At the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre, Lincoln Center Theater, New York City.

Written by J. T. Rogers
Directed by Bartlett Sher
Sets by Michael Yeargan
Costumes by Catherine Zuber
Lighting by Donald Holder
Sound by Peter John Still
Projections by 59 Productions
Cast: Michael Aronov
Anthony Azizi
Adam Dannheisser
Jennifer Ehle
Daniel Jenkins
Dariush Kashani
Jeb Kreager
Jefferson Mays
Christopher McHale
Daniel Oreskes
Angela Pierce
Henny Russell
Joseph Siravo
T. Ryder Smith

NOTE: The whole run for Oslo at the Mitzi E. Newhouse theatre was sold out. And while I saw this in July and it closes today—Aug. 28, I’m still writing about it, albeit late, because it’s important and will be returning to Lincoln Center Theater, this April, this time at the Vivian Beaumont Theater.

A stunning, gut wrenching play about the high stakes at work in the secret negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians when they met in Oslo to talk about peace.

The Story. The unimaginable happened in the White House Rose Garden on September 13, 1993. President Bill Clinton presided over the signing of the first-ever peace agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, and brought Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister of Israel and Yasir Arafat, the Chairman of the PLO together to shake hands on the deal. Astonishing.

The back story of how this came to be is the stuff of drama.

We are in Oslo Norway and other locations around the world. The story takes place between April 1992 and September 1993.

Terje Rød-Larsen and his wife Mona Juul were Norwegian diplomats in Oslo at the time. Rød-Larsen had a theory about negotiations and how to bring even the most combative of opponents together to agree on a solution to a problem. His theory was to make the negotiations personal; to solve one problem at a time and then move to the next. His idea was to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians together in Oslo, to talk about peace. In this case the Palestinians meant the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The talks would be secret. Indeed it was illegal for an Israeli to deal directly with the PLO. Both Rød-Larsen and his wife had various diplomatic contacts who could make this meeting happen. There were several meetings in fact and they are now known as the Oslo Accords. Rabin and Arafat were not directly involved in those meetings, although they were in constant contact with their various representatives who were.

At first the representatives from Israel seemed perhaps low-level but still committed and eager to work this out. When negotiations got further ahead more senior representatives took over. The main negotiators were Uri Savir (Michael Aronov) for the Israelis and Ahmed Qurie (Anthony Azizi) for the Palestinians. They arrived with their ‘baggage’ and their attitudes. Ahmed Qurie from the Palestinian side rails at Uri Savir from the Israelis side about what they have done to his people, killing children and innocent citizens, and Savir comes back with his list of horrors regarding the Palestinians’ side

There were snags along the way. Negotiations stalled. Rød-Larsen kept his cool and worked feverishly to get things on track. Mona Juul did too. And when all was said and done there was that astonishing handshake in the Rose Garden of the White House. We all know the story doesn’t end there.

The Production. Bartlett Sher directs this with a sure, delicate hand. Whether he’s directing straight plays: (Blood and Gifts; Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Golden Boy, Awake and Sing!) or musicals: (South Pacific, The King and I, Fiddler on the Roof, The Light in the Piazza, The Bridges of Madison County just for starters, or the opera Two Boys) he puts his stamp on each and more often than not the result is definitive. His standard is the one you judge all other productions.

There is such delicacy in his directorial touch even when the conversation is heated. You think each side might come to blows, but they hold back. (When Ahmed Qurie and Uri Savir railed at each other regarding their atrocities, it made me limp in my seat. “It’s hopeless” I thought. But both sides were there because they wanted to get past the ‘hopelessness’ and move forward.)

The body language becomes personal as the negotiations go on and each side sees that the other wants the same thing, but also to be true to their convictions on what they must gain. . So when characters are leaving the scene, a character from the Israeli side might put a delicate hand on the back of a Palestinian character, in friendship. It’s that subtlety that has one looking and wondering: how do you decide how close a character passes another if they are on different sides; as they get to know each other, the body language becomes collegial rather than wary. That’s the doing of Bartlett Sher (“Sher brilliance?”). He just makes us look harder and consider with more attention.

With Oslo everything about it is exquisite. Michael Yeargan has created a spare, beautiful set. There is a gleaming table of rich wood and two chairs suggesting the elegant surroundings. A door is upstage, behind which the negotiations take place. We never see them. What we see is the give and take, the banter, the effort to know the other side when the two sides are not behind closed doors.

Rød-Larsen suggested that there be ‘down time’ in which the two sides would take a break and enjoy a drink or a nosh. Both sides unanimously agree that the food provided is delicious and each wants to take the woman who cooked it back home with them. Rød-Larsen I believe suggests that both sides tell a joke. That breaks the ice.

Jefferson Mays plays Terje Rød-Larsen as a fastidious, courtly, gracious man. If you look up ‘fastidious’ in the dictionary I’m sure you’ll find a picture of Jefferson Mays next to the definition. Much has been written about his sartorial splendour off stage. On stage clothes look perfect on him. He assumes a sphinx-like smile, pleasant, inviting, but hiding a mind that is always thinking. You can see the character thinking by watching Jefferson Mays’ eyes. I have to say that Mays does not look like a real person—he’s too perfect. The face beams. His cheeks glow. His eyes glisten. He looks more beautiful than handsome. Commenting on a person’s looks really is not kosher but with this guy, you (I?) can’t help it. And he’s a wonderful actor as was scene when he played eight different characters in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and earlier in I Am My Own Wife he played a peasant woman. In Blood and Gifts he was again fastidious and always compelling.

At one point Terje Rød-Larsen has to lie to his wife Mona Juul because the negotiations are at a critical point and he is determined that nothing will get in the way. Mays hesitates just a touch, we hold our breaths, and he tells the lie. Does Mona Juul believe it? As played by Jennifer Ehle, who also has a sphinx-like smile and easy grace, you do believe she believes it. Or she just might be hiding any doubt. I can believe that Ehle is that smart, diplomatic, compassionate kind of person who gets things done in the most graceful way. She is a perfect match for Mays.

As Ahmed Qurie (on the Palestinian side), Anthony Azizi is tempered for the most part, watchful, and wary. He is a perfect match for Michael Aronov (on the Israeli side) who plays Uri Savir. Aronov is brash, swaggers, hands on hips, trying to take control. It’s easy to see how he can rub people the wrong way, but he is also hugely compelling. Both men soften when they realize their daughters share the same name.

