Posts Tagged ‘catriona leger’

Negative Girl

In Evolution Theatre, Theatre on November 9, 2014 at 8:34 pm

This week I got out to Arts Court to see two premieres, and one long awaited return. And it all happened at the same show. And while Arts Court IS a pretty weird old building, I have as yet discovered no working time/space fractures within its mismatched, uneven hallways.


But I’m still looking, Arts Court. I’M STILL LOOKING!

So what am I yammering about? YOUNG LADY IN WHITE, natcherly, the world premiere play from Dominic Parenteau-Lebeuf, as well as the premiere show in the inaugural season of TACTICS, a new collective series put together by the Counterpoint Players to give smaller companies a better chance to mount larger productions. And the return was of my old pals Evolution Theatre, long a fav’rit of mine in the Ottawa Theatre scene, and a tad quiet since the awesome HROSES a while back (well, there was a baby behind the scenes what needed tending to as well, so there was that…gotta get that new generation of theatre-lovers started, after all). I tend to get pretty excited when they show up with something new, and this show was no exception, especially after seeing a reading of it a few months back. This week it was finally ready to hit the stage.

A story spanning decades and covering an intimidating amount of recent world history into the narrative, the show wonderfully centers around the image of a young girl…literally the undeveloped photonegative of a German teen dressed in a white nightgown (played in an unmissable performance by Catriona Leger), snapped by a photographer in the early 1930’s. For reasons that would remain hidden for quite some time, the photographer never turns thee girl into a real picture, leaving her a shadowy version of her former self, hanging on a line in his darkroom. She, the negative girl in the image, waits patiently to be developed, snarling at the images of the photographers sexy sweetheart that get developed by the hundred while she gets left by the wayside. Soon, however, the photographer and his galpal up and abandon the studio (Germany being somewhat inhospitable around that time), leaving the young lady in white to her thoughts, and the sole companionship of a hastily drawn cat named Chada (voiced by Zach Counsil). Over the following decades, the young lady and Chada bear witness to history from their castle-like refuge, watching the rise and fall of the Third Reich, dance fever in America, the Berlin Wall, the Munch Olympics, 9-11 and more. All the while the young lady desperately waits for her photographer to return and develop her…or explain why the Hell he never did in the first place.


Though visited by various intruders across time (all played by the always wonderful John Doucet), the young lady is mostly left to her lonely reflections and observations, contrasted with the wildly swings of world history spinning outside her walls. At the heart of it all is Catriona Leger, mostly alone on stage (an impressive multi-level achievement from Patrice Ann Forbes) with damn near two hours of dialogue to deliver single-handed, and she does it with an energy that will leave most of us ashamed for how lazy we are. Her young lady is endearing, powerful and unique, and one of the most impressive character performances you’re liable to see around these parts for a good long while. The gorgeous but startling makeup effects from Vanessa Imeson are a bit jarring at first…or at least, I was taken a bit aback, because they really are something else…but after ten minutes I hardly even noticed anymore.  And how could I not recommend a piece of theatre that has an honest-to-gosh animated cat as one of its principal characters? Shoutouts to Adam Pockaj, Steven Lafond, Pierre Ducharme and Andrew Alexander for the considerable multimedia work one into this show, and director Chris Bedford for somehow bringing it all together, in captivating fashion And one more time for Catriona, who brings everything she’s got to the stage, and it shows. You can catch this show at Arts Court Theatre until the 15th, and you really probably should. And TACTICS continues in the New year with Lisa Jeans’ LIGHT, so put that one on your to-do list as well. Because this series is off to a damn fine start. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid (and Winston)

Take Your Wife to School

In Theatre on September 16, 2014 at 10:16 am

Tried to do some blogging for the first time in a month, and WordPress decides that’s the moment it gets hungry and needs to eat a post, so this one is a little later than I’d planned (which was plenty late already). In their defense, I HAVE been starving the old Visitorium of posts lately, it must be admitted. What can I say, Clown Camp eats up some time and energy (and yes, there may be a post coming about that, one of these days…still getting my typing legs under me, so bear with me).

