The Passionate Playgoer

Review: ORESTES

by Lynn on February 8, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Runs live on line until Feb. 14.

Written by Rick Roberts

Directed by Richard Rose

Set and Costumes by Shannon Lea Doyle

Lighting by Kimberly Purtell

Sound by Thomas Ryder Payne

Video and Stream Designer and Operator, Frank Donato

Web Interface by toasterlab-Ian Garrett

Lighting Interface Designer, Joey Martin

Cast: Cliff Cardinal

Richard Clarkin

Bren Eastcott

David Fox

Eleanor Guy

Jeff Ho

Krystin Pellerin

Antony Perpuse

Lisa Ryder

Gabriella Sundar Singh

A wild, fierce, go-for-broke production of the Greek myth reworked to modern on-line times, that is endlessly inventive, sometimes over the top but encapsulates the world we live in.

Bless theatre folks. They find a way to adapt to every difficulty and manage to produce a play and production that is full of heart and guts.

Note: Orestes by Rick Roberts was supposed to have opened the Tarragon 2020-21 season in the theatre, but this little pandemic put a crimp in their plans. So Roberts re-worked the script and director Richard Rose and his crew adapted to the challenging times to present the production on-line and live every night.

Background: One must reference the source material before I deal with this updating of the story. Aeschylus wrote of Orestes and the bloody revenge brought by him and his family. First his father, Agamemnon, sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia (and Orestes’ sister) to the gods in exchange for calm seas that would allow Agamemnon and his troops to sail to Sparta and fight for the return of Helen, Agamemnon’s sister-in-law. (she’d gone off with her lover, Paris). To get revenge for the death of her daughter, Clytemnestra (Agamemnon’s wife) and her lover, Aegisthus, kill Agamemnon when he returns from war. After this, Orestes returns home to avenge his father’s death and kills his mother and her lover. It’s Greek tragedy; revenge is big in these stories.

The Story. Playwright Rick Roberts has re-imagined the story for our on-line-twitter-snap-chat-tik-tok-Instagram-texting-world. Orestes has a huge on-line presence with 40 million Instagram followers. His hold on his followers and his power are undeniable. He has been tried for his mother’s brutal murder (23 stabs) and is acquitted. But a punishment is still levied by his ruling uncle, Menelaus. Orestes is banished from all platforms and forced to live his life off-line. It is a fate worse than death—it’s cancellation. Menelaus is the consummate politician protecting his interests, his image and controlling his perceived enemies, in this case, Orestes.

The Production. The cast rehearsed and performed separately in their own homes, adhering to strict safety protocols. Green screens were used to create various backgrounds: the vast palace of Menelaus (Richard Clarkin) and Helen (played with sultry ennui by Lisa Ryder) (she returns home after 10 years); a packed amphitheater of citizens who listen to Menelaus’ final speech; Orestes’ (Cliff Cardinal) prison cell. This allowed Frank Donato, the Video and Stream Designer to create multiple scenes that flowed seamlessly from one to another. The constant ‘distractions’ reflected in the on-line world are nicely created here.

Each character is ‘wired’, self-absorbed and deals with the challenges of the times with varying degrees of success. As Orestes, Cliff Cardinal reveals a man-child who feels he did right by killing his mother with no regrets or a sense that there are consequences. He curls in the fetal position on his cell floor, crying, lost, angry and frustrated not to be connected to his followers. His sister Electra, played by Krystin Pellerin as compassionate and caring, tries to comfort him and plans ways to take him out of this situation.

Richard Clarkin plays Menelaus as the consummate politician: polished, commanding with charm and manipulation and always looking out for himself, but suggesting his major focus is the good of the people. Clarkin presents an impressive image; slicked-back hair, well-fitting jacket with a line of medals pinned across the left side of his chest, proof to his followers what he has done for them in war.  And the medals ‘clink’ as he moves. That detail of the clinking medals is masterful in keeping Menelaus’ honours in his followers’ eyes and ears.

Rick Roberts has added a layer of conscience in the person of Tyndareus (a masterful David Fox), Clytemnestra’s raging father. Tyndareus has the measure of both his grandson, Orestes, and his son-in-law, Menelaus and none of it is good. Orestes is a petulant child with no responsibility and Menelaus is an unscrupulous politician. Neither has a sense of the consequences of what they have done, or the responsibilities in accepting the consequences. Tyndareus rages at them both in a speech full of invective, moral outrage and in dazzling language that goes on to such an extent I thought I might be listening to a playwright riffing on his own facility with language, rather than the character’s. This is not to deny Rick Roberts’ wonderful ability with language, nuance and putting the audience in the world of the play.

Roberts gives Menelaus a final speech that is so mesmerizing in its mysteries of whether or not he will forgive his nephew, that the audience is lulled along with every twist and turn until the final stunning moment. And of course, Clarkin knows how to play the subtleties beautifully.