I haven’t heard a silence in a theatre for such a challenging play in a long time, but my audience of mainly seniors and me and Arlene and Allan Alda over there, sat, holding our breaths in total silence, gripped by this brilliant play and equally brilliant production.

Comment. When Bartlett Sher was directing J.T. Rogers previous play, Blood and Gifts, about America’s involvement in Afghanistan, Sher invited Rød-Larsen to see it. Sher knew Rød-Larsen and his wife, Mona Juul because their daughters went to the same school. Sher introduced J.T. Rogers to Terje Rød-Larsen. Rød-Larsen talked of his and his wife’s involvement in the Oslo Accords. This got Mr. Rogers interested in the subject. Research followed. Oslo is the result.

J.T. Rogers’ play is astonishing in that it shows both sides of this age old hatred. He has shown the minutiae of what goes into delicate negotiations—something like untangling a spider web. While Rogers says that the details of the Oslo Accords is documented he is clear to say in his program note that this is his version of things. And while we know what happened from what we have read in the papers and what happened after that handshake, Rogers has written a gripping play that twists our guts and emotions and presents it as a political thriller. Will the two sides come back to the table after negotiations break down? Will anger prevail over good will or vice versa? He writes the language of diplomacy as clearly and compellingly as he writes the language of anger and hurt and distrust. He takes you so deeply inside the story you almost forget how it turns out and you are gripped every step of the way.

As always happens to me when I see theatre that has touched me deeply and shaken me and my assumptions, I got weepy. I cried all the way to the subway. That happens a lot after seeing such stunning theatre, and it’s usually at Lincoln Center Theater. I’m going to ask them to supply me with Kleenex the next time.

Produced by Lincoln Center Theater.

Opened: July 11, 2016.
Saw it: July 27, 2016.
Closes: Aug. 28, 2016.
Cast: 14; 11 men, 3 women.
Running Time: Almost 3 hours, approx.


Review: BUNNY

by Lynn on August 26, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Studio Theatre, Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ont.

Written by Hannah Moscovitch
Directed by Sarah Garton Stanley
Designed by Michael Gianfrancesco
Lighting by Kimberly Purtell
Composer and sound designer, Alexander MacSween
Cast: Maev Beaty
Tim Campbell
David Patrick Flemming
Jessica B. Hill
Cyrus Lane
Krystin Pellerin
Emilio Vieira

A deeply thought, richly layered play about coming into ones own, secrets, friendship, and the intoxicating lure of sex in all the wrong places.

The Story. Bunny is about a shy, awkward young woman named Sorrel. “Geek” would be a perfect description for her. She and her brother grew up with two odd-ball parents who were university professors. Supper time was a time of debate over deep philosophical questions. This family didn’t believe in frivolity or materialism. Sorrel’s clothes were dowdy, unstylish and unfashionable. Entertainment to this family meant reading books. Sorrel’s choice of reading material were those of the Victorians. Study and industriousness ruled Sorrel’s life. She was brainy. As a result she had no friends. None. Even the other geeks did not seek her out that’s how isolated she was.

But something happens when she is 17. She blossoms into a gorgeous, attractive woman. Her male peers find her attractive and she returns the interest. She revels in men, kissing (she keeps count of how many men she has kissed) and later, sex. By kissing a lot of boys her reputation suffers. She is thought to be a slut—which isn’t true. She doesn’t seem to care. Then came a boyfriend and sex. Nothing could dampen her yearning for sex and men. She became a university professor of Victorian English—lots of sex there it seems.

She is befriended by a woman named Maggie, who is a single mother—her first true friend. Maggie gives her the nickname ‘Bunny’. That name suggests cuteness, harmless, innocence and perhaps multiplying uh, ‘like rabbits.’

Sorrel tries to live a conventional life but there are secrets that Sorrel can’t share with Maggie or anyone but us, the audience. Then Maggie needs Sorrel as a true friend and that does reveal something about the relationship. Sorrel tells Maggie that she loves her. We know it’s not in a sexual way but in a true friendship way. Sorrel has never told anyone she loved them before Maggie. I found that interesting.

The Production. Sorrel is our narrator and Maev Beaty plays her beautifully. She stands centre stage wearing a dowdy sweater covering her dress. Her shoes are clunky. Her hair is tied back with an elastic band. She is awkward, fidgety and smilingly. She tells us about her life to that point, referring to herself in the third person, perhaps to create some distance as if she might be disavowing any connection to that person. Over the course of the play Sorrel will often come forward and comment on what is happening. We are the ones in whom she confides completely.

As she gets more confident and self-assured, the sweater comes off revealing a smart dress that reveals the blossoming woman in front of us. The elastic band around her hair will come off too. Occasionally her hair hangs free.

While Sorrel is poised with other characters, she is ‘herself’ with the audience. Here Maev Beaty is almost self-conscious about the secrets she has to hide and the wrong men to whom she is attracted.

As Sorrel discovers the power of her allure to men, she uses that confidence and coyness to take her to the next step—sex. It’s as if the floodgates of pent up emotions are suddenly let free both for Sorrel and the men with whom she is involved. The sex is lusty, noisy and compelling. Restraint is impossible for Sorrel and her partners.

You embrace this character whose world has opened up—a world of literary accomplishment, of men and sex—but in which she has to keep it fairly secret as she does try to live a conventional life. Sorrel now has a friend in Maggie, but for various reasons can’t really confide in her. Maggie has to cope with being a single mother and upheaval in her life. Krystin Pellerin as Maggie, does it with a gentle calmness but also a bit of frustration as her time slips away.

As Ethan, one of Sorrel’s lovers, Cyrus Lane is boyishly charming, confident but lost in Sorrel’s allure. As Carol, Maggie’s brother (yes, brother) and another man in Sorrel’s life, Tim Campbell is a steady presence in Sorrel’s life, devoted but a bit distracted with work.

This bracing production is directed with focused economy by Sarah Garton Stanley. There are very few props in Michael Gianfrancesco’s spare set, but enough to create the world of that layered play.

Comment. I think Hannah Moscovitch has found her strong, individual voice in the last few plays, and certainly in Bunny. Her plays keep getting deeper and richer and multi-layered. There was a time in the past when I thought she was channelling David Mamet too much with characters stammering and hesitating in their speech, but certainly not here. And her recent work has been recognized for that maturity. She is one of the nine winners of Yale University’s Windham-Campbell Prize for Literary Achievement.

