Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In a Word... Brendan Healy on Pig

(photo of Brendan Healy via Buddies in Bad Times website)

by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Originally from Montreal, Brendan Healy began his career as an actor, appearing most-notably in Peter Hinton’s production of Greg MacArthur’s Girls! Girls! Girls!, presented at the 2001 Festival TransAmériques. It was at that festival that Mr. Healy met Richard Maxwell, whose company, the New York City Players, is considered to be one of the most influential alternative theatre companies currently operating in Manhattan. That meeting led Mr. Healy to New York where he interned under Mr. Maxwell and where he decided to dedicate himself exclusively to directing. Since relocating to Toronto over a decade ago, Brendan has established himself as a central figure in the city’s theatre scene and his work has been presented across the country. Notable productions include: Jean Genet’s The Maids, Nina Arsenault’s The Silicone Diaries, Sarah Kane’s Blasted, Martin Crimp’s Fewer Emergencies and Wallace Shawn’s A Thought in Three Parts. He is a graduate of the National Theatre School’s Directing Program and he has trained extensively with one of the pioneers of the American avant-garde Anne Bogart and the SITI Company. His productions have garnered multiple Dora Mavor Moore Awards and he is a recipient of the Ken McDougall and the Pauline McGibbon awards for directing. Mr. Healy was the associate artist at Crow’s Theatre before becoming the Artistic Director of Buddies in Bad Times and is a regular instructor at the National Theatre School of Canada.

CHARPO:  You're just coming off directing Entertaining Mr. Sloane at Soulpepper [read our review] and are jumping into directing Pig. Aside from the fact that you don't seem to have a summer to yourself, how does the energy transfer - both physical and intellectual?

HEALY: The energy just builds upon itself. I am feeling very inspired by everything that I am doing and I am fortunate to be able to work on such amazing works. My work feeds me intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and physically. I always seem to have energy. The real struggle in my life is finding the time to do everything that I want and to make space for a personal life. I suspect that most people struggle with this.

Video of the Week, July 31, 2013

The trailer for the upcoming film version of Phone Whore, a wondrous play by our wondrous columnist Cameryn Moore. Cameryn is now in Edinburgh with the piece and is about to embark on a tour of Great Britain.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

After Dark, July 30, 2013

CharPo, Print and The Threat of the New
So where do we go?
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Some of this is info you need, some of it is bitching and moaning. You are warned...

CharPo-Canada is sliding into its second anniversary in September but before we launched officially we test-drove for two months to see if such a project had legs - would it be as popular as our Montreal site? During the test period it passed that test and since we became a unique site in January traffic has exploded - going up 500% since then.

I'm proud of that and the site, proud of the dozens of collaborators, delighted that CharPo is an integral part of the national discussion on theatre. What it has shown us is that the bet national editor-in-chief Estelle Rosen and I made at the project's beginning - that theatre (pitifully covered in newspapers - a situation getting worse) needed more coverage.

What we didn't bet on was that the explosive growth in our readership would be reflected in an explosive growth in work. Despite having magnificent editors bearing huge burdens in three other cities, it is not unusual for Estelle and I to put in 40-60 hours a week each; maintaining the site, frequenting our Twitter and Facebook feeds, reading press kits and trying to stay up on theatre news. I can do this because I am on a disability allowance. The project, however, has also cost money. Not much, but enough to make things difficult.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Question... Rob Gee of Fruitcake: Ten Commandments From the Psych Ward (Fringe: Calgary)

comedy, rhymes, stories and moving bits
by Estelle Rosen

Rob Gee qualified as a psychiatric nurse in 1994 and worked for 11 years in psychiatric units around the UK and Australia. Specializing in acute psychiatry, he has also worked in child and adolescent units, drug and alcohol services, therapeutic communities, eating disorder and early psychosis intervention services, and psychiatric intensive care units. Now a full-time stand up poet, Rob has toured the UK, Europe, Australia and North America, won numerous poetry slams, and regularly appears on BBC Radio. Rob's is the only performance ever to have instigated a fight at the UK's Leamington Spa Peace Festival.

