Odyssey Theatre is celebrating 30 years presenting theatre under the stars this summer with desire, madness, and passion in The Things We Do For Love.
The Things We Do For Love, an evening of Spanish Theatre, presents new adaptations of three one act Spanish plays all connected by themes of the longing and passion of falling in love and, as the title implies, the things we do for that love.
First up is a chapter from the tales of Don Quixote in which the errant and well meaning knight attends a puppet-retelling of the Saving of Melisendra. Becoming so engaged as to be unable to distinguish the play from reality, Quixote injects himself into its climax to disastrous results.
The Don Quixote attending a play gimmick is used to set up the next show, The Love of Don Perlimplin and Belisa in the Garden. Don Perlimplin tells of Perlimplin’s marriage to the much younger and completely unfaithful Belisa and his subsequent scheme to win her heart and help her grow up.
The third show, which takes the full hour of The Things We Do For Love’s second act, is Whether You Like It Or Not, in which a young woman, Finea, enacts a complicated and ever-spiralling ploy to win a marriage to Count Federico – who has never laid eyes on her and is himself deeply in love with Florela.
Whether You Like it Or Not is the only show of the three that captures the fast-paced and intricately plotted Comedia that Odyssey typically brings to Ottawa summer nights. The first two shows, while each enjoyable in their own ways, feel like appetizers compared to the energy and wondrous thrills of Whether You Like it Or Not.
To recap: Don Quixote + Don Perlimplin + Whether You Like It Or Not = The Things We Do For Love.
Here’s the thing (singular) that didn’t really work in The Thing We Do For Love. It stems from using the Don Quixote attending a show gimmick to bridge to the other shows. There’s no resolution. We never see Quixote again after the first show, even though the scenes used to bridge each of the shows implies that we should. More than that, out of context, the Don Quixote play itself has no resolution. Melisendra is anything but saved when the play ends. Then, Whether You Like It or Not also has a lack of any real resolution. The result is that, in the end, there is no ending, to any of it.
Now, fortunately, Odyssey Theatre’s sheer level of professionalism and skill in what they do, means that despite this, The Things We Do For Love is still pretty damned fantastic. The strengths of the production quality (cast, costumes, scripts, etc) make this a forgiveable weakness, even for a narrative purist like me.
The puppetry at play in The Saving of Melisendra is of the highest quality. The quality of the puppets themselves and of the puppeteers manipulation of them pulls you right into the fun and comedy of the little show. The puppeteers effectively become shadows to the puppets thanks to their commitment to acting alongside them.
Within Odyssey’s all round incredibly talented cast, Karen Knox is a dynamo as Finea in Whether You Like It Or Not. She’s so engaging that it’s impossible not to get lost in the thrill ride of this show, beginning to end. The scene where she, in disguise as Celio, energetically retells the incredibly unlikely story of actually being in disguise as a prince of Aragon, is the easy highlight of the night. Plus, she plays the best horse I’ve ever scene earlier in the evening in the saving of Melisendra. Personally, I don’t know if I can say enough good things about Knox’s performance. Her turn on the Odyssey stage ranks easily among the top performances of the year.
On the opposite end of Finea’s ploys is Mark Huisman’s Count Federico. Huisman is pretty incredible to watch himself, as his sanity completely dissolves nearing the climax of the play.
Alan K. Sapp rounds out the trio of power players in WYLION, playing the Kind of Naples and commanding exactly the right amount of levity to the situation’s growing absurdity.
Which isn’t to minimize the great work of Chandel Gambles as Belisa and Florela, William Beddoe as Perlimplin, and Matthew Lawrence as Alberto. It really is a great all round cast.
Odyssey Theatre’s summer shows are consistently some of the strongest and most creative in the Ottawa season, usually managing to accomplish the rare feat of drawing me back out a second viewing before the run ends. I have a feeling I’ll be back on closing night again this year, too, if only to watch Finea lie and cheat and scheme her way across Naples.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think? Which of the three shows in The Things We Do For Love was your favourite? Were you upset by the lack of resolution and disappearance of Don Quixote? Join the discussion and tell me in the comments below.
The Things We Do For Love runs until August 23rd. Full details at: odysseytheatre.com