Moscovitch read a lot growing up, especially Victorian novels which she loved. She says that she is re-examining what she blindly loved about that world in Bunny. And while I do enjoy the depth of the writing and the layers of the characters, I can’t help but feel that the play isn’t finished. While Sorrel tells Maggie she loves her, there seems to be a disconnect between the two women. Sorrel can’t tell Maggie her secrets. One in particular would cause a rift between them. Is this deliberate? Is Moscovitch trying to suggest that even with a true friend, Sorrel is not able to make the same commitment of friendship as Maggie has?

She thinks she knows Sorrel but we know she doesn’t. In the end Maggie tells Sorrel not to be afraid. One wonders of what? Because of her obsession with the seductive and the sensual, Sorrel lives dangerously. She can’t help it. So of what would she be afraid? I think there is need of a bit more revelation here to close the gap between Maggie and Sorrel, unless that is Moscovitch’s point. That in spite of Sorrel saying she loves Maggie as a true friend, Sorrel is still that awkward woman who is friendless.

I love that Hannah Moscovitch gets me to go deeper and think harder about her work.

Presented by the Stratford Festival.

Opened: Aug. 18, 2016.
Closes: Sept. 24, 2016.
Cast: 7; 4 men, 3 women.
Running Time: 90 minutes.


At Withrow Park, Toronto, Ont.

Written by William Shakespeare
Adapted by Andrew Joseph Richardson
Directed by Andrea Donaldson
Set and costumes by Jenna McCutchen
Lighting by Andre du Toit
Sound by Thomas Ryder Payne
Fight director, Mike Dufays
Cast: Wayne Burns
Andrea Davis
Phillipa Domville
Vivien Endicott-Douglas
Richard Lee
Brendan McMurtry-Howlett
Ellora Patnaik
Kaitlyn Riordan

A gender-bending take on Romeo and Juliet that is more confusing than revelatory. But it’s one of the most beautiful looking productions I’ve seen in any park in recent years.

The Story. You all know the story. Two families of Verona, Italy—the Monagues and the Capulets—have been feuding for so long they can’t remember the reason. Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet meet by chance and fall in love. Trouble ensues around them. It doesn’t end well.

The Production. Director, Andrea Donaldson has envisioned a Verona in which strong women run things. So Lady Capulet (Phillipa Domville) is very vocal and takes on the dialogue of her now absent husband, Capulet. An interesting change since Capulet was such a bully, but I digress. A woman (Ellora Patnaik) now plays Montague (as well as the Nurse) using his lines. The Prince of Verona is now played by a woman (Andrea Davis).

In her program note Donaldson describes Romeo as “a gender-fluid Romeo” She also says: “…we’ve dispensed with limited notions like dominance, sexuality and gender and instead embraced the notion that love is limitless, desire is limitless and the belief that forgiveness and hope are possible and will set us free.” Ah huh? Surely Shakespeare’s play on its own shows the endless possibilities of love, desire, forgiveness and hope? But I digress again.

Andrea Donaldson has set the play in the south end of Withrow Park, so don’t go to the North end where Shakespeare in the Ruff’s has usually played for eons, like I did looking for a group of thespians. The action takes place on the hills and between several trees in the south end.

Clusters of delicate lights nestle in the branches of the various trees around the space. Kudos to Jenna McCutchen for the set, the lit spheres and the magical look and Andre du Toit for his beautiful lighting. Characters make entrances down the hills holding clusters of branches that are in turn lit with several lights in the branches. The eye-popper is that all through the production characters carry large illuminated white spheres. The light inside the sphere both illuminates the actor carrying it and provides a wonderful fantasy-like effect. To see the spheres bobbing on the distant hills as the daylight fades and the darkness of evening arrives, is truly magical. In a more pragmatic moment one might wonder what those spheres represent, but I’m able and willing to suspend my disbelief here.

What is more problematic is the supposed ‘gender-fluidity’ of Romeo played by the lively Vivien Endicott-Douglas. Two women play Romeo and Juliet but they are not playing the characters as two women, even though I hear Romeo referred to as ‘she’ (I’m pretty sure I heard that), and the rest of the time he’s described as ‘he’. Also when Romeo and Juliet are married he is pronounced her ‘husband.’ OK so what does ‘gender-fluid’ mean here? One can have an esoteric notion about the play, but logic is also good, and I’m missing it with this concept. Man, woman, transitioning are reasonable, rational descriptors. But to leave it in a nether world is confusing, if not naïve.

What needs more directorial attention is the scene in which Romeo and Juliet first see each other and becoming smitten. The way Andrea Donaldson has staged it here is muddy and unclear. Donaldson has placed a distracting line of party revellers behind Romeo and Juliet with the couple in front. Both Romeo and Juliet wear masks at this party, so how they could espy the other and fall in love with their looks from afar is a mystery. They then come together to dance and get acquainted. The initial problem still exists. How do they actually ‘see’ the other with the masks on?

Attention should also be paid to actors not quite comfortable with the language of Shakespeare. I perceive the Nurse as a flighty, silly woman, and not the ‘powerhouse’ Donaldson describes her as in her program note. But Ellora Patnaik could slow down in her delivery and actually let us hear the words and sense of them. Similarly Brendan McMurtry-Howlett as Mercutio is a bit of a wild man, but he too could tone down the breathless bellowing.

As Juliet, Kaitlyn Riordan is demure and gentle but certainly enlivened when she meets her Romeo. She has a handle on the language as does Vivien Endicott-Douglas as Romeo. Phillipa Domville plays Capulet as a self-absorbed, social-climbing clothes horse who cares more for status than she does for her daughter.

Mike Dufays has created terrific fights that are rough and tumble and almost dangerous, and for this show, that’s terrific. Andrew Joseph Richardson has cut the show to a fast one hour and forty-five minutes, but you do get the sense of the play.

Comment. I can appreciate that since we live in ‘interesting times’ director Andrea Donaldson wants this production of Romeo and Juliet to reflect those changing times. It’s just that her concept seems to be on a slippery slope with the play, you know, the play, the reason we’re sitting in the park in the first place. It is a beautiful production with some good performances but the concept is muddy and isn’t quite convincing.

Produced by Shakespeare in the Ruff

First Performance: Aug. 16, 2016.
Closes: Sept. 4, 2016.
Cast: 8; 3 men, 5 women.
Running Time: 1 hour 45 minutes.


At the Blyth Festival, Blyth, Ontario.

Written by Beverley Cooper
Directed by Miles Potter
Set and lighting by Steve Lucas
Costumes by Shawn Kerwin
Projections by Beth Kates
Cast: Rebecca Auerbach
Meghan Chalmers
Catherine Fitch
Anita La Selva
J.D. Nicholson

A compelling, well-reasoned play about censorship, book-banning and the freedom to read what you want.