CHARPO: You're described in the Calgary Fringe press info as being in the genres of storytelling, poet, performance, and comedy. That covers quite a range! Your bio also includes reformed psychiatric nurse. Was that the motivation for this play with the intriguing title Fruitcake: Ten Commandments from the Psych Ward?

GEE: It was! I was a psychiatric nurse for 11 years - I was keen to write Fruitcake because the psych nurses' viewpoint rarely gets articulated and we're the only profession that sees our patients 24 hours a day. I left nursing several years ago and after a few years' distance, all the psychiatry-fuelled opinions, theories, rants and one-liners in my head had finally settled into something manageable and surprisingly jolly. Also, I fell in love with the idea of representing God as an elderly Rastafarian lady, and then I had no choice but to make it happen.

Openings We're Tracking This Week, July 29 - August 4, 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Review: (Shaw) Arcadia

Kate Besworth and Gray Powell (photo by David Cooper)

Chaos theory, Newtonian physics, and Lord Byron
Tom Stoppard’s play gifts us with knowledge and humour
by Dave Ross

Arcadia opened last night at the Studio Theatre at the Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake with great expectations. Sitting in my seat before the show, the audience was chatting amongst themselves about Tom Stoppard’s play, and about what they were expecting. No one was disappointed – Arcadia is a barn-burner. 

I will not single out any performers here, as the entire cast has given so much to each character. Set in 1809-1812 and the present day, in the same location in both timelines, it could be very easy for characters (particularly in the earlier time frame) to become poncey caricatures, but the performers have ensured this does not happen. These dual time frames are integrated so tightly, but kept distinct, with only one actor having a role in both periods, and even then, it is only briefly. This prevents any overlap between performances, and was a wise decision on Stoppard’s part.

Review: (Shaw) Lady Windermere's Fan

Marla McLean (photo by Emily Cooper)

Oscar Wilde and Katy Perry lie in the gutter...
But look up at the stars
by Dave Ross

Lady Windermere’s Fan was written by Oscar Wilde, and followed the publication of A Picture of Dorian Grey. It is a biting commentary on the good and bad in both men and women, and fittingly, this production at the Shaw Festival contains both the good and the bad. 

First, the good – the performances in this show are, unsurprisingly, excellent. Marla McLean as Lady Windermere does wonderfully portraying a tortured, tried young society woman. Guy Bannerman has a small role as Parker, the Windermeres’ butler, and is stodgy and nosey to the delight of the audience (and annoyance of the Windermeres). Kyle Blair’s Mr. Cecil Graham is perfectly, irritatingly foppish. Indeed, the cast have all mastered the art of tittering, gossipy society folk. Worth special mention is Tara Rosling as Mrs Erlynne. Her performance is refined, and in places deliciously executed. Her stage presence is undeniable. 

Review: (Ottawa) Arms and the Man

Class and Cowardice Revealed
by Jim Murchison 

On this evening the weather network was reporting that we might end up seeing as much Tempest as Arms and the Man, but as luck would have it, though there was some momentary spitting I went home completely dry, unlike those rainless days of oppressive humidity that leave you coated in a layer of wet air and your own sweat.

This production combines the use of Commedia dell'arte and ballet with naturalism. Director Andy Massingham understands physical comedy extremely well, so the physicality of the production executed by this balanced cast reinforces Shaw's themes of class, war, diplomacy and courtship.

Phillipa Leslie who plays Raina is extensively trained in ballet. She uses moves that would provoke gasps and sighs of pleasure in a pas de deux, that in this play expose convention and artifice of feigned sincerity to comic effect. There is a moment when Raina's facade is exposed and she speaks and moves absolutely naturally that is profoundly effective.

Sunday Feature: Interview - Anton Golikov on Lunduntown

Raising the Stakes on Montreal Theatre
by David Sklar  

Anton Golikov is from Vladikavkaz, Russia.  In 2012, he founded Raise The Stakes Theatre Company, and has gone on to perform in and design the production of True West at Theatre Ste-Catherine (TSC). Anton made his directing debut in August 2012 with Salt Water Moon by David French.  In March, he directed the company's latest project, Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer at Espace 4001. Anton has also acted on the Dome Stage in the roles of Antonio (Merchant of Venice), Colonel Vershinin (Three Sisters), and Clarence (Hay Fever). A regular performer at TSC's Sunday Night Improv, Anton is a proponent of improv as a life philosophy and is a regular performer with TSC's resident company, Le Nouveau International (Depflies, Grinders, Match Made in Hell.) This summer, he will be appearing in the epic tree-planting comedy Ogoki Nights, based on a trilogy by Alain Mercieca.

