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Thursday, April 07, 2016

Pardon My French... Glengarry Glen Ross and The Passion of Narcisse Mondoux...

Over the last little while I went to two Opening Nights at local theatres. 

The first was The Passion of Narcisse Mondoux a co-production of Northern Light Theatre and L'Unit Theatre.  A unique experience as the play is performed by the same actors (Brian Dooley and Manon Beaudoin) on alternate nights in French and English. It's a lovely little piece about a widower Plumber who has set his sights on a recently widowed women who he has always been in love with. They are very different, but Narcisse Mondoux (Dooley) is doggedly persistent and flexible to achieve his goal. It's a script that subtly deals with preconceived notions of roles men and women and the power of "love" to allow those notions to bend and shift. The humour is familiar and sprinkled liberally throughout and the two actors convey a soft and believable affection for each other. The show runs until April 9th at La Cite.  Check the link above for which performances are in English and which are in French. 

The second was Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet playing at Walterdale Theatre until April 16th. This production is tight and engaging and fast-paced, as Mamet needs to be.  The cast of seven (Dale Wilson, Alex D. Mackie, J. Nelson Niwa, Cory Christensen, John Evans, Justin Deveau and Cale Baylen) embrace the coarse language and coarse tactics in the high pressure world of dubious land-sales in the 1980s. These guys, and they are "Guys", are cut-throat and hungry and they attack the language and dynamic with a fierceness.  The script is liberally laced with expletives but it all feels right in this world. It's quick and sharp and it's hard to look away. I was completely drawn in from start to finish. 

Some great options for you this week in #yegtheatre

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Looking Ahead to April for #yegtheatre

April bring with it Auditions for Chess, the show I am directing for Walterdale Theatre. So I had to take a little time to look ahead and plan my theatre options.  There are quite a few good options but fortunately not as many as the past two months.  Rehearsals make it hard for me to see stuff!

Anyhow, here are a few things I am looking forward to:

Northern Light Theatre's The Passion of Narcisse Mondoux: Narcisse Mondoux (played by the always excellent Brian Dooley) retired Master Plumber, sets out to woo the recently widowed Laurencienne Robichaud — at her husband's funeral. This is a co-production with L'Uni Theatre and will alternate between performances in English and French - how cool is that?! I'll be taking in the English show for sure, and I hope to fit in the French version. 

The Citadel Theatre's Other Desert Cities: A sharp, smart comedy-drama about family secrets unearthed. When I read this script a few years ago I wished I could be in it - it's so well-written and unwraps in a way that stabs you in the gut (playwright: Jon Robin Baitz). It's also incredibly current as the family has liberal/conservative (democrat/republican) divides complicating the parent-child relationships. 

Mayfield Dinner Theatre's Hair: Let the sun shine! I imagine this is going to be a groovy show, filled with peace and love. I've been enjoying the shows at the Mayfield this season and am looking forward to their take on the Age of Aquarius! 

The Citadel Theatre's West Side Story: I've been walking around the office snapping my fingers and singing Tonight and America.  I think I am ready to see this show! I was also blown away by the Citadel/Banff Centre Professional Theatre Program Cabaret a couple of weeks ago and can't wait to see this group of extremely talented triple-threat actors onstage in the Maclab. I'm particularly looking forward to Melanie Piatocha singing Somewhere. 

Walterdale Theatre's Glengarry Glen Ross: Mamet. There it is.  More f-bombs per page than any play has a right to. A strong cast of some of my favorite actors.  It opens next week and I am really looking forward to seeing it.  It may not have the Alec Baldwin speech from the movie, but I've watched that a few times in preparation so I think I'm good! 

Theatre Network's Gordon: Brian Dooley as a grumpy old man with criminal intent.  I think that works for me. I'll be interested in seeing the contrast with Narcisse Mondoux and I willbe book-ending the month of April with Dooley! Should be fun! 

Well, this week you could/should go see... A Picasso or The Realistic Joneses...

Well, those are my recommendations..

Shadow Theatre's A Picasso is a wonderfully sharp, funny, intelligent piece about Picasso in Paris during World War II. It's themes centre around censorship and art as a political weapon and compromising values in the face of the horrific power of the Nazis. Julien Arnold as Picasso and Alana Hawley as a German cultural attache go toe-to-toe in this two-hander. I saw the play at the Fringe a few years ago with Shannon Blanchet and Arnold and loved it then. This remount is just as sharp and the new dynamic between the actors makes it worth seeing a second time. A Picasso runs to April 3rd at the Backstage Theatre.