The audience is invited to engage in the play as well. There are moments in the production when the audience is invited to click on the ‘square’ of one of four characters and follow them for a bit of the play (Shades of Tamara another Richard Rose production from decades ago when the audience followed character(s) in person from room to room in a large mansion and got fragments of the play that way). In spite of clicking on the screen where instructed, I never got to follow the character of my choice. I chalk that up to technical glitches. (yes I checked with the theatre). No big deal really. I was given a character to follow in any case.

The audience could also engage in the live chat before, during and after the production. To me live chatting on line during the production is like talking during the show. It means one can’t be paying attention to the play and are more interested in ones’ own thoughts than what is going on on ‘stage’, ‘screen’ etc. I hate the whole idea of live chat, but that’s just me.  

There is also a chorus of misfits who revere Orestes, each with his/her/their own agendas, with clear examples of Rick Roberts’ winking humour (one character is named MandLbrot, another is named CASMR@NDRA).

Comment. I certainly appreciate the effort and guts it takes to produce an endeavor as complex as Orestes, shifting from an in-person production to one on-line. Director Richard Rose and his tech staff expertly establish the world of on-line: cell phones always in hand, always checked for new messages, texts, Instagram hits, interactions that look disjointed and distant because of course they are, the fawning mob in the amphitheatre waving and shifting, who react rather than think first—all beautifully established.

But there is the other world that informs the production and that is the live world the theatre-going audience brings with it when they engage with on-line theatre productions. Through no fault of the actors, the characters often seem flat because one does not get the multi-dimensions of an actor on a stage connecting with the audience in the same space. Acting with a partner in another square separated by location does not have the same immediacy as watching two actors in the same space interacting with each other. There are those wonderful moments when the actor bursts through the screen and grabs you. That can’t be denied.

I am grateful to this production for its many positive aspects in bringing a new twist to an ancient story of revenge. But at the end of the day it reminds me of how much I miss the ‘original’ way of watching a play, in the same room with other people, breathing at the same time. And how technology can’t really replace watching a play live in a theatre.

Produced by Tarragon Theatre.

Plays until Feb. 14, on line.

For tickets go to: www.tarragontheatre.com

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Streaming until May on the 4th Line Theatre YouTube Channel:

4th Line Theatre Company in Millbrook, Ont. (south of Peterborough) launched its 2021 programming with its first ever Digital Festival of Light and Dark. The Festival enables the community to engage with 13 regional artists’ video creations, in the safety of their own homes through 4th Line’s digital video gallery. There are actually 12 videos but 13 artists created them.

Managing Artistic Director Kim Blackwell explains, “We wanted to support local artists.  That was the genesis for the idea which ultimately became The Digital Festival of Light and Dark.

I am excited to showcase the work of so many talented local artists from almost every conceivable discipline. These short, digital works will be a chance for 4th Line audiences to see the depth and breadth of regional artists and their creative worlds.” 

The projects encompass a myriad of artistic styles from dance to poetry to photography to puppetry and several more styles.  The topics and issues explored include: the new silent nightlife in downtown Peterborough in lockdown; an exploration of physical vulnerability in the pandemic; and the story of a young girl trapped alone in a Welsh mine, to name only three. “

After viewing all the videos, I can say with conviction that the array of talent in and around Peterborough is astonishing. In these short videos, ranging from about two minutes to 10 minutes, you get a sweep of imagination covering the light and dark of the pandemic, a person’s life, a city at night, quiet, dark and shining, a sad moment in a song, the history of the women’s movement done in video, shadows and a jumble of voices that was effective, dance pieces that are jubilant, thoughtful and hopeful and a haunting memory created by puppets.

There is a cross-section of ages: There is that young girl trapped in the Welsh mine in a piece called Nerys in the Dark by Kelsey Powell, calmly telling of the place and the life of the village. They sent children down into the mines “because they were small and could fit into cracks.”  

Then in Over and Under: Two Recitals by P.J. Thomas is created by two men of a certain age. This quote from the website give a sense of the whimsy and longing of the poems: “These poems refer to the sun and moon around the horizon and equinoxes. Emphasizing light and dark, Cruella DeVille and the Man-In-Black.” Written by PJ Thomas. “Warmth” is performed by David Bateman and “Mayfly is performed by Ian McLachlan. The poems illuminate whimsy, longing, and yearning.

Shrouded by Jennifer Elchuk is a terrific piece with a woman suspended above the stage wrapped in swaths of silk as she does a ballet of sorts of being enveloped in darkness, the loneliness of the pandemic—your imagination can go wild.  The idea of light and dark is realized in the lighting and in the enveloping of the body in the silks. It’s beautifully accomplished.

Night Shift by Tristan Pierce is wonderful moody film capturing ‘the city’ (Peterborough?) at night, shiny, dark, sparkly, light and shadowy, with its own sounds, quiet and atmosphere.

