Posts Tagged ‘margo macdonald’

Undercurrents 2015 Part 2: Much Ado about Feckin’ Punch-Ups

In Uncategorized on February 16, 2015 at 6:49 pm

Pardon the somewhat lateness of this one, real life does intrude like the violent pest that it is. But this post starts on the day of Valentine, the Patron Saint of lovers and the Antagonist Saint of Whiny, Lonely Losers…I won’t say which camp I belong to, but let’s just say it’s the second one and distracting myself with sweet and funky theatre seemed like the right thing t do (it almost always is, really). So it was off to Arts Court for my second visit to Undercurrents 2015, and more rollicking theatrical action.

Feckin Pirates (cred Pascal Huot)

A pair of Feckin’ Pirates (Pic by Pascal Huot)

First up that night was a return trip to the high seas as an Ottawa fav’rit show got itself back onto the stage. After a successful slot in the Gladstone’s season lineup last year, Parry Riposte’s MUCH ADO ABOUT FECKIN’ PIRATES was ready to make its assault on Undercurrents. Pairing Ottawa Theatre royalty Margo MacDonald (back in Undercurrents after helping kick it off years ago with the great SHADOWS) and Richard Gelinas as two squabbling pirates, bound and confined to the crow’s nest for fighting over the fate of a parrot, the show (directed by AL Connors) takes a very unique approach to its storytelling. Following a structure, and yet also mainly improvised based on suggestions the audience votes on ahead of time, Margo and Richard are practically immobile for 95% of the show, relying solely on their improvisational wits and fake pirate accents to keep the audience rapt with attention. Thankfully, watching these two bicker and snipe and make up nonsense about prates is something I could watch for hours on end. They even managed to seamlessly weave tentacle porn into the show I caught, so clearly I can die fulfilled anytime now, I don’t know about you. All I do know is that you’d be a right knave if you missed your chance to see these two ridiculously gifted comedians do what they do best…argue like pirates. They should bring this show back EVERY year.

An intermission then, during which I happily caught another performance of Trevor Copp’s wordless physical theatre show AIR, and I greatly benefitted from a repeat viewing (oh, he was making a FIRE! Got it, Stag Hunter, got it) no to mention catching a new short piece, FLIGHT, that he hadn’t performed when I first caught his show. Very brilliant and inspiring.

Soon after it was back into the Theatre for Theatre Brouhaha’s much-acclaimed PUNCH-UP by writer/director Kat Sandler. Starring Caitlin Driscoll, Colin Munch and Tim Walker in a King of Comedy-esque misadventure of hilarious proportions. Lonely schlub Duncan (Walker) falls head over heels for ‘the saddest girl in the world’ (Driscoll), and makes a bet that he can make her laugh…and if he can’t, the consequences are dire indeed. To help him on his bizarre quest, he kidnaps down-on-his-luck comedian Pat (Munch) to teach him how to be funny. We quickly learn, however, that Duncan is completely unable to understand even the most basic rudiments of comedy, and the simple desire to make someone laugh becomes an epic, Herculean task, and might just get a few people killed.


This show deserves all the hype its gotten and a few barrels more…Kat Sandler is clearly a mad genius, and she’s assembled a perfect cast for one of the funniest shows you’ll ever see. Improv mainstay Colin Munch is viciously funny as the glowering, bitter Pat, paired magnificently with Tim Walker’s inhumanly inept Duncan, who only seems to be able to make people stop laughing at him when he’s actually trying to make them do just that. And Caitlin Driscoll’s tragic Brenda is the walking, talking example of one of the points about comedy Pat tries to explain to Duncan…the sadder her life gets, the more we in the audience can’t help but laugh. Maybe we’re all just awful people, but we’re awful and laughing, so I’ll take it. As I write this there’s only one more showing of PUNCH-UP in Undercurrents, and whatever you have to do to make it out to that show, DO THAT THING.  This is dark and funny at its darkly funniest.  Rather perfect for Valentine’s Day, really…

I’ll be back at Undercurrents on Wednesday myself, to catch two more new shows (and maybe taste some beer from them Dominion City folk in between)…hope to see some of you folk there. Get on out and support the brightest spot in a cold, cold February! Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid (and Winston)

Blood, Rum and Diddling

In Theatre on March 15, 2014 at 8:11 pm

This is a show that’s both a delight and an impossibility to review.  One I’ve been looking forward to ever since it was announced, as of course have all well-informed citizens of good taste.  I was sorry as Heck to miss opening night of this show, but how could I legitimately resist a one-night only show of actors reading anonymously donated but true masturbation stories, called JERK IT?  On a side note, nice job with the evening, May Can Theatre, ya done good.