But, I’m back in Ottawa and eager to remind myself why Theatre is the bestest thing ever, so off I went on a jam-packed opening night to the first show of the Gladstone Theatre’s ever-expanding new season. Kicking it off was THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES, a raunchy comedy from that scamp Moliere in a new rhyming translation from David Whiteley, who did similar service for CYRANO with Plosive productions a ways back. This time Plosive and Seven Thirty teamed up to bring us the tale, with John P.Kelly solidly at the helm. A good pedigree already, and the cast gave me even more to look forward to.

The story follows wealthy schmuck Arnolphe (Andy Massingham), a man obsessed with never being made a fool of by any woman. To that end, he has been secretly hiding away and raising the beautiful Agnes (Tess McManus), grooming her to be his ideal, ignorant child-bride when the time is right. With the help, such as it is, of his grumbling servants (David Benedict Brown and Catriona Leger, stealing scenes one after the other), Arnolphe is all set to put his less-than-feminist plan into action, ignoring the words of warning from his friend Chrysalde (David Whiteley). Enter the dashing Horace (Drew Moore), a lusty young fellow with long wavy locks, who somehow manages to slip by Arnolphe’s defenses and fall head over heels with Agnes. A battle of wits ensues, though that may be giving Arnolphe more credit than he’s due, as he goes to increasingly greater lengths to protect his dimwitted prize at all cost. Of course, he never seems to reckon on his ‘ignorant’ Agnes having a few opinions of her own on the subject.

Tess McManus and Andy Massingham in THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES.

Tess McManus and Andy Massingham in THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES.

Armed with a rockin’ good cast and Whiteley’s fast-paced and fun translation, John P.Kelly flexes his farce muscles big time for this production and turns out probably the funnest and funniest show the Gladstone could have hoped for to open up the season. Andy Massingham is in his element as the omnipresent Arnolphe (or ‘Monsieur la Douche’ as he wonderfully renames himself), playing with words, actors and audience alike…and not backing down from the inevitable darker turn in the latter half of the play, making some of previously goofy scenes with co-star McManus downright offputting. Tess’ Agnes is terrific as well, balancing dim and loopy with proud and strong , and making it look easy. Drew Moore as the earnest Horace is great fun to watch, especially his banter with Arnolphe (who does an impression of Horace in the play that is just brilliant). And of course, Dave Brown and Catriona Leger are too much damn fun as the randy servant pair…it’s worth the ticket for their hijinks alone.

So, yeah…that was a lot of fun! Whiteley done good with his updated but faithful translation, and it serves the Gladstone gang well in a crowd-pleasing jamboree of a show that gets the season started right, with a wink and a nod. Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid (and Winston)

Laurel, Queen of Fools

In Company of Fools, Theatre on January 6, 2014 at 11:56 am

Another year, another Fools Night out at the 4th Stage!  I only just realized, checking the old blog, that this was my fourth COMPANY OF FOOLS 12th NIGHT FUNDRAISER party in a row!  Gotta say, it’s a fairly dandy way to kick off the new year, and evening out in one of the cozier corners of the National Arts Centre, surrounded by supporters of the arts and talented pals to help one of Ottawa’s oldest professional theatre companies A Company of Fools raise some cash and launch their new season. And, of course, to crown a new king or queen of Fools.


The joint got jumping early when lead Fools Scott Florence and AL Connors took the stage, and made the happy announcement that the lady miss Catriona Leger was officially being returned tot he fold as a full time Fool, as wise decision as these Fools have likely ever made.  The three of them then proceeded to help the evening live up to its name by giving us a quick retelling of Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT in a brand new interactive format they call SHAKESPEARE AND YOU (or possibly SHAKESPEARE AND THE ZOMBIE DINOSAUR APOCALYPSE, they’re still deciding) and will potentially be touring this spring.  It’s an intriguing way to try and gauge the ongoing relevance of old Zombie Bill’s work, turning the presentation into a conversation with the audience.  Curious to see how this one will fly in full production mode.

But that’s just the tip of the Foolish iceberg…next up for the gang is a special event at this years UNDERCURRENTS festival at the GCTC, where the Fools will host their PITCH PARTY on  February 19th.  Got a new theatrical project, and need help producing it, getting collaborators, whatever?  Come and make your pitch to fellow artists!  Sounds like a blast, and I just might have a pitch of my OWN to make.  We shall see…

Then on March 27th, it’s time for World Theatre Day and the annual OTTAWA THEATRE CHALLENGE!  Competing teams have 48 hours to create an all-new piece of theatre, based on a trio of inspiration items, vying for the coveted Rubber Chicken Award!  It’s a fantastic and fun event, and last year’s winnners, the team from the Gladstone Theatre, have decreed that the proceeds from this years event will be going to the Actors Fund of Canada.  Good cause, good times…get your team together now!

