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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Are We Better off Not Knowing? The Upside of Ignorance...

Thursday night I caught the Opening Night performance of Ignorance at Theatre Network (The Old Trout Puppet Workshop). First of all, I am going to say, Theatre Network does a fabulous Opening Night Reception. You must check that out. I tend to go to theatre when I can, but being there on Opening Night reminded me what kind of atmosphere an Opening can have. There is a buzz of extra electricity and then afterwards, at least at the Roxy, there was an incredible spread!

And then the show... So much dark humour in this piece. I have never seen this company before, although I had heard a lot of good things about them when they were here last for The Erotic Anguish of Don Juan. So, I didn't know exactly what to expect. It was really very good. Dark, yes, funny, yes, puppets, yes. It took me a few minutes to accept the visibility of the puppeteers, but once I did that and just went with it, I had a great time. There are quite a few twisted little death scenes (and a homicidal balloon or two) as the characters seek happiness in their own way, and the brilliant through story which reinterprets the Adam and Eve myth was very engaging. It's out of the box but with a sense of humour and without arrogance. I was also so impressed with the set and the puppets themselves. There is a delightful abstraction to the Adam and Eve creatures that makes them more endearing and the humongous antlers which frame the stage are truly impressive.

This is a great night out - for a laugh or if you want to think about the deeper issues explored (Are we happier when we know nothing?). I think I am going to seek Ignorance, however. It seems safer that way.

*#12 in my theatrical goal for the year

Sunday, March 18, 2012

God of Carnage - Laughing With Savages

Last week I caught God of Carnage at The Citadel. I caught the talk-back preview on Tuesday night and not only got to see the fabulous show, but also was fortunate to see and hear actors Fiona Reid and Ric Reid (who play the parents of the injured child) and director James MacDonald answer questions about the show and the process specific to this show. It is always a treat to get a glimpse into the people and the processes behind the art. All three were delightful and Ms. Reid was especially funny. I have a feeling she is a riot to party with.

The show was great fun. Great fun in an oh-my-god-did-that-just-happen kind of way. Written by Yazmina Reza, the script deals with two sets of parents meeting about an altercation between their 11 year old sons. One child has been severely injured and the intent of the meeting is to civilly discuss the repercussions. What happens is anything but civil. It is a riot. Many times I found myself laughing so hard it surprised me. This is a masterful script. As a parent I connected strongly to both couples. Despite the extremes of action, I totally believed it, because I have felt that intense emotional reaction where my kids are involved. Have I acted like these people? No... not to that extreme, but have I wanted to? Yeah... I confess... I have wanted to. In my opinion, this is one of those scripts, like August:Osage County and Rabbit Hole, that will live on and on and on.

The production itself serves this piece well. All four actors (add Ari Cohen and Irene Poole to the mix as the parents of the child who attacks with a stick) are excellent in going for it. This script demands both subtly and the outrageous and they are all skilled at reaching those highs and lows, and boy are there lows. No one gets off easy in this play, not even the morally defiant Veronica (played by Fiona Reid) who demands a code of moral conduct yet descends to physically attacking her own husband. That's the god of carnage at work, isn't it? MacDonald has skillfully directed a piece that moves along briskly, for the most part, and zigs and zags from calm negotiation and clafoutis to vomiting and violence to art books and cell phones to rum and cigars and back to violence. There are occasional soft spots, but the sense was that these moments were there to provide a moment of recovery and breath before the roller coaster rides on to the next high loop. The set and costumes are pitch perfect with a sharp red reminiscent of blood and anger to keeps us planted in the idea that this is a war zone.

If there is one thing that occasionally nudged me out, it was that one of the couples seemed a bit too mature to be the parents of 9 and 11 year old children. Really this only happened when the ages of the children were mentioned, and I realize that people are having kids later and later, but I have a 10 year old and a 7 year old and at 44 years old, I am one of the oldest moms at their elementary school, so it just flagged in my head. I can see from the acting skills why these actors are on the stage and for the most part I was totally buying it, it just bounced me out of total immersion whenever I heard the ages of the kids.

*#11 in my theatrical goals for 2012

Friday, March 09, 2012

We are cleared for take-off! The Mayfield's Boeing Boeing!

Last night I was invited by my good friend Barb to catch the latest show at The Mayfield. I hadn't been to the Mayfield for quite some time, I think Footloose, and I have always enjoyed myself in the past and Barb is great to have a night out with so I was very happy to go. I didn't know much about the show before I went, but Barb informed me it was a farce and I love a good farce so even better! Of course we stuffed ourselves. I didn't eat hardly anything all day since I knew the buffet was coming and we talked of all thing theatre and in particular Titanic (Barb is directing it). After the terrific meal we settled in for the show. It was so much fun! A true door slamming, crazy mix-up farce set in the 60s with three international stewardesses sharing the same fiance. In the spirit of Lend Me a Tenor and Noises Off! this production embraced the wacky, the larger than life characters, the crazy couch jumping and the aforementioned door-slamming. I really enjoyed it. In particular, the cast consists of 6 well-defined comedic characters and 4 of those are women. The three stewardesses: The American (Kate Ryan), The Italian (Belinda Cornish) and the German (Stephanie Wolfe) are all hysterical in their own way. I will say my favorite was Stephanie Wolfe as Gretchen, primarily because she sold the physical comedy so well. I was laughing so hard I swear I was tearing up. This is not to say the others are not funny, but I couldn't get over her rolling on the floor. It killed me. The guys (Dave Horak and Kevin James) are strong and funny too and how can you beat Leona Brausen as the put-upon maid? I do not think you can. She is golden. It was so clean. The set gorgeous and the tri-colour airline uniforms picture perfect. The only thing that I kind of wondered about was why the guys didn't have french accents. They were clearly supposed to be french and the girls all had their requisite accents, so I wondered. It didn't stop me from laughing and finding it hilarious, so perhaps the choice was made for clarity. It was just something I wondered about. Anyhow, in a city dense with serious drama this is a good show for those who like a belly-laugh. It made for a great night out.