But that’s another post, that never happened!  This one is all about the long-awaited MUCH ADO ABOUT FECKIN’ PIRATES, taking place at the Gladstone Theatre courtesy of Parry Riposte Productions, aka Richard Gelinas and Margo MacDonald.  Richard and Margo, two of THE best actors in this city hands down, have been working on this piece of pirate performance for several years now, along with their collaborator/director AL Connors.  It’s wonderful that they’ve finally managed to bring their work, which originally begun as some back-and-forth pirate banter backstage at a Company of Fools show, to the stage, and we lucky viewers, at last.

Feckin Pirates (cred Pascal Huot)

Richard Gelinas and Margo MacDonald…two feckin’ pirates if ever I saw one. (Photo by Pascal Huot)

It’s a shockingly simple setup as a story goes…two pirates (Gelinas and MacDonald, natch) are tightly bound and consigned to the crow’s nest of their ship as punishment for fighting.  Some dispute involving a parrot. Is at the heart of it, and blood may be spilt…later on.  First, though, they’re both immobile and bored and in need of something to talk about o pass the time.  That’s where the audience comes in…they get the chance to vote, before the show and hopefully while enjoying a rum shot or two, on which topics our pirate duo will converse.  A wide array of topics are provided so that no two shows will ever be the same (although I’d bet several pieces of eight that ‘diddling’ will somehow always make it into the conversation).  And yes, as is implied, the bulk of the dialogue in this show is improvised, a spontaneously devised ongoing pirate-themed argument between two people I am now declaring to be the grandmasters of Pirate Improv.  Which is where the ‘impossible to review’ comes in..after all, rather tricky to review a show that necessarily changes every night, although there IS a structure, and a plan, at the heart of FECKIN’ PIRATES, and Margo and Richard never lose sight of the goal even while they’re threatening to crack one another up with drinking songs, reminiscences of Fake Ireland and her many bogs, and oddly hilarious tales of murder and diddling (there’s quite a lot of that last bit).

But the impossible is, of course my business, so review this show I will.  It’s amazing!  There, see how easy impossible things are when you try?  But for serious, this is such a pitch-perfect showcase for two incredible theatrical talents that to miss it should be at least a misdemeanor offence.  Forget the crow’s nest, if you pass on this wonderful experience it’s the plank for ya! Personally, I hope to make it out for a second tour with the Pirates…if ever a show had replay value, this is it.   Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor, aka Bloody Squiffy (and Winston)

In Praise of Odder Women

In Theatre on February 9, 2014 at 5:32 pm

“But what if a woman WANTS to be a sex slave..?”

You know, I’m not sure I could have thought up a better way to ignore the Sochi Olympics (fun visitor fact: I have ZERO Olympic Spirit!) than to be sitting in a nice crowded theatre on the day of the opening ceremonies.  I know it did MY spirit a world of good, and not just because it was a terrific goddamn show.  But I’m getting ahead of myself…I usually yammer for a spell before telling you how much I liked a thing, don’t I?

Got to the Gladstone with classmate Kathryn, hot on the heels of the previous days THIS IS WAR premiere, to hobnob with yet another opening night crowd (oh, the glamour of my life, people, the GLAMOUR!).  Mostly I was just happy to see bargal Ketra back behind the wood, but also intrigued to see the latest from local Gladstone regulars Bear and Company, last seen visiting Ottawa parks this past summer (remember summer?!?) with their great cowboy adaptation of A COMEDY OF ERRORS.  This time around they went with a modern play about the past, Linda Griffiths’ AGE OF AROUSAL, a tale ‘wildly inspired’ George Gissing’s 1893 novel THE ODD WOMEN..  Set in the late 1800’s, the story centers around aging amazon Mary Barfoot (Eleanor Crowder), a rabble-rousing suffragette fresh out of a stint in prison and fighting off bad nightmares.  Together with her lover Rhoda (Lisa Jeans), she’s opened up a secretarial school for women, opting to try and gain women their independence through financial means.  It all seems to be going well enough, if a little tame for feisty Mary, until the arrival of three sisters into their midst.  Spinsters (not ‘old maids’, thank you very much) Alice and Virginia (Rachel Eugster and Margo MacDonald), two untrained ladies left adrift after the death of their Father, and watching over their pretty little thing of a younger sister, Monica (Anna Lewis).  They are brought in and entered into the school, despite their intimidation at the modern metallic machines that are the Remington typewriters.  Into this already volatile mix comes Mary’s cousin Everard (Tim Oberholzer), a former doctor trying to balance his intellectual respect for ‘new women’ with his obviously raging desire for, well, just about all of them.