About this time in the evening the cake came out, and a new monarch was chosen…all hail Laurel (and I hope I heard that name right), this year’s reigning Queen of Fools, who made the (some might say disturbingly quick) decision to have Scott Florence executed…he proceeded to have a rather touching, if violent, death scene played out at the hands (or flippers) of an Elephant Seal.  You kind of had to be there, honestly.  But the show must go on, dead Scott or no, and it was time to announce the main event, the Fool’s centrepiece, the touring Torchlight Shakespeare show.  And his year, as heralded by last years’ Falstaff and director of this years show Matthew John Lundvall, the Fools will be getting down with AS YOU LIKE IT.  Touring Ottawa and area parks between July 3rd and August 16th, the gender bender romantic comedy (last seen in O-Town courtesy of BEAR AND COMPANY‘s great version a couple years back) will star Simon Bradshaw, Catriona Leger, Geoff McBride, Scott Florence (back from the dead!), Katie Ryerson and Foolish newcomer Kate MacArthur!  The Fools’ tour is always one of the highlights of the Ottawa theatre year, and this one promises to be no different (did I mention that they’re setting this version in Ottawa..?).


There was only one thing left to announce, and…well, I still don’t know what it is.  AL Connors was deliberately vague about the final mystery project on the Fools’ docket, a commission from the Great Canadian Theatre Company that may or may not see the light of day this year, and may or may not feature two local clowns of some repute…stay tuned!

That was just about it for this year’s event…I didn’t win anything at the raffle this time out, and I really had my heart set on that snow brush.  Oh well, there’s always next year.  And thanks to the Fools, we’ve got some good theatre to occupy us in the meantime.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

PS: all props to Scott Florence’s 3-year old son, who absolutely stole the show last night.  Like Father like son!

A Merry Time in Windsor

In Company of Fools, Theatre on July 23, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Well, it took me just over three weeks but I finally made it.  In my defense, I’m often pretty slow out of the gate when it comes to seeing Ottawa’s touring park shows…They’re just about the only game in town for two solid months, and I can’t resist the subconscious urge to stretch them out as much as I can.  But I DID try and see this one a couple weeks ago, I swear!  All I can say is Glabar Park is NOT where google maps told me it was (although apparently I was close).

But fortunately, even a dim stooge like myself can find Strathcona Park on a clear day, ad the weather was poifect this Monday for a trip down Laurier to where A Company of Fools were celebrating the second anniversary of their tenth anniversary of summer Shakespeare shows with their latest, THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.  Directed by the ever wonderful Catriona Leger and featuring Billy Shakes’ most memorable rogue sir John Falstaff at his bawdy best, this underseen bit of bard was prime fodder for the Fools treatment.  Thee show features a giddily talented cast of familiar faces like Simon Bradshaw, Melanie Karin Brown, Katie Ryerson, John Doucet and Geoff McBride, along with first-time fool Matthew John Lundvall, subbing in as Falstaff himself for the originally-cast Chris Ralph, who has gone off to open a new theatre school or some such.

Our tale finds randy sir John newly arrived in Windsor, and already robbing people blind and trying to seduce their wives.  Specifically, mistresses Page and Ford (Melanie Karin-Brown and Katie Ryerson), who immediately see through his attempts and plot some serious revenge.  The only hitch is Ford’s jealous husband (John Doucet), who adopts a disguise to infiltrate Falstaff’s inner circle and glean the truth, although he somehow manages to get it wrong more often than not.  Meanwhile, the Pages’ young daughter Anne (Katie Ryerson again) is being promised to two highly unsuitable suitors, dull Slender (Melanie again) and fire-tempered Doctor Caius (Simon Bradshaw), while her true love Fenton (Doucet again, stealing the show in a Keanu Reeves impression that HAS to be seen) is shut out.  Amidst this, duels are nearly fought (between Caius and nervous Parson Evans, aka Geoff McBride), messages are passed between Falstaff and the scheming wives via robust Ms. Quickly (McBride again), fairies are summoned, beatings are given and merry is indeed had by all.

