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Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Couple of Shows... Feels like a while since I've seen anything!

This past weekend I took in two fun shows after what feels like forever... I think that's because I have been in rehearsal and busy getting other things done, but also the theatre season slows down a bit in Edmonton in June because seasons wind down and a lot of theatre artists start getting ready for Fringe. There are a few festivals on their way between now and Fringe though, so there are a few things to see!

Friday night, I took in the Opening Night of Teatro La Quindicina's Lucy and Mr. Plate.  It's a sequel to a 2001 production called Citizen Plate (which I did not see as I was living elsewhere at the time).  Ned Plate is played by Jeff Haslam and is delightful.  He's a bit tell it like it is, with a plainspokenness that is both charming and small-town Alberta (Mundare - the town of origin).  While on holiday in Hawaii, Ned meets Lucy (played by Jana O'Connor), a free spirit from his youth in Mundare.  As her relationships tumble and turn, Ned steps in as new best friend and confident and helps her through it all .  It's a light and funny show that is never hard to engage with.  Ned Plate's turn of phrase and view of the world is entertaining and Haslam plays him with an authenticity that charms us all. The show has some meta-theatre moments as Haslam plays Ned playing all of Lucy's ill-suited suitors.  It's the kind of play where we, the audience, are just as much a part of the show, where Haslam, as Ned,can make a comment to us about the over-loud Turkish music playing from Gazebo Park across the street and it works and is hilarious. O'Connor is luminous and the perfect counter point in her try-anything attitude to the more reticent Ned Plate. There are no earthquakes or deep reveals in this show, but it is delightfully fun and these are two characters I am glad I got to meet.

On Saturday night I caught Two One Way Tickets To Broadway's La Cage Aux Folles at La Cite.  La Cage Aux Folles is the musical that inspired the movie The Birdcage that starred Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Based on the 1973 French play of the same name by Jean Poiret, it focuses on a gay couple: Georges, (Morgan Smith) the manager of a Saint-Tropez nightclub featuring drag entertainment, and Albin (Ron Long), his romantic partner and star attraction, and the farcical adventures that ensue when George's son, Jean-Michel (Andrew Boyd), brings home his fiancee's ultra-conservative parents to meet them. At the core of the play is really the relationship between Albin and Georges who, at a time when it was not legal nor publicly accepted, really have a true marriage.  Long and Smith do a really nice job with this relationship in both book and musical scenes. Long's rendition of I Am What I Am is particularly strong, as is their duet Song on the Sand. However, there are elements of the script that feel a bit dated, and I wish the time had been played up a bit more to really highlight the attitudes of the time period more as I think things that shocked in the 80's don't necessarily shock anymore, at least not to the same degree... or maybe I know too many drag performers...  I have seen The Birdcage more than once, so the big finale wasn't as surprising as I wanted it to be.  I think for someone not familiar with the plot twists it might be more compelling.  The people in the row in front of me were much more surprised so I think they didn't know what was going to happen.  This is a piece that works best with no spoilers. There is some wonderful singing and choreography and this company attacks it with gusto, but for me, this show is all about Albin and Georges.

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