CHARPO:  What is Lunduntown about?

GOLIKOV: Lunduntown is a play about world citizens. It’s the Canadian experience in London, England, based on Alain Mercieca’s travels. The main story is about a man named Charlie Dibbles, an 'immigrant enabler' who shows people around, gives them jobs and helps them out in many ways: women, cars, money whatever they need.  Charlie’s been living in London for a long time and all of a sudden his nephew, Jordan, comes from Westmount, Montreal, to convince him to return home because Charlie’s mother is dying. The nephew is trying to change Charlie but he’s very set in his ways. 

There are loads of unique characters that cross paths such as an insecure brother who puts on a faux British accent and a psychopath that roams the night looking to kill Canadian tourists and cleanse the society of the bane of tourism.  We even have a live soccer match and a musical number.   

Sunday Feature: Sam Mullins' "Portrait of an Artist as a Bitter Man"

Portrait of an Artist as a Bitter Man
by Sam Mullins

Sam Mullens' Weaksauce continues its national tour, finishing up this weekend at the Winnipeg Fringe before moving on to Saskatoon. Despite the following being the most popular post the artist has ever put up on his website, we asked for permission to reprint it here. He was kind enough to allow us to. (Read our review of Weaksauce)
*  *  *  *  *
[ARTIST is flyering a line-up of Fringe-goers about to see another show.]
ARTIST – Hey ma’am.  May I tell you about my show?
WOMAN – Um.  I don’t know.  How many stars did you get?
ARTIST – How many stars?  Like in my reviews?
WOMAN – Yes.
ARTIST – Hmph.  Well I’m actually glad that you asked.  I’ve been touring this show for about a year, and by standing onstage delivering the same words in the same order with the same cadence, while wearing the same clothes, I have been fortunate enough to receive 5-star reviews, 4-star reviews, 3-star reviews, and even a 1-and-a-half-star review from a Christian radio station who claimed that I said “Um” too many times.  So, no matter what your star preference is, I think I have just what you’re looking for.
[Artist walks away without handing her a flyer.]

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Review: (Shaw Festival) The Light in the Piazza

l-r Juan Chioran and Jeff Irving (photo by Emily Cooper)

Florence arrives in Niagara on the Lake
and brings lovely voices with it.
by Dave Ross

Musicals are one of those strange art forms. When someone raises them in conversation, most minds leap to the ‘big’ musicals – Phantom of the Opera, CATS, Les Miserables, etc. From this stems a typical love/hate reaction, usually assuming that these musicals represent the only form of musical that exists. This is so far from the truth on many levels, and something that I too was reminded of when the lights came up on Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas’s The Light in the Piazza at the Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake. The musical is small, delicate, intimate, and emotionally exhausting. In a word – excellent.

The Light in the Piazza tells the story of Clara (Jacqueline Thair) and her mother Margaret (Patty Jamieson). They travel to Florence together, and Clara attracts the eye of Fabrizio (Jeff Irving), and the two become completely besotted. However, there is something about Clara that makes her different from other girls, and Margaret struggles with how to tell Fabrizio’s family. The tension between her conscience and Clara and Fabrizio’s love creates the story, leaving us to wonder if it is better to have loved and lost…

Stuart Munro's Letters From London, #2 - 9 To 5, Le Gateau Chocolat

In which 9 to 5: The Musical and Le Gateau Chocolat are discussed
by Stuart Munro

Hello again friends! It’s hard to believe that my two weeks of research work have come to a close! I’m speeding back to London (high-speed commuter rail! Bliss!) and thought I’d take the time to write another letter home. Last time, I wrote about how to properly move a story from screen to stage with Billy Elliot and Once. This week, a lesson in how not to do it, provided by the disaster that is 9 to 5: The Musical.

