ARCHIVES – THEATRE THAT OPENED IN FEBRUARY.2014

 (5 Star Rating System)

shrewRed One Theatre Collective. SHREW (2 ½ stars). This production is vibrant and silly at the same time. In short, it is a young person’s spin on Shakespeare (think Seth Rogan and Adam Sandler in terms of sensibility). Obviously, a bunch of friends have come together to have fun, and while the audience has fun too, somewhere Shakespeare has become lost in the colloquial rendering of the text. As to why Petruchio (Benjamin Blais) has a cowboy accent is anyone’s guess, although the Christopher Sly prologue as a puppet show is a neat idea. There are a lot of talented actors in the cast, particularly John Fleming as Tranio, but director Tyrone Savage (all grown up after playing a kid on the TV series Wind at My Back) just seems to be throwing a barrage of ideas out there to see what will stick. (Written by William Shakespeare (sort of), directed by Tyrone Savage, Storefront Theatre, Closes Mar. 2, 2014, www.redonetheatre.com.)

Theatrefront /Canadian Stage/Theatre Aquarius. TRIBES (3 ½ stars.) British playwright Nina Raine has concocted a totally dysfunctional family of intellectuals. At the core is a deaf son Billy (aurally impaired America actor Stephen Drabicki) who has been brought up without sign language, the rationale being that living as if there is no disability is better for him. Both parents and the other son and daughter each have their own hang-ups. The family’s universe really starts crumbling when Billy meets a girl (Holly Lewis) who initiates him into the world of the deaf, and opens a fissure between Billy and his family. The acting is very good and Daryl Cloran’s directing is fast-paced, even dizzying at times, but the play has a feel of being too clever by half. There are just too many subplots swirling around. (Written by Nina Raine, directed by Daryl Cloran, Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs, Closes Mar. 2, 2014, www.theatrefront.com.)

Afterplay Collective/Campbell House Museum. AFTERPLAY (4 stars). This play by famed writer Brian Friel is very clever indeed. He has taken the put-upon brother Andrey from The Three Sisters (Steve Cumyn), and the over-looked Sonya from Uncle Vanya (Tracey Ferencz) and has them meet in a restaurant of a Moscow Hotel. He has thus created a new Chekhov play. The intimate setting at Campbell House is perfect because the antique look of the upstairs drawing room provides a realistic site specific venue. This play can be a lot of talk (about lives before and after the respective plays), so what is needed is superb characterizations. Both Cumyn and Ferencz are Stratford/Shaw veterans, seasoned pros who are consummate actors, and clearly, both they and director Kyra Harper have worked hard to breathe life into the wordage. My one cavil is that they stand up and move around too much without motivation. That being said, the samovar tea and Russian cakes served before hand is a nice touch that makes the performance even more satisfying. The experience (tea plus play) is delightful. (Written by Brian Friel, directed by Kyra Harper, Closes Mar. 2, 2014, www.campbellhousemuseum.ca.)

Mirvish Productions/Vesturport/Lyric Hammersmith. METAMORPHOSIS (5 stars). In a word, this Icelandic/British production is brilliant. The adapters have taken Kafka’s 1915 novel and transformed it into a wondrous play full of visual surprises. Kafka, being Kafka, the story is depressing. One day, Gregor Samsa (Björn Thors) wakes up and discovers he has become an insect. It can only go downhill from here as his family tries to cope with the tragedy. The direction for Thors is masterful as he climbs his ways up and down walls by handgrips. Börkur Jónsson’s innovative turn-on-the-side bedroom set is miraculous in concept. The characterizations are superb, and FYI, these Icelandic actors have better diction than most English-speaking born thespians. A definite run don’t walk. The best kind of European theatre. (Written by Franz Kafka, adapted and directed by David Farr and Gísli Orn Gardarsson, Closes Mar. 9, 2014, Royal Alexandra Theatre, www.mirvish.com.)

Mirvish Productions. THE TWO WORLDS OF CHARLIE F. (3 ½ stars). This is a hard show to rate because the subject matter cuts to the sentimental bone – namely, the performers are mostly British soldiers who have been physically and/or emotionally scarred by war. Nonetheless, one can’t get around the fact that the acting is uneven, with some accents being impenetrable. Charlie F. is a devised play that began with the soldiers’ own stories, crafted into a theatrical production by writer Owen Sheers. Although the soldiers are mostly playing themselves, they have been given fictionalized names to make the venture more theatrical. Despite the harrowing nature of their stories, there is a lot of humour, and even original songs. This recovery play is a journey through recruitment, training, and physio, leading up to the men and women coping with their injuries. The Two Worlds of Charlie F. wears its heart on its sleeve.  (Written by Owen Sheers, directed by Stephen Rayne, Closes Mar. 9, 2014, Princess of Wales Theatre, www.mirvish.com.) 

 

 

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