“Oh, I’d like to pet HER pussycat…”

Everyone’s lives go a little soap opera-esque in short order, with characters switching partners, getting drunk, challenging their views, cross-dressing, and just generally pushing the Hell out of the turn-of-the-century envelope.  It’s an exciting and very funny look at the proto-feminist movement of that time, when they figured everything would be equal and settled by, say, 1915 at the latest.  So great to see a play with five vibrant and very different ladies rocking the stage, and make no mistake this is an ensemble to be reckoned with.  Eleanor Crowder’s Mary is regal and imposing, and Lisa Jeans’ Rhoda counters her with a vigorous intellectual fire that’s hard to resist.  I was mighty proud to see my recent voice teacher Rachel Eugster getting laughs out of the audience at will as nervous, wilting Alice.  And Margo MacDonald undergoes a splendid transformation in the course of the show, from almost madcap comic to, well, something entirely other (she looks positively faboo after her trip to Berlin, I will say).  And Anna Lewis charms effortlessly as Monica, alternately shrinking violet and roaring temptress.  I almost pity Tim Oberholzer on that stage…almost.

Age of Arousal2
Diana Fajrajsl’s direction is cool and fluid, reuniting her with Margo from their legendary Fringe show SHADOWS a few years back..  She makes good use of her stellar cast and killer dialogue, with able assist from lighting guru David Magladry and sweet costumes and accoutrement from Patrice Ann Forbes and Annie Lefebvre.  This a smooth, sexy show, both honouring the dawn of modern feminism as well as acknowledging what a paradigm-busting struggle it was for those on the frontlines. Gladstone’s two for two in 2014 (and Jayson McDonald’s UNDERBELLY is up next, which will make it a triple-play, guaranteed), and I couldn’t be happier about it.  Get on down and watch the ladies do their thing, folks, you’ll be glad you did.  Peace, love and osul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

the Second Life of Desdemona and Juliet

In GCTC, Theatre on December 4, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Hey!  A GCTC Review!  Sweet Jeebus, that’s been a while.  You’d have thunk I’d broken up with them, we used to be so tight!  What with doing the volunteer gig there for a few years, plus catching all the shows in reviewer mode as well.  It was becoming my second home for quite a while.  But then along came the Ottawa Theatre School, review time got a lot harder to find, volunteer time became imPOSSible to find, and here I am now, getting my first review of their new season working a whole 3 shows in!  Somewhat scandalous, and you are right to hate me for my sloth.  For the record, I quite seriously enjoyed he previous 2 shows, PROUD and YOU FANCY YOURSELF, even if I didn’t get around to writing about them (SO SORRY!!).

But third time’s the charm, and I’m finally getting back on that GCTC horse with their latest production, Ann-Marie MacDonald’s GOODNIGHT DESDEMONA, (GOOD MORNING JULIET).  A Canuck fav’rit, Annie Mac’s story follows bookish Constance Ledbelly (the always wonderful Margo MacDonald) who, after getting the only-metaphorical shaft from her boss Professor Night (Geoff McBride), decides to focus on her groundbreaking new theory about two of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, Othello and Romeo & Juliet.  Her theory?  That they aren’t tragedies at all, merely hastily adapted comedies that only need the addition of a helpful fool to change their dire outcomes.  As soon as you can say ‘special lighting effect’, Constance suddenly finds herself transported into Shakespeare-land, finding herself smack dab inside one of Othello’s crucial scenes (and yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking, but I’m sure Ann-Marie MacDonald was probably not even aware of that classic MAN FROM ATLANTIS episode ‘the Naked Montague’ where Mark Harris washes up inside Romeo & Juliet.)