Mistress Page (Katie Ryerson) gets some unwanted attention from Falstaff (Matthew John Lundvall).  Pic by Andrew Alexander.

Mistress Ford (Katie Ryerson) gets some unwanted attention from Falstaff (Matthew John Lundvall). Pic by Andrew Alexander.

It almost feel redundant to write up a Fools park show, as the gang has it down to a pretty awesome science (or magic, more like) by now.  Plenty of amazing and hilarious character work from the Foolish entourage to entertain even the most jaded audience…I dearly loved Melanie Karin Brown’s dull-witted Slender, and Katie Ryerson’s jittery old Justice Shallow, among their other great moments.  Simon Bradshaw continues to be absolute comic gold on any stage…his Doctor Caius was a serious highlight, and I use ‘serious’ in the loosest sense here.Geoff McBride alternates nicely between upright Evans and borderline floozy Quickly.  And Matthew Lundvall makes a memorable Falstaff, cowardly and boastful often in the same breath.  All of this talent under the direction of Miz Leger is almost too good to be true, but here we are.  There are tons of high points in this absolute sure-fire crowd pleaser of a show, and it’s easy to see why the Fools are enjoying the longevity they so richly deserve.  Ottawa is lucky to have this gang, and the next time they’re in your neighbourhood, for Heaven’s sake stop on by.  Check their website for parks and dates, you still have plenty of time left to get in on the fun.  But don’t dawdle, because you might want to see it a second time.  It’s worth it.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

the Master and the Mistress

In Theatre on February 14, 2013 at 4:44 pm

My day off of drudgery is off to a smooth start so far, with breakfast at the Wellington Diner, and company from the fabulous Jackie Brabazon herself, yay!  And here I was dreading Valentine’s Day, but so far it’s pretty painless, my Carleton Tavern hangover notwithstanding.  But of course, it’s not all fun and games as I have all this writing to do that you’re reading right now, which is weird to think about.  But no worries…what I have to write about pretty much IS all fun and games, and that’s a very good thing.

Last night, to get things started, was the kick-off night for the new season of theatre from Algonquin College, about which I was very excited indeed.  It had been too long, and the first show in their 3-show season sounded like a helluva lotta fun.  Director-in-demand Catriona Leger (whose LADIES OF THE LAKE is still running in the GCTC studio as part of Undercurrents) was at the helm for Carlo Goldoni’s Commedia classic THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS, featuring a cast stocked with the Gonq’s newest and brightest.   It was to be a daunting challenge…Catriona knows the challenges presented by Commedia Dell’Arte, and says it requires the ‘discipline of a good student and the spirit of a naughty student’.  From the results, I’d say she got both in spades.


Centering around a cast of classic Commedia characters, SERVANT brings us to 18th century Venice (courtesy of lovely Judith deBoer set and costumes), where some merrily confused mayhem is about to get underway.   A wedding is about to take place, between dreamy-eyed lovers Clarice and Silvio (Shanon Collins and Jean-Luc Carrie), under the careful gaze of their fathers Pantalone and Dr.Lombardi (Jenna Brown and Curtis Kupkee).  Trouble hits when Clarice’s first intended husband, Federigo Rasponi, believed dead, shows up in town very much alive and looking to collect monies from Pantalone.  Only ‘Federigo’ is, in actuality, his twin sister Beatrice (Melanie Grant) in disguise.  She’s also looking for the man who killed her brother, the well-coiffed Florindo Aretusi (Jonah Lerner), but not for revenge…they’re in love, see, which is what led to the unfortunate dispute between Florindo and Federigo.  Beatrice has brought along a new servant, the eternally hungry Truffaldino (Ryan Nadon) who stumbles upon a nifty scheme to make some extra coin, by finding a second master to serve at the same time.  As fate would have it, his second master turns out to be none other than Florindo, which leads to the expected chaos.