The Story. If Truth Be Told, by Beverley Cooper is about some well-meaning citizens in a small Ontario town who want to ban some books from the high school curriculum because of the language and content.

In the 1970s and 80s there was a movement to ban questionable books from the curriculum in Ontario high schools—books such as The Diviners by Margaret Laurence and Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro. This is the background Cooper used to shape her play.

Peg Dunlop, a fictitious successful novelist, who comes home to her small Ontario town to take care of her ailing mother. One of the teachers in the local high school arranges for one of Peg Dunlop’s books to be taught that year. Maisie Piggott, one of the mothers of a student, reads the book and finds the language and the sex unacceptable and wants the book removed from the curriculum. To complicate matters, Maisie is also working for Peg to take care of Peg’s ailing mother. Maisie gets Harry Briggs, the local minister and also on the school board, to back her up in her endeavour to ban the book, along with The Diviners and Catcher in the Rye.

There are town hall meetings to discuss the issue and to sway people to have the books banned. Peg Dunlop resents having to defend her book. She has a hate, hate attitude towards her small home town. She was anxious to leave when she was younger and having to return has not helped her animosity.

The Production. Miles Potter has directed a beautifully tempered, but gripping production. Steve Lucas’s set is spare with a staircase going up to Peg’s mother’s room. A dinning room table and chairs is centre. This is where Peg tries to write in peace and has all manner of interruptions.

It’s a very strong cast headed by Catherine Fitch as Peg Dunlop. Peg’s animosity and frustration towards her small town, is expressed simply in Catherine Fitch’s squunched up face when presented with one more ridiculous decision of the well meaning townsfolk, and her keen intelligence when calmly but firmly presenting an argument. There is an edge to her voice but she does keep it in check. Catherine Fitch delivers a formidable performance.

Also formidable is Rebecca Auerback as Maysie. Maysie has had a hard life. She needs the job working for Peg but she also is a concerned parent. Auerbach has a world-weariness about her of a woman who has had to fight for every little scrap.

Anita La Selva as Carmelia, the high school teacher who champions Peg’s book, is quietly commanding as she lays out her arguments without rancour or anger. J.D. Nicholson as Harry Briggs is as committed to his argument for banning the books as he is concerned for the well being of everybody. And finally Meghan Chalmers is a typical teenager in her performance as Jennifer. She is stubborn, curious, and has a certain charm.

Director, Miles Potter keeps a tight focus on the arguments and we feel our guts knotting with every one of them. The various opponents for the arguments regarding the books are on either side of the stage, quietly offering their take on the debate. At issue is the freedom of reading not just of what to teach in schools.

Beth Kates’ projections offer places, dates and other information. The last series of projections at the end of the play left me breathless and shattered for all the right reasons.

Comment. Yes Censorship has always been around our schools and even our homes, with parents monitoring the books of their teenaged children.

(As an aside, I saw The Glass Menagerie in Edinburgh recently and Amanda Wingfield saw that her grown son Tom was reading a book by D.H. Lawrence and thought it was filth and took it back to the library without telling her son. Censorship has always been with us).

Beverley Cooper sites the recent problem of parents deciding what is to be taught in sex education classes. In If Truth Be Told Cooper presents both sides of the story with sensitivity and intelligence. Each argument is thoughtful and strongly presented.

There are no villains here, just parents who want to protect their children from bad language and adult situations, and a teacher who feels they know that language already and those situations. The teenaged kids, in the person of Maisie’s daughter Jennifer, wants to have their opinion voiced. They like the book and want to study it. So you get a situation where kids are reading a book in secret.

I loved the play and was glad of the chance to hear such compelling arguments on both sides.

Presented by the Blyth Festival

Closes: September 3.
Cast: 5: 1 man, 4 women
Running Time: 2 hours approx.


At the Blyth Festival

Written by Paul Thompson and Gil Garratt
Directed by Paul Thompson
Performed by Gil Garratt
Set, lighting and projections by Beth Kates
Sound by Lyon Smith

A fascinating story of the notorious Donnelly family that shows another side of the story.

The Story. The Last Donnelly Standing which is about the notorious Donnelly Family, sometimes referred to as “the black Donnellys” who lived around Lucan, Ontario.

This family had a loaded history indeed. Some background of The Last Donnelly Standing. The father was originally from Ireland. The elder Donnelly came to Canada from Ireland, married and started a family in South-Western Ontario. He and his wife had seven sons. He wanted to own a farm and so rented land from an unscrupulous landlord who cheated him. One thing led to another and the father killed the landlord and went to jail. That started what seemed to be a chain reaction of woe for the family. The show touches on the various brothers and how they lived and the neighbours who gave them trouble.

In the late 1880’s vigilantes surprised the family and burned their home to the ground killing everybody inside. There was a trial and a 10-year-old witness. The last Donnelly standing is brother Patrick, who tried to be a peace-loving poet. But it was hard because of the animosity of the people in the area.

The Production. The play was co-written by Paul Thompson and Gil Garratt and co-created by Beth Kates. This is Paul Thompson’s sixth outing working on a play about the Donnelly’s. The guy knows of what he says.

Thompson and Garratt tackle the storytelling cheekily, with a wink at times. We are told by Garratt as Robert Donnelly that the story is too wild to be believed; too complex. That way the co-creators let themselves off the hook. I love that wink to the audience.

They also assume that the people of the area will know the story or some of it at least, (Lucan is just up the road to London, Ont.) So we are introduced to the seven brothers who each taught their next younger brother how do defend themselves and thus got a reputation for being bruisers and perhaps difficult.

At one point Gil Garratt says, “I supposed you’ve been waiting for the fire,” or something to that effect because that is the centre of the horror that befell this family. A group of vigilantes road up to the family house in the dead of night and set the house of fire and killed all who were in it except the 10-year-old witness.

How does one person tell such a huge story? With a lot of energy. Gil Garratt plays many parts not just Robert. He plays many instruments that augment the story-telling and sings songs that accompany all that for further illumination. He has an easy, seductive, impish way with him that charms both women and men equally. Women want to tame him. Men want to be him. He looks into the audience for a few volunteers for a wedding scene and charms people into agreeing. He can look dark and brooding in one scene and then courtly and agreeable in the next.