It's even better than it sounds!

It’s even better than it sounds!

Like any good dimension traveller, Constance soon mucks up the flow, revealing Iago (Zach Counsil) for the villain he is before Othello (McBride again) can be pushed too far.  This earns her the endearment of Desdemona (Sascha Cole, chanelling Xena Warrior Princess in a robust performance indeed), which has its own perils.  She then moves on to R&J, where her attempts to keep the death toll down end up wreaking their own havoc on gender politics in fair Verona. Evading the sword of Tybalt and the advances of both Romeo (Counsil again) and Juliet (Pippa Leslie) keeps our Constance quite busy, especially as she continues her fervent search for her Fool at all costs.


DESDEMONA/JULIET is a fun and somewhat fluffy tale with some sneaky insight lurking beneath the laffs, and director Ann Hodges gets plenty of great action out of a mighty cast indeed.  Margo delivers as stressed-out bookworm Constance, fighting and bluffing her way though a merrily fanfictionalized Shakespearean landscape.  McBride and Counsil, two of O-town’s most beloved boy actors, are grand in their multiple roles…I’ll leave it to wiser heads than my own to debate the white Othello conundrum…and out tragic (or comedic..?) Heroines Pippa Leslie and Sascha Cole positively rock as Juliet and Desdemona.  Shoutout too for a great set and very cool light and sound throughout.  This is a merry romp filled with endlessly clever dialogue and boffo performances, and very worth watching, but get your tickets fast!  Opening week was packed, and shows no signs of slowing down (lucky you, you have until the 15th!).  So get your Shakespeare on, with a nice Canadian twist.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Never Mind the Bollocks, here’s the Shakespeare

In Company of Fools, Theatre on September 5, 2013 at 8:55 pm

So, HAL AND FALSTAFF.  Let’s get right to it this time, hey, because I’m at home, stir crazy as all get-out, and just started dancing by myself to FREAKY STYLEY for the first time in about a dozen years.  I’m pumped, folks, and ready to make some theatrical writeup magick!

Now, maybe even old-school Red Hot Chili Peppers isn’t completely apropos background music for this post, as the production from A Company of Fools, under the loving guidance of Queen Margo MacDonald adapting and directing, is a little more late 70’s punk in its tone, and I couldn’t love it more for it. Set in a dingy, cluttered attic, our gang of six (Katie Ryerson, Matthew John Lundvall, Simon Bradshaw, Geoff McBride, John Doucet and Melanie Karin Brown) filter in, decked out in glorious punk fashion and sprawling about the set like they honestly couldn’t care less that any of us are even there.  Until McBride finds the crown, and then our rabble takes it upon themselves to begin telling the tale of Henry (or Hal, or Harry, or whatever Shakespeare felt like calling him that minute…played by a splendidly wigged Katie Ryerson) and his youthful collaboration with fiction’s greatest rogue, Falstaff (Lundvall, reprising his role from MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, now with about 200 lbs of extra fat suit for good measure).  The other players take turns filling out the sprawling cast of characters that make up this tale, culled from several of Billy Shakes’ historical plays, from Richard II to Henry V.  Telling this story is no mean feat, so it isn’t surprising that Margo is what, the first person since Orson Welles to attempt it?

Okay, maybe not, but as long as I’m on the subject RELEASE THIS ON  DVD ALREADY!!!

Okay, maybe not, but as long as I’m on the subject  RELEASE THIS ON DVD ALREADY!!!

The punk conceit works like a fucking charm in this, the sprawling tale of Henry’s path from rebellious layabout to monarch.  Falstaff, naturally, is far more constant that wee Hal, and remains a cowardly good-for-nothing right to the end, and we love him for it.  The moments of incredible storytelling in this show are too numerous to describe, and it coalesces into a whole that is one of the most satisfying pieces of Shakespeare you’ll ever be lucky enough to see.  Geoff McBride’s King Henry IV is absolutely out-fucking-standing, and I almost stood up and applauded after one of his final speeches.  Simon Bradshaw continues to amaze as one of the most versatile actors around, and getting some of the biggest laughs in the show as a lisping clergyman.  Melanie Karin Brown makes for a tremendously fun Scottish King AND courtesan both, while John Doucet scores some tough guy points as Hal’s nemesis, the brash prince Henry Percy.  Casting Katie Ryerson as Prince Hal was a bit of genius indeed, and she makes a lean and unpredictable heir apparent, playing marvellously against the wunnerful Matthew John Lundvall, an even better Falstaff here than in WINDSOR.  The childish joy of the character, all the disappointment and the heartbreak awaiting…it’s all there, and it’s all good.

