Running in Academic Hall at the University of Ottawa is a sordid tale of beauty gone wrong and true colours bubbling to the surface. Are the pretty people really the ugliest people? Princess Ivona, directed by MFA candidate Ekaterina Shestakova, runs until March 9th.
Should you see it?
Have you ever started to build a kingdom out of play-doh, set up where your buildings and pieces were going to go, then said screw it, mashed it all together, squeezing it through the cracks between your fingers, and tossing mixed colour blobs down anywhere? That feels like what happened with Unicorn Theatre’s Princess Ivona.
It had a fairly good first act. The set was nice, the costumes were seriously styling, the high-fashion vibe was intriguing. Plus, the performances were mostly strong, and the story – the morose Prince of a high-fashioned and hedonistic kingdom believes he’s found purpose in his life when he meets a girl (Ivona) who’s the antithesis to everything their royal court stands for (i.e., she’s “ugly”) – shows some promise even if it feels we’ve seen it before.
Then in the second act, it managed to take the things that worked in the first act and destroy them, squeezing play-doh through finger cracks.
This will be my second review in a row where I note how the characters being on drugs is the only way to make sense of them. It seems calling characters out on drug use will be my analogy for characters whose actions make no practical sense. Which is the case here.
Honestly, the second act quickly became a series of largely disconnected scenes about characters having mental breakdowns or otherwise going crazy while plotting to kill Ivona – for no real reason I could discern aside from the fact that they were insane.
With a huge chunk of the second act devoted to separate scenes with the King and Queen, after Prince Phillip was set up as the central character in the first act, and with Prince Phillip himself going insane, I was checked out and fully disengaged pretty quickly. Though I did notice for the first time how nice the ceiling was in Academic Hall. This being after I started studying the set.
It looked good in the early scenes but the more you notice it, the more you see it in less than full show lighting, the worse it looks. The dull gray is boring, the large amount of white space on the walls needed to be broken up with paintings or curtains, and you could easily spot where all the seams were showing through. It felt unfinished at best.
Then we get to the final scene, which, without spoiling anything, truly capped the mountain of what-the-fuckery that was the second act.
Fortunately, there were some largely strong performances along the way. Lauriane Lehouillier did a commendable job as Ivona. I really enjoy seeing characters brought to life entirely on physicality and movement and she did so well. Leslie Cserepy does a superb job as the intense King Ignatius throughout all his irrational mood swings. And Tony Adams had an equally strong showing as Prince Phillip, even after he went insane. They, and several others, were all that made the later half of this show worth watching.
But that’s just my opinion and I want to know what you thought. Did this hit the mark as a comedy? Did you dig the high-fashion vibe going on? Tell me what you think in the comments below.
Princess Ivona runs at Academic Hall in the University of Ottawa until March 9th. You can find full details and links to all other press in our Princess Ivona preview.