making her Ottawa stage debut here) and loudmouthed George (an almost shockingly, if deliberately unlikeable Brad Long) to try and help out.  Long simmering conflicts, dances under the moonlight and, yes, even a dream or two about whales, follow.

On the backdrop of Sarah Waghorn’s simple, rustic set, the DoW cast bring Hawes’ elegant and magical script very much to life.  Mary Ellis’ Ruth is a perfect joy, wearing her loss and anguish as beautifully as her brightly-coloured jammies.  Koensgen impresses as always, showing some wonderful understated comic timing as shy wallflower Walt.  Shannon Donnelly, a former student of John K’s, gives a sweet and tragic performance as lonely Susan, long the target of her insufferable brother George’s vicious ‘humour’.  And as for Brad Long (sadly lacking a sweater vest in this production but more than making up for it in jig-dancing) he brings the goods as George, whose bluster hides maybe the biggest secrets of anyone.  Shoutout also to some typically cool Al Connors soundwork.  Ravens everywhere!

The story is simple and effective, always engaging, with a few scenes that are particular standouts for me.  Ya gotta feel a flush of price that we in Ottawa are the first ones to see this play, that already feels so familiar I’m surprised it hasn’t been performed for years.  Hopefully, that starts right about now. The show runs til the 29th at Arts Court, so no excuses, you lot.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

A fan of the Fan

In Theatre on August 21, 2011 at 11:01 am

I’ve only got a short window here…and not only because there’s less than an hour until I have to bolt for work this morning.  Also, because as I begin this there are only two more performances of Odyssey Theatre’s THE FAN, and I’d like to actually get my writeup in while still in the theoretical not-useless range.  So, this will be a quick one…you’re all welcome!

Dragged my mopey butt out at very, very long last, to Strathcona park last nite to catch Odyssey Theatre’s 25th anniversary production of this 18th century Carlo Goldoni comedy.  Odyssey is the only troupe n town doing Mask Theatre for grown-ups, so it’s always a treat to make the scene, and last nite was just what this misanthropic Visitor needed.   Set in the small holiday village of Casa Nuove (a town so small it only has 7 doors, tho in constant use), a pair of crossed lovers start the action underway via a broken fan and a petty brother, and things take a nice farcical spiral into controlled chaos from there.

David Craig directs the show supoibly, keeping everything moving and reasonably clear for the duration.  And the cast is a rare treat…a few of my local fav’rits shine in this one, and a few new faces that I’m gonna remember for a while now too.  Rose Napoli flat out runs away with a good portion of the play as fiery maid Giannina, Andy Massingham and Pierre Brault rock the masks and rake in much laughter as a pair of nitwitted noblemen, and the lady Alix Sideris gets dee-liteful double duty in AND out of Odyssey’s amazing masks (courtesy of designer Almut Ellinghaus…gorgeous stuffs).  All this plus Brad Long, Mike Showler, Robin Craig, Jay Schramek,  Kaitlyn Semple and Nicolas Van Burek (a particularly and gleefully amoral Coronato) makes for one of the sweetest ensembles you’ll catch in town this year.

Well, hopefully you’ve ALREADY caught it, as I’ve already mentioned how pitifully late in the day this review is coming…there’re two family-friendly shows left today (Sunday the 21st, if you’re prompt), so check it out if you got the chance.  It’ll put a smile on yer face and, you may not know this yet, but you need one there.  I sure did.

Also, is that a new stage? I forgot to ask.  Nice set, gang.  Shit, I gotta go to work.  Back later with more stuffs!  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Shakespeare v.2011

In Theatre on May 4, 2011 at 5:41 am

I’m getting so far behind, I’m behind on whining about how far behind I am…even tho it seems like all I really DO on this chud any more.  Haven’t even mentioned either of the Prairie Scene shows I’ve done so far (AVATAR=cool!  TALK=Interesting, but remember your lines, fellas, c’mon), or DELIVER US FROM EVIL at the OLT (also fun).  What these two-second reviews just now tell me, though, is that I have to start putting in the kind of work these shows deserve once again, and that means making myself post about them right after I get home, sleepy or no, cuddly-kitty issues notwithstanding.  Fringe is coming soon, after all, and I have to get in shape!

