Happy Thursday and Happy 2015 everybody.
Here’s to a new year and new beginnings.
I want to start off the year by thanking my wonderful On Stage team for their work over the last year and especially the last six months.
As some of you already know, my mother passed away in November 2014, much too young, after a courageous battle with cancer. While healthy and longlived would have been the preferred outcome, we are happy that her last few weeks were spent at home, in relative comfort, and surrounded by those she loved. I don’t have much else to say here, but if you’re interested in any further information, you can find some here: allanmackey.com/louisemackey
When I put On Stage Weekly on hiatus back in early October, I also had to step back nearly completely from the day to day operation of On Stage. I knew then that On Stage Weekly wouldn’t be coming back until I was on the other side of this life changing event and I had had some time to start putting things back together. It remains a slow process.
So I want to thank my review team Matthew, Caitlin, Robyn, and Sarah for keeping on top of their schedules and deadlines without much supervision. I want to thank Karolle for her work keeping the calendar updated. And I doubly want to thank Caitlin (again) for stepping up and making sure the show listings and some of the other minutiae didn’t fall too far behind, for keeping on top of things, and for generally being all cool and stuff.
As things were unfolding, I didn’t have the time or energy to keep up with any of the day to day work of On Stage and without the team and the time and energy they put in, On Stage would have shut down altogether.
Thank you guys.
And Thank You Guys
Yes, thank you, too, for your support of On Stage and this newsletter over the last year. Every article you read, every time you join the discussion and comment, every time you like or share one of our articles, that makes the work we do worth it. Without the audiences who care about Ottawa theatre and without the fantastic people creating it, we wouldn’t be here at all.
Which brings me to the first favour I want to ask for this new year. Our reduced operation of the last six months has really hurt out social media presence and we need your help to get it back up there.
We need you to share our content to Facebook and Twitter more than ever before. And please, comment and join the discussion. We really want to hear from you.
The bonus to sharing our articles is that you’re also helping to promote the theatre happening in the city. Win win.
PS — I’ll love you even more than I do now if you share this newsletter around and encourage your peeps to sign up.
THE 2014 YEAR IN REVIEW
Despite everything going on, I somehow still managed to see 92 plays last year. I recently published an article looking at the 2014 theatre year and some of the highlights.
2014. 2014 was a hell of a year. We saw the horrors of the war in Afghanistan. We saw the hilarity in pirates squabbling over a missing parrot. And we saw the inherent dangers involved in the seedy past-time of stamp collecting. French intrigue caused destruction in Strathcona park. Corporate A-type personalities faced the board to save their jobs. And a world weary transvestite rocked out The Gladstone. Twice. Alice went through the looking glass. Pomme & Restes got shipwrecked. Miss Daisy got drove… Um, you get the idea.
Read the full article at onstageottawa.com/2014yearinreview
ON STAGE THIS WEEK
The 2015 year really kicked off these last couple of weeks (which is why I wanted to get this out this week) and there are no fewer than five shows for you to choose from this weekend.
Clybourne Park (Final Weekend!)
Running at Ottawa Little Theatre – and making its Ottawa debut – is award-winning play, Clybourne Park, about “casual” racism in one house in one neighbourhood in America over two generations.
FROM SARAH STACK’S REVIEW: The director of the OLT’s production, Chantale Plante did a wonderful job bringing together the cast of characters for this production. The duo of Lawrence Evenchick as Russ, and Linda Webster as Bev balance each other well, with the pressure of an unspoken history. David Holton as Karl is formidable foe who thrives on being argumentative. The costume designs by Jeanne Gauthier are on point and elevate the history of the characters.
(Read the full review: onstageottawa.com/clybourneparkreview)
Clybourne Park was a gritty look into a topic we too easily try to push aside or simply don’t want to talk about. The show had a great edge to it, which is something new the Ottawa Little Theatre has been trying and which I hope they keep up. I didn’t find this show to be as strong as last year’s Mauritius, but it was close. The thing that clicked most for me was how real it felt. I could see these people having these conversations in this setting (one or two small oddities aside). Between the excellent work of the cast — who each play double duty, taking on a different character each act — and the strength of the text, it’s worth a trip to the park.
Clybourne Park runs at the Ottawa Little Theatre now through January 31st. ottawalittletheatre.com
Written by award-winning playwright, Goerge F. Walker, Moss Park is a hard look at life below the poverty line.
FROM CAITLIN OLESON’S REVIEW: Nothing much happens in this play but the emotions run so high that it’s impossible to be bored. Against the realistic backdrop of a chain-link fence covered with graffiti and garbage, we witness the fighting, pleading, dreaming, and scheming that goes on between these two young lovers. With little more than two park benches, the sounds of sirens, and a beat-up old backpack, a whole world is clearly created by Martin Conboy’s excellent design work.
