Bakkhai

Original play by Euripides. New version by Anne Carson.

Directed by Jillian Keiley

A stellar cast, a dramatic set, great costumes and a strange plot. Even an updated version cannot get around the plot, where Dionysus comes to earth to take revenge on humans who have disrespected him. Women follow him to the country side, where they are free to indulge their carnal desires. The king dresses as a woman to spy on them. His mother Agave returns from the country bearing a trophy – she thinks it is a lion’s head when it is actually her son’s head. You can take it from there.

I must mention Mac Fyfe’s performance as Dionysus, Gordon S Miller as Pentheus and Lucy Peacock as Agave. All were superb.  Graham Abbey as Teresias and Nigel Bennet as Kadmos were equally good in smaller roles. And of course, I have to mention the Bakkhai, the chorus who told the story. They wer visually very impressive, but I must confess that I would have preferred chanting to singing, as it might have been easier to hear the words.

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The Changeling

Written by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley

Directed by Jackie Maxwell

High Speed Havoc is how Jackie Maxwell described her production of The Changeling. And high speed it was! As with the only other Middleton play we have seen (The Revengers Tragedy), the play moves along at a very fast pace. Characters arrive and depart. Plots arise and change. There are actually two plots, although I have to confess I never did figure out what was going on between Antonio (Gareth Potter) and Isabela (Jessica B. Hill).

The main plot was the usual story. Beatrice Joanna’s (Mikaeal Davies) father wants her to marry one man. She wants to marry another. She enlists help from a servant she hates to have her father’s candidate murdered. De Flores (Ben Carlson) demands sex in payment. She complies, but then has to figure out how to be a virgon on her wedding night. Enter the maid servant Diapahnta, (Ijeoma Emesowum), who agrees to sleep,with Joanna’s hisband Alsemero (Cyrus Lane) on her behalf. She enjoys it too much and has to be eliminated. More murder.

The overall experience was interesting but to me unsatisfactory.  I went home, not sure who did what, why. And I had nomidea whomThe Changeling was. According to the program, it was Antonio. But the actions of the characters leave the title open for anyone to claim.

The play was set in Spain, updated to the Spanish Civil War era. I am not convinced that this added anything, or detracted. But the costumes were easier for people to move around!

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School for Scandal

Director – Antoni Cimolino

Starring – Maev Beatty as Lady Sneerwell, Brigit Wilson as Mrs Candour, Joseph Zeigler as Sir Oliver Surface. Geraint Wyn Davies as Sir Peter Teazle, Shannon Taylor as Lady Teazle, Brent Carver as Rowley, Sebastien Helms as Charles Surface, Tyrone Savage as Joseph Surface.

The audience loved this gorgeous, funny production. And what’s not to like? You need to see it for the performances alone. Brigit Wilson as Mrs Candour was hilarious. Maev Beatty was suitable hauty as Lady Sneerwell. Geraint Wyn Davies was funny and sad as the lovelorn husband. And Joseph Zeigler was perfect as Sir Oliver.

The costumes were gorgeous and the sets elegant.

I rarely disagree with Antoni’s choices as a director, but this time I do. In costume for the period, the play seemed dated, but if it had been done in modern dress, the concept of fake news would have resonated much more clearly. The couple of modern references (Sean Spicer) and the twitter crawl at the end suggested that Antoni might have been torn. As it was they seemed out of place.

But at the end, I went home feeling dissatisfied. The play is dated, but it could have been so relevant. Maybe I am just shallow because I wanted it to seem more current on the surface (pun) instead of having to work to get the underlying theme: gossip  (fake news) is dangerous.

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Treasure Island

Director – Mitchell Cushman

Starring – Thomas Mitchell Barnet as Jim Hawkins. Randy Hughson as Squire Trelawney, Juan Chioran as Long John Silver, Jamie Mac as Allardyce, Jim Codrington as Captain Smollett and Katelyn  McCulloch as Ben Gunn

Fun for the whole family. Pirates, a parrot, battles, singing, dancing  and the amazing aerial work of Ben Gunn (Katelyn McCulloch). Juan Chioran was pefect as Long John Silver, with just the right blend of piratical evil and soft guy dad underneaith. Jamie Mac did a terrific and very funny bit speaking in a dialect that no one could understand, but might have been Newfoundland?

The kids in the audience loved the whole thing and so did the rest of us.

We have already issued invitations to the grandkids to come see it. You should too.

 

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Timon of Athens

Director – Stephen Ouimette

Starring Joseph Zeigler as Timon, Josue Laboucane as the Poet, Mike Nadajewski as the Painter, Michael Spencer Davis as Flavius (Timon’s steward), Ben Carlson as Apemantus and Tim Campbell as Alcibiades.

Everyone says this is a difficult play, but after seeing this wonderful production, you have to wonder why? Stephen Ouimette has directed a very clear and coherent modern dress version. Joseph Zeigler gives us a charming and passionate Timon. He likes everyone and assumes they like him to. When they turn out to be false friends, he is devastated and retreats to the wilderness.

Very strong performances by Ben Carlson as Apemantus and TIm Campbell as Alcibiades, (who looks like he just stepped out of a Canadain Forces recruiting brochure, ) also make this a must see play this season.  You don’t want to miss the poet or the painter either! And the dancing!

Timon is not often performed, so make sure you see it.

 

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Romeo and Juliet

Director – Scott Wentworth

Starring Sara Farb as Juliet, Antoine Yared as Romeo, Evan Buliung as Mercutio, Jamie Mac as Benvolio, Wayne Best as Friar Laurence, and Seana McKenna as the Nurse.

This was a very dark production in many senses. The costumes were overwhelmingly black and grey for the nobility and beige and brown for the servants. Only Mercutio stood out with a bright red jacket! Juliet wore pale blue.

But it was also a dark production in that there were many symbols of death and sin. The chorus of nurses and the apothecary, wearing a strange frightening looking bird mask all added to the atmosphere of doom.

It was also a young production, where the principal characters were clearly young teenagers, not mature adults. It occurred to me that if they had lived, divorce might have been in the future, they knew so little about each other or about life.

Seana McKenna was fabulous as the Nurse. It is worth going to see her for no other reason.  But see the whole thing. It is a very good production. You don’t want to miss Evan Buliung’s Mercutio ( he seemed much more comfortable in this role than as Sky Masterson). You should see Wayne Best!s Friar Laurence. And you don’t want to miss seeing the star crossed lovers – two leading performers destined to become stars of the company.

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HMS Pinafore

if you love Gilbert and Sullivan, you will love this production.  Great cast, singing and dancing. The costumes are lovely : I mention this because we once saw a D’Oyly Carte production where the costumes were so worn out and tatty that we were embarassed for the actors that had to wear them.

Steve Ross was a charming Captain, Jennifer Rider Shaw was his delightful daugher Josephine.  Lisa Horner captivated everyone as Buttercup, Devon Michael Brown again demostrated his over the top dancing abilities.

This may be my last G&S. it doesn’t matter how good the production is, the basic content is just not good enough anymore.

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