Culture & Conversation

Posts by Alex Woolcott

In the Trenches

Politics triumphs over theatre in Trench Patterns, the new play by Alyson Grant opening Infinitheatre’s latest season. The story of a Quebecois soldier who lost her leg in Afghanistan, the play is remarkable in its exploration of the aftershocks of living in that murky grey zone where military morality resides. But Trench Patterns is ultimately weighed down by its own message, keeping the play from ever truly taking dramatic flight.

Elizabeth Most Excellent

One of the most complex plays in the Canadian theatre canon, Timothy Findley’s Elizabeth Rex is not for the theatrically weak. Set in Elizabethan England, its enigmatic script quotes Shakespeare even as it deals with that thorny relationship between gender and power. All of this may seem like heady stuff for a sweat-drenched June but fortunately Tableau d’Hôte’s new production makes the piece accessible to those without a bachelor’s degree.

Unorthodox Puppetry

Style triumphs over substance in The Heretics of Bohemia, the newest play from Scapegoat Carnivale Productions. A zany extravaganza involving a cast of thousands (many of them are puppets), Heretics overflows with shtick, witty banter and delightful theatricality. But its narrative is far too weak to support even its brief seventy-five minute running time. One can easily sit back and enjoy the ride – just don’t expect to understand what any of it was about when you’re done.

Achoo!

Quebec’s students are on strike but thankfully no one told the folks at the Dawson Professional Theatre Program: in the final production of their season, the graduating class of 2012 not only showed up for the performance but also brought all their usual infectious enthusiasm. This time their production is Hay Fever, one of Noel Coward’s most popular plays, and it’s a surprisingly sharp and witty rendition that proves the cast is more then ready for the outside world.

Not a Gilded Cage

Don’t make the mistake of going to see the latest incarnation of David Harrower’s play Blackbird expecting a raucous night at the theatre. Harrower’s play, most recently seen in French at Theatre Prospero, is a dark and demanding tragedy with a reputation for leaving audiences fighting for breath. In this new production the harsh subject matter is well served by its cast, but the power of the script is mitigated by a lack of sharp direction that keeps us squarely in acting school territory.

Errors of Comedy

There’s an old theatrical aphorism that says one should always leave the audience wanting more. This is exactly what happens in Centaur’s production of Pierre Marivaux’s The Game of Love and Chance (translated by Nicholas Billon). Watching the show, one is constantly wanting – if not hoping and praying – that the talented cast and crew are going to give us more. More jokes, more wit, more of Marivaux’s own blithe spirit.

Beautiful Cruelty

Two years ago, actress-turned-director Ellen David was asked if she would direct a play for Infinitheatre. David leapt at the chance and within moments had suggested The Leisure Society (La Société des loisirs) François Archambault’s scathing attack on the cost of consumerism. David clearly has infallible instincts: her Quebec English-language première of The Leisure Society is Infintiheatre’s sharpest production in years and a standout of Anglo-Montreal’s 2012 season.

Devil in the Details

Enthusiasm will only get you so far and if you need proof, visit Title 66’s current production of Clive Barker’s The History of the Devil. The young cast and crew contain more than a few stars of tomorrow; unfortunately, they’re saddled with Barker’s meandering script, a fairly unseaworthy vessel that the talented crew have to fight to bring to into harbour.

Never Say Die

It’s a swing and a miss for Ars Poetica, the second play by Arthur Holden and the latest offering from Montreal’s Infinitheatre. Infinite can always be commended for exclusively producing new work by local writers. But this time around they’ve emerged with a weak and meandering comedy in desperate need of another draft.

Brilliant Stage Noir

A criminally clever coup de théâtre, Claude Guilmain’s Requiem pour un trompettiste manages the amazing feat of being both an homage to film noir and a timely expose on corruption in politics. And all of it is couched in an intricate technical dance of music, dialogue and deft timing.