So after a quiet day at work and a bit of dvd shopping that netted me another Miyazaki flick for my collection (I’m up to 7 now with today’s score of MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO!), it was off, off I went to the Centrepointe Theatre to check out their sweet new studio space (it really is pretty fucking sweet).  and in that studio was something I’d been anticipating for a while now…the debut of the Ottawa Shakespeare Company and HAMLET 2011.

Now, I’ll fess up…when I say ‘anticipating’, that’s not entirely true.  There was, I must say, an element of dread creeping in there too.  Not only was this production, from director Charles McFarland,  on Denis Armstrong’s now-infamous must-see list, but the company had once described the show as Hamlet for the Twilight Generation.  As someone who thinks the Twilight Generation deserves little more than a swift kick in the kidneys and a few forced viewings of TETSUO THE IRON MAN , this worried me, I gotta tell ya.  But, there were good names attached to this show, and dagnabbit, I still wanted to see it.  Surely even Denis could be right ONCE in a while..?

The show is ostensibly set in the present day, tho still using all of the original language from Zombie Bill’s classic text.  But the dress is modern, Hamlet sports a cellphone, Ophelia digs herself some FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE, etc. It’s a ‘twist’ that others have used before, but it all works quite smoothly here…it feels natural, and that I think is largely due to the quality of the performances.  Right off the bat, our leading melancholy Dane, as played by OSC co-founder Michael Mancini hit the ground running.  He starts off brooding, alternately pining over Katie Bunting’s wistful Ophelia and casting daggers at his Mother the Queen (a ravishing Sara Botsford) and her new husband and King Claudius (Andy Massingham in a very, very cool performance).  Enter the ghost, and suddenly we’ve got ourselves a tortured revenge-thriller to last the ages!

Now with 60% more Arcade Fire.

Our hero Hamlet, aided by his close (occasionally VERY close) friend Horatio, aka Scott Angus Wilson, sets about avenging his Father’s untimely murder at the hands of Claudius.  This leads to a lot of unpleasant business, multiple deaths, and a smashing good night at the theatre.  As mentioned, the performances are spot-on…Robert Welch’s Polonius is a wonderfully watchable bootlick, and Brad Long (who must have some sort of sweater-clause in his contracts) rages quite nicely as Laertes.  My beloved UNDER MILK WOOD gang from the Ottawa Theatre School add to the entourage (Henry, Kyla, Jodi, Kaitlin, Diego and Greg) as a number of characters, most notably Diego Arvela’s Rosencrantz (teamed with Stavros Sakiadis as Guildenstern), Jodi Morden’s wonderfully hammy sendup of a travelling tragedian (alongside Peter Haworth in a great play-within-a-play scene), and Henry Shikongo trading barbs with Tania Levy’s hilarious gravedigger in the famous ‘alas Poor Yorick’ bit.  Really, is any scene in Hamlet NOT ‘the famous bit’?

You go up against a lot of baggage when you do Shakespeare, and it looks like the OSC is certainly raring for the challenge.  The production is ambitious and fun, with liberal use of specialized lighting from Rebecca Miller, killer sound, and a smoke machine that just won’t quit.  I had a lot of fun with this one, and you’ve still got a few more days to take it in and see what the fuss is about.   And did I mention that the Centrepointe bar has Labatt’s 50?  I was totally impressed!  Something else to look forward when I return for HOMECHILD in a few weeks.  But in the meantime, HAMLET 2011 is a winner (and Mancini really is bloody terrific in the lead, no fooling), and you should head on down.  Then come to THE LAVENDER RAILROAD, but more on that soon.    Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

How to Make a Martyr

In Evolution Theatre on February 11, 2011 at 4:58 am

An apology.  Last week, after a great night of THIS IS A RECORDING at the Undercurrents festival, I was privileged enough to be invited out to Absinthe with a few Ottawa theatrical luminaries, including Nancy Kenny and Margo Macdonald, among many splendid others.  But Nancy and Margo Mac, they were premiering a new show this week, see?  And I, in my hubris, asked if I could hang around with them and the cast and all after the show, when I saw it on Thursday night.  Because that sounded fun and stuff.  They, all smiles and coolness, said that would be very delightful indeed, or words to that effect.

