Of Marriage and Men: a comedy double bill

Two fun one act plays by Shaw combine into a fun afternoon.

The first, How He Lied to Her Husband, provided a great opportunity for the cast to chew the scenery, which was quite stunning. Krystal Kiran as She, Shawn Amed as He, her lover and David Adams as Her Husband, banter amusingly about marriage and truth.

Man of Destiny included Fiona Byrne as Strange Lady, Martin Happer as Giuseppe, Andrew Lawrie as The Lieutenant and Kelly Wong as Napoleon Bonaparte. A strange little play about lies and love, but very well acted. I was particularly taken by Kelly Wong who is in his tenth season at Shaw, but whom I had  never noticed before!

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The Orchard (after Chekhov)

Sarena Parmar wrote a play to tell the story of the outsiders that are an important but often over looked part of Canadian history. The play is ambitious in scope, perhaps a bit too ambitious, as the number of stories means that some are just barely hinted at, and might be better left to another play. Still it was an interesting play, with an excellent cast.

Most of the characters are Sikh and are all part of a single family who own the orchard. Their friends and employees include a Japanese man who wants to be a cowboy (KellyWong);a native woman who was a rodeo star (Jani Lauzon); a neighbour who is ready to borrow money, but reluctant to lend it (Neil Barclay) and Michael (Jeff Meadows) who is supposed to be in love with one of the daughters, but really loves her mother. The Basran family are dominated by Loveleen, the mother who ran off to India (Pamela Sinha),and returns to sell the orchard. Grandfather Kesur (David Adams). Loveleen’s brother Gurjit (Sanjay Talwar) and the daughters, Annie (Sarena Palmar) and Barminder (Krystal Kiran) who have been struggling to save the orchard are shocked by the sale.

Don’t forget the love stories: Annie and Peter, Barminder and Michael, Donna and Yash….

See what I mean about too many stories in one play?

The play was a good start, but could be much better. Chekhov has nothing to fear! Yet.

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Stage Kiss

Starting our annual run of shows at the Shaw Festival with this one seemed like a good idea. Written by Sarah Ruhl and first produced in 2011, the production had a solid cast – Fiona Byrne, Neil Barclay, Jeff Meadows, Martin Happer, Sanjay Talwar, Serena Parmar and new comer Rong Fu.

At the intermission, we looked at each other, got up and went to buy jam. Dreadful was the first word that popped into my mind. A waste of talent.

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An Ideal Husband.

We have seen this play at least twice at the Shaw Festival, so it was interesting to see whether Stratford would bring a different feel to the show. In a word, no.

Director Lezlie Wade took the safe approach and set it in period costumes in a typical house. The only note of difference was the higher percentage of black actors in the show, driven I suspect because the play is cross cast with To Kill a Mockingbird!

Several great performances kept us interested. Bahareh Yaraghi, who is becoming one of my favourites was superb as Mrs Cheveley. (As an aside, I would kill for the dress she wore in Act 1. Even if I have nowhere to wear it, I would just hang it where I could admire it.)

Yaraghi was well matched by Sophia Walker as Lady Gertrude Chiltern.  Zara Jestadt was delightful as Mabel Chiltern and Marion Adler charmed as Lady Markby.

The leading men were equally good. Tim Campbell as Sir Robert Chiltern, Joe Ziegler as The Earl,of Caversham and Brad Hodder as Lord Arthur Goring were well worth watching. Brad Hodder got the best lines and was charming as the not so stupid lay about!

I would like to see this play updated.  The issues are still current  : truth and idealism are still important. Maybe the setting is too integral a part of the story, but I would still like to see someone try.

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Winnipeg Fringe 2018

I wrote many witty comments about the first two days of fringing, but somehow they vanished into the ether. So here comes a much abbreviated version.

Darwin versus Rednecks  – Srewart Huff is a standup comedian from Kentucky so he knows his rednecks. He also is a liberal, so his southern perspective is different and hilarious.    5

Balls of Yarns –   We added this one on the recommendation of Stewart Huff. Described as David Lynch meets The Wizaed of Oz. Strange but funny. I especially liked the liebraries and truthbraries.   4

Midsummer Night’s Fever-  mix up Shakespeare and Saturday Night Fever and this is what you get. A very large cast from Winnipeg. Some excellent performances, but overall average. Loved the mechanicals performance of Macho Man.   3

Chris Funk Live – a great magician with a terrific patter and some truly impressive illusions. Worth watching for.   5