Benj Rowland sings his own composition, Accident, accompanies himself on guitar and provides his own percussive background. It’s a mournful song with a captivating melody. I just wished I was able to clearly hear all the lyrics.

Naomi Duvall has created and performs Dark Eyes as a puppet show in which a woman remembers her youth and another pandemic which frightened her. She recalls night creatures, dark eyes looking at her, shadows, strange and beautiful creatures. Interesting, evocative piece.

I thought The Many Shades Between Light and Dark by Stefan Hannigan was promising, if a bit too complex for the form of ‘the interview.’ “The Canary in the Cage” is the first episode in 13 episodes or films about how performers are coping with the pandemic. In this first episode performer Marsala Lukianchuk talks about the trials, tribulations and skills she’s learned while dealing with isolation etc.

But then Hannigan has a dated tickertape line noting the various revelations of the pandemic, going across the bottom of the screen at the same time as we are listening to Marisala Lukianchuk speak. At other times he also inserts graphs with statistics. I know this is deliberate since focusing is difficult during the past year. I just didn’t think it was helpful to the piece as a whole, and it certainly upstaged the performer being interviewed. But as I said, it was a promising effort.

It’s Political by Laura Thompson is a compact, effective piece about the creation and development of the women’s movement, in shadow, light, silhouette figures to a background of news sound bites.

18 Flames Per Second by Josh Fewings is a film about flames in a fireplace that is a wonderfully witty, impish piece that plays tricks on the eye. At times it looks like that title is 18 Frames per Second, but then you have to review? rethink? what you are looking at. Clever, inventive, makes you smile.

Shadows and the Human Heart is choreographed by Frank Flynn and performed by Madison Sheward. It’s a beautiful ballet piece that evokes moody emotions but ultimately hopefulness. It lifts the spirit it’s so full of artistry.

How To Make Shadows by Madison Costello is an eye-popping satiric piece about creation. A ‘computer-generated’ woman’s voice announces that she will be instructing three participants in how to create. She notes that instructions are precise. She says there is only one way to create (one’s eyebrows are slightly knitting here), then says something like mistakes and failure are not tolerated (more eye-brow knitting). The three participants separately create structures with wood and glue. The results all look alike. It’s a fascinating, satiric piece, complex, funny and pointed about creation.   

Perhaps my favourite piece is Before It Dies by Mike Moring. It’s a compact, evocative film that initially looks like the monotony of the pandemic, because that’s all we’re thinking about at the moment.

A woman reluctantly wakes up in the morning. A shaft of light falls across her eyes.  She makes coffee. She eats lunch on the sofa. She piles the dishes in the sink. There are other dishes from other meals. At night she has a smoke and goes to bed. The next day the process is repeated. And more dishes pile up in the sink.

Then the time line shifts from day to day, there is a disruption and you realize what is actually playing out. It’s clever, sly, inventive and I loved every single minute of it.

While I occasionally had some quibbles, on the whole the pieces are full of whimsy, cleverness, eye-popping imagination, compelling storytelling and the most wonderful talent.  Every one of these filmed performances is worth your time.

The Digital Festival of Light and Dark is on the 4th Line Theatre Company’s You Tube channel until May.

https://www.4thlinetheatre.on.ca

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Mon. Feb. 8, 2021 7:00 pm

From Talk is Free Theatre,

Part of their In Good Company Series.

Next Generation.

A conversation with up and coming artists who have been part of Talk is Free Theatre productions or readings. Always informative.

www.tift.ca

Thurs. Feb. 11, 2021 2:00 pm EST

 Book Club with Margaret Atwood
Thursday 11 February,
Check page for local time
Through the Guardian in England.

Joining us for our February Book Club will be Margaret Atwood, who will be revisiting the first novel in her Maddaddam trilogy, dystopian parable Oryx and Crake.

Her first return to the future since The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake plants the reader firmly in a world ravaged by a man-made plague. A stark warning about our impact on the natural world, and with Atwood’s characteristically alarming foresight, the book is, according to her, “a fun-packed, joke-filled, rollicking adventure tale about the end of the human race”.

Join us for this rare opportunity to hear from and put your questions to one of the most singular and influential voices in contemporary fiction.
 
 
 
 Book tickets

https://membership.theguardian.com/event/book-club-with-margaret-atwood-133112128961?utm_source=eml&utm_medium=emaq&utm_campaign=MK_LI_Listings070221&utm_term=Email_LIROW&utm_content=variantA

Thurs. Feb. 11, 2121 on demand

Stratfest @Home.

Part of the Up Close and Musical concert series:

Robert Markus offers a concert.

Also continuing with the Undiscovered Sonnets series

“Brenda and Matthew” get the Rebecca Northan and Company improv treatment.

All available by subscription.

