Culture & Conversation

Funny stuff is Falstaff

It’s an amusing irony that Verdi, best known for great tragic operas such as La traviata, Rigoletto and Otello, closed out his oeuvre with a comedy – and a funny one at that. Opéra de Montréal has gathered a mostly Canadian cast for this production of Falstaff from the late, lamented New York City Opera, bringing a bland set to life with fine singing and situational comedy – which often had the audience laughing during the second-night performance I attended.

Parti (pris) politique

De nombreuses œuvres de fiction sont un véhicule nous permettant de voyager, de rêver, de nous enfuir. D’autres œuvres, par contre, sont un miroir nous montrant l’état actuel des choses, la réalité telle qu’elle est, bonne ou mauvaise. La traversée de la mer intérieure, de Jean-Rock Gaudeault, est l’une de ces dernières : une pièce on ne peut plus opportune qui, en même temps, traite d’un sujet dont on a bien assez entendu parler.

No monkeying around

I had the only reasonable excuse for missing this show last year: I was in Ecuador. Howard Rosenstein gives an absolute tour de force performance that is literally breathtaking. Alexandra Montagnes is fantastically convincing as his terribly inebriated partner. These performances are certainly worth the price of admission.

Growing up too fast

When the Lily and Taylor meet at a local high school, they discover that they have something in common — both their mothers had been in car crashes. But while Taylor’s mother died, Lily’s mother survived, yet the head injuries she sustained often require Lily to act as the parent.

The Outsider

Imagine you’re a blond-haired, blue-eyed thirteen-year-old from Vancouver moving with your parents and two siblings some 8,000 km away to Guyana. You step off the plane and you are immediately assaulted by perplexing smells, a blanket of heat and an all-encompassing dark. “Night there is not like anything I had felt before.” So begins Shelagh Plunkett’s four year adventure that eventually ends on the other side of the world with a surreptitious departure from the island of Timor.

Organic genius

Some people think that a docu-drama is like a documentary film, and in some ways that is so; both require an exhausting amount of research. However the live performance of SEEDS with its organic overlay of technology is a multi dimensional and fascinating evening of theatre that simply cannot be matched by anything two dimensional on this planet.

The Real Haiti

Fred Voodoo is not a real person. He has never existed. This made-up name is the shorthand used informally by some foreign correspondents to refer to the man (or woman) in the street in Haiti, often in a condescending tone.

Brother to brother

In 1972, twenty-one year-old Gino Vannelli showed up in LA, with his trademark Italian-afro, bell-bottoms, low-buttoned shirt and medallions. Ready to make it big. “People looked at me like, ‘Where the hell are you from?’ ” he laughs. “The look there was the roadie look – everyone in LA looked like Jerry Garcia. They all thought I was from the Greek islands.”

Howard’s end

The last days of Howard Hughes seem like the perfect material for a certain kind of play. The kind where the human machine has gone kaput yet still coughs out dreams and desires. The kind of play, in fact, that Samuel Beckett would write, which is why Sam Shepard’s Seduced often feels like a Texan-accented Endgame, or the one where a chirruping old lady is gradually engulfed by the literal sands of time.


Mot/town: Monique Polak

Mot/town is a video and literary collaboration between myself, Elise Moser, and some of Montreal’s writers, poets, and spoken word artists. We meet in their neighbourhoods, in their kitchens, on their front stoops, at their work place and bring a camera.

Performers Jody Hegel, Lael Stallick, Caroline Gravel and Milan Panet-Gigon

In the company of inspiration

Founded in 2011 by the phenomenally talented Emily Gualtieri and David Albert-Toth, the bilingual young company Parts+Labour_Danse premiered their outstanding new creation, In Mixed Company, at the Monument-National, preceded by a reprise of the solo performance La Chute.

It’s All Science Fiction

Montreal-based artist and writer Joe Ollmann returns with Science Fiction, a graphic novel that more or less follows the same thread as his highly successful 2010 Mid-Life. However, Mark, the protagonist in his new work, is facing a mid-life crisis that’s out of this world – or so Mark thinks. After watching a bad sci-fi movie with his girlfriend, Sue, Mark suddenly finds himself in the fetal position, grappling with repressed memories of his abduction by aliens when he was in college.

No country for criminals

When we talk about the success or failure of a film, all too often we are implicating the strength of the script — the narrative choices made within the film and the effectiveness of the dialogue. In this auteur-driven age, we are apt to place the burden of responsibility on the shoulders of the director. However, most directors are simply craftsmen confined by the parameters of the script. In light of this, it is surprising that, aside from Charlie Kaufman and a precious few, screenwriters are a generally undervalued group. The Counselor is an excellent example of the difference a scriptwriter can have on a film.

Of mice and men and corporations

In 1990, the US Supreme Court granted a patent on a mouse. I was in attendance at a major environmental conference in Vancouver when that decision came down and we were shocked. Can anyone own a life form? Would ownership evolve from rodents to bovines to, gasp, humans? And what is life anyways?