Lundvall and Ryerson as Falstaff and Hal, courtesy of Justin van Leeuwen.

Lundvall and Ryerson as Falstaff and Hal, courtesy of Justin van Leeuwen.

Major truckloads of love to Vanesa Imeson, who handled the filthy/gorgeous costumes and set for this one, as well as Jess Preece for some clearly supernatural work assembling those killer props.  This is a darker direction for the Fools (and indoor to boot), and I’m so very glad they went there.  My only wish for this production is that it could have actually been a little MORE punk…I kept waiting for some of the characters to strut onstage sporting a Sid Vicious or Joey Ramone accent, but that might just be my roots showing.  At any rate, go see this show or you’re dumb as a sack of hammers, is what I’m saying.  It plays the rest of this week at the Gladstone , then hits Shenkman and Centrepointe for a week apiece. Get going, or don’t show your face around here again, get me?  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

Gladstone 2013/2014 – Launched!

In Theatre on May 27, 2013 at 8:38 am

Wow, the blog has been sleepy these days.  And it’s certainly not from lack of theatre…in the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen the amazing WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT by Nassim Soleimanpur three times (with actors Margo MacDonald, Kate Smith and Richard Gelinas), but I’d decided early on not to publicly review it, as it rather defies traditional review.  Not that my professional counterparts didn’t give it a go, but that’s just my personal call.  And if you missed it, you missed OUT.  Huge thanks to AL Connors and a Company of Fools for bringing this magical masterpiece to Ottawa.

But I gotta justify this paid domain name SOMEhow, so what else is there to talk about..?  Why, the newly announced 2013/2014 season at the Gladstone Theatre, natcherly!  The multifaceted gang that comprises the Gladstone collective have provided a pretty wide and varied mixed bag of shows for the new season, with 8 ‘main’ shows, and no fewer than 4 ‘extra’ shows, and it doesn’t stop there.  More theatre is good theatre, I always say, so let’s take a look at wat they’ve got in store from us!

PRIVATE LIVES by Noel Coward, September 20 to October 12.  From Plosive Productions and director Craig Walker.  Calling it ‘the second wittiest play in the English Language’ (after PEER GYNT, obviously), Plosive gets the new season underway with Boss Coward’s comedy of the manners.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CASE OF THE HANSOM CAB KILLER by Chris Bange, October 16-26.  From Black Sheep Theatre and director Dave Dawson.  A Fringe hit for Bange (last seen in Ottawa at 2012’s Fringe with THE FAT GUY SHOW), I’m very excited to catch this one.  And who doesn’t love Sherlock Holmes these days?

ETHAN CLAYMORE by Norm Foster, December 6-22.  From Same Day Theatre. Same Day returns after a great debut at the Gladstone with IN THE NEXT ROOM, with a slice of Foster for the Christmas Season.

DETROIT by Lisa D’Amour, January 17-February 1.  From Plosive Productions and director Chris Ralph.  A Canadian premiere of the Obie-award winning new play about economic uncertainty in urban America.  Sounds mighty cool.

AGE OF AROUSAL by Linda Griffiths, February 7-22.  From Bear and Company.  Sexiness 80’s style (1880’s, that is) from the prolific Linda Griffiths, as we go undercover at a school for secretaries.  Here’s hoping we don’t have an all-male cast for THIS one.


UNDERBELLY by Jayson McDonald, February 26-March 8.  From Black Sheep Theatre and director Jeff Culbert.  Jayson Mac’s stunning one-manner returns from last year’s Black Box Series, and if you were dumb enough to miss it then, here’s your chance to smarten up!  A pretty incredible theatrical achievement.