Making extensive use of some sweet masks (I think on loan from Odyssey Theatre, someone correct me if I’m wrong…ETA: Someone corrected me! Catriona sez the masks actually belong to Algonquin College, and came from Montreal mask makers Atelier Pirate), SERVANT is a deliciously fun farce of a show.  Director Leger has coached her gang well, playing with the script and the audience alike to great effect.  Several off-book asides are included, as in an early audience quiz on the byzantine plot from Amanda Rickets as Smeraldina the maid, giving the fourth wall the good, swift kick in the nuts it so richly deserves.  But the cast does great with the verbally dense and broadly comic script, including more than a fair share of tongue twisters that would intimidate even the most seasoned of actors.  Melanie Grant as the cross-dressing Beatrice has a great presence on the stage, making for a very engaging hero/heroine indeed.  Jonah Lerner is all bombast and wig as the loudmouth Florindo, and always fun to watch, as is Shannon Collin’s hyper-emotional Clarice.  Great mask and body work abounds, most notably from Jenna Brown as the perpetually stooped Pantalone, Curtis Kupkee’s grimacing Doc Lombardi, and Souness Rathedi as the seemingly all-knowing innkeeper Brighella.  But it all comes down to the Harlequin himself, Truffaldino, and that works out just fine, because it would appear Ryan Nadon was positively made for this kind of work.  His cowardly, tricksterish clown is always moving, always funny and always spot-on, and in tandem with the rest of the great cast helps put the lie to the ghetto term ‘student theatre’. Even the wordless Muffeletta, played by Jessica Said, is terrific (and hats off too to the ‘porters’ David Hania and Benoit Lavalee, doing the bulk of the heavy lifting and plate-tossing in the show).

This is a show you really want to clear a spot on your calendar for, people.  Seriously playful, and an amazing spotlight on new talent to watch out for.  The show runs nightly until Saturday, with a 2pm matinee on Sunday in the theatre arts building N on Algonquin Campus. Only ten bucks, and I can definitely recommend the Smore cookies at halftime, if you can nab one fast enough. Yummy!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

UnderCurrents 2013: LADIES OF THE LAKE

In GCTC, Theatre, Undercurrents on February 7, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Another day, another lineup of Undercurrents premieres to watch and dig into?  Oh, February, you do send off mixed signals. Do you love me with your theatre, or hate me with your freezing cold?  I guess I’ll take the former, in an unusual bout of positivity…I do love me some Undercurrents after all (tho it could warm up ANY time now…just a little, deal?).
So after a fine and full opening night, with SKIN, BREAD, THE PUBLIC SERVANT and pizza to top it all off, it was back to the GCTC studio at Holland and Wellington last night for two more shows, including the second world premiere of the festival.  This one, from GCTC company-in-residence Skeleton Key, was the long awaited LADIES OF THE LAKE.  The company, formed by local superwomen Kate Smith (who stars) and Catriona Leger (who directs), has been working on this piece for a good long while now, and I was on pins and needles (figuratively, not literally, in case you were worried) waiting to see what they had come up with.

Inspired by the Arthurian legend of the Lady of the Lake, LADIES stars Kate Smith as Vivienne, a wandering young woman plagued by violent visions, who is drawn to a particularly creepy lake as a result.  There she meets Ambrose (show co-creator John Doucet, sporting a fine toque and doubling as set designer), a smooth-talking drifter with a practiced air of mystery. Things quickly take a turn for the supernatural when the even MORE mysterious woman (Dilys Ayafor) from Vivienne’s visions appears.  Seems she and Ambrose have issues from way, way back, and Vivienne is now unwittingly caught up in the middle of it.  And as this is steeped in legend and myth, it isn’t likely that everyone is walking away happily ever after.

photo: Lisa L'Heureux

photo: Lisa L’Heureux

LADIES takes a very theatrical approach to telling this story, using a great deal of physicality and movement, combined with song (an old nursery rhyme is used repeatedly to great effect) and a sweet Steven Lafond soundtrack.  The John Doucet set (John Dou-Set?) is a very evocative piece of backdrop, and the actors put it to good use, stalking across, over and through it.  Dilys Ayafor made a kick-ass Fury in the Ottawa Theatre School production of THE EUMENIDES last year, and she continues to impress here as the unnamed but imposing antagonist (or is she..?) of the piece.  On the whole, I’m afraid the story never really sucked me in…Vivienne, while handled nicely by the great Kate Smith, didn’t have much to offer as a heroine.  And I wasn’t sure if we were going for a modern or ancient story, or if that even mattered.  Then again, as I repeatedly point out in these pages, I sometimes suck at imagery.  And the strong performances and eerie/cool mood and lighting more than make this show worth the trip.  I’d also like to make a shout-out to costume and make-up artiste Vanessa Imeson, who has some spectacular looks on display here.  Skeleton Key is off to a strong start, and I expect great things from them down the road.  As it is, I still got one more show to write about before I sleep, so I’d better get on with it.  Next up: HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE LIVE MUSIC VIDEOS!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Rowan, King of Fools

