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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Peter Fechter: 59 Minutes and Fortune Falls - Illuminating

This past week I took in 2 very different shows, both Canadian works. 

First up was Peter Fechter: 59 Minutes produced by the relatively new company, Cardiac Theatre in the PCL Theatre at Fringe Theatre Adventures. The short (59 minutes) show tells the story of Peter Fechter, a young East Berlin brick-layer who attempts to cross the Berlin Wall in the early 1960s. As he attempts to escape he is shot and we experience a fictionalized account of what goes through his mind in those 59 minutes before he dies. The source material is true and one thing the show did for me was get me thinking and reading. Off to climb down that wikipedia wormhole. That's one of the things I love about theatre is that often it provides a glimpse of something I didn't really know much about and it sparks that interest in finding out more. The production is well done. I loved the set and lighting and the choice of the alley staging - underscoring the two sides of the wall - and the twisted barbed wire that is entangled with the detritus of Peter's (Bradley Dore) young life. It was tight and engaging and thought-provoking. 

The other show I saw was Fortune Falls presented by Catalyst Theatre at the Citadel. Catalyst Theatre started out much in the same way as Cardiac Theatre is now - a group of young U of A drama grads presenting challenging work. Fortune Falls combines many things that Catalyst has become known for, an edgy world with a unique vision. Each moment is excellently executed by it's 5 person ensemble. The music is original and tight with stand-out vocals from Jamie Tognazzini and Daniel Fong. The many characters portrayed by the ensemble are clearly defined and individual. My favorites included Braydon Dowler-Coltman's brash and larger than life Tour Guide, Shannon Blanchett's hilarious clickety-clark executive secretary (there are too many characters for me to remember names) and Graham Mothersill's East-coast factory repairman. I really loved the lighting design by Kerem Çetinel, which was brilliant and precise - no small feat in a thrust theatre - and Megan Koshka's costumes were inspired. Truly an original world created onstage. 

Peter Fechter: 59 Minutes runs to January 22nd at the PCL Theatre.
Fortune Falls runs to Feberuary 5th in the Maclab Theatre at the Citadel. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Great Theatre Abounds!

It's been a ridiculously busy few weeks (and still is) for theatre in the city! The good news is that there is much to see, the bad news is you can't get to all of it. I've managed to take in a few shows that still have a few dates left in their run and a few that are closed and there's a few others I wish could get to but there aren't enough days...

Ones You Can Still Catch That I've Seen:

Anxiety - Theatre Yes
If you are into immersive theatre and theatre that is less traditional you shoudl definitely check this out. I can't give much detail because I had to sign a waiver, but it definitely was a complete theatre experience. Unsettling at times and it likely challenges every audience member in a different way. Be prepared for about a 2 hour experience. Wear comfortable shoes and don't dress too warmly. Runs to Dec 4.

Fen - Trunk Theatre (at the Varscona)
A challenging, untraditional piece of theatre by Caryl Churchill (Cloud Nine, Top Girls). This is a well-acted piece by a strong ensemble of six actors who play several characters apiece. Life is bleak in the fen and that bleakness creates some compelling characters. Moments of humour contrast sharply with the darkers ones. Runs to Dec 4.

A Christmas Carol - The Citadel Theatre
Although Opening Night is officially tomorrow, I have caught a performance already. I've also seen it a few times before. It was my first time seeing Tom Wood as Scrooge and his performance truly reinvented the show for me. Usually it's just Tiny Tim who makes me tear up. This time it was also Scrooge! Runs to Dec 23.

Ones You Can Still Catch That I Will be Seeing This Week:

Only In Vegas - Mayfield Dinner Theatre
Promising music from the early days of Vegas up until present day, I'm looking forward to seeing this show tonight. The Mayfield always does a terrific job with their shows and the environment is really lovely. It's also a terrific opportunity to celebrate my husband's birthday! Runs to Jan 29.

Brent Carver In Concert - The Citadel Theatre
I am soooooo looking forward to seeing this concert. Having seen Brent Carver at the Ted Dykstra and Friends concert and Evangeline last season, I was very quick to pick up tickets to see him in concert this year. It's not everyday that you get to see a Tony-Award-Winning artist in such a small intimate venue. Two shows only - Dec 2&3.

Witch Hunt at the Strand - Workshop West Playwright's Theatre (at the Backstage Theatre)
Based on true events from Edmonton's history, Witch Hunt at the Strand, tells of the persecution of members of the theatre community in the 1940's on the basis of their sexuality. I've heard great things about this show and I am really looking forward to seeing it. Runs to Dec 4.

Ones You Can Still Catch That I Probably Won't Make It To:

I'd really like to catch both Twelfth Night (Studio Theatre) and The Drowsy Chaperone (Grant MacEwan Theatre Arts) but I simply don't have enough nights. I've heard great things about both shows so if you are a Shakespeare buff or love your musical theatre here are two terrific options! They both run to Dec 3.

Ones I Saw Recently That are Now Closed:

If We Were Birds - U of A
A simply lovely piece of theatre. Well done and heart breaking, it weaves true stories of modern victims of war with the Procne and Philomele Myth. A phenomenal ensemble with Kendra O'Connor anchoring the whole thing. I have only ever seen Kendra in musicals and I was blown away by the strength of her performance.

