The current theatre - November 2005

Spring Awakening

Spring loversThis Frank Wedekind–authored play of 1891 was a revelation in its time and a scandal, replete with frank dialogue and topics of homosexuality, masturbation, abortion, and suicide among a group of teenaged friends.

Gabrielle Soskin directs this story of emerging teen sexual awareness. The play rails against middle class repression, working both as a polemic arguing for better sex education and as an unsparing and unsentimental look at adolescent lives in an environment of indifference and ignorance.

Spring Awakening could and should convey the universality of adolescent fears and anxieties. But under Soskin's direction, using Ted Hughes' version of the play, flat staging and a nervous young cast and make it more a remote, distant curiosity. The actors grapple bravely with Hughes' highly ornamented dialogue but it never quite comes alive.

Still, some moments work - Rebecca Croll's Frau Bergman has a great scene as she attempts with excruciating awkwardness to explain the facts of life to her daughter Wendla (Kate Fletcher).

Playing until November 20, 2005

Spring Awakening
by Frank Wedekind
directed by Gabrielle Soskin
Persephone Productions
Théâtre La Chapelle
tickets: (514) 843-7738


CondovilleDavid Fennario, a quarter-century after his widely admired Balconville first hit the Centaur Theatre stage, revisits the cast and co-op of his beloved Pointe St-Charles. The message of Condoville may be: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It's nice to see Fennario reaping some success again at the familiar theatre, which his 1975 play On The Job helped put on the map. The humanity of Fennario's work still comes through but, as before, is tempered with a mixture of tenderness and gentle contempt for the motley residents he depicts.

Fennario adds a few new characters and wrinkles to the story of Pointe residents desperately hanging on to their homes in the face of rising rents and rampant developers. There is Andrew and Felipe, a yuppified interracial gay couple downstairs (Neil Napier and Quincy Armorer), and an errant punkette, Cecile's granddaughter Bibi-diane (Madeline Peloquin).

Several characters (and a couple of original cast members) have returned from Balconville. Chronic complainer and disability benefit squeezer Paquette (Michel Perron) is here, along with his goodhearted and religious wife Cecile (Yolande Circé), the simpleton-savant and empty bottle scrounger Thibault (Jean Archambault), deadbeat metro musician Johnny (Kent Allen), and his long-suffering wife Irene (Patricia Yeatman).

Fennario lovingly renders the mangled "frenglish" of the quartier throughout, and though the humor is mighty broad, lines from Condoville stand out as sound bites that surely only Fennario could pen. Many gems are tossed off by Johnny, as he goes off to play guitar in the "Gee-Guy" metro, or comments on the coming winter and time to get out your "Coat-des-neiges".

Armorer, as African-born Filipe, has the most trenchant remark, though, saying of his neighbours, "I like these people, at least they call me 'nigger' to my face."

A great musical backdrop of Roy Orbison, The Four Tops, and Wilson Pickett mark scene changes, and under Gordon McCall's direction, Condoville rolls along, heavy on nostalgia and message. Even if Fennario isn't painting here with the finest brush, he still makes an enjoyable portrait.

by David Fennario
directed by Gordon McCall
Centaur Theatre

Real Estate

Real EstateBeaucoup de wacky is the order of the day here in Allana Harkin's play about growing up and returning to the old family home.

Slobby, pyjama-clad Joel Hopper (Bruce Dinsmore) is beset by all sorts of people who want to upset his life of disorganized inertia. With the parents now gone, Hopper slumps around his childhood home, trying to write a book as his deadline approaches.

All the while, the phone and doorbell don't stop ringing: it's either his verging-on-ex-wife or her new beau, his publisher, or a hurricane of a real estate agent (played with gusto by Emma Bard) trying to sell the house, even though it and its current occupant, in her professional parlance, "don't show well".

It's all light and breezy fare with a slightly melancholic core. The loss of parents, the eventual sale of the family home, and the reality of growing up and growing older all peek around the corner.

Alison Darcy directs it with a rather heavy hand, unusual for this actor/director wunderkind better known for her depth and subtlety.

Brought in to fill a gap in the Centaur season, Real Estate was a last-minute replacement for Michel Tremblay's The Driving Force after a fracas between Tremblay and his longtime collaborator/director André Brassard. Maybe it was the rush of getting the play ready in time, but Real Estate might have been a better fit for summer theatre or a small rural playhouse, where this slight comedy/romance would have worked better.

Continues to December 4, 2005

Real Estate
by Allana Harkin
directed by Alison Darcy
Centaur Theatre
tickets: (514) 288-3161

The Importance of Being Earnest

Algernon_JackOscar Wilde's beloved comedy of love and mistaken identity gets a sprightly treatment in this Ben Barnes' directed production at the Saidye. Timing and rapid-fire dialogue are everything in The Importance of Being Earnest, and Barnes and cast get it right.

Friends Algernon and Jack are in love with Cecily and Gwendolen, and must suffer the intrusions of butlers, matrons, and a clergyman. The perfectly silly and ingenious plot involving uncertain parentage and endless scheming takes place under the veneer of high society and its obligations and obsessions with respectability - things Wilde both adored and adored to ridicule.

The whole cast is good. Damian Atkins is a treat as the flippant Algernon, reveling in the young man's insouciant immorality with lines like, "If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated."

Nancy Palk is most impressive and imperious as Lady Bracknell, who, in the most withering, she-who-must-be-obeyed sort of way, utters such classic Wildeisms as, "To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness."

Peter Hartwell's beautifully detailed recto-verso set design and David Boechler's costumes reset the Victorian parlor comedy to the 1920s with pleasing effect, where the languor of its Jazz Age denizens translates effortlessly.

... Earnest only waivers a bit at the end, where the overly crowd-pleasing, Centaur theatre-ish finale sticks out. Still, what one remembers are the lovely performances and quotable lines, one of the best of the latter coming at the end, as a dismayed Jack realizes " is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth."

Continues to November 27, 2005

The Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde
directed by Ben Barnes
Saidye Bronfman
Leanor and Alvin Segal Theatre
tickets: (514) 739-7944

- Neil Boyce

Last Call at the Fringe
Regular Joes
Rendez-vous for contemporary theatre
Troubling the water
Assault and dramaturgy
Underwater discovery