MY BRILLIANT DIVORCE by Geraldine Aron, April 25-Ma 16.  From SevenThirty Productions and director John P.Kelly.  Phew, I was starting to WONDER when John P was gonna show up on this list!  And a one-woman show to boot?  Be still my heart!

“ART” by Yasmina Reza, May 23-June 8.   From Same Day Theatre.  Rounding out the main season, Same Day is back with a little something from GOD OF CARNAGE authour Reza about the nature of art, friendship, and all that jazz.

…But wait, there’s MORE!

THE WAR OF THE WORLDS by HG Wells, adapted by Orson Welles, October 30-November 2.  From Plosive Productions and director Teri Loretto-Valentik.  The radio play returns, but takes a sharp turn to HalloweenTown, which delights me to pieces.  The classic collision of Welles and Wells gets brought to the stage and I canna wait.

HAL AND FALSTAFF by William Shakespeare, adapted by Margo MacDonald, September 3-7. From A Company of Fools and director Margo MacDonald.  The follow up to the Fools’ Torchlight Shakespeare Summer show, this mashup of all the best Henry and Falstaff bits by Margo Mac comes indoors for what is sure to be an unmissable run.

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, April 3-5.  From Vanity Project Productions.  An amazing underground musical sensation comes to the Gladstone, courtesy of the increasingly multitalented Smooth Tim Oberholzer.  Ottawa, I want to see you PACK THESE HOUSES.

MUCH ADO ABOUT FECKIN’ PIRATES! By Richard Gelinas and Margo MacDonald, March 13-29.  From Parry Riposte Productions.  Gelinas and Margo as wacky pirates, with AL Connors thrown in the mix?  There is no lose here.

And did you still want more?  Because the Phoenix Players are back again with a pair for their new season, including Shiri Hendryx’ THE LAST OF JANE AUSTEN (November 7-16) and THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK by F.Goodrich and A.Hackett (April 10-18).  Comedy and Tragedy, both masks get covered. So take your pick or catch’em both!

A pretty exhaustive and impressive lineup…tho I’ll admit it’s a lot of the ‘extra’ programming that excites me the most.  Mind you, DETROIT sounds ultracool, and I’m always thrilled to see Jayson McDonald and Chris Bange back (but will people pay full Gladstone prices for a Fringe show, awesome as they are..?).  Nevertheless, I’ll be there for every damn show you’d better believe, and am once again glad to see the Gladstone thriving and surviving (and more collective than ever)!  Catch you next season, gang, it should be a sweet ride.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

PS Don’t forget the Gladstone’s ONE NIGHT ONLY SERIES, going on every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night between June 20 and August 24!  Full show listing now available HERE! Make sure not to miss my man Jonah Allingham and SUMMER OF ‘34, plus so much more goodness that deserves another post all on it’s own!  Hmmmm…

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

Taking Care of Mister McGee

In Uncategorized on November 3, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I took a night off last night.  I know, I know what you’re thinking!  “But dear Visitor,” you say, “…if you’re not spending your time seeing or reviewing a bit of theatre, aren’t you essentially worthless?  Really?”

Well, that may be true, imaginary (and kinda mean…ouch) reader, but even I need some rest now and then, and Winston the Cat needs snuggle time.  We stayed in, ignored the rest of the world and watched Errol Flynn and Olivia deHavilland in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD.  It was pretty sweet.

The downside being, I’m way behind now with this review!  And I’m off to the next show in an hour and a half!  No worries, eating is for the weak, everyone knows that. All this lad needs to keep himself going it some quality live theatre, and the double-helping I got a few days back should be enough to tide me over til Xmas.  And by double, I mean I literally saw this show two times and two days in a row (one was my volunteer shift at the Great Canadian Theatre Company, for the preview showing), and then back again for opening night.  And I can very honestly say not one moment of Marie Jones’ FLY ME TO THE MOON got stale on second viewing.  I’m pretty sure I’d have no problem with a third…which is good, since I have another shift booked on the 18th.