Thurs. Feb. 11, 2021 7:00 pm

From Lincoln Center Theater

Lileana Blaine-Cruz – On Directing.

She’s brilliant. You want to hear what she has to say.

www.lct.org

Friday, Feb. 12, 2021

From Obsidian Theatre Company

21 Black Futures

On CBC Gem

IT’S HERE! IT’S HERE! IT’S HERE!
Check out the Trailer to 21 Black Futures Now!
Season 1 of 21 Black Futures Premieres Friday Feb 12th on CBC GEM! 
#ItTakesAVillage
If you loved the trailer you have these incredible people to thank. 
CREATIVE TEAM Set and Costume Designer Rachel Forbes Lighting Designer Shawn Henry Projection Designer Cameron Davis Projection Designer Laura Warren Props Coordinator David Hoekstra Head of Wardrobe Joyce Padua Assistant Set and Costume Designer Jawon Kang Hair & Make Up Specialist Bianca Harris

A Herculean effort bringing you 21 Black stories by 21 Black playwrights performed by 21 Black actors.

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Hi Folks,

The Opening of ORESTES at the Tarragon Theatre has been postponed from Wed. Feb. 3 to Friday, Feb. 5. Previews are on-going.

Check Tarragon’s website for details.

www.tarragontheatre.com

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Monday, Feb. 1, 2021

7:00 pm

Streaming from Talk Is Free Theatre, In Good Company: A Singular Experience

These four gifted performers discuss doing a one person show.

www.tift.ca

Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021.

8:00 pm

Orestes

Actor-writer Rick Roberts has written a modern adaptation of the Greek drama on Orestes,  appropriate for the digital age. Cancelled off his platforms, Orestes has to cope with being off-line.

Directed by Richard Rose.

Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021

7:00 pm

Stratford@home

Continues with Othello starring Michael Blake.

You can also catch up with last week’s concert of Up Close and Musical  created by Richard Ouzounian. or check out Undiscovered Sonnets as created by Rebecca Northan and her band of improv masters.

Stratford@home

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Streaming from The Mint Theatre website.

Written by Lillian Hellman

Directed by J. R. Sullivan

Sets by Harry Feiner

Costumes by Andrea Varga

Lights by Christian Deangelis

Sound and original music by Jane Shaw.

Cast: Mary Bacon

Janie Brookshire

Larry Bull

Chris Henry Coffey

Kim Martin-Cotton

Dan Daily

Ted Deasy

Roderick Hill

Betsy Hogg

Geoffrey Allen Murphy

Evan Zes

An early Lillian Hellman play that packs a punch and illuminates the towering playwright she will become.

A Note: I could review the pomp, class and drama of the Inauguration last Wednesday. Or the farce and pretence of the previous president  lurching off to Florida,  hand in hand with his black-clad lady-wife earlier that morning, waving to those in attendance, his ill-fitting jacket unbuttoned revealing his symbolic overlong-red tie.

Or their arrival in Florida, this time with the lady-wife resplendent in a wild patterned orange floor length dress  descending the plane’s steps NOT holding  hands with the previous president, whose jacket was buttoned up for the first time in 4 years.

But I’m not reviewing any of that.

Instead, I’m reviewing Days to Come, an early play of Lillian Hellman that is streaming on the Mint Theatre website.

It’s about labour-relations, a strike, small town folksiness and manipulative doings by conniving shysters.

The Story. Days to Come is set in a small town in Ohio. Everyone knows everyone. They went to school together when they were younger, but there is trouble now.

The Rodman family owns a factory that produces brushes.  Many people in the town are employed there. But they are on strike because they want higher wages. Andrew Rodman, a quiet, decent man cannot raise the wages because business is not good. His sister Cora is a spoiled adult woman with no empathy for anyone. She wants her share of ‘profits’ and does not see why she has to pay for expenses.

Andrew is married to Julie who seems unhappy. She is probably having an affair with Henry Ellicott, a shifty lawyer. The strikers hire a labour expert in strikes named Whalen. Andrew, on the advice of Ellicott, hires Sam Wilkie who has access to outside workers to do the job of those on strike. Another name for the outside workers is thugs. Strike-breakers.

Wilkie gets his men to try and provoke the strikers to retaliate with violence and Whalen advising them not to do it. It’s a fascinating look at money, labour, strikes, and manipulation.

The Production. Days To Come was produced by The Mint Theatre in New York City. The company specializes  in resurrecting lost it finds to be worthy for another run.  This production ran in 2018 and was filmed for archive purposes.  It’s a terrific record of an arresting play and illuminates the high quality of a Mint production.