In Company of Fools, Theatre on January 6, 2013 at 10:59 am

New Year!  And that means new seasons to announce, and that means new sovereigns to crown (yes it does, don’t argue), and that definitely means it’s time for the Company of Fools annual TWELFTH NIGHT CELEBRATION fundraiser show at the NAC 4th Stage.  This is my third year attending, and it was a blast the first two times.  If anything, it was even Blastier this year.  Here’s how it went down…

I actually bought my ticket in advance this year, instead of my previously established policy of just sort of stumbling upon one at the last minute (nice trick, but I’m no Nancy Kenny and I didn’t want to push my luck about getting in to sold-out events).  Spent the day doing some much needed laundry, stuffing myself with a little homemade bolognese, then heading out to the show, where the head Fools (Scott Florence and AL Connors) would be mastering the ceremony, and announcing the Fools’ upcoming season for 2013.  I spent a little frantic time hunting around for decent seat for my lonesome self before I was dutifully rescued by the lovely Kelly Rigole (soon to become the first actor to appear in TWO separate shows at the UNDERCURRENTS festival, FYI) to the stageside table she’d secured, along with supahstar Dave Benedict Brown of 411 Dramaturgy (soon to knock Ottawa out yet again with HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE, also at Undercurrents).  I was mightily thankful for the accommodations, as we listened to the pre-show musical stylings of Mi Casa Theatre’s Nick DiGaetano on the gee-tar.  Very nice, as always.

The show proper began as Scott and AL  took to the stage to a) encourage us to buy AS MANY RAFFLE TICKETS AS POSSIBLE, and b) introduce the spiffy cast who would take the stage a moment later to perform a not-even-a-little-bit rehearsed staged reading of TWELFTH NIGHT.  Alongside themselves, they were joined by Geoff McBride, Catriona Leger, Margo MacDonald, Chris Ralph, Simon Bradshaw, Melanie Karin and Richard Gelinas, a seriously talent-heavy who’s who of Ottawa Theatre that would be hard-pressed NOT to entertain an audience.  The show was a hit as expected…major props to Geoff McBride for managing so much scene-stealing on  a stage that packed with incredible performers.  Also, fine legwork from Gelinas.  Many laffs were had, and the audience was primed and ready for the second half and the announcement of the Fools’ 24th season.


First off, of course, is the Fools annual SWEETS AND SONNETS DELIVERY, wherein you can hire your very own Fool to deliver a Shakespeare sonnet to your loved one, in person, on Valentine’s Day (OR Mother’s Day this year!).  Tell your sweetheart how much they mean to you by embarrassing them at their place of work!  To accompany this announcement, it was time for the annual crowning of the new King or Queen of Fools!  With last years departing Queen in attendance, the torch was passed to Rowan, who proved a generous monarch indeed when he appointed his Mother (Fools alum Virginia West, last seen inn HENRY V) to receive an onstage sonnet from AL Connors himself.  Hail Rowan, wisely may he rule!

Next up was announcement of the OTTAWA THEATRE CHALLENGE in honour of World Theatre Day on March 27.  We were treated to a performance of last years winning piece by Melanie Karin, which I’ll just call LIP SMACKERS in lieu of actually knowing the title.  Good stuff!  The multi-company battle (with 48 hour prep time to keep things interesting) will happen again this year at the 4th Stage, for the coveted Rubber Chicken Award!

The next proclamation was an exciting one indeed, a the Fools make their first venture into non-Shakespearean territory.  From May 7th to 25th, Ottawa will be witness to Nassim Soleimanpour’s hit show WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT at Arts Court library.  A play like no other from the sounds of it, the show will feature a different lead actor EVERY NIGHT, for a total of 18 performers over the run…and none of them get to see the script until the moment they get on stage!!  I’m so stoked for this  I can’t tell ya…apparently the show killed at Summerworks and Edinburgh Fringe, and I’m already making plans to see it at LEAST twice.  And the ticket price?  Well, you might be delighted to hear that the Fools, fools that they are, have made the official decision to take their pass-the-hat, pay-what-you-can pricing model from their outdoor shows, and apply it to their INDOOR shows as well.  So yeah, no excuses for missing this one, Ottawa.

