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Posts Tagged ‘rachel eugster’

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 Comedy of Bears

In Theatre on July 9, 2013 at 4:01 pm

July means two things in Ottawa…intermittent rain, and Shakespeare in the Park!  Okay, and Bluesfest, but what am I, a dirty hippie?  Nay, I am in dire need of some proper cultural refinement this summer, and my first bit of theatre in the great outdoors was just the ticket.  I had a plan for my post-drudgery evening, but an emergency trip back to my place across town necessitated a change of scheduling.  So instead of catching the Company of Fools show in the Glebe (soon guys, soon!), it was off to Iona Park in Westboro to check out what relative newcomers Bear and Company had cooked up for their out-of-doors extravaganza.

The Bear gang has picked THE COMEDY OF ERRORS for the summertime fun, featuring many faces familiar to their fans, and directed by company member Anna Lewis.  Transplanting Zombie Bill’s farcical classic quite successfully into an old west setting, the action is set in the round, and we lucked out with great weather for the show.  We begin as the town Mayor (Will Somers) is bringing in a defeated looking old fella named Egeon (Tim Oberholzer, in one of several splendid characters guises) who has been sentenced to death for debt, or being a foreigner or something.  At any rate, he unfolds his tale of woe to the Mayor, explaining how he and his wife had just become parents to identical twins 33 years ago, and then immediately adopted ANOTHER pair of identical twins (don’t ask), only to lose track of one another in a shipwreck.  Egeon and his split set of twins, Antipholus (Michelle LeBlanc) and Dromio (David Benedict Brown) are now scouring the west looking for their other relations.  Unbeknownst to them, Shakespeare stacked the coincidence deck by having the other Antipholus (Michelle LeBlanc again) and other Dromio (David Whiteley) living comfortably in the very town they now all found themselves in.

Naturally, some identity-confused merriment ensues, as the visiting Antipholus runs afoul of the other Dromio, and gets unexpectedly wooed by his brother’s wife (Alexis Scott), even if he only has eyes for her sister (Rachel Eugster).  Along the way there’s some very hummable singing courtesy of Bear and Co’s ace musical director Rachel Eugster, lots of rope swinging and knock-down brawling, and even a proper Shakespearean farting contest (I mentioned the cultural refinement, right?). This is a terribly fun piece of theatre in the great outdoors, with as good an ensemble cast as you would ever need.  David Benedict Brown and David Whiteley as the twin Dromios are comic gold, ever beaten down and bemoaning their fates.  Alexis Scott got some spontaneous applause from the audience on my night while delivering one of Adriana’s more impassioned speeches towards the visiting Antipholus, and for my money she earned it…Rachel Eugster likewise made a vivacious Luciana. Will Somers, Anna Lewis and Leslie Cserepy (trading off the odd show with Brie Barker) round out the killer cast, pitching in as various nitwit sheriffs, washing women and uppity nuns.  But the bulk of the show rests on Michelle LeBlanc’s capable shoulders, and she delivers like nobody’s business, managing to convincingly play two versions of Antipholus (complete with ever-so-slightly different country accents and swagger) and deliver the requisite mountain of dialogue, baffling amount of exits and re-entrances, plus the occasional rope trick, and lookin’ good doing it.  Once again, Miz LeBlanc reminds us why she’s one of the best in Ottawa.

Just don't get her mad.

Just don’t get her mad.

As a big CALAMITY JANE fan, I was all looking forward to this western spin on Billy Shakes, and the gang did not disappoint. Bear and Company’s take on the Shakespeare in the Park gig is proving to be a very fun one, and I’d advise you to check their website for when their show moseys your way…personally, I have every intention of returning with my nieces when they hit Kanata and I’d love to see ya there.  Peace, love and soul, y’all,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

The Taming of the Dude

In Theatre on April 24, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Wow, am I ever falling behind.  I saw this last show, like, YEARS ago (okay, Friday) and I’m only just now getting around to writing about it.  Sorry, gang…I think I’m feeling a little blogged out lately.  Either that or I’m a lazy little shit, but let’s try and think positive, hey?

At any rate, last Friday I caught the premiere of Bear and Company’s very first Gladstone Theatre production, Billy Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, just in time for his birthday.  Now, Bear and Co. (and show director Eleanor Crowder) know them some Shakespeare, so I was fairly sure I was in for a good time with this’un.  And I’d never even seen SHREW before, so it was a bit of a Shakespeare newbie for me, always fun.  The action got started right out in the lobby, as the all-male cast (yes, folks, men in drag for this production…a cheap gag, admittedly, but it still works) rattled off a tune or two on the Gladstone Piano, and maybe caused a little trouble among the crowd.  This was a nice touch, and not entirely unexpected…Crowder seems to enjoy treating the stage as more of a suggestion than anything else, and once the show got underway there was still plenty of action in the aisles and wings to enjoy.

The story centers around Baptista (Brie Barker), an English businessman seeking to marry off his two lovely daughters.  There’s a catch, though…he won’t allow his younger, sweet’n’sexy daughter Bianca (Chris Bedford) get hitched until his eldest Kate (Nicholas Amott), a willful, harsh-tongued gal who strikes fear into the hearts of men, finds her match first.  This is troubling news for would be suitors Gremio and Hortensio (Jim Murchison and Guy Buller), as well as posh Lucentio and his manservant Tranio (Scott Humphreys and Tim Oberholzer).  That is, until even more willful gold-digger Petruchio (Company of Fools’ Scott Florence) arrives, determined to make Kate his whatever it takes.  A few wacky misadventures ensue (including Lucentio and Tranio switching identities for reasons I can no longer really recall), plenty of rousing musical segues courtesy of Bear’s musical director Rachel Eugster, and a stage full of entertaining performances.  Always a delight to see my old acting Coach Brie Barker in a show, and he was terrific and likeable as patriarch Baptista (and a smaller role as dimwitted manservant Curtis).  Nick Amott made a very outstanding Kate indeed, more than keeping his own in several notable clashes with Scott Florence’s Petruchio.  Everyone made a good show of it, and helped this to be a hugely fun and enjoyable production.

Now, as for the PLAY…holy shit.  As I said, I’d never seen SHREW before, and had always just sort of assumed there would be some kind of hilarious feminist come-uppance at the finale.  But no, it would appear this script got written shortly after Billy Shakes had the worst break-up of his life, because this play hates women in a way you will likely (hopefully) never be able to understand.  It’s a bit of a mystery to me why we’re still celebrating it the way we do, and I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that this is the show Bear and Co. decided to go with the all-male cast on.  I’ll leave that to wiser heads than mine to figure out, and just reiterate that this is a terrifically fun and well-done production (of an astoundingly misogynistic play).  And there ARE an abundance of laughs in this one, folks, and maybe that’s the best thing to do with a tale like SHREW…laugh at it.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)