CULTURE & CONVERSATION

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From dirt to seed to life

THEATRE: THE WALNUT TREE, CALIXA-LAVALÉE. In a gripping two hours, The Walnut Tree relates in a mix of dream sequences and starkly realistic confrontations, yet another story of the few survivors of the nightmares that swept Europe in the mid 20th century.

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After war’s end

In reading Carolyne Van Der Meer’s remarkable work, Motherlode: A Mosaic of Dutch Wartime Experiences, I was reminded of the intricate lace curtains found on the…

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Absurdly good

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”George Bernard Shaw. I do not know if Eugene Ionesco, the Romanian-French “Theatre of the Absurd” playwright knew of this quip when he wrote The Bald Soprano, his first play in 1950, the year of Shaw’s absurd death at 94 while climbing a tree.

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It’s all Greek to me

The ancient Greeks said it all. Not only in philosophy, but in theatre. Some 500 to 400 years BCE, the Greek dramatists Fab Four — Aeschylus, Aristophanes (my favorite), Euripides and Sophocles — ruled the roost with deep observations that traverse the centuries, unmatched by anyone until Shakespeare.

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Talk curling to me

With the Olympics in full throttle, excited fans across the nation are wondering how one begins pursuing a career in luge-ing. Curling has got to be one of the most underrated sports around and, unlike the luge, there are curling rinks set up nation-wide which leaves no reason to be baffled by its existence (sorry luge).

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Life-like in extremis

THEATRE: UNSEAMLY BY OREN SAFDI. She’s young and beautiful. Her skirt is terribly short but otherwise there’s nothing about Malina (as played by Arlen Aguayo Stewart) to suggest she’s a scheming seductress bent on destroying her ex-lover, a charismatic corporate genius.

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Taut and fitting

Unseamly is a very difficult play to watch; it deals with the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace and the possible complicity of the victim. And Howard Rosenstein’s performance alone merits a trip to the freezing Bain St-Michel.

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Shortstanding festival has longstanding prospects

The wonderful folk at the Freestanding Room have squeezed a major initiative into their tiny 3rd story performance space. This is the inaugural run of the Shortstanding Festival of Short Performances. Eight creations of its collectivity members are featured in a wide variety of small but mighty presentations, lasting 30 minutes or less.

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A collection of chance events

BOOKS: THE WIND IS NOT A RIVER by BRIAN PAYTON (HARPER COLLINS). When John disappears, Helen hatches an improbable plan of her own. She talks her way into a USO troupe and sings and dances her way to Alaska.

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Igloofest is crazy (and so are we)

Igloofest is what happens when you take North America’s only UNESCO City of Design, fill it with the continent’s most important digital arts scene, toss in some neon-glow ice cubes and then blend at full throttle – to the beats of some of the world’s best and biggest DJs come to play for Montreal’s notoriously fun-loving crowds.

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I know that we are supposed to be impressed. This was a very successful French play, even winning the Governor General’s award for dramatic literature. I may also be a little hard on it because I recently saw Carmen Aquirre’s Blue Box, unquestionably one of the greatest one women shows ever.

Many revelations

There were so many reasons to find The Book of Bob astonishing. Job is not one of my favourite biblical stories. Just because Satan has a beef with the Almighty is not sufficient reason to do awful things to Job and his family. It seems utterly unjust that no one consults Mrs. Job about the testing of her husband. Arthur Holden has created a modern humanist secular persona who also suffers, seemingly at the hands of a female God. That in itself is a great improvement. Even Satan in this play is a female.

Below the bible belt

Verily, I have gazed upon this work of Arthur and it pleaseth me much. In The Book of Bob, Arthur Holden’s clever script is inspiringly performed by Ron Lea as Bob and Lucinda Davis as – are you ready? – God, Satan, a troublesome student, a university administrator, a cantankerous father, Bob’s wife and Bob’s son’s street wise gal friend.

The Seagull soars

One of the characters in The Seagull says that theatre is medicine and the audience needs healing. In the case of the Seagull, the medicine is both delicious and effective. The play is long, but one only notices that after it is over, the standing ovation ends, and you glance at a watch. In theatre time it transpires in a flash. This is first class medicine from some world class practitioners.