Jones’ play, a Canadian Premiere, is the second show of hers to be seen in Ottawa in just a few months.  Her STONES IN HIS POCKETS just wrapped up to deserved acclaim at the Gladstone, directed by 730 Productions founder and proud Irishman John P.Kelly.  And John was wisely tapped to make his GCTC debut with MOON, making for a rather unique and highly entertaining extended double-bill.   Like STONES, this show featured two actors, portraying the down on their luck working class Irish poor that Marie Jones seems so deucedly familiar with.  Here we meet Frances and Loretta, played by the dead brilliant Mary Ellis and Margo MacDonald, a pair of hard-working homecare workers looking after 84-year old Davy McGee for a pittance.  Each woman is scraping by day to day, trying to feed their families, dreaming of a Barcelona vacation that may as well be a trip to, well, the Moon.  But then old Davy falls down and dies in the toilet, and a grim opportunity (involving his last uncashed pension check, and a winning race bet) presents itself.  A series of events, each more ridiculous and convoluted than the last ensues, as the girls try to beat the odds, stave off the police, and collect…if not a fortune, at least enough for a nice outfit (which to them IS a fortune).

The play, taking place on a fabulous Sarah Waghorn set,  is a wonderful mix of the madcap and the macabre, carried by Jones’ sharp script and two endearing and memorable performances.  Mary Ellis’ Frances is a weary and sharp-tongued would-be schemer, bitter at a world that’s been trying to beat her down as long as she can remember. She’s filled with fire, tho, and drives a lot of the action along with gusto, all the while bragging about her ‘enterprising’ son Jason, hocking black market dvd’s.  And Margo Mac’s adorably blonde Loretta is one of my fav’rit characters on stage this year, daffy and earnest and ever-so fretfully neurotic.  Her constant asides about ‘our Brian’ this and ‘our Curtis’ that, her beloved but ever demanding clan waiting for her at home, are positive joys.  These are probably the last two people you’d want to plan a caper with, and definitely two of the best people to watch doing exactly that.  The show is heartwarming, hilarious and touching, often within moments of each other.  And perhaps most importantly, it’s always honest.  GCTC’s got a winner with this one, and I couldn’t think of a better show to catch back to back.  All the Frank Sinatra didn’t hurt, neither.  Take it away, Mister Chairman!

Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

Her Majesty King Henry the Fifth

In Company of Fools, Theatre on July 18, 2012 at 2:12 am

July in Ottawa throws me off, it really does.  Fringe is over, and all the regular theatre seasons are ALSO being over, and it seems like it’s just the park shows left (it’s totally not, but it just SEEMS like that for a while).  So my instinct is to kind of stretch them out a little, make them last…or at least, that’s my excuse for always being so damned late in reviewing the park shows.  I’m ALL about the excuses.

But when Queen Margo Mac herself calls you out and asks you when you’re coming to see her show, it’s time to put the excuses on the shelf,  check the schedule, and get your butt to the park for some torchlight Shakespeare!  Those merry pranksters A Company of Fools are back touring parks in the Ottawa area, and this year they’ve set their sights upon HENRY V, under the direction of good guy Geoff McBride.  Along with Margo MacDonald, the cast includes Virginia West, Kelly Rigole, Simon Bradshaw and Katie Ryerson.  And if that sounds like an awful lot of girl names for a Shakespeare play, you’re right…the Fools have turned the tables and have the gals playing nearly all the roles in this adaptation.  And If you know anything about anything, you were as excited as I was to hear that Margo MacDonald was going to be playing Henry the Fifth.


The other players all tackle multiple roles throughout this, easily one of the most entertaining times at the theatre (outside or not) you’ll have this year.  I’d never caught Virginia West onstage before, but she made great hay of roles like loyal Fluellen, and decrepit old Erpingham.   Kelly Rigole, always a treat, leapt and scowled with gusto as ultraviolent Pistol, and crusty miner MacMorris.  Katie Ryerson is painfully funny as the treacherous Dauphin, boasting of her horse and armour with almost superhuman preening.  And Simon Bradshaw serves as our chorus/narrator, as well a very memorable French herald and , even more memorably, the princess Katherine.  The ‘seduction’ scene towards the end of Henry V is one of my fav’rit Shakespeare scenes, mostly because it’s SO awkward, halting, and human.  And trust me, folks…you have NOT seen this scene until you’ve seen it between Margo Mac and Simon Bradshaw in drag.

