BEAR & Co.’s latest production, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, is a story about a couple whose only commonality is the loathing they share for one another. George, a college professor, and Martha, his wife and the daughter of the College president, are at each others throats from square one. Bandying insults with precision, as though to see who will be the first to succumb to a death of thousand tiny cuts from a barbed tongue—that is if their self-medication doesn’t put them down first.
Could there be a better place for dreams to come true than on Broadway? While San Antonio, Texas may not be next highest on the list for wish-fulfillment, that’s where Lisabette Cartwright, Holly Seabé, and Casey Mulgraw find themselves in order to star in a production of Anton Chekov’s The Three Sisters.
Each one following a personal dream, they become part of a collage of desires and drives. Unfortunately, as the play runs into problem after problem, they’re forced to admit that even a unified front may receive only an imperfect reward for its troubles.
The Tempest is Shakespeare’s last work and it’s full of mischief. A magical ex-Duke brings a watery storm upon a nearby ship, causing it to wreck upon his island and allowing him to wreak havoc on the lives of its surviving crew.
Like most of Shakespeare’s work, The Tempest follows a few interweaving stories. First there is that of Propsero, the usurped Duke of Milan exiled to a deserted island and bent on regaining his position by using magic and cunning. Assisting him is Ariel, an impish spirit he saved who now owes him a year’s worth of debt.
Then there’s the story of Prospero’s mightily pissed-off servant, Caliban, whose mother was the rightful ruler of the island before her death. When seeing an opportunity to dispose of his cruel master, Caliban eagerly enlists the help of a couple of drunkards who have been marooned on the island. Read the full review.
Whose Aemilia? seeks to wake a Aemilia Bassano Lanyer from the eternal slumber of History to investigate and answer the question of to whom does her historical reputation belong.
Should you see it?
Aemilia Bassano Lanyer lived and died 450 years ago. A notable poet and writer in her own right, she is perhaps most known today as the most likely candidate for Shakespeare’s Dark Lady.
Whose Aemilia? sees History awaken Aemilia from her eternal slumber to confront her with the facts and supposition of her life in order to get her to admit to being, and to accepting her historical place, as the woman who was the inspiration behind Shakepeare’s sonnets.
In writing, directing, and acting, Whose Aemilia? aces all three categories. Rachel Eugster portrays a strong-willed, forceful Aemilia.She’s counterpointed by the cool and collected Nicole Tessler as History while Tim Oberholzer is everything you’d want or expect him playing Shakespeare. And there’s a Shakespeare selfie gag that…
Well, to pin everything on Shakespeare would be to defeat the purpose of the play, which is to question how history should remember us? Should Aemilia be remembered for her likely connection to the greatest writer of the Western World, or could she instead be remembered on the merits of her own considerable body of work.
While the research that went into this show is evident and the play is well composed around its central question, any sense of drama outside of Aemilia’s conflict is lost in the facts and history, which may not appeal to everybody. Shakespeare is little more than a caricature, and History little more than an encyclopedia playing verbal foil to Aemilia’s desire for recognition. Neither have any stake or direct influence in the outcome of the play, leaving it to feel at times more like a debate than a piece of drama.
This is no question of quality, simply of audience. Are Ottawa Fringe audiences ready for more intellectual fare? A sold out opening night seems to think so.
But that’s just my opinion, and I’d love to know what you think. What was your favourite moment in the play? How should Aemilia be remembered by history? Join the discussion in the comments below.
In this special edition of Theatre Talk, we went on location to chat with five local companies about their upcoming shows at the 2015 Ottawa Fringe Festival and got a bit of an advance view to share with you. Not only is it an all Fringe edition of Theatre Talk, it’s an all-women edition as the shows we talk to were all created by and are largely crewed by women.
Featured in this episode are: Margo MacDonald, the writer/performer of The Elephant Girls, Caitlin Oleson, the writer/performed of Crushed, Emily Pearlman, the writer/performer of I Think My Boyfriend Should Have An Accent, Rachel Eugster, the writer and one of the performers in Whose Aemilia?, and Marissa Caldwell and Michelle Blanchard, the writers and performers of Two Girls, One Corpse. Plus, watch out for a special cameo appearance from another local superstar.
Each of these shows looks wonderful, check out the interviews and clips, then buy your tickets at ottawafringe.com
And with that, the time for previews is over. Now let’s get into the reviews — all of which you can going up right here on onstageottawa.com this weekend.
The Glass Menagerie is a semi-autobiographical play that helped launch Tennessee Williams’ career. Bear & Co.’s production of this well-loved play was strongly performed with only a few technical hiccups. Read the full review.
Age of Arousal takes place during a time of great change; London, 1885, when the Suffragette movement is starting to take off during a period of repressed desires, where women hugely outnumber men and some must learn to embrace the life of a New Woman.Read the full review.
Summertime is outdoor theatre time in Ottawa. And you really can’t argue when the theatre comes to you. Bear & Co toured parks around Ottawa this summer with Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, given the wild west treatment. Read the full review.
From Vanity Project Productions and writer/director Tim Oberholzer, The Vanity Project is an original musical that questions if Narcissus’s reputation for vanity might not be all there is to the story. Or even true at all. Read the full review.
The first thing that jumped into my head as The Vanity Project stated its motto (a cautionary tale for an isolating age): is this supposed to be a metaphor for the Facebook generation?Read the full review.