We are told at the beginning that we must use our imaginations to envision various goings on. We are up for that; agreeable to the request. But then there is a barrage of projected images and lighting created by the gifted Beth Kates, that augment each scene coupled with the evocative soundscape by Lyon Smith that sweep us away into the story.

Initially I think that the request to imagine and the many projections might be at odds and pull our focus but in reality they serve each other. Garratt is such a compelling actor that the projections only add to a scene. Garratt aggressively plays the accordion when describing the fire to the Donnelly house, with a projections of wild flames in the background, accompanied by the crackle sound of the fire. The result is chilling.

Kates has designed a wood shell of the house of the Donnelly’s that can be moved and shifted to create various locations. Here again is where our imagination is grabbed.

Director Paul Thompson keeps the pace going at breakneck speed because the events unfold like that. And there is always the sense of the impish wink going on here. With the flames blazing in the background; the sound cracking too, a Donnelly opens a trap door and descends, into hell one wonders? The scene is gripping but that nod to a Donnelly going to hell is just as unsettling and funny in a way.

Comment. I think The Last Donnelly Standing shows how maligned the family was perhaps without cause. The father was cheated of his land and that started the chain reaction of standing one’s ground and perhaps getting a bad reputation. That family tried to stand up for their rights. Robert Donnelly was not violent and wanted to hold his own.

He bought a house on the main street in Lucan, his home town, and greeted everyone who passed. For whatever reason folks might not have taken kindly to him, but that doesn’t mean he’s deserving of bad treatment.

I think it’s something in the water in that part of Ontario. Just up the road is Clinton where Steven Truscotte was wrongfully accused of killing a classmate and no one would believe him when he said he didn’t do it; or when new evidence pointed elsewhere. Same with the Donnellys further up the road to London.

The Last Donnelly Standing is an intriguing, gripping story that will make you search out books that will tell you more.

Terrific production.

Produced by the Blyth Festival.

Closes: September 2.
Cast: 1 talented man.
Running Time: 2 hours 10 minutes approx.


At the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Written by Tennessee Williams
Directed by John Tiffany
Designed by Bob Crowley
Lighting by Natasha Katz
Movement by Steven Hoggett
Sound by Paul Arditti
Music by Nico Muhly
Cast: Michael Esper
Cherry Jones
Kate O’Flynn
Seth Numrich

Revelatory. Director John Tiffany has envisioned a production of a family damaged and bewildered by life but survive as best they can. In Cherry Jones’ performance as Amanda is a woman who loves her children; is pragmatic about their futures and determined that they do the best they can. I will never think of this play in the same way after seeing this production.

The Story. We all know the story, don’t we? This is a memory play. Tom Wingfield remembers the specific details that took place in less than one week, years before. Tom was a disappointed man working in a shoe factory, hating it, yearning for adventure, and eager to be a writer-poet. His mother Amanda Wingfield and his sister Laura are really at the centre of his memory, but it is Laura that haunts his memory. Laura is painfully shy and has a slight limp caused by polio. In her high school days she wore a brace and she thought that it crashed ‘like thunder’ when she walked. She has imagined that limp and clump to such an extent that she has been emotionally and psychologically crippled by it.

Her mother felt it imperative that Laura make her own living and be independent. So she put her into a business course to learn how to type and perhaps work in an office. A failure. Laura could not cope with the pressure of a simple speed test; threw up in the class and never returned. She spent her days walking; going to the zoo and the movies. Anything not to let her mother know.

Amanda took her to church socials. Another failure. Laura didn’t talk to anyone and no one talked to her. She keeps glass figurines. Polishes them. Protects them. The most precious is a glass unicorn. She plays old records. She has no other life. Amanda feels that the last possibility for Laura is marriage. She asks Tom to bring home a ‘gentleman caller’ for dinner in the hopes that a relationship could develop. Tom brings home Jim O’Connell whom Laura knew in high school. She probably loved him then. She can’t bring herself to be at the table with him now. She almost faints. She spends the dinner laying on the couch. Jim coms out to see how she is after the dinner. Secrets and longings are revealed. Truths are told and reality is faced. We ache for a relationship to develop and think of what might have been. We sense his marriage to Betty will not be happy for him.

Years later, after Tom left the family to join the Merchant Marines Tom he is haunted by Laura. He sees her everywhere, in reflections in windows, in bars, on the street. He asks her to blow out her candles, I would assume, so he can go on with his life, unhaunted.

The Production. This is a variation on the production that opened in Boston in 2013 and then went to Broadway with Cherry Jones playing Amanda. It is in Edinburgh with Jones reprising her role but with three new actors. And no I won’t be comparing the various incarnations of the Boston, Broadway and Edinburgh productions because that’s just not fair.

This is such a collaborative effort, aside from the cast. Director has envisioned a memory play that has been realized by the spare, simple, evocative design of Bob Crowley; the moody lighting of Natasha Katz; the evocative music of Nico Muhly and the subtle sound scape of Paul Arditti.

The playing area is composed of two octagonal spaces, close together, floating in black reflective water—I call it the ‘memory goo’ because often Laura, Tom and Amanda look over the edge to see their reflection or their past or future. Several levels of fire escapes rise straight up stage left. There are no walls so the picture of the absent father does not hang where we can see it on stage. It hangs where the Wingfield family can see it, in the audience, a constant reminder of his absence. Interesting that Amanda would still hang such a photo in sight, reminding them of the man who deserted them. One illuminated glass figurine, the unicorn, Laura’s prized possession, rests on a table downstage centre. Director John Tiffany is being clear—you only need that one special figurine—the unicorn. An old couch is upstage centre. Stage right is a table and chairs. Behind that is a room divider.

When Tom speaks of being a magician there is no indication of magic—no match is lit, nothing appears from his sleeve. But magic does happen in the appearance of his mother Amanda from behind the room divider and later his sister Laura, as he pulls her out from the cushions of the couch. Memory is hazy. These two images do nicely to illuminate that.

Food is eaten in an exaggerated mimed way by Tom as he grabs across the table and hauls in imaginary food as if he’s just won a jackpot of gambling chips. While his mother Amanda watches him with concern she can’t let a chance go by in telling him to eat slower; chew more thoroughly; and allow the secretions to work on the digestion. As Amanda, Cherry Jones chides with a sense of concern and delicacy. While Amanda prides herself on her gift for conversation she never seems to know when to shut up, whether it’s telling Tom how to eat or when she is greeting the Gentleman Caller. It’s all done with grace by Jones, and we marvel at the ease in which Amanda does go on because of Jones’ wonderful, nuanced performance. But one can see how it all could grate on her son. She is in his face; she pushes him to do better; she leans in to grab him with a stare. She is emotionally large and perhaps that makes her seem physically large. Cherry Jones as Amanda is tall but not a large woman. But that huge personality fills that cramped apartment

When he loses his temper about her questions of where he goes at night and calls her terrible names, she vows to never speak to him again until he apologizes. It’s a vow she can’t keep. She flares up in hurt anger, but easily forgives. She forgives Tom in a way that suggests they are allies in an effort to save the family. She softens and forgives Laura for her deception in a protective, concerned way.