The story itself is one of war, and valour, and all that jazz…King Henry is out to nab himself some France, and that’s all there is to it.  There’re some great speeches in HV, and Margo does them bloody proud (they’re also the only places I was worried that the Fools might start losing the little ones in the audience, but even they seemed rapt with attention…then again, who can resist the St.Crispin’s day speech??).  Director McBride and the gang makes use of every trick in the book to bring their tale to vigorously engaging life, including but not limited to a seemingly magic trunk (courtesy of John Doucet), puppets, a few action figures, and all the tennis balls you could ever hope for in live theatre.  It was a pretty damn wonderful time out in the park, and the more I think about it, the more I realize I’m pretty much gonna have to go again.  And the next time, I’m bringing my nieces.  No matter who you have to bring, you should check it out too.  It plays at parks all over well into August, so put your excuses on the shelf with mine, okay?   Get your Fool on already.  Peace, love and soul, Ottawa,

The Visitor

Fooling Around with Shakespeare

In Company of Fools, Theatre on May 2, 2012 at 2:27 pm

May is getting off to a right lucky start, says I.  The weather’s fine, my silly blog is as busy as ever and starting to grow (after a successful guest-review from Adorkable ™ Nadine Thornhill, I’ve already gotten a second special agent booked for another review later in the week, AND I’ll be taking a road trip to Montreal to review a show there later this month!), and I just picked up the new #1 issue of X-O MANOWAR at the Comic Book Shoppe!

Like a proper geek, I even got the variant cover edition. Squee!

But what else is going right for the merry month of May?  Well, we privileged folk in Ottawa are getting our dose of A Company of Fools extra-early this year!  Normally, the Fools (Ottawa’s longest-running professional Shakespeare company, specializing in finding the lighter side of Billy Shakes) wait until the Summer to start a touring show…and this summer will be no different, when they hit parks across the region starting July 2nd with their girl-happy rendition of HENRY V!  But this year, the Fools decided to try their luck with a special INDOOR run of their brand of theatrical tomfoolery, resulting in this two-week tour of SHAKESPEARE’S DEAD, starring the triple-threat team of AL Connors, Scott Florence and Margo MacDonald.

The story, a bit of silliness involving a Shakespearean troupe who have lost their semi-beloved leader, only to have one of their number possessed by the spirit of Wm. Shakespeare himself, is only there to help link the various gags and skits together.  Really, this show is a collection of classic Fools bits (many seen recently at Algonquin Theatre in their AL Connors-directed production of SHAKESPEARE’S INTERACTIVE CIRCUS), including one or two I hadn’t caught before.  But the beautiful thing about the Fools is that they’re kind of like an issue of GROO THE WANDERER…it doesn’t really matter if the jokes are ones you’ve seen before, just in a different order…they’re STILL funny, because  the performers are good enough to always keep’em fresh.  And, having never seen Margo Mac in her ‘Doll’ character before, that was a particular joy…and she looks LOVELY in those glasses, thank you very much.

The Fools are masters at what they do, and what they do is mine Shakespeare for every laugh and chuckle you never thought was hiding there before.  They work hard, play hard, sing, dance, and your kids WILL love it.  How often do you go to a theatrical performance where the actors actually ENCOURAGE you to hurl projectiles towards the stage?  It’s  a joyous and engaging time…AL is as perfect a straight man as ever, Scott can (and does) ham it up with the best of them, and Margo will whet your appetite but good for her turn in the lead for the summer tour (yes, SHE plays Henry the Fifth…start counting the days NOW, folks).   The show moves from location to location…here’s the remaining schedule.  All shows start at 7:30, pay-what-you-can:

Wednesday May 2 – St.Pauls University, 223 Main st., Ottawa East

Thursday May 3 –Glebe Community Centre, 175 Third Ave, Glebe

Friday May 4 –Memorial Hall, Dufferin at Mackay, New Edinburgh

Monday May 7 –Main Library, 120 Metcalfe st., Downtown

Tuesday May 8 – Royal Canadian Legion #136, 5550 Anne St., Manotick

Wednesday May 9 – Community Centre, 1448 Meadow Dr., Greely

Thursday May 10 – Nepean Creative Arts  Centre, 35 Stafford Rd., Bells Corners

Friday May11 – Shenkman Centre, 245 Centrum Blvd., Orleans

Find one near you!  And learn the dance moves if you really want to join in on the fun (more info on their website).  Peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)