Jesus Christ: the Lost Years  – two women play all the parts, providing the answers to the question about how Jesus reacted when he learned about the virgin birth? And where was he between 13 and 30? Not a show for believers, but great for the atheist in you.  5

Death, a Romantic Comedy  Written and performed by Rob Gee. A very funny, multi perspective story about drinking, death, love and a missing pacemaker.  5

How Hard Could That Be?  Trent Arterberry is a mime and this is the story of his life in words and mime. He is both a great story teller and a great mime. The walls are real. His mime of his birth was great, and his adventure in the aquarium in Boston was hilarious. He played himself and the shark!   5

God is a Scottish Drag Queen  – Mike Delamont is at his best. Dressed in a power suit, with bare feet, he delivers the truth behind God’s little mysteries and a funny commentary on life today.  5

One Man Pride and Prejudice   – Charles Ross plays all the roles, drawing on every movie version including the zombie one. He is a very talented comedian and this was a great show.   5

Hamlet –  Knavish Productions of Winnipeg brought us this terific production of Hamlet in 90 minutes. Everything important was there. I know it was heavily edited, but I did not miss anything. Hamlet was played by Miranda Baran who was one of the best Hamlet’s I have seen.   5

Sex? But I’m Canadian! – Stuart McLean tells stories about the sex life of Dale and Marnie. No vulgar language in a show that is titillatingly funny! People started laughing as soon as he opened his mouth and continued to the very end. Comedian Nick Dicecco has great talent as a storyteller and mimic.   5

Fallen from the Toy Box – a flautist, a bass trombone player and a percussionist (drums and xylophone) are all dancers. The show is an ode to the joys of being a child. Great fun for adults and kids!   5

The Most Unlikely Comedian – Adam Schwartz is possibly the world’s only autistic comedian. His stories about dealing with autism as a child and as an adult are funny and sad. But you leave the show happy that he has found a community and a career that will never make him rich, but that he loves.  4

The War of 1812 – This story is a favorite of Canadians everywhere. We beat the Americans and burnt the White House. Well, the British did because we technically did not exist yet, but still… in these times of Trump, we all like a chance to put down our neighbours. And when the show is silly and vulgar and even Trump makes an appearance, what more could you want?  5

Adding it all up – we saw 14 shows out of a possible 180 (not counting the kids shows or the free outdoor busker shows). There were 29 venues, ranging from the Royal MTC to a basement room in an office building and the second floor of a pub. We had one day of rain and four days of perfect weather.  We ate too much food truck food, but didn’t drink much at all. The sum: we had a great time!

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Robert Lepage blew the doors off with his first Stratford Festival directing job. His vision, combined with the talents of his technical crew and the amazing performances of the Stratford actors delivered an amazing evening of theatre.  The buzz in the lobby at intermission was exciting. We all knew that we were seeing a production that would be remembered for decades.

Andre Sills gave a great performance as Coriolanus. The hero who is a mommy’s boy is a difficult role to get right without it seeming stupid. This was brilliantly nuanced and matched every step of the way by Lucy Peacock as Volumnia, his over bearing mother.

The other main characters were equally good. Tom McCamus as Menenius, his friend and mentor was great in the bar, alone or dealing with the plebians played by Stephen Ouimette and Tom Rooney. Their reaction when they heard the news of Coriolanus return was brilliant – shock and panic and disbelief all mixed together.

Graham Abbey gave a great performance as Aufidius, the nemesis and friend of Coriolanus. The homoerotic  undertones were subtle, but clear.

if you don’t already have tickets, get them!

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Bronte:the world without

I have nothing but good things to say about the three actors who starred in this play. Berryl Bain, who played Charlotte Bronte and Andre Rankin who played Anne Bronte are both making their Stratford debuts this season and are welcome additions to the company. Jessica B. Hill is returning for her fourth season and continues to impress as Emily Bronte.

A friend described this play as a tedious play about tedious people. I have to agree. The first act explains the mercenary drive to publish. The second shows us the jealousy that resulted from uneven success. Two die.

The staging directed by Vanessa Porteous did not help the weakness of the play, but if anything made it worse. The many minutes of mimed activity to  music just served to drag it out. Surely there must be other ways to demonstrate the passage of time without making the audience live through it? Some of the music was quite interesting, but it contrasted severely with the period of the play. I assume it was meant to indicate the timeless nature of the story, but it jarred.

Overall, needs work.

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