I saw that show, Evolution Theatre‘s LITTLE MARTYRS, tonight.  And when the house lights came up and the cast took their bows, I got the Hell out of there as fast as I could.  And I’m really, really sorry (not that I think any of the cast were all heartbroken at not getting to hang out with me, I’m not capable of thoughts like that), but, I just…I just couldn’t stay.  Not after that.  Hell, I could barely look you guys in the eye during the applause!

To explain…I’d been seriously looking forward to this show for a while…Evolution is a killer company, Nancy Kenny is a pal, the whole cast seemed awesome (although I was unfamiliar with one of them).  So I was excited to hit Arts Court (a new part of it for me, to boot) and head in for the second show of the run.  A sadly sparse house, probably thanks to the EARNEST debut across town, so I picked a good seat even as I tried to take in the set.  And when I saw the SET…holy Mother.  The set grabs you by the throat and just instantly starts twisting your brain in directions that haven’t even been invented yet.  I don’t know what mad scientist’s lab Pierre Ducharme escaped from, but thank fuck his talents have been channelled to good use.  The set is bafflingly cool in a way MC Escher only had nightmares about.

After drinking in the visuals, and perusing the program to marvel at the list of generous, handsome donors, the show began.  A woman is taking out the garbage.  A young man knocks on her door.  And even though it should seem normal, there’s something terribly, terribly wrong  in the air…

I’m not spoiling anything in pointing out that this play, by playwright Dominick Parenteau-Lebeuf (here translated for the first time into English by Mishka Lavigne) is based on a true crime story of two ten-year old boys who tortured and killed a toddler.  It’s in all the promo material for the show, so I know Evolution is not concerned if you know that going in.  And it’s not a concern…hell, it only adds to the tension.  Of which there is considerably plenty.

Another anecdote from Undercurrents springs to mind…the time Alvina Ruprecht mistook me briefly for Chris Bedford.  Well, after seeing how he directs a show tonite, I’m liable to send her an e-mail of gratitude.  At the risk of sounding film-school trite, this is the closest you’re coming to seeing a David Lynch movie live on stage in this town anytime soon.   And Al Connors..!  That fool knows his sound.  Impressive.

The cast is INSANE.  Matt Miwa, who shares the bulk of the scenes, and who was the only actor here I was previously unfamiliar with, is a revelation.  His tortured Jacob, seeking redemption for his crime through a funhouse mirror of religion and suffering, is wonderful and a little scary to watch.  His counterpart, the always great Brad Long as Ludovic, tries to find HIS salvation through beauty, all while rocking a sweater vest like you only WISH you could.  They both collide around Margaret, a spectacularly damaged young woman who has dark secrets of her own…and to my darlin’ buddy Nancy K, let me assure you, Winston is purring loudly with pride in my lap as I type this.  You are bold and amazing.  You’re still my hero.

Rounding it out are Jody Haucke as Margaret’s Father, loving, supportive, but oddly distant…possibly due to the overpowering and lusty Margo MacDonald, vaporizing the scenery as mother Blanche,  a creature of lust consumed by thoughts of bloody vengeance, for some terrible spectre in the past she can’t let go, and neither can Margaret…

I mentioned David Lynch before, and it wasn’t out of sheer pretension.  It’s just that, years ago, when I rented and watched his movie FIRE WALK WITH ME…when it was over?  I had this feeling all over me, like I’d just been hit with a truck.   I was not exactly numb, but…it’s a feeling I can’t describe, but you all know it (or will).  Shaken, let’s call it.   I felt that tonight.  And I simply couldn’t bring myself to shrug it off, say ‘hey, great show!’ and head out for a drink with these people who had just blown my mind.  I just couldn’t let myself look at them as people again.  Not yet.

…Maybe next week, because as I was writing this post I realized that I am absolutely, definitely seeing this show again before it ends its run.  Shows like this don’t come along that often, folks.  And like it, love it, flee screaming from it…you should see it.  Yes.  Yes, you should.

Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)