Harry Feiner’s set for the spacious Rodman family home was well appointed, comfortable and was tended by two servants. The family was used to living in luxury. Andrea Varga’s costumes were stylish, elegant and beautifully tailored for Andrew (Larry Bull) and Henry Ellicott (Ted Deasly). Cora’s (Mary Bacon) and Julie’s (Janie Brookshire) dresses were smart, flowing and beautiful. Because Wilkie (Dan Daily) had a lucrative business strike-breaking, he dressed with style and flash as well—three-piece well fitted suit, tie, etc. Even his goons dressed well. Andrea Varga dressed the others in cared-for work clothes: Whalen (Roderick Hill) wore a decent brown suit.

The cast was exemplary. As Andrew Rodman, Larry Bull beautifully portrayed a thoughtful, worried man who did not know how he was going to keep the factory and be true to his workers. He seems to have been the brow-beaten one of the family who everyone thought was a disappointment no matter how hard he tried.  As Cora Rodman the whiny sister, Mary Bacon assumed that piercing voice, full of that ‘woe is me’ attitude that comes from doing no work, having no responsibility or a sense of consequences. As Whalen the strike advisor, Roderick Hill shows us a man who has seen the poverty in the world, the unfairness and does his best to give the underdog a break. Lovely work from all of them.

J.R. Sullivan’s direction was efficient, thoughtful  and served the play beautifully. We see a world of wealth vs. a world of scraping for every nickel.

Comment.  Days to Come seems to be Lillian Hellman’s second play and yes, it’s little known. It was produced in New York City in 1936 at the height of the depression and it ran for only seven performances. But we can absolutely see evidence here of the towering playwright that Hellman would become, focusing on serious, important subjects.

In her first play, The Children’s Hour, it deals with rumour and inuendo regarding two women teachers at a school. The implications and consequences were devastating.  In Days to Come she deals with monetary matters, labour issues, small town politics and society. This was followed in 1939 by The Little Foxes about a ruthless woman who wanted a glamourous life away from her boring, sick husband and she was ready to do anything to get it. That dealt with class distinction, money and power.

The Little Foxes in a way developed the themes in Days to Come—themes of money, the huge divide between the rich and poor, the contrast of the decent and duplicitous and the lure of flash and success.

Hellman’s social awareness is evident in Days to Come when she provides credible arguments from the workers’ point of view and also the owners’.  It almost looked like a play without villains but of course the villains were obvious, because they were pulling the strings and doing the maneuvering around the hapless, honourable people wanting to do right.

The language in Days to Come certainly is vibrant and shows a writer with power and a flare for words. There is a line when a character talks about her sister who owns a boarding house and welcomes people:

“Boarding business is open to anyone who don’t steal.”

Wilkie says to two of his goons: “Try to act like you’ve been in a house with a bathroom before.”

Or this wonderful line from Whalen talking about how he understands about “The meanness and cowardice that comes with poverty.” Woow.

Lillian Hellman has insight and perception about the world she lives in (America in the Depression) and it comes through here. But I did have moments when my eyebrows crinkled. Too many mysteries arose in the second half of the play that had not been supported earlier. We find out that Andrew Rodman has gone into terrible debt and why late in Act III (those were the days of the large cast and a three act play). Everybody in that household knew secrets about everybody else and held resentments. I found that structure interesting. It was almost as if that third act was its own play. But it’s Lillian Hellman and you observe her technique rather than criticize or fault her lack of balance in the work. I was so grateful to see this wonderful production from a playwright early in her career

More productions from The Mint theatre will be coming up. Lots to look forward to.

Days To Come streams on the Mint Theatre website until February 21:

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Monday, Jan. 25, 2021 Streaming live and free

12:00 pm 4th Line Theatre Digital Festival of Light and Dark

Digital Festival of Light and Dark Programming Announcement
4th Line Theatre is excited to announce the array of programming for its first ever Digital Festival of Light and Dark. The Festival has provided 13 regional artists with micro-grants to create 12 five-minute digital showcases of their work. The Digital Festival of Light and Dark will be launching online on January 25, 2021. The festival enables the community to engage with the artists’ creations in the safety of their own homes through 4th Line’s digital video gallery. The Festival is free of charge to watch.
  “We wanted to support local artists. That was the genesis for the idea which ultimately became the Festival of Light and Dark. I am excited to showcase the work of so many talented local artists from almost every conceivable discipline. These short, digital works will be a chance for 4th Line audiences to see the depth and breadth of regional artists and their creative worlds.” – Kim Blackwell, Managing Artistic Director
The projects encompass a myriad of artistic styles from dance to poetry to photography to puppetry and several more styles. The topics and issues explored include: the new silent nightlife in downtown Peterborough in lockdown; an exploration of physical vulnerability in the pandemic; and the story of a young girl trapped alone in a Welsh mine, to name only three.   The twelve video projects will be released on 4th Line Theatre’s website and YouTube channel for viewing as of Monday, January 25, 2021 at 12:00 PM.   To view please visit 4th Line Theatre’s website at www.4thlinetheatre.on.ca/festival-of-light-and-dark, or on 4th Line Theatre’s YouTube channel at  https://www.youtube.com/user/4thlinetheatreVIDEO .

