Fantastic staging, with beautiful sets, great use of visual projections and a solid cast could not quite overcome the fact that the play is too long.  Either it needs editing, or the director needs to speed it up. I actually drifted off a couple of times in the second act, just when things were coming to a climax. If we had left at the intermission, we would have had enough immersion into the scene. And as we all know how it ends….

i must mention Graeme Somerville’s performance as Renfield, the mad acolyte of Dracula. He gave a brilliant performance in and out of his gilded cage. Allan Louis was a suave and threatening Dracula, but did not get the dramatic entrances I remember from a previous production. This limited his impact. Note that I may have missed an entrance in the second act when I was asleep.

Solid performances by Marla McLean as Mina Westerman, Charissa Richards as Lucy Westerman, Natasha Mumba as Florrie, Wade Bogert O’Brien as Drinkwater, Ben Sanders as Jonathan Harker, Martin Happer as Dr Harker and Steven Sutcliffe as      Van Helsing, were supported by a fantastic cast vampire brides.

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Dancing at Laughnasa

Sometimes the best part of a play is just watching great actors become someone else for a while. The script becomes almost irrelevant, as the people are so real it is hard to remember that there are actors involved. This was my experience of Dancing at Laughnasa.

The amazing cast (Serena Parmar, Tara Rosling, Claire Julien, Diana Donnelly, Fiona Byrne as the mother and aunts, with Patrick Galligan as Michael, Peter Millard as Father Jack and Kristopher Bowman as Gerry) kept us interested, even though the play is a memoir, with not much plot.  But the people were so alive!

I am not sure I would see this play again as I find it hard to believe another cast of this talent could be assembled.

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The Madwoman of Chaillot

I was interested in seeing this play, as it is a name that comes up, but the opportunity to see it has never come up.

Now that I have seen it, I feel no need to repeat the experience. I enjoyed it for the performances and the production, but thought the play was silly. It was worth seeing Seana McKenna  as the Madwoman of Chaillot and Scott Wentworth as the Ragman. And Donna Feore proved she can handle the Paterson stage as well as the Festival.

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People kept comparing this play to Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, which is one of the few plays that I absolutely detest. In fact, I dislike it so much that I almost feel I should see it again, since it probably isn’t that bad!

Be that as it may, Middletown is so much better. I loved it. Stuff happens to people, nothing very exciting, mostly very ordinary. People react. Somehow it is all interesting, funny, sad and heartwarming.

The fantastic cast definitely made a difference. How often can you see Tara Rosling, Sara Topham, Claire Julien, Moya O’Connell and Fiona Byrne all in the same play? And as you watch, you realise that any one of them could have played any of the parts. No typecasting, just great acting.

The men are also great, but a bit more stereotyped. Benedict Campbell looks like the Cop, Gray Powell is charming amd sad as John and Jeff Meadows is off the wall, but ultimately likeable as the Mechanic. The actors with smaller roles were just as good.

I can see why this is the critics pick at Shaw this year.






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An Octoroon

Andre Sills, a black actor playing two parts in whiteface,  Ryan Cunningham, an aboriginal actor playing in blackface, Patrick McManus, a white actor in redface- you get the message that this is going to be different. And it was. It was interesting, but not something I would want to see again. The acting was brilliant, but the play does prove that melodrama is not a form that is suited to the modern taste.





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The Komagata Maru Incident

An updated version of this play, originally written in the early seventies bt Sharon Pollock, had its premiere last week. The press premiere had to be delayed because the lead singer was hospitalized a couple of days before. Fortunately, the Sound designer, Suba Sankaran was willing to step in and take on the role. She knew the songs perfectly, but had to use a book for the spoken part. I did not find this a problem, although some members of the audience did. We did learn that evening the plays at the Studio do not have understudies, as their runs are too short and the number of seats too small to justify the cost of the understudy.

So we were lucky that the play could go on at all. This is a hard play to watch, especially a week after the neo-Nazi incidents in Charlottesville earlier in the month.  We Canadians like to think that we are past all that kind of racism and hate. This play reminds us that it was only a hundred years ago that our own elected leaders were saying and doing equally hateful things.

The play undoubtedly had more impact because of the recent hate related actions in the US and Canada. Otherwise we could simply have dismissed it as history.

While the impact was high, the play could still use some work to move it along at a brisker pace. The addition of the madam and the brothel girls was positive, although I did have to wonder if Chinese women could have got into the country at that time?

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The Breathing Hole

Commissioned by The Stratford Festival, The Breathing Hole had its’ world premiere last week.

When I first heard about it, I was skeptical, to say the least. A five hundred year old bear? The Franklin expedition? A cast of Inuit actors and an Inuit director? How could this all come together? Suffice to say it did. The bears were the stars of the show, just as the horse was in War Horse.  Listening to actors speaking Inuktitut was fascinating and added realism to the story.

As usual, the cast was excellent. We especially enjoyed watching Johnny Issaluk as Nuklik and Totalik, since we have been watching him work out at the Y all summer! Randy Hughson was great as Franklin, as was Juan Chioran as Oliver Morshead and Rivera.

Congratulations to playwright Colleen Murphy, director Renelta Erluk and to Antoni Cimolino for having the courage to commissiona dn produce this play.

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