(Read the Full Review: onstageottawa.com/mossparkreview)
Like Clybourne Park, what I admired most about Moss Park was the realism. Moss Park is a harsh look at the trouble’s of a young on-and-off couple living below the poverty line with one daughter already and another on the way. Questions start with how to support their one daughter when Bobby can’t hold a job more than a day and whether they can afford to even continue the second pregnancy — though neither parent want to abort it. Move in with the abusive, alcoholic father and his weed smoking biker girlfriend? Abandon any hope of being together so Tina can enter a women’s program that will support her as long as she’s a single mother? Turn to a life of crime? All these and more are seriously, and glibly discussed.
Yes, don’t think it’s all gloom. There’s a lot of humour, plucky spirit, and generally good attitudes going on here. Bobby and Tina aren’t all woeful and bitter, this is their situation, they accept it, and the show is about how they can continue on, if not better themselves.
As a sidenote, it did feel a bit out of sorts that not once was CAS mentioned. Given the situation and the broad variety of things they did talk about, the fact that they could lose their kid(s) to the system had to have been on their mind. It was an odd oversight, but I suppose minor in the scheme of things.
You don’t get told to visit a park much in the winter and here I am telling you to consider a visit to two of them.
Moss Park runs at the Great Canadian Theatre Company, now through February 8th. GCTC.ca
Two (Final Weekend!)
Running at The Gladstone, directed by John P. Kelly, and starring Richard Gélinas and Michelle LeBlanc, Two invites the audience into a North England pub, wherein the struggles and joys of coupledom are on display.
FROM ROBYN LESTER’S REVIEW: While the content did little to inspire me, I do have to give credit to the performances. Under the direction of John P. Kelly, Michelle LeBlanc and Richard Gélinas competently portrayed an array of characters. They made great use of physical characteristics and body language to quickly give the audience a feel for each character and make them distinct from each other. It was an impressive feat handled with grace and skill.
(Read the full review: onstageottawa.com/tworeview)
Two is the only show of the five I haven’t gotten a chance to see and can’t tell you anything about. Fingers crossed I still will, I just haven’t been able to coordinate things with The Gladstone yet.
In the meantime, I propose that if you get out there this weekend (or if you’ve seen it already), you tell me what you thought.
Two runs now through January 31st at The Gladstone Theatre. thegladstone.ca
LIGHT (Final Weekend!)
LIGHT is the second show in the inaugural season of TACTICS, following the Young Lady in White. LIGHT is a show that seeks to shed some light on eating disorders, in particular anorexia.
FROM ALLAN MACKEY’S REVIEW: LIGHT is a hard look at living with an eating disorder, dealing with the gremlins that can take hold in our brains, and the ways we justify our behaviour to ourselves and others. As noted by Lisa Jeans’ program note, LIGHT was inspired by her own eating disorder, and while not autobiographical, her experiences in similar waters to her Dr. Rose heavily inform the writing and performing of the piece, giving the audience a strong sense of what living with such a condition is like and creating a somewhat lyrical poetic way of experiencing it with her.
(Read the full review: onstageottawa.com/lightreview)
Since I’m the one who reviewed LIGHT, I don’t have much to add here. It’s worth the trip to Arts Court.
LIGHT runs now through January 31st at Arts Court as part of the TACTICS Series. artscourt.ca
Bonnie & Clyde: The Musical (Final Weekend!)
Does the story of the star-crossed old-timey gangster super couple really need to be told in musical form? Carleton University’s student run theatre company, Sock ‘n Buskin think so.
FROM MATTHEW CHAMP’S REVIEW: I must start by giving credit where credit is due, the core ensemble of this cast are phenomenal. Jesse Levy as Bonnie, Jesse Gervais as Clyde, Joy Mwandemange as Blanche and Kyle Villeneuve as The Preacher definitely held this cast together with their strong performances and captivating stage presence.
(Read the full review: onstageottawa.com/bonnieandclydereview)
What I found about this show was that there a lot of montage style numbers. By covering such a long span of time — the show starts off with B&C as children — it felt like it was trying to do too much and montages were the only recourse. The content didn’t impress me much but the show definitely had some merits.
As Matthew noted, the actors playing Bonnie & Clyde were strong and did a good job carrying the show. The children playing young Bonnie & especially young Clyde also did a trick, almost outshining the adult versions. And one neat thing the show did have going for it was reintroducing the kids at various parts of the show, reinforcing the dreams and hopes B&C had.
Despite the very long feeling first act, for what it was, Bonnie and Clyde: The Musical was fun.
Bonnie & Clyde: The Musical runs now through January 31st. https://www.facebook.com/events/1544083689174949
And that’s all I’ve got for you this week. Thank you again, so very much, for reading. Especially if you actually read this far down. Virtual high five for you.
Get out and see some theatre and let me know what you’re seeing, what you’re loving, and what you’re thinking. You can get in touch with me by commenting below or via twitter @thatmackeyguy
I’ll see you next week with some Undercurrents news. Until then, keep being awesome and I’ll see you at the theatre.