I saw 9 to 5 in its original (and very brief) Broadway run back in 2009, and I didn’t care for it. Yes it had some good performances from Stephanie J. Block and Megan Hilty, and yes it had an amazing set and some great choreography. But poor Allison Janney was constantly vocally overshadowed by her two co-stars (I mean, really, was that fair to her?) and the entire thing was hampered by a clunky book and a mostly forgettable score by Dolly Parton. But I thought to myself, hey, it’s making its way to the West End (I saw it out of town on tour). The show’s probably had a serious re-think, right?


creating a/broad, July 27, 2013

Things That I Travel With
by Cameryn Moore

These are the things that I travel with, lo, even to the Edinburgh Fringe. Because I have very specific needs, and have learned to identify them over three years of touring, I feel absolutely fine and in no way insecure about my need to pack these items…
  • Bundt cake pan. I will be making my famous monkey bread at least once in Edinburgh. The pan is one of those specialty cooking items that you cannot count on finding in a regular sort of rental.
  • My cowboy boots. Obviously. It’s even more obvious if you know that the previous owner of these boots, my friend Heather Macallister (she passed away in 2007) was all or mostly Scottish. These boots are going to Scotland.

Theatre For Thought, July 27, 2013

joel fishbane

A controversial sex show is “shocking” audiences at the Winnipeg Fringe according to a recent report from CBC. Hollywood Hen Pit is an improvisational show concerning the life of an aging Hollywood starlet. Performed by two nude actors (Doug Melnyk and Ian Mozdzen), the show features simulated oral sex and actual enemas, reportedly involving mayonnaise. If the comments page on CBC is to be believed, the really “shocking” part of Hollywood Hen Pit isn’t the content of the show; rather, it’s the idea that tax payer money may in some way be responsible for the show’s existence.

This has become a quintessentially Canadian argument – our arts system is primarily funded by the government through grants and taxpayers naturally begin to complain how their tax dollars are being used. The Department of Canadian Heritage is currently funding projects that “foster greater awareness and understanding among Canadians of the importance of the War of 1812 in our history” – ignoring those of us who think the War of 1812 has no part in our history. Meanwhile, back in 2011, a major controversy sprung up around Toronto’s SummerWork’s Festival when the Toronto Sun wrote a series of editorials criticizing the festival for including a play (Homegrown by Catherine Frid) that, in the Sun’s opinion, glorified terrorism.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Bunny Bunny: Gilda Radner: A Sort of Love Story

Gilda, in his eyes and words
Talented Kagan pulls off tribute to comic Gilda Radner
by Sarah Deshaies

[This review has been corrected - Ed]
Being 24 years old, I've accumulated what I know about Gilda Radner from YouTube clips, Wikipedia articles and walking by the now-defunct Gilda's Club in Shaughnessy Village. But even through these small scraps of evidence, Gilda's sense of humour and wacky sensibility shines through decades after the lanky performer lit up Saturday Night Live and New York City.

Review: (Winnipeg) Shelby Bond - People Pleaser (Fringe)

Growing Up and Moving On
by Edgar Governo

Shelby Bond is going through some changes.

This seems to be something of a transition show for Bond, with a structure in which he adopts three different personae that give some hints as to where he might be heading as a performer. The first is still the affable Bond of his more recent stand-up material, as seen in last year's The Poor Man's Guide to Being Rich (which I also reviewed on this site), offering some familiarity for longtime Fringe attendees. The second is a semi-comic professorial character who presents a slide show on the nature of obsequious co-dependency, while the third is a much more earnest inner-monologue version of himself who tells the story of his own such relationship with a past girlfriend.

Review: (Winnipeg) Dandyman (Fringe)

A Dandy and A Clown
by Edgar Governo

A good sign of a seasoned trick performer is that you can't tell the difference between actual mistakes and 'mistakes' designed either to make a trick look harder or to give off the air of someone just bumbling around.

A Fly on the Wall, July 26, 2013

To Be or Not To Be
by Jim Murchison 

A while back in a review of Carousel, I opined that perhaps it was time to retire this play. My reasoning was that it was largely filler anyway and more importantly it ceased to have value because of it’s stance on abusive behaviour. There were those that questioned how I could involve myself in The Taming of The Shrew if I found the abusive behaviour in Carousel so repugnant. In fact I felt that The Taming of The Shrew was much more ambiguous in its viewpoint and particularly Eleanor Crowder’s treatment was to highlight the elements of farce so that in the end you weren’t 100% sure if Kate - who is as strong a character as Petruchio - wasn’t just playing along at the expense of her father. The play may also be a parody and commentary on the societal norms of courtship and marriage at the time it was written. 