Tornado Magnet - Theatre Network
I laughed so hard at this slice of real life from the trailer courts of central Alberta. Dotty tells it like it is and you can't help but recognize her and the world she lives in. It was great fun to go and just laugh and laugh.

Anyhow, I hope to get to writing more... when I am not at the shows! I hope you get out to see some of the great options onstage in our city!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Gearing up for RED at Walterdale...

RedThis week I am very excited for the Opening of Red at Walterdale. I saw the play several years ago at the Citadel and loved it. This month, I will see it again at Walterdale 3 times. That's because my husband is playing Mark Rothko in it. It's an awesome task, even more so for him because by day he lives far away from the world of art making his living as a Pharmacist. That is not to say he doesn't have an appreciation for things artistic. He is a phenomenal singer and has been onstage in several musicals, usually playing the bad guy, or the angry guy, because he's huge (6'5") and has a even bigger voice. The bigness helps for Rothko, at least I imagine it will, as Rothko certainly did not have a small personality. He also frequently buys art from local artists - things he likes. He has little pretension in that area.

 All of us in the house have been helping him prepare, running lines, giving pep talks, discussing art, letting him sleep, so I am excited to see him onstage this week. I am not sure if I will blog about the show after seeing it. It would be hard to be objective. I might talk a little about why I love this play so much. Hopefully you can take it in.

Red runs from October 12-22 at Walterdale Theatre.

Witnessing a Conga and a Trio of Bittergirls...

The theatre season has begun! I can tell because my calendar is getting busier over the next few weeks. This makes me happy. 

In the heyday of kicking off the season officially at the Citadel, I still managed to squeeze in Witness to a Conga at the Varscona (Teatro La Quindicina). I had seen this show in it's original presentation several years ago at the Fringe. I liked it then, but was puzzled by it as I wasn't sure what it was trying to say. The current production, however, was simply wonderful. Sometimes a play needs to marinate a bit, I guess. The design helped considerably but also the show itself seemed more gelled. It was touching and funny and Andrew MacDonald-Smith's journey through his life to his wedding is full of depth. It runs until October 15th so you can still catch it! It makes for a delightful yet meaningful evening of theatre.  

We've opened two shows at the Citadel so far this season! The first (Curious Incident) closed yesterday, but Bittergirl - the musical opened last week to a standing ovation! It opened on my birthday so I got an extra special treat seeing the show that night. I laughed so hard. Sadly and hilariously there were moments that I could related to, though I am well past my dating years. The 3 bittergirls (Rebecca Auerbach, Amanda LeBlanc and Tara Jackson) don't hold back on the humour and emotional investment. They are also amazing singers. Individually or on their own, the music is simply terrific! Jay Davis, playing The Guy, is also a treat in the show. He's great to look at, fabulous to hear sing and he plays the Magic Man, the Coward and the Mountie with such humour and self-deprecation it's so much fun to watch. Bittergirl - the musical runs in The Club until November 6th. This is a great space for the show and highly conducive to a girl's night out (you can bring your wine in!). I'm happy to be seeing the show again later this month with a couple of girls and my husband (I am sure he will enjoy it too!). It's worth it just for the music, so the fact that it's hilarious on top of that is icing on the cake! 

This week I am gearing up for Red at Walterdale (my husband is in it so I am seeing it a couple of times) and 10 out of 12 at the Roxy on Gateway (Wildside) which I think will be fascinating since I have lived through many a Q2Q both on and off headset. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Really Seeing Someone...

It's here and it's open and it's onstage - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Citadel. When I first heard we were doing the show I was so excited. I was a terrific fan of the book and had heard tremendous things about the stage play so to have it produced here was something I was really looking forward to. It did not disappoint. Overall, the experience is complex technically combined with grounded story-telling. It evokes the book, while still being it's own animal. Kudos to the cast and creative team for finding a way to tell the story in their own way (the conceptual design is quite different from the Broadway and London productions).

What I took away from it, however, beyond the amazing projections and clever way the set represents Christopher's brain and the wonderful commitment to telling the story by the actors, was how it made me see Christopher. It made me actually see this wonderful unique human being who just happens to be neuro-atypical. Too often I think we simply recognize that those were are different are there but we don't really see them. What the play does is make you see Christopher and empathize with him. I was angry when the other characters in the play spoke about him as though he wasn't in the room, because he was there, because the production and the remarkable performance by Edmund Stapleton made you see him at all times. It made him more than just a collection of tics and behaviours. It made him completely and wonderfully human. Now, I hope that I can carry that with me and I hope that others do too.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runs to October 9th on the Shoctor Stage. Call 780.425.1820 or go to for tickets.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

More Word of Mouth Recommendations! (Thursday, Aug 18, 2016)

A return to the the Fringe grounds last night and encounters with different people (who have seen A LOT - Yay!) and here are some new Word of Mouth recommendations!

The Dragon
Mustache Party
The Seminar with Madge & Taffy
Nashville Hurricane
Bella Culpa
Shakespeare's Sirens
Curious Contagious
Off Book: The Musical
Mama's Boy
Saltwater Moon
Prepare for the Worst
'Til Death
Falling Awake
Scaramouche Jones

Unfortunately, some of these shows have finished their run for this Fringe, so if you are inspired to see any of them check the schedule quickly to make sure you don't miss them!