In the Roxy Performance Series, Wild Side Productions presents The Realistic Joneses. I did't know what to expect and I think that is the best way to see this show, because it is truly unexpectedly and unpredictably funny. Two couples, both Joneses, live on the same street and deal with illness and each other. You will laugh out loud and you won't see it coming. It's absurd and realistic at the same time. The cast (Belinda Cornish, Robert Benz, Amber Borotsik and Jesse Gervais) is stellar. The Realistic Joneses runs to April 3rd at C103.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Checklist... What I saw just before I was out of town...

Hey, so I was away for the last week of February.  Immediately before that, I saw a few shows but had no time to write about them before I left, so I thought I would do a quick re-cap.  All of them have closed, but that doesn't mean you can't check out the next show from these companies!

The Early Bloomer by Jana O'Connor presented by Concrete Theatre
I didn't bring my sons to this, because I thought it was for little, little kids but I wish I had.  This was truly a show that could have the moniker 'suitable for ALL ages'.  The story deals with a group of young buds in a garden who are all worried about how they are growing - too fast, too slow, not the right away.  It's applicable to the little ones because of the wonderful physical comedy and silliness, but it's also really timely for those pre-pubescent and those in the thick of it.  The line about their stems getting fuzz would have made my boys hysterical! And for adults, particularly those with children, it was bang-on! The cast of four, Jenny McKillop, Mark Sinongco, Patricia Cerra and Troy O'Donnell, were terrific - funny, physical and totally committed!

La Voix Humaines presented by L'Uni Theatre and Carmen presented by Edmonton Opera
I saw two operas this month and both were in french. Both centered around emotional irrational woman, however in very different ways. I was blown away by the solo performance of Whitney Leigh Sloan in La Voix Humaine - challenging music and singing and SOLO singing for 75 minutes - never mind that it was an extremely emotional journey to sustain supported only by an unheard voice on the end of a phone. With Carmen, I commented on FB that I figured it was the source for the phrase, "Bitches be crazy!" because she definitely was. Great singing all around, fabulous sets and costumes and it was so wonderful to hear so many songs I was familiar with actually in context of the story. My favourite onstage was Lida Szkwarek as Micaela - there's definitely a huge talent there and man-oh-man, what a voice! I'm definitely enjoying seeing shows in French.  I still have to use the surtitles to get everything, but it was fun discovering that I understand more than I think I will! I guess I learned something in my grade 6-12 french classes!

I'm busy this week and next with the crop of indie theatre that is on and going to both high school and junior high open houses... stay tuned for notes about those shows!

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

March Madness for #yegTheatre!

There's a lot on the go this month for theatre.  The start of the month is jam-packed with indie theatre options so there's really no excuse to stay home!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've already taken in Hot Mess and The Other, two of the indie options on the docket.

Next up for me is Alice Through the Looking-Glass at the Citadel.  I'm looking forward to seeing the Super-Star Edmonton-cast of this show which promises to embrace the topsy-turvy sensibility of the Lewis Carroll story. The costumes and set are fantastic (designed by Bretta Gerecke) and the scenes I have seen as part of the media call looked very cool.  Can't wait to see the Jabberwocky and the Walrus and the Carpenter come to life! I studied both of the Alice books in University and kind of want to re-read them to refresh my memory...

I'll be taking in 2 more shows this weekend. A little musical treat with Wish You Were Here by the Plain Janes and then a hard 90 degree turn with the parent-teacher interview premised Gidion's Knot presented at Skirts AFire. Then next week I will be seeing This is War by Hannah Moskovitch presented by Punctuate Theatre. As you can see, this first half of the month is a real roller-coaster!

I'll check back when I've seen a few and let you know what's up for the rest of the month later!

Cardiac Theatre's Hot Mess and Pyretic Productions' The Other - Sexual Disconnect in the Modern World

So, um guys, I'm older than I look... These shows were a little bit of a shock to my system...

I've kicked off March with 2 shows that underscored that for me, both of which look at sexual disconnect in the present day.

