Saturday, December 7, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) Ethan Claymore

Yuletide Brotherly Love
by Jim Murchison

As I have said my theatrical tastes are very wide, so after seeing a clever, intriguing fantasy journey of an academic falling into a Shakespearian world at Great Canadian Theatre Company, I am now ready for the more traditional holiday fare.

Director John P. Kelly has finally got to apply his light, deft touch to a Canadian play. As the promotion for the play says, Norm Foster has grabbed a little bit of this and a little bit of that from a plethora of Christmas stories. Foster tells a Christmas tale about a man that while he has not lost the will to live, is really just going through the motions. At first I was concerned that the play might not find its own way with so many of the elements of the story inspired by other classics. I enjoyed the first act but was really hooked by the second.

A lot of the success of the play is due to the wonderful cast. Tim Oberholzer plays Ethan as a strong silent type. He has a certain amount of shyness, but mostly he just wants to live in a protective cocoon  since his wife died. It takes a  good natured meddlesome neighbour Douglas played with a gruff country boy directness by Paul Rainville to nudge him out of his hermit existence. It's more of a shove than a nudge actually. 

Even with that persistent shoving, the ghost of Ethan's brother Martin has to pull hard from the other end to get him completely out of his shell and some sex appeal from a new school teacher keeps him from crawling back in.

David Frisch plays brother Martin with quite a bit of swagger for a dead man; but then again he was the older brother with all the hockey talent and hockey talent in Canada automatically improves your status. It turns out that being dead is a bit of a  drag but can be a learning experience. 

We also get to see Nicholas Hutchison and Draeven McGowan play young Ethan and young Martin in flashbacks. It's a good device that helps us understand the dynamics of their grown up counterparts.

Of course the final piece of the mosaic to pull one out of the doldrums is a love interest and the new school teacher Teresa Pike fits that bill perfectly. Sarah Finn plays Teresa with a mixture of timidity and aggressiveness that is thoroughly captivating. The character's awkward moments have a naturalness that makes you root for her and want to give Ethan a smack in the head at the same time. She charms the audience in the same stumbling way she charms Ethan. 

The set is a no nonsense, no frills egg farmers house designed by Roy Hanson-Robitschek that captures the sense of rural lifestyle quite nicely. David Magladry sets the mood very well, with lighting that varies from warm and cozy to ghostly and ethereal.

The play should have pretty wide appeal and as enthusiastic and appreciative as the house was, I thought it deserved a bigger audience. It would be nice if Same Day Theatre could get some sold out houses during the run. It was an enjoyable night out that should have broad appeal. It is definitely family friendly fare suitable for kids from one to ninety-two. 

Run Time: approximately 120 minutes with one intermission

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