*#10 in my 2012 Theatre goal

Sunday, March 04, 2012

A Celebration of a Life - Tribute to Marlene

Yesterday was a day of celebration and memorial. Earlier this year the Walterdale family lost Marlene Kottke, a much beloved member. Yesterday afternoon we got together in the theatre to celebrate Marlene's life. Her children and many of her friends and family came to join with the Walterdale family and we shared those things that made Marlene so special. I was fortunate to know her and feel honoured that the organizers asked me to participate. It was a lovely time of remembrance and felt just about perfect in reflection on her life. Marlene was almost exactly the same age as my mother and they shared many qualities - good listening, good organization, kindness, and nurturing. I will miss Marlene.

After the memorial, I took in Fool For Love at Shadow Theatre across the road. It was a good production of a Sam Shepherd piece I had never seen before. I cannot really fault this production - well acted and directed and a great set. I didn't feel the intense sexual chemistry I think the script calls for, but I was probably not in the right mind set to be totally immersed in it. However, I was glad to see it as I have not seen much at Shadow in the last few years due to scheduling. I am enjoying the recent bout of one acts that theatres seem to be producing lately - Red, RACE, Albertine in Five Times and now Fool For Love. I like the structure of a one act and the uninterrupted arc that they have. I hope that this form becomes more prevalent in main stage seasons to come.

*number 9 in my 2012 theatre goal

Saturday, March 03, 2012

RACE - No Shades of Grey

I did the kid swap with Mark in the Westmount parking lot so that I could make it to the Theatre Yes production of David Mamet's RACE tonight. I had read a little about the play when it was on Broadway a few years ago and thought that the premise sounded intriguing so I was excited to see it was coming up. I think Mamet is always a courageous choice as the dialogue is tricky and this piece would be especially so because of the specific requirements of the cast. Although the play took a few minutes to grab me, once I was in, I was in. This production is a nice solid piece of work, anchored brilliantly by Michael Peng. The rest of the cast turn in solid performances, but he clearly seems most at home with the complexity of Mamet's dialogue. So many things impressed me about this piece of theatre. Brian Bast's set and costumes are perfect (and I am not just saying that because Brian and I went to high school together). It is amazing how transformed the Catalyst is. It was hard to believe it was the same space that I have seen countless Fringe shows in. But beyond that, this was a production that made me think.

On the drive home I did a lot of thinking about how I feel about some of the universals explored by the play. I have to say explored because Mamet is not easy on his audience. He does not tell you any of the solutions. He is much better at drawing attention to the problems and a pat solution is not going to cut it in his world. It's rather like the real world. Although the play is clearly American and the race issues are a somewhat different there, we have situations in Canada where the same kinds of prejudice impact our decisions and our beliefs. I do not believe that anyone is entirely without prejudice. We are all shaped by things we have lived through and what we have been taught and we have all felt judged based on where we come from and what we look like. How we deal with those attitudes, both our own and those of others, varies from person to person. Throw in a court case where the guilt of a client is up in the air and race is an issue and you have a compelling piece of theatre.

*number 8 in my 2012 theatre goal

Thursday, March 01, 2012

In Which I Pull a Mama Rose on Titanic...

My youngest, Gibson, is a very talented little dude but quite shy, however, that shyness obviously did not stop me from getting him to participate in Two One Way Tickets to Broadway's upcoming production of Titanic at the Winspear (April 4th and 5th). I received an email from Barb Mah, the Director, asking if he might be interested as they needed a child to play Jack Thayer. I wasn't sure what Gibson would say. He's shy. Anyhow, first he said no, then he thought about the fact that he would miss school and then he changed it to a yes (what motivates children...). We get a bit of a break on rehearsals which is nice. Barb is excellent in working with him early on school nights so that he can leave before it gets too, too late. He is also happy to get a 'treat' on the way home. I sit in and help wrangle him, but I am happy to say he seems to be doing quite well. Luckily every boy from 5-50 seems to understand the language of video games so he was bonding quite nicely with some of the other cast members last night. This allowed me to visit with friends from past shows.

I have enjoyed sitting in on the rehearsals playing the role of stage mom (I think I have been a fairly innocuous one at that). I am amazed at the sound of this cast. It is big - I think there are 44 of them - and I keep marvelling at how many strong men they have. I have been casting musicals in Edmonton for a few years now and I have been blessed with getting who I needed for my shows, but men are always difficult to come by. You usually have 2-3 times as many women - this show is almost the opposite. It makes for a lovely sound. I know too, that the sound will be even bigger when they add in the choir that will be singing behind them. Hopefully, Gibson will continue to fit in well and I will be able to sit in the house in a proper seat and watch the show. He does not want his brother to come, but we might take him anyhow and not tell Gibson until afterwards. I think Oliver would want to see it. I know Grandma is coming.

On another note - I started the APN Edmonton Playwright's Circle this week. It has it's own blog where you can follow our journeys in writing. I was excited to hear all the other Play Pitches and to get recharged with the 'questions' you need to ask yourself. Hopefully I will be able to get a little work done tomorrow (it's Teacher's Convention so the kids are home). I have a few weeks, but time seems to fly! I will be working on Little Monsters and am excited to plug away at it and then share it with the group.