Friday, February 3, 2012

Review: (Ottawa) Creation

Christian Murray, Joey Tremblay (Photo credit: Andrée Lanthier)

Around Creation
Peter Hinton's last season at NAC continues but ho-hum
by Jim Murchison
I was excited to be going to the NAC again. We had to enter the theatre differently first of all, so I knew that something different had been done with the set up. Sure enough we walked by a thin backstage area and I saw drums and props behind a black curtain. It was theatre in the round which offers special challenges and treats for staging.
The studio is being used the way it was designed to be used.  
The set for Creation is wonderful. Karyn McCullum made basically a large elevated circle with a hole in it. It suggests that life is a bit of a circus and if you get too close to the edges you may drop off ... too close to the centre you may get sucked in. A very tall ladder implies an added element of danger. The studio is being used the way it was designed to be used. The studio does not have permanent risers or seats so the only limit on how it is used should be set by the fire marshal. Creatively there are no boundaries. It can work traditionally or the audience can be wrapped around the actors.
Being surrounded by the audience gives the actors no place to hide, so why not have the cast there when we enter the theatre, walking around, enjoying the ambiance with us. These are all things I love to experience in the theatre and I am a huge fan of the talents of this company… So why do I feel so ho-hum about the play? 
I was expecting a profound, hilarious musical.
I guess it’s because it is not a great play. Peter Anderson was supposed to show us a vision of the Old Testament from a contemporary, political, multicultural perspective. I was expecting a profound, hilarious musical. Instead it's a so-so play that had some moments. Not as grand as Jesus Christ Superstar,  as whimsical as Godspell, and not as irreverent as Life of Brian.
It starts strongly enough with Mary-Colin Chisholm as God and Greg Kramer as Lucifer in a classic battle wonderfully lit by David McIlmoyl - as we watch Lucifer being dragged into the bowels of hell. Jamie Mac and Rachelle Casseus are a properly tempted Adam and Eve. The entire cast works well together as a type of Greek chorus playing either townspeople or angels.
I could go on because there are many good performances. I was impressed with Kris Joseph as Cain and I thought Tamara Podemski was particularly strong, especially as Naomi. Joey Tremblay was strong again as an Angel and he was a perfect Ass. I’ve never said that before and meant it as a compliment but that was the name of the character.
But the sum does not equal the parts. In the end the production is a stew that has been left on the stove too long. Lots of great ingredients that have gone a little mushy. The focus is diminished because there are too many stories and no consistent attack. I am not sure if Peter Hinton could have saved it without rewrites. 
I remain a huge fan of the company and its commitment to highlighting the country’s greatest talent, but in a season that has been outstanding, I have come to expect more.

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