Shakespearean language has a lot of word play and double meaning, but Shakespeare often has all sorts of historical inaccuracies and unexplained diversions. Many of the most salient points and a great deal of its humour are made through well crafted ambiguity in the language. 

CharPo's Real Theatre! July 26, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: (Winnipeg) The Pit (Fringe)

Staring Into the Abyss
by Edgar Governo

Martin Dockery is a masterful storyteller when crafting a monologue, but this two-hander with Vanessa Quesnelle reveals that he might be better off staging shows on his own.

This isn't meant to detract from Quesnelle's talent on display here or her easygoing chemistry with Dockery, but their styles seem to come from two entirely different schools of acting, and the result is jarring. Although (counterintuitively) they play off each other well and have some good comedic moments, Dockery's raw manic energy was barely contained and threatened to overwhelm Quesnelle's more laidback and naturalistic charisma.

Review: (Winnipeg) Hitchcocked (Fringe)

Dial C for Comedy
by Edgar Governo

No one is more surprised than I am to discover that having a plot helps Sound and Fury a great deal.

In my review of last year's Dirty Fairy Tales on this site, I complained that as unapologetically goofy as this troupe is, more focus was called for to give their show some cohesion. Richard Maritzer, Patrick Hercamp, and Ryan Adam Wells have clearly taken at least 39 steps in the other direction with a narrow focus on the style of Alfred Hitchcock--and without a shadow of a doubt, the improvement is enough to throw that notorious show from 2012 out the rear window.

News: Shaw Announces 2014 Playbill (Press release)

Picture of the Week, July 25, 2013

Sometimes we just like a photo because it captures perfectly the look and the essence of a production - like David Hou's photo, here, of Greg Gale in Taming of the Shrew. This guy has clearly just met the "shrew" and the costume embody the overall esthetic that was created for the piece by costume designer Astrid Janson.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review: (Winnipeg) Offices (Fringe)

O Story, Where Art Thou?
by Edgar Governo

Given that Offices was written by Ethan Coen, one half of the Coen Brothers (known for movies such as Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, and No Country for Old Men), perhaps it should come as no surprise that I felt about the same coming out of it as I do after seeing a Coen Brothers movie: I like individual quotes and scenes, but the whole never comes together for me, and it seems like they could get where they're going without all of the pointless tangents.

Review: (Winnipeg) I Hate Bill Pats Too: Almost Homeless

If I Don't Cry, I'll Laugh
by Edgar Governo

Bill Pats doesn't know how to be happy.

It's not that he can't work his way out of a crisis--he certainly has a lot of experience, as this show reveals--but he has no idea what to do with himself when there isn't one. Pats is a good person who has made some bad decisions in the past, frustrated by being both his own worst enemy and smart enough to realize that about himself.

In a Word... Jeremy Michael Segal and Logan Williams on The History of the Devil (Fantasia)

Barking Mad
Clive Barker is successful in making us all look a little deeper and ask, “What the fuck?”
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Title 66 Productions' mission is to move theatre in an exciting direction, bringing forth new ideas of drama, art and performance to create work that is representative of art in the 21st century. Inspired by playwrights and artists including Chekhov, Brecht, Beckett, Dali, Bob Wilson and the Dada movement, the company looks to fuse acting at its purest base with an innovative design concept. They are gaining recognition as an ambitious company unafraid to take on large projects.

Jeremy Michael Segal - Director and company Co-Director
Mr. Segal is a Montreal-based theatre artist and a graduate of the Dawson College Professional Theatre Program. Trained as an actor, his focus is on the performing arts, though he is interested in many different artistic mediums. He first delved into the world of directing when Title 66 first staged The History of the Devil last year. 