When he comes home drunk that night it’s Laura who lets him in and comforts him. He gives her a scarf he got from a magician. He wonders how you can escape from a nailed-shut coffin with just a wave of a scarf. When he is asleep, Laura waves the scarf over him—the implication is clear—in the hopes he can escape or find some kind of peace.

Michael Esper as Tom is not an overtly brooding man. While he is frustrated by his circumstances he does have an out and that is to leave St. Louis and join the Merchant Marines. I think that keeps him pretty even in his emotions. His mother is the one who presses his buttons. Esper flares; his voice and ire are strong as he expresses his anxiety of having his every movement questioned.

His relationship with Laura is always loving. He shares with her a kind of impishness as Amanda launches into another recollection of her lively youth. They share sly smiles. Tom wants to tease and Laura wants to humour her mother. When Tom and Amanda are united in good will, as they talk on the fire escape, he puts his head on her shoulder. That is a moment of such tenderness I suck air.

But it’s the first time I really dwell on Tom being selfish. He takes the money meant for the paying the utility bill to pay for his membership to the Merchant Marine’s. Now let me see if I have this right. I realize that his salary does pay, in large part, for the rent of the apartment and that Amanda supplements Tom’s funds with the meager money she makes at odd jobs. But Tom has money to go to the movies whenever life at home gets too claustrophobic and he needs some escape. He has money for cigarettes. Amanda figured out how much it costs and finds it’s not much. But when you factor in the drinks he has when he goes to a bar and the money it would take to pay for the show in a bar—surmising one would have to pay. Well it adds up, and I bet it adds up to enough money to pay his own Merchant Marine’s Membership. But he doesn’t deny himself. Still I do get a sense of Tom being conflicted between his mother and sister and his yearning for something better.

Kate O’Flynn is an intriguing Laura. The limp is slight. She walks with her right leg turned in considerably. I can imagine that young woman had polio. She talks in an almost child-like voice. I can understand that too since she never gets out of the house and deals with other people except her Mother and brother. (and perhaps Mr. Garfinkel when she’s asking to pay by credit.) I can believe that Amanda is her mother. They both have a kind of steel to them. Amanda’s is obvious. Laura’s is too but in a different way. Rather than tell her Mother she quit the business college, she walked the streets all day so as not to be at home. Both women tend toward the dramatic and I get the sense Laura picked it up from her Mother. Laura couldn’t take any kind of pressure and got sick to her stomach when she had to do a typing test, or had to sit at the table with Jim O’Connor, the Gentleman Caller. Amanda didn’t go to her induction into the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution group) because she was sick at the stomach when she was embarrassed when she found out that Laura had dropped out of the school and didn’t tell her.

As the Gentleman Caller, “that long delayed but always expected something that we live for”, Seth Numrich is gracious, courtly, impressively assured and charming. We can also see that shaft of disappointment that he is not as far along in his life as he expected. He is perceptive and can size up the reason he has been invited to dinner, but is not put out about it. He can see that Tom is headed for trouble at the warehouse. He can see how shy Laura is and tries to coax her into conversation. While he does speak kindly of his situation, that he’s engaged to Betty, we get the sense that this is not a perfect match. He has to leave to pick her up at the train station and he has to be on time. You sense Betty holds a tight leash here.

We also sense from this exquisite production, that Jim and Laura are perfect for each other. And they fall in love in that one scene they have in Act Two. Laura has always been in love with him from afar. She bore the embarrassment of coming in late to choir class because she could sit across the aisle from him in that class. He knew of her then and was curious when she missed classes, but at this dinner he really gets to know her. She represents a witness to his former glory in high school. She praises his singing. She had seen him in the Pirates of Penzance three times. She knew how gifted he was then. She knew his potential. He got her to talk to him and when she did you can see Kate O’Flynn gear herself up to ask about his singing. That starts them talking. Numrich gets a bit more shine to him when talking to Laura.

When he kisses her it’s with passion and she returns the kiss. Electrifying. We can see promise in this relationship and when it doesn’t work out, is heartbreaking. But something else is at play in their one scene too. When Jim shows Laura how to dance they are both easy and comfortable to the point that Laura leans out with her arm wide and accidentally whacks the figurine and breaks the horn off. In other productions it’s usually Jim who bangs into the table with the figurine and he is mortified. Here it’s Laura which completely changes the dynamic.

This wrenches her into reality. She controls herself at this turn of events because she doesn’t want to make Jim feel any worse than he already does. While the figurine is now ‘ordinary’ she gives it to Jim as a souvenir. We hold our breaths as he explains to Amanda why he has to leave. When Laura goes to the Victrola for some solace in her records Amanda suggests she not do it. Laura sits on the floor; looks into the dark water and flicks the broken horn into it. All this is emotionally draining because we all have so much invested in these characters.

Comment. I have never felt that Amanda was a monster as some have said she is. I see a mother desperate for her children to succeed. She is tough on Tom because he has capabilities to live in the world. She

Some lines and scenes have been cut to keep things spare. I miss the lines when Amanda calls a friend to renew her subscription to the Lady’s Home Companion and she agrees to renew. I just want to see Amanda win just once, besides having Tom say he will try and bring home a gentleman caller. She is thwarted so often in her life that one victory is for the audience as much as Amanda. A line from the first London production has been added when Tom invites Laura to come with him to the movies. She is his champion. She acts as a buffer between him and Amanda.

John Tiffany has created a revelatory production. He has dug deep into the play and illuminated the characters and their situations in a way that is humane and heartbreaking. Cherry Jones has created a performance as Amanda that just gets richer and more complex and always deeply human. The other three rise to the occasion too. Loved it.

First performance: August 5, 2016
I saw it: August 8, 2016.
Closes: August 21, 2016
Cast: 4: 2 men, 2 women
Running Time: 2 hours 45 minutes.



At various locations in Toronto, Ont.