The first was Pyretic Productions (with Good Women Dance) The Other. The Other tells the story of Sharon (Amber Borotsik), a white girl raised in Bombay by a cheating father and loyal mother, who returns to Alberta to discover the secrets of making pickles and choosing to only have relationships with men who are already married. Her otherness in the world prevents her from really forming commitments and leaving her disconnected. The piece was accented with movement by a chorus of 5 women. The choreography is interesting, and the show feels more like a dance piece than a theatre piece. If you like theatre that's a little more abstract which also incorporates music and dance to augment the story telling, you will like this.

The next show I saw was Cardiac Theatre's Hot Mess.  It was in the basement of El Cortez and the noise from the upstairs restaurant provides an interesting layer to the soundscape of the show.  It feels entirely appropriate for this show that juxtaposes contrasting attitudes toward sex by all four of it's characters. The production is sharp, edgy and unapologetic. It's one of those shows that makes me glad that I am old and not 'out there' because I really don't know where I would fit in the spectrum.

An interesting start to the month of March, which promises to be jam-packed with theatre. I'll be off to Alice Through the Looking-Glass tomorrow night which I think will be a decided contrast to what I have seen already this week!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Gay Heritage Project, Klondykes, 'Blak - Theatre that lets us feel someone else's experience in the world...

A few months ago I posted something on FB about liking to learn my history from novels or plays as opposed to textbooks. A lot of people indicated that I was wrong, but as I was expressing a preference, not a fact, I didn't worry about it too much.  But recently I have seen 3 shows that illustrate what I meant (or felt).  These shows, without being dry historical pieces, allowed me to understand and feel a little more what someone else's history was.

The Gay Heritage Project, now playing at the Citadel under February 27th, is a wonderful exploration of what Gay Heritage is and what it is to be gay (at least in Canada). It's layered and through a tight tumble of a variety of scenes, the 3 gifted actors (Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn and Andrew Kushnir) managed to leave me with a better understanding of what it is to be gay.  It's sometimes hysterically funny, sometimes serious, sometimes sad, and very real and personal. I had an epiphany that I hope I will hold onto.  There's a scene on a bus with a variety of queer identified individuals.  The healthy, white, gay male acknowledges that he might have it easier than those on the bus, but he claims them as his tribe.  It's the place he feels most at home. I was saddened, because I wanted him to feel at home with me - the straight, white woman that I am. But I realized that for so many of us we don't have to search for a safe place. My safe place is with my family and my history is just there. For many gay individuals this is not the case (not family, not school, not workplaces) and they have to seek out their safe places. I think that so many of us just know who we are and where we are safe, that it doesn't occur to us to even think about it.  But this show really made me think about it. I encourage you all to check it out.  It's a celebratory night which does not blame the audience, but rather seeks to create understanding both for the actors themselves and those they are speaking to.

Krystle Dos Santos 'BLAK is no longer running (it ran for 3 nights in January at the Citadel), but it too offered insight into a life experience other than my own. It was a night of stories, dance, poetry and music about what being black in Western Canada meant.  The music was amazing and it anchored the piece, but it was the stories of Brett Miles and the others that drew me in. It too had a celebratory feel - an embracing of the culture that was jubilant.  But there were moments too, that broke my heart a little.  A poem from a teenager to his younger self, victimized by bullying for being different, was so full of strength and maturity.  I wanted more of the stories - the individual experiences.  I had never heard of Amber Valley, Alberta - the show drove me to google after I got home.  I feel we could afford to know more. I know it's Black History month right now and there are events in the city that might offer some more. It would be worth it to check out 5ArtistsOneLove this month.

Finally, Guys in Disguise are currently presenting Klondykes at Theatre Network until Feb 21st. It tells the story of a lesbian couple in the Klondike who skirt the 'no unaccompanied women' rule by pretending to be husband and wife. Unable to fit in the world as they were, Loosey (Rebecca Ann Merkley) and Hattie (Mackenzie Reurink) find a way to make their way. Along with Narrator Amanda Neufeld, they form a dynamic trio of voices.  The show is a song cycle which uses the mood and tone of songs to reach out to the audience. The three women all have tremendous voices which are great alone and even better in harmony. Good music can make me feel more than mere words and this music (by Trevor Schmidt and Darrin Hagen) is very, very good. The story is a fascinating look into a time and world where women had few choices without the protection of a man.