7:00 pm “Tales of Many Simons”

Panel of Indigenous actors who have played Simon in Tales of an Urban Indian on a moving bus, through Talk Is Free Theatre all over Canada etc.

www.tift.ca

7:30 pm  The Woman Hater

Written by Frances Burney

Directed by Everett Quinton

Featuring Bill Army, Arnie Burton, Veanne Cox, Rebecca S’Manga Frank, Cherie Corinne Rice, Matthew Saldivar, Jenne Vath, Nick Westrate

Visual Design by David M. Barber

Costume Design by Sara Jean Tosetti

Frances Burney’s rarely seen 18th century proto-feminist satire is a hilarious story of broken engagements, excessive romanticism – and one massively misguided misogynist.

​Sir Roderick has turned frantic misogynist for two reasons: he was jilted 17 years previously and his sister had the gall to marry his ex-fiancee’s brother. Burney’s outrageously witty comedy of manners bursts into life with the introduction of the former fiancee, Lady Smatter, who has turned into a voracious and addle-brained bookworm.

www.redbulltheater.com

Tues. Jan. 26, 2021  8:00 pm

Broadway Cares   Bobby Cannavale and Marisa Tomei Will Star in Virtual Reading of Three Hotels by Jon Robin Baitz, Benefiting Broadway Cares

Moisés Kaufman will direct the streamed presentation of the Jon Robin Baitz drama. Bobby Cannavale and Marisa Tomei

Two-time Emmy winner Bobby Cannavale and Oscar winner Marisa Tomei will star in a streamed reading of Jon Robin Baitz’s Three Hotels January 26 to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Produced by Tectonic Theater Project, the evening will be directed by two-time Tony nominee Moisés Kaufman. The free streamed reading, set for 8 PM ET with an introduction by Baitz and Kaufman, will be available at BroadwayCares.org/threehotels202 through January 30.

The play unfolds through monologues set in hotel rooms in Morocco, the Virgin Islands, and Mexico, as a married couple reflect on their lives as players in the game of international business.

Wed. Jan. 27, 2021, 6:30 pm

Part of the Confluence Concerts:

Mandala: Beauty of Impermanence.

The premiere of Confluence Concerts’ newest show on their YouTube channel this Wednesday at 6:30 pm. is entitled Mandala: The Beauty of Impermanence 

From their information: “It’s curated by one of our associates Suba Sankaran. Our other associates are Patricia O’Callaghan, Andrew Downing and Marion Newman. Special guests include violinist Bijan Sepanji, poet Sheniz Janmohamed, singer Dylan Bell, pianist Gordon Gerrard and mrandangam legend Trichy Sankaran. It’s a concert rich in history and culture, spanning centuries, countries, and languages. You’ll hear music ranging from Joni Mitchell to Hildegard von Bingen, Sting to Schubert, Steve Reich to Monteverdi.  In the pre-concert chat Artistic Associate Suba Sankaran will talk with visual artist and poet Sheniz Janmohamed, who will guide you through the creation of your own mandala made from found objects readily available in your home

https://www.confluenceconcerts.ca/

Thurs. Jan 28, 2021

As part of the Stratford Festival @home series

Up Close and Musical

Various concerts from Stratford Musical actors.

Undiscovered Sonnets

Given the improv treatment headed by Rebecca Northan and her company of sharp improv artists.

Through subscription and it’s well worth the $10/month.

https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/AtHome

7:00 pm

Victoria Clark, Kelli O’Hara, Matthew Morrison Set for Light in the Piazza Virtual Reunion

Lincoln Center Theater will present the event later this month.

Lincoln Center Theater will host a free online cast reunion of The Light in the Piazza on Thursday, January 28 at 7pm ET.

Stars Victoria Clark, Kelli O’Hara, and Matthew Morrison will take part in the event, which will be introduced by director Bartlett Sher and moderated by Ira Weitzman. The Adam Guettel-Craig Lucas musical premiered in 2005 at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, and earned seven Tony Awards, including Best Original Score and Best Actress in a Musical for Clark.

Based on the novel by Elizabeth Spencer, The Light in the Piazza tells the story of a mother and daughter traveling through Italy, the daughter’s romance with a handsome, high-spirited Florentine, and the mother’s determined efforts to keep the two apart.

Free tickets for the event can be procured here.

Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021 at 6:50 pm

The Situation We Find Ourselves In Is This

 

A moving, funny, potentially messy evening about the final days playwright Matthew MacKenzie spent with beloved Canadian dramaturge Iris Turcott in the last two weeks of her life.

Matthew MacKenzie is a wonderful playwright. Give a look on the YouTube Channel.

Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021 at 2:00 PM

From the Harold Green Jewish Theatre

A workshop reading of an up and coming playwright.

Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company with the Miles Nadal JCC present
THE 2019 CANADIAN JEWISH PLAYWRITING COMPETITION WINNER

Elijah

by Hannah Rittner

Sunday, January 31, 2021 at 2:00 PM

Starring:  Amaka Umeh, Brittany Kay, Shaina Silver-Baird

Directed by Marie Farsi

In Elijah, Leora travels from Toronto to Halifax to celebrate the days of awe (the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) with her expecting queer-sister Shira and her non-binary Israeli partner Ariel. A play about the transformative power of forgiveness and how it impacts our ability to move beyond the trauma of the past.

This Workshop Reading is FREE for all to enjoy and will be streamed on the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company website.
Followed by a Q and A with the playwright and cast.\

https://www.hgjewishtheatre.com/conversations.html

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Heads up for the week of Nov. 18-24, 2021.

Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 at 7:00 pm

On Line

Talk is Free Theatre’s series, In Good Company continues with “From the Booth”

Stories from stage managers of the goings on backstage while they try to establish order for a smooth performance. Of all the jobs in the theatre the Stage Manager is the second most mysterious and confusing. This conversation will solve the confusion, I have no doubt. 

(The first most mysterious job of course is the Theatre Critic….I must confess I don’t think many people have a clue what that job involves, but I digress.)

 New Talk Show starts on Monday!

www.tift.ca

Continuing: From the National Arts Centre on-line.

Grand Acts of Theatre

From across the country, some of our best companies offer short videos of their work.

For example, Outside the March offers: Something Bubbled, Something Blue.

Brilliant.

Watch: https://nac-cna.ca/en/video/series/grand-acts-of-theatre?utm_campaign=nac-20-21

Thurs. Jan. 21, 2021 7:00 pm

Streaming From the Stratford Festival

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Also coming up from Jan. 28 on  are Undiscovered Sonnets that will be given the Rebecca Northan treatment along with her band of brilliant improvisors and also Up Close and Musical a series of concerts with Stratford stalwarts directed by Richard Ouzounian.  

http://www.youtube.com/stratfordfestival

Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. 7:30 pm

A Streamed Reading of: 

THE CHINESE LADY
Friday, January 22 @ 7:30 PM EST
By: Lloyd Suh

A Studio 180 Theatre partnership with Fu-Gen Theatre

“Inspired by the true story of Afong Moy, THE CHINESE LADY is a dark, poetic, yet whimsical portrait of America through the eyes of a young Chinese woman in 1834.”
Warning: Audience complicity may also be on display.

To register for this digital presentation, click here.

There will be a post-show talk back with playwright Lloyd Suh and fu-GEN’s Artistic Director David Yee directly following the digital presentation – don’t miss it!

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Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 at 7:00 pm

On Line

Talk is Free Theatre’s series, In Good Company continues with “From the Booth”

Stories from stage managers of the goings on backstage while they try to establish order for a smooth performance. Of all the jobs in the theatre the Stage Manager is the second most mysterious and confusing. This conversation will solve the confusion, I have no doubt.  

(The first most mysterious job of course is the Theatre Critic….I must confess I don’t think many people have a clue what that job involves, but I digress.)

 New Talk Show starts on Monday!

www.tift.ca

Continuing: From the National Arts Centre on-line.

Grand Acts of Theatre

From across the country, some of our best companies offer short videos of their work.

For example, Outside the March offers: Something Bubbled, Something Blue.

Brilliant.

Watch: https://nac-cna.ca/en/video/series/grand-acts-of-theatre?utm_campaign=nac-20-21

Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. 7:30 pm

A Streamed Reading of:  

THE CHINESE LADY
Friday, January 22 @ 7:30 PM EST
By: Lloyd Suh

A Studio 180 Theatre partnership with Fu-Gen Theatre

“Inspired by the true story of Afong Moy, THE CHINESE LADY is a dark, poetic, yet whimsical portrait of America through the eyes of a young Chinese woman in 1834.”
Warning: Audience complicity may also be on display.

To register for this digital presentation, click here.

There will be a post-show talk back with playwright Lloyd Suh and fu-GEN’s Artistic Director David Yee directly following the digital presentation – don’t miss it!

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Streaming until Jan. 16, 2021

The Planet-A Lament

There is a wonderful festival call PROTOTYPE that has various productions from around the world focusing on opera and theatre. The one I’m talking about is the stunning production of The Planet-A Lament which is a song-cycle from Indonesia about climate change and the state of the planet.

From the press information:

“The Planet—A Lament was created by Garin Nugroho, merging film with live dance and a 14 voice choir accompanied by Septin Layan, a celebrated Papuan soloist to impart a moving story of creation set against a backdrop of environmental disaster. Nugroho portrays a destroyed community struggling in the aftermath of a devastating tsunami.  He uses cinematics, haunting song, wild dance and ancient ritual to concoct a new myth that speaks to our complex times.