This is the first year I am having a truncated Summerworks. I’m usually raring to go for this Toronto August festival ritual of 10 days of one act plays, trying to cram in seeing as many of the 40 or so plays in that short time. This year was different. This year I went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival Friday, August 5 and returned to Toronto Friday August 12, in other words, right in the middle of Summerworks and so miss so many shows.

I posted a review of Trompe-La-Mort, or Goriot in the 21st Century before I left. Here are reviews of: Plucked, Eatingthegame, and Lessons in Temperament which I’ve seen since I got home. I’m seeing more on the last day.


Written by Rachel Ganz
Directed by Carly Chamberlain

A play about women’s body images usually dictated by men. A woman is reduced to the image of an egg-laying chicken, ‘owed’ by her husband. The chicken-lady and her husband have a daughter named “14” who is in love with a developmentally challenged man who rides a tricycle. At a certain age “14” will sprout feathers and begin her journey into becoming a chicken like her mother.

In her play Rachel Ganz writes with a fearlessness in creating an off-the-wall metaphor for how women are perceived in the world and it isn’t pretty. Just listening to the different ways the Olympic commentary describes male athletes as opposed to women athletes is pretty telling. With the inclusion of bluegrass music and the search for a missing vagina, Ganz is not afraid of going ‘big’ in her efforts to prove her point. I do find that the metaphor does go on a bit past the point and a bit of judicious cutting is in order. Carly Chamberlain directs with her usual keen eye for detail and creating arresting images.


Written by Hong Kong Exile and Conor Wylie
Directed by Milton Lim

An unfocused, rambling, self-indulgent 20 minute show spread over 80 minutes stretched to 90 interminable minutes, including a short break for some reason. Conor Wylie plays a motivational speaker trying to change the world through business; an actor trying to pitch the show for Summerworks; a man doing bad stand-up and playing an offensive game of “White or Asian” with the audience to warm them up. Life-shortening drivel.

Lessons in Temperament

Created and performed by James Smith
Directed and developed by Mitchell Cushman

I would see anything that Mitchell Cushman directed. After seeing Chasse-Galerie and the fine work of musician-composer James Smith on that show, I will see anything he does too.

In Lessons in Temperament James Smith shows us the intricate, detailed world of tuning a piano. He is very methodical in this task. He demonstrates how a note sounds before and after he has tuned it. The differences are minute but he makes us hear the differences.

While he is carefully hitting note after note on the piano he’s tuning, he is telling us about his family, specifically his three older brothers. They all have experienced mental illnesses of some sort– obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia etc. Even James Smith reveals he has experienced mild obsessive-compulsive disorder. Tuning a piano, with its repetitive striking of a piano key to hear the sound before and after the tuning, is a perfect metaphor for explaining the obsessive behaviour his brothers and he have gone through.

Smith would hit a key, tighten a string on the piano to get the right sound, and interspersed with this he tells us stories of his family, specifically each brother and their journey. I must confess that suffering from jet lag is not the ideal state in which one should see this show.

While this is a very personal perhaps painful story of James Smith and his family, what is not in question is Smith’s love for his parents and brothers. Mitchell Cushman has once again directed a fascinating site-specific show with nuance and sensitivity.


At the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Written and directed by Adura Onashile


This is a play about living your dream and dealing with life when the dream doesn’t work out. The play takes place in two places and time periods. First in Glasgow in the present and then another time before that in Nigeria in a club run by the noted Nigerian musician, human rights activist and political maverick, Fela Kuti.

From the program blurb: “Fela Kuti….opened up his home, called Kalakuta as a sanctuary for the dispossessed, and declared it as a state independent from the Nigerian government….Amongst the residents of Kalakuta were Fela’s wives and other women who had run away from their homes for a better life. These women would work in the commune and at Fela’s club, The Shrine—a lucky few making it as dancers and singers within his band. For these women often the opportunity to dance and sing as part of the band was a way of fulfilling dreams it would be impossible to achieve outside of Fela’s commune and club. The toilets of The Shrine nightclub then became a place to dream, aspire and fight for a better life.”

The play takes place in a woman’s toilet that is at once the toilet for The Shrine as well as the toilet for a club in Glasgow. Tolu is a woman working in the women’s toilet in Glasgow. She cleans the toilets; sprays them when the smell gets to be too much; gives the women Kleenex after they do their business in the toilet. I was surprised that there are no sinks. She greets the women coming into the toilet, chatting them up, giving them advice etc.

At another time, in Nigeria, Tolu and three of her friends are also women living at Kalakuta, Fela Kuti’s compound. They practice their dances in the toilet in hopes of being noticed by him to join the band. It becomes obvious he notices them for other reasons.

One assumes that because Tolu is now in Glasgow and cleans toilets she did not realize her dream. We slowly realize she has been compromised on her job and her friendliness to the women coming into the toilet is not just her being pleasant.

I loved this piece. I loved how it upset and moved me. Adura Onashile’s writing is strong and vibrant. It captures the patois of the language the women on the compound spoke. In the scenes in Glasgow there is the lilt and music of the Scottish turn of phrase in her dialogue. Her direction is quick, breathless and moves like the wind. Whether in Nigeria or Glasgow the women who come through the door have their own stories, problems, hopes and dreams.

The cast is terrific with Sabrina Cameron as Tolu giving a graceful, heartbreaking, emotional performance. And the dancing is wonderful too with the hint of desperation that the women just had to make it into that band.


I’m Doing This For You.

At the Summerhall, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Written and performed by Haley McGee
Directed by Mitchell Cushman

A blonde-wigged woman, with false eyelashes and lots of makeup wearing a slinky orange dress, high heels and shiny stockings, gives us balloons to blow up as we enter the theatre space. She is charming, funny, flirty, and welcoming. When we get into the space there is a tray of cupcakes over there on a table with another tray of shot-glasses of vodka.

She has arranged this audience for her ‘boyfriend’ who wants to be a standup comedian. It’s his birthday—hence the cupcakes etc. And this is her present to him. She guides us in how to greet him and how to sing happy birthday. She’s nervous. He’s expected any minute she tells us. Matters have been rocky with the boyfriend and she’s hoping to get him to stay in the relationship.

Our heroine is needy, deluded about this relationship, lonely—she shares too much information about herself and her relationship with her boyfriend– desperate and in her own way, loving.