Logan Williams - Set and Costume Designer; Jesus, Lilith, The Actor, Judge Felix Popper; and company Co-Director
Mr Williams is a multi-practitioner of theatre arts, based in Montreal. A graduate of an acting program, he has an avid background in costuming and directing. He has worked for and alongside Scapegoat Carnivale, Geordie, Black Theatre Workshop, Teesri Duniya and The Segal Centre.

CHARPO: For those who don't know, tell us about why Clive Barker has become so important in the world of horror and fantasy.

SEGAL:  Stephen King was quoted as saying, "Clive Barker is so good that I am literally tongue-tied." At my young age of 22, I won't pretend that I have any vast knowledge of the greater world of fantasy and horror, but I can definitely say why I believe Clive Barker's work to be so important. Clive Barker creates worlds that burst off the pages of his novels (or plays), often revealing expansive fantastic worlds hidden within our own. He manages to weave stories that are full of a childlike sense of magic and exploration, all the while exploring the truth of human nature. While shedding light on grand ideas of existentialism, hell, heaven, history, religion, and sexuality (to name a few), he always allows the readers to gain specific insight into the minds of the characters and how they cope with their worlds being revealed as but part of a larger supernatural realm. Clive Barker has an unflinching, wondrous imagination - people are captivated by his charisma as a creator of worlds.

Video of the Week, July 24, 2013

A truly glorious video for Nocturne, now at the Hamilton Fringe - as haunting as its subject matter.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: (Winnipeg) Geek Life (Fringe)

Lieutenant Broccoli
by Edgar Governo

At one point in Geek Life, juggler Aji Slater talks about when he was a child bonding with his father over episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as Jerry Goldsmith's familiar score plays in the background. When I thought to myself that he was actually using the original musical arrangement from 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture instead of the more familiar version used for the series, I knew just how well-suited I was to be an audience member for this show.

After Dark, July 23, 2013

The Theatre of Awful
Stories are all around us and we're falling for them
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I love theatre because, at its best, stories are spun and we cede to them and their peculiar truth speaks to us.

However the world is chock-a-block with peculiar truths - and we are treating them like good theatre: letting master story tellers seduce us into false narratives.

I don't want to belabour the Trayvon Martin story (I no longer watch CNN because they have done a good job of doing just that) but whether the narrators are on one side or the other, the simplistic tale they have told is bad guys and good. Would that this ugly case were just that. I have said elsewhere that the true story is that gun laws in the US and, especially in Florida, are the source of the tragedy but Americans desperately want to avoid the subject of guns or deal with its implications. The racism which has become a major trope in this saga is not one of Zimmerman v. Martin - it is that gun laws in America are inherently racist. Forget Newtown (what the hell, America has!); the top cause of death for black teens - 15-19 - was guns (stats announced in March, 2012). And what is "Stand Your Ground" but a case of identifying and shooting otherness?

Oh fuck! I must stop it with this one - I am depressing myself.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: (Winnipeg) Serving Bait to Rich People

by Edgar Governo

The problem with phrasing material in a show as advice is that it can create an adversarial relationship with the audience--no matter how much truth there is in what you have to say, you risk making your listeners feel like the enemy instead of sharing in something universal.

The Question... Kristen Holfeuer on Matchstick (Fringe: Winnipeg)

Something Transcendent
by Estelle Rosen

Kristen Holfeuer is the founder of Kamikaze Archive Theatre which creates and produces inventive, movement-based, performative theatre. She is an original member of SKIT SKIT: live and filmed sketch comedy ensemble and a graduate of the One Yellow Rabbit Summer Intensive, Globe Theatre Conservatory Actor Training Program, and the University of Saskatchewan’s Bachelor of Fine Arts acting program.

CHARPO: Matchstick is described as historical not-very-fairy tale folk musical. Who is Matchstick and why should we see this show?

HOLFEUER: Matchstick is a true figure whose husband committed a crime that changed the trajectory of Western history. However we want you to get to know this woman through her own experiences and not just by the actions of her husband. This isn't merely a biographical play but rather a beautiful story of the desire for a better life (isn't this the very core of fairytales?). For that reason Matchstick's identity is kept secret until she is revealed during the performance. 

Openings We're Tracking This Week, July 22-28, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Review: (Winnipeg) Play Actually (Fringe: Saskatoon, Edmonton)

Four Neggings and the Virtual
by Edgar Governo

Off the beaten path, around a corner and down an alley, is the best show I've seen during the Fringe this year.