And the big show of the year, the touring TORCHLIGHT SHAKESPEARE park show that will be celebrating its tenth (give or take) year this year?  The Fools have tapped directorial juggernaut Catriona Leger, who will take the reins of THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR from July 3rd to August 17th at parks across the region.  A short excerpt from Billy Shakes’ goofy comedy was performed to our giddy amusement, and Catriona’s excitement about the show was pretty infectious.  Oh, and opening day, July 3rd?  That will also, by proclamation of the Mayor, be pronounced officially as COMPANY OF FOOLS DAY in Ottawa.  Yeah, I think our little Fools are starting to make people notice them.  Good news.

An Andrew Alexander pic of last year's amazing Torchlight Shakespeare show, HENRY V.

An Andrew Alexander pic of last year’s amazing Torchlight Shakespeare show, HENRY V.

But wait, there’s more!!  A second Shakespeare joint (call it TORCHLIGHT TOO) will follow WIVES up in September, this one directed by the Queen herself, Margo MacDonald.  Her show, appearing indoors at three different theatres in town, is HAL AND FALSTAFF, an adaptation featuring all the good Falstaff bits from HENRY IV I & II, and a little bit of HENRY V.  I think it’ll probably be along the lines of Orson Welles’ classic CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT…but probably with more foam swords.  Both shows will star the Fools’ new acting company:  Chris Ralph (who will play Falstaff in both shows, too), Simon Bradshaw, John Doucet, Melanie Karin, Geoff McBride, and Katie Ryerson.  A sweeter lineup you’d have to be a fool to hope for.

I’d call the night a great success…fun was had, great shows were announced, the Company reached their fundraising goal and then some, and I even won some swag in the raffle!  This swag might be turned into contest-fodder on this blog in the next week or so, so stay tuned!  And start planning your summer now, gang…it’s a great year to be a Fool in Ottawa.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor

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)

SubDevision – A Preview

In Theatre on May 6, 2012 at 10:51 pm

A few days ago I got invited to come and check out what promises to be just about the coolest, niftiest, and…I’ll say it…squinkiest shindigs Ottawa’s theatre scene has treated itself to in a good long while.   It sounded too good to pass up, and let’s face it…when the lady Catriona Leger sends you an invite to something, a gentleman does not argue, or ask questions.  He simply cleans himself up as best he can, and gets himself to the church on time!

And it was at the church…St.Pauls Eastern United on Cumberland to be specific (home last year of MiCasa Theatre’s Fringe festival entry LIVE FROM THE BELLY OF A WHALE)…that I met up with Catriona, Associate Producer of this inaugural edition of SUBDEVISION, a three-day festival involving eight theatre companies, one church, and enough cool to choke a herd of angry mules.   I met Cat in the spacious basement area, where WHALE went up last year, and ironically enough maybe the only spot in the church that will NOT be used as a theatre space for SDV (my little abbreviation for SUBDEVISION…if you  see it again, that’s what it means, kids!).  For the new festival, that area will just be a mixing ground for talking, drinking, chilling out…and of course, setting forth on new theatrical adventures throughout the evening.

Partially inspired by the HIVE event in Vancouver, and given the breath of life at a backyard barbecue GCTC event in 2010, the concept for SDV is simple but brilliant.  Catriona describes the event as having a core meeting/gathering place, then “…all the little spaces within the church are inhabited by theatre companies, and they’re creating little, approximately 10 minute plays that are site-specific…encompassing the style of the individual company.”  As for which companies are involved and why, Cat told me that many of them were involved from the beginning, while others were invited later on account of the interesting work they were producing.  MAY CAN is one of those companies, and in the midst of working on their second Fringe show, lovable scamps Tony Adams and Cory Thibert are joining SDV with a piece called DECIDING WHAT IS, that will actually take place on the front outer steps of the church.