For this new work, Nugroho collaborates with the outstanding Mazmur Chorale from Kupang in Indonesia and an artistic team from across the Indonesian archipelago of composers, choreographers and Papuan dancers alongside an Australian dramaturg (Michael Kantor) and designer (Anna Tregloan). The work is grounded in lament traditions of Melanesia. The Planet – A Lament is an act of catharsis that mourns a world lost, while offering hope for another world that may be nurtured.”

I call the work ‘stunning’ because the vision and artistry in Garin Nugroho’s production is so evocative and theatrical. The lighting and imagery are striking. A character carries a large egg that is held delicately as if it is a thing that carries life or possibilities and of course, it does. You get a sense of the characters that they represent spirits of birds of hope.

The use of film as a backdrop sets scenes and moods. The delicate drop of a silky curtain evokes waves of water, displaced air, the end of something giving way to a beginning.  The singers are in traditional costumes and there are surtitles that explain what the songs mean.

The production presents a completely different world but it shows the beauty and power of theatre. The production is co-commissioned by Asia TOPA, Arts Centre Melbourne (Australia), Theater der Welt (Germany) and Holland Festival.

In spite of language and cultural differences the wider audience knows exactly what the production is talking about: the earth, climate change, environmental disaster and hoping for a better future.

With all the anger in our world, raging about exclusivity and division , slurs of racism flung through the air, here is a perfect example of how theatre bridges our differences and connects us all because of our similarities.

Loved this piece.

The Planet—A Lament continues on line at the Prototype Festival until tomorrow, Jan. 16.

http://prototypefestival.org/shows/the-planet-a-lament

Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side

Streams until February 28, 2021 as part of The Work of Adrienne Kennedy: Inspiration & Influence play festival through Roundhouse Theatre.

Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side is the last of four plays which are part of The Work of Adrienne Kennedy: Inspiration & Influence play festival produced in association with McCarter Theatre Center at Princeton and the Roundhouse Theatre. It’s fascinating and a thriller and all sorts of challenging things. And it’s a world premier.

Adrienne Kennedy is a towering presence in American Theatre. She chronicles the Black experience in America. It behooves us all to pronounce her first name correctly: Add-rienne (not ay-drienne).

From the program information: “Etta and Ella Harrison are astoundingly gifted scholars, deeply connected sisters, and dangerously bitter rivals. They frequently write and teach together, and even their separate works are unnervingly similar, often sourced from their own family history. Now, after a lifetime of competition, they are on the verge of destroying each other.

Adrienne Kennedy intricately blends monologue, dialogue, voiceover, and prose to create an experience that is part experimental play, part narrative thriller, and wholly unforgettable. Set against the gothic backdrop of their academic New York world, Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side is a taut, kaleidoscopic tale of ambition and madness—brought to theatrical life for the very first time.”

This one is a corker. We hear a frantic voice on an answering machine. Etta Harrison is calling Harold Troupe, a Black scholar and professor to ask if he wants to know about a coming murder. It’s suggested that Etta is fragile minded. She once called Harold five times in an evening and left five messages. Harold never replied.

We learn of this frantic fury between the sisters in which they steal each other’s stories. One sister is more successful than the other it seems. One almost strangles the other on stage when they both were giving a talk. They both were going to write a separate book on their silent brother who was left mute in an accident. We also get a sense of the brilliance of the sisters, how they copied each other’s dress and hair style.


We are led to believe there is a going to be a murder. There certainly is madness. But then Adrienne Kennedy references a terrible incident that happens in another play: Ohio State Murders and suggests that it in fact happened to one of the sisters.  That made me gasp when I heard that even though the character in that previous play had a different name.  The story-telling is stunning because it seems such a warren of trails and leads and shards of information to find out who is telling the truth? Is there a murder?  Who is insane?

The production is presented as a one person play with Caroline Clay listed as playing Ella, but in fact at various times she takes the voice of both sisters and narrates. She sits at a desk with the outline of a large backdrop behind her and occasionally she drinks from a mug. The performance is full of nuance and subtlety, in which a side-long glance speaks volumes.  The pace is tempered It is beautifully directed by Timothy Douglas.

Occasionally there is writing on the screen to explain where they were or who someone was. These notations are not stage directions. They are more mysterious than that, filmic yet theatrical.  Also occasionally numbers appear on the screen and I thought they might be scene numbers.  But sometimes that didn’t make sense since a number came without a pause from one sentence to another.  So a mystery.

And I did wonder: “Is there a murder?” “Can you stab an apparition”?

But I was held captive by this terrific performance of this wonderful playwright’s words.

Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side streams as part of  The Work of Adrienne Kennedy: Inspiration & Influence play festival until February 28, through the Roundhouse Theatre:

https://www.roundhousetheatre.org/On-Stage/Explore/Etta-and-Ella

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