Theatre company Idiot Presents took Play Actually on the Fringe circuit this year--hitting up festivals as diverse as Prague and Adelaide while also including Canadian mainstays Montreal and Toronto, with Saskatoon and Edmonton to follow--but failed to get an official slot at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. In the face of this, the company has put on the show anyway, arranging their own venue at The Purple Room in Winnipeg's Exchange District and relying on word-of-mouth alone since they are technically not part of the Fringe proper.

Review: (Winnipeg) The PB&J Sketchprov Show (Fringe)

Two Great Tastes Don't Taste Great Together
by Edgar Governo

There may be a problem with your show when the framing device is more entertaining than the ostensible central premise.

Sunday Feature: Angels in America, an appreciation by Christian Baines

Raquel Duffy and Damien Atkins; photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Why over 20 years on, Angels still has wings.
by Christian Baines

Angels in America seems to have become the go-to play in talking about so many benchmarks. A turning point for Gay theatre. A turning point for the way the AIDS epidemic could be depicted in entertainment. 

Not forgetting the endless cracks about the show’s sheer length. No, really. When considering taking in Angels, “I’m not doing anything that weekend” had better mean “I’m not doing ANYTHING that weekend.” Saturday for the 6+ hour play, and Sunday to recover.

Its tagline ‘A Gay Fantasia on National Themes’ speaks not only to Tony Kushner’s love of long, needlessly drawn out titles (Anyone try to spit out ‘The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures’ at TKTS?), but to the incredible scope of the work itself. Gay theatre, even addressing AIDS, was nothing new to Broadway audiences in 1991 – La Cage aux Folles and Falsettos had both come before, collecting a nice fistful of Tony Awards between them. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

News: Winnipeg Fringe responds to show content concerns (Press release)

Review: (Winnipeg) Promise and Promiscuity (Fringe)

A Truth Universally Acknowledged
by Edgar Governo

Penny Ashton makes it all look so easy.

In a nimble one-woman show, she alternates between multiple characters taken from the Jane Austen mold, distinguishing between them through her voice and mannerisms in such a a way that I never found myself confused or lost as I sometimes do when similar feats are attempted with less able performers. (Even her multiple bows at the end were in-character.) Ashton never seems to have any difficulty with these transitions, quickly improvising her way past a couple of flubbed lines, some slight technical hiccups, and a small bit of audience participation with a dance partner.

Review: (Winnipeg) Ask Aggie (Fringe)

Asked and Answered
by Edgar Governo

It would be easy for the subject matter in Ask Aggie - The Advice Diva to come across as trite--many Fringe shows have revolved around both questions from the audience and advice on sex and relationships--but Christine Lesiak manages to make the material seem fresh through her approach.

Review: (Winnipeg) Macabre Tales of Horror and Macabreness (Fringe)

Unpleasant Dreams, Everyone
by Edgar Governo

If you're not on the same page as a show called Macabre Tales of Horror and Macabreness, you're never going to be.

Theatre For Thought, July 20, 2013

joel fishbane

The last time I saw Tony Kushner’s Angels in America – which has just returned to Toronto for the first time in years - it was at the National Theatre School in Montreal. The graduating class was producing Perestroika, the second part of Kushner’s epic “gay fantasia on national themes”. It was an odd choice for a solo production. Perestroika isn’t so much a sequel as it is a direct continuation of the story; watching it without Part I (called Millennium Approaches) is a lot like watching Acts IV and V of Hamlet without watching Acts I – III.  

Fortunately, people in Toronto don’t have to make that choice. Soulpepper Theatre is producing both parts and running them in repertoire this summer – they’re even offering marathon days that will allow audience members to see both parts back to back. It’s nine hours long and, whatever the merits of the production itself, the show deserves to be seen if only for the sublimely written script.

creating a/broad, July 20, 2013

Friends I've Never Met
by Cameryn Moore

I think everyone here knows how I feel about Facebook: I love it. Yes, there are bits that occasionally shit the bed, and I’m still trying to figure out how best to store my content somewhere else in the event that the whole damn site goes commercial in the next year. But, you know, that’s pretty standard stuff. For the most part, I get along in it swimmingly, and as I prep for going to Edinburgh next week (EEEEP!), I’m particularly thankful for one aspect of Facebook:

It has enabled me to meet people who I don’t know yet.