Now, before you start asking why poor Cory and Tony got stuck outside, you have to understand one of the key ideas behind SDV, which the delightful Miss Emily Pearlman of MI CASA explained to me.  “One of the things that’s really exciting about Subdevision in general, is that…we didn’t have anything until we got the spaces.  We drew spaces randomly, by lottery, and then when they (the companies)  got in there, they were like ‘okay…how can we use the resources that are available?’ ” Yes, the plays/pieces were only created AFTER people saw what space they were to be performing in.  Are you starting to get excited yet?  If not, let me introduce you to miss Tania Levy.  She and Pat Gauthier, co-founders of Epic Ottawa Theatre company GRUPPO RUBATO, have a piece for SDV, coinciding with their 10th anniversary, called LE FIN DE FINS.  It takes place in an elevator.

A shiny, bubbly elevator.

“We hope that people will at least take away something very intimate from our show,” Tania said, a fairly reasonable hope for a performance that can only accommodate two patrons per show.  But Rubato promises some pretty cool stuff with light and shadow in their short piece, and if you want your theatre any MORE intimate, deliver a monologue to a mirror.

Myself and the other papparazzi along for the event (which may or may not have consisted solely of tweedy old Snowdon and his better half) got taken on a whirlwind tour of the various locales and nooks involved in SDV, and provided by the unexpectedly labyrinthine St.Pauls, starting with a complete dress rehearsal of the Ottawa Stilt Union piece KLEO’S WAKE.  Yes, the Stilt Union are performing INSIDE, in the BASEMENT, and it’s AMAZING.  God’s balls, it was so much joy it almost hurt.  Accordions, acrobatics, silts, Germanic verse, and the secret weapon that is Elise Gauthier.  Get ready for some awesome, Ottawa.

Stilts make EVERYTHING better.

But there was SO MUCH MORE.  Upstairs, in spaces so smallish and obscure I don’t think they even had NAMES, were the makeshift homes of the aforementioned MiCasa Theatre, and the Counterpoint Players.  Counterpoint will be showcasing a Yoga-themed piece called OCCUPY ME starring one-woman theatrical army (I am TOTALLY keeping that alive) Brownyn Steinberg, while Mi Casa will be sneaking out of their comfort zone and doing an ‘audio piece’ called HIDE, which Emily Pearlman called “pretty exciting” for her and Nick DiGaetano, and I tend to believe anything Miss Emily tells me.

In the Sanctuary (aka ‘the Church’ to rubes like me), two amazing girl-gangs are doing a bit of a team-up…did I mention that some of the shows, as well as being site-specific, are also TIME-specific?  From 7:30 to 8:30, Deluxe Hot Sauce will perform FIRST DUSK, LAST LIGHT to the setting sun.  Then, from 9:30 to 11, Skeleton Key (in their official public debut) will perform SHE HATH DONE WHAT SHE COULD.  A piece designed to be shown post-sunset, Kate Smith (Skeleton Key co-founder, and co-star of this play along with Katie Bunting) told me it was a show inspired by her Nana, whose portrait graces the wall of St.Pauls as their first female ordained minister.  I like personal history stories, and I suspect this one is gonna be a grabber.  I’m not sure what could make this all better.

Until, of course you look in the kitchen.  And lo, there were two little birds, hanging about!

Sigh. Birds are pretty.

That is, of course, Kiersten Hanley and Sarah Conn of 2 Little Birds, the group that rewrote the Ottawa book on site-specific theatre when they swept the Rideau Awards last year with their SIX: AT HOME Fringe show (at Laurier House).  This time they drew the kitchen space, and did what you do in a kitchen…threw a party.  Why?

“Everyone knows the best party is always in the kitchen!”  Hard to argue with the Birds’ logic. CONVERSATIONS WITH STRANGERS also stars Sara Duplancic and Patrick O’Neil, and promises a twist…and possibly Jell-O.  But you didn’t hear that from me.

The evening is $20.  From the central meeting area, you can see one show, all shows, or any number in between.  You can drink, play, experience the most exciting theatre in the city AND there’s an after-party with DJ every night.  Do I really even NEED to be writing a promo piece for this?  I haven’t even gotten into the whole concept of ‘Artist Sharing’ that Emily told me about, but that I wasn’t smart enough to work into this piece.  Thankfully, I get another shot in a few days when I get to see and review all these shows proper.  I can NOT wait.  It’s on for three days, folks.  DON’T miss out.

May 10-12      St.Pauls Eastern United  473 Cumberland (at Daly)   Tickets $20   Shows start at 7:30

Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)