The show premiered in Toronto at Theatre Passe Muraille about a year ago. I think the show has grown in that time and McGee is confident, smart, never misses a chance for making a moment funny and knows how to play off her audience. She writes about characters who are on the edges of society; the lonely, the odd-ball. And she makes us feel for and sympathize with them. She is aided and guided by Mitchell Cushman, one of the most attentive, creative young directors in Toronto at the moment

Apparently that was real vodka in those glasses but I thought it might not be helpful on jet lag—I saw it the day I landed after an overnight flight. But the cupcakes were a treat.

Jack Klaff, Beyond Price.

At the Summerhall, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Created and performed by Jack Klaff.

Mr. Klaff is a volcano of energy, flitting from thought to thought, daring his audience to keep up. His voice is deep and rich. He can bellow and would be heard outside the building and probably even on the street.

The flyer for his show says that he will touch on highlights from shows that didn’t make it into this year’s Fringe, but there were plans to include them next year. On the front of the flyer is a picture of two panda bears carrying shopping bags. The blurb says that Klaff will play among others: lovemaking pandas; dubbed Carry On characters; an earnest Boris Johnson (rumour had it that Donald Trump would be added to the mix….I guess in a kind of challenging duel of bad hair); a verse-speaking Mandela and tap-dancing robots.

None of this happened. Instead he gave a kind of master class of acting and ideas. He wore an ostentatious mask at one point and said he was going to move us with just body language and we were to tell him when we were moved. He put a hand out in a gesture; shifted the gesture a bit; and changed it more getting more dramatic in the body language. When no one said he/she was moved, Klaff took off the mask and declared that bit didn’t work and moved to the next bit.

He talked about acting; about making films; that he’s been accused of ‘over-acting’ and that he agreed with that sometimes. He talked of his daughter. He talked of his brother and mother. He talked of being asked to be involved with working, planning etc. at the Summerhall during Fringe time hence the idea for the show.

He declared that he didn’t have much money but that some things were “beyond price.” His aged mother is in a nursing home in South Africa. Calling her regularly is important and the cost does matter—beyond price. He challenges the audience to declare when the show will end and if the person is correct, he will give them “two quid.” (£2). One person said “12:35 pm”. I blurted out: 12:30 pm. I won. He finished bang on 12:30 pm. He told me to wait for my winnings. He put his hand out to me with the “Two Quid.” I told him to keep it and call his mother. He gave me a hug.


At the Summerhall, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Created and performed by Kamila Klamut in cooperation with Marianna Sadovska
Musical accompaniment by Ewa Pasikowska.

The subject interested me. Camille Claudel was the lover and artistic partner of Auguste Rodin. Her brother Paul had her committed to a mental institution where she spent many years until she died at 79.

Kamila Klamut’s long and extensive program note details a lot of Camille’s life. She conjectures a lot about Camille’s brother’s motives. Klamut also writes about French attitudes towards women at the time. The fact that the program note is sprawling, stilted, badly written and not really cohesive should have given me a hint about what kind of production Kamila Klamut and her collaborators would produce. In a word, ‘dreadful.’

We enter the theatre and see two women sitting in chairs beside each other one faces the other. The woman facing us, looking mournful, not speaking much to the other woman is Kamila Klamut who plays Camille. The other woman who talks quietly to her is more animated. She is Ewa Pasikowska. She is the musician for this show playing both piano and violin and singing. She also plays sort of involved character. Precious little in the program note has anything to do with this pretentious, esoteric script. There is little information just the ramblings of a fragile minded woman. That’s not drama. That’s just drivel. Four people are listed as “directorial assistance.” They should all be embarrassed.

Camille has conversations with a bust she sculpted. I assume it’s of Rodin. Nope it was that of her brother. We find that out later. Kamila Klamut’s delivery is labored, halting and not believable. The music played by Ewa Pasikowska is classical in nature. But the last scene is done to blaring heavy metal. Mystifying. Camille sits in a chair. The lighting closes in on her face. She puts her head back and the light spills down her front and she falls backwards in her chair and blackout. For a rather long time. Then the lights go up on an empty stage with the empty chair tipped backward on the stage. Still silence. Then one brave soul claps once and the rest of us applaud weakly. The two ladies come out for their bow arms around their waists, clinging, looking rather severe. Then they exit.

Pretentious drivel. A vanity project of the worst kind.


Live from Edinburgh

I’m here for the Fringe. Actually there are two theatre festivals going on at the same time. First is the formidable Fringe Festival with over 3000 events, including music, dance, theatre, comedy, performance art, etc. The other festival is the International Theatre Festival and includes The Glass Menagerie starring Cherry Jones, reprising her roll of Amanda she did on Broadway last year.

The Fringe runs until the end of August.

The city is hopping with people carrying and checking their thick Fringe Festival guides. It’s more than 300 pages which should give you an idea of its scope. The people are friendly; the city is easy to navigate on foot, bus and cab. It seems that every hole in the wall is a Fringe venue. Proper theatres like the King’s Theatre and the Lyceum etc. are given over to the International Theatre Festival offerings.

Edinburgh is wild with weather. The skies are dramatic with clouds, wind, rain, sunshine, and temperatures around 18 ° C or 68°F. I was told to bring a toque and a scarf. I just brought an extra sweater and corduroy jacket. I like it better than sweltering.

Some Fringe stuff I’ve seen so far:

We Are Brontë

At the Summerhall complex.

Created by Sarah Corbett and Angus Barr

Two mournful performers demystify the myths of the Brontë family using few props and two chairs. They recreate the gloom and weather of Yorkshire where Anne, Charlotte, Emily and Bramwell Brontë lived. They deconstruct the themes of love, madness and revenge and present them in an irreverent, hilarious manner. There is a Q and A in the middle of the show in case we get lost with the literary illusions. And they also play Kate Bush’s homage to >Wuthering Heights, her song of the same name. How bad can that be?

Ubu On The Table

At the Summerhall complex.

Created by Olivier Ducas and Francis Monty; Théâtre de la Pire Espèce from Quebec.

I’ll quote from their flyer to be accurate: “All the world’s grotesquness on a table! In this award-winning adaptation of Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry anything goes as Poland’s fate is sealed on a table top! Two armies of French baguettes face each other in a stand-off as tomato bombs explode, an egg beater hovers over fleeing troops and molasses-blood splatters on fork-soldiers…

Starring the Bottle (with red liquid in it) as Père Ubu, the Hammer as Bordure and the Big Teapot as King Wenceslas, assorted kitchen equipment finds a new life as two performers hammer out a small-scale fresco of grandiose buffoonery. “

Sigh. You can call it buffoonery. I call it overdone, one noted yelling, trying too hard to be funny and falling flat in the attempt.