Most people are annoyed by that sort of thing: they have to think about where they might know these supposedly random strangers from, or if they even know them at all. I used to be a little embarrassed to admit that I am very easy with my own friend requests. I am almost certainly the one who is annoying people.

But I’ve learned to not care. If you want to reject the request, go ahead. I always have my reasons for sending it, and they’re good reasons:

Friday, July 19, 2013

CharPo's Real Theatre! July 19, 2013

Fly On the Wall, July 19, 2013

It’s Sizzling
by Jim Murchison 

All I can think of right now is it is hot. It is damn hot. Summer time in Ottawa is wall to wall festivals. A lot of them are indoors but most of them celebrate that we can actually spend some quality time outdoors without the need of a parka.

So in addition to Bluesfest, Folkfest, Ribfest, Blues and Ribfest (it is a separate festival combining both), Westfest, Beerfest, Festival of India, Greekfest and many more, we have Shakespeare in the park. I don’t know if anything can put a damper on any of these events as we as a people are just so glad to be outdoors. I’ve seen people stay in rain and in blistering heat.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Interview: Rosaruby Kagan on Bunny Bunny

Gilda Radner's sorta lover
“we can’t be romantic, you are too important to me in my life”
by David Sklar

Rosaruby Kagan (Performer / Adaptor) is a Grotowski based actor and has been performing, writing, and producing theatre for over 10 years.  Bunny Bunny will be her third and most extensive solo production.  Ms Kagan holds a BA in theatre from The New School University in New York City and a MA in Drama Therapy from Concordia University.  She has collaborated with companies from New York to Austin; including North American Cultural Laboratory, Reverend Billy's Stop Shopping Gospel Choir, The Living Theatre, Ariel Dance Theatre, Austin Renaissance Theatre Co, and Rubber Rep. Since moving to Montréal in 2007, Ms Kagan has researched the therapeutic potential of physical acting training, dipped into the improv scene at Theatre St. Catherine,  was a member of the sketch comedy troupe The Dirty Little Spoons, wrote and directed Buddha and the Rock Star (2011 Montréal Fringe, New York Catskills Festival of New Theatre), and worked with numerous other theatre companies, notably Zeitgeist Theatre Collective's production of Not Fit for Bears.

CHARPO:  Why is it a “sort of love story” when talking about Gilda Radner?

KAGAN:  Well, Alan Zweibel was one of the original writers for SNL (Saturday Night Live). He met Gilda in 1975 and they quickly became friends. They had a really good connection; I think he fell in love with her a little bit. But due to the complications of fame and the fact that neither of them were good at staying friends with their past lovers Gilda told him, “we can’t be romantic, you are too important to me in my life”.  

Review: (Toronto) Entertaining Mr. Sloane

David Beazeley and Fiona Reid (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

Entertainment in Excess
Soulpepper’s Sloane a dark and campy treat
by Christian Baines

There’s a fine line in Joe Orton’s plays, somewhere between British farce and the blackest of black comedies. Productions that find it are rare, but golden, and Brendan Healy’s take on Entertaining Mr Sloane is among them. Gleefully embracing camp excess, but always with one eye on Orton’s darker observations and the morally ambiguous nature of its characters, this Sloane is brisk, acerbic and very, very funny.

Review: (Vancouver) Elizabeth Rex

Colleen Wheeler (photo by David Blue)

Audience Engulfed in Passion and Rage
An acting tour de force by Colleen Wheeler

by David C. Jones

I have seen this play before, but I have never felt it. By ‘felt it’ I include the moment when I was biting my index finger - painfully.

Celebrated Canadian author the late Timothy Findlay wrote the award winning Elizabeth Rex in 2000. 

Queen Elizabeth needs distraction, she has sentenced her lover Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex to death for treason. She summons Lord Chamberlain’s Players to perform Much Ado About Nothing. Because of a potential riot brewing the actors and the playwright, William Shakespeare, have to spend the evening in the palace barn.