by Lynn on November 4, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following three shows were reviewed on Friday, November 4, on CIUT, 89.5 FM on the as yet, no name show between 9 am and 10 am: DON GIOVANNI, 2 PIANOS, 4 HANDS, and DITCH.

There is a musical theme in two of these shows.

DON GIOVANNI of course is the Mozart opera and 2 PIANOS 4 HANDS is the home grown little show about the trials, tribulations and joys of learning to play the piano.

The only music in DITCH is mainly British hymns.

DITCH by Geoff Kavanagh is a fictional account of the last two survivors of the Sir John Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage in 1845.

To begin…..


At the Elgin Theatre until Nov. 5.

I don’t review opera or ballet as a rule because I don’t know the vocabulary. Is this voice better than that voice? Is the technique of this dancer better than that one? Is the tempo of the orchestra too slow?

But I do know a thing or two about the theatre, and that’s how I am looking at the Opera Atelier’s exquisite production of DON GIOVANNI that Mozart composed in 1787.

Let me cut to the chase. DON GIOVANNI is a rip roaring, stylish, beautiful production of Mozart’s comedy. Every part of it from the conducting, direction, choreography and performance is top notch.

It’s the story of a charming and irresponsible young man named Don Giovanni who never met a woman he didn’t like and want to take to bed—age, social position, nationality, married, about to be married—none of it mattered to him. He charmed them all and left them broken hearted. All told he ‘had’ 1800 women. Yikes.

He has no remorse. He thought it only fair to spread himself around as much as he could. But things turn ugly when he gets into a fight and kills the angry father of one of the women he jilted. Just retribution isn’t far behind. This doesn’t give anything away.

As Artistic Director Marshal Pynkoski said on this show recently, this is an outrageous comedy. A young man sleeping with all these women is hilarious.

A middle aged man doing the same thing is creepy. Pynkoski said that Mozart cast a 22 year old singer to sing the part when he conducted the orchestra.

In this production Don Giovanni is sung by Phillip Addis who is both dashing and boyish. He has a rich baritone voice and has the swagger and easy body language of a young man who knows his effect on women. The rest of the cast is as strong.

Pynkoski also said that the opera should go like the wind.

And this production goes like the wind thanks first of all to conductor Stefano Montanari. He is as much a performer as any of the singers and dancers and just as compelling.

It is like watching a man whose arms are like ribbons as they arc through the air coaxing every perfect note out of that wonderful Tafelmusik Orchestra, and keeping a firm grip on the proceedings on stage. There are several arias that could veer off from the orchestra but in every case the singer, conductor and orchestra are like one.

It’s directed with meticulous attention to detail by Marshall Pynkoski who also brings out the humour and wit of the production. From the sets to the costumes to the choreography it has the wonderful look of elegance and sense of authenticity—as if we are watching a production from the 18th century.

Scene after scene looks like we are looking at a painting from the period come to life. This is especially true in the final bow. The cast holds a pose that looks like a painting, then they bow and go back to the pose. Lovely.

An exuberant triumph. It will leave you breathless, and smiling.


At the Panasonic Theatre. Written, performed and directed by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt.

It’s a play with two characters who play two pianos. Hence, two pianos played by four hands.

The play was created 15 years ago by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt—two accomplished actors who also happen to be accomplished pianists.

It’s a charming, funny and moving play about the trials, tribulations and emotional roller coaster of learning to play the piano and loving it as seen through the eyes of two boys who happen to be named Teddy and Richard. Teddy is the goofier of the two boys. Richard is the more serious.

Over the course of the play they mature, grow and learn to love playing. There is the agony of the first lessons—agony for the committed teacher, listening to music being mangled.

There are the trials by fire: Kiwanis competitions; Conservatory exams with exacting examiners; when a kid is passionate about music and wants to continue with a career and a parent says no, or a teacher says he doesn’t have the drive or talent, the effect can be crushing, but through it all the two never lose their love of playing.

Teddy and Richard play together, separately, in competition with each other. And through it all they make beautiful music.

Creators/performers Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt recreate their roles and the show is as fresh and accessible today as it was when they debuted it 15 years ago at Tarragon Theatre.

I was glad to see that Dykstra and Greenblatt give credit to the late Urjo Kareda who encouraged the development of the show when he was running Tarragon, and to Andy McKim, the original consulting director.

And no you don’t have to play an instrument to love this show. We’ve all been there in one way or another. We have a love of something that consumes our lives, Or we have dreams that seem impossible but still we strive.

This loving show covers the disappointments with sensitivity.

Ok so Teddy and Richard didn’t become concert pianists. They became gifted actors who wrote a sweet show, that has struck a chord with anybody who has seen it.

It has played all over the world for 15 years. And after all this time, they still make beautiful music by playing the piano.

And now for something completely different.


At Theatre Passe Muraille Back Space. Written by Geoff Kavanaugh. Directed by Ed Roy. Set and lighting by Steve Lucas. Costumes by Nina Okens. Sound by Lyon Smith. Starring: Clinton Walker and Robert Tsonos.

This is about two doomed men, Hennessey and Whitebread, in their last hours . Actually the whole expedition was doomed. The ships of Sir John Franklin were stuck in the ice during the hard north winter.

Hennesey and Whitebread were abandoned by their mates, probably because the two men were gay.

They are given a small boat but that gets tipped somehow into a ditch and stuck.

Hennesey breaks his leg as the boat tipped. Whitebread is near death from frostbite
and starvation. They bolster each other, urging the other to keep going, expressing their feelings, love, hopes etc.

They think the men will come back for them with food, not knowing they are all dead.

This is definitely not a musical, but you never know, if Sondheim gets his hands on the story.

Sometimes our theatre stories are depressing, but that doesn’t mean we don’t see them. They might have a greater truth. I think DITCH has that.

I love the resilience of the two characters. How they won’t let the other give up. In desperate times that sense of caring for the other, the humanity of it all in such inhuman conditions comes to the front. And I appreciate the confessional aspect of it—desperate times opens up a person to express emotions one might not want to necessarily express in ordinary times.

These guys knew they were dying, or At least Whitebread did—and he told Hennesey his innermost feelings.

Perhaps Geoff Kavanagh over wrote a bit too much poetic philosophy,

And perhaps director Ed Roy might have laid it on a bit thick with recordings of choirs singing British hymns accompanied by projections of the expedition etc., but I think DITCH is being given a solid production.

You hear the howling of that freezing wind as you get to your seat. The sound design by Lyon Smith always puts you in the spirit of the play.

The backspace of Theatre Passe Muraille is tiny, so rather than going for that sense of vastness, designer Steve Lucas goes for the sense of stuck. The boat is stuck. The men can’t leave each other so they are stuck.

And director Ed Roy creates that sense of being stuck beautifully here.

As Hennesey, the one reluctant to express his feelings for Whitebread, Robert Tsonos is animated, angry and protective of his friend.

As Whitebread, Clinton Walker is astonishing. This is a detailed, achingly vivid performance of a man who is dying. The modulation of the breathing, gasping, hallucinations, and total physical weakness of the character is compelling.

And I loved that while they are both filthy, and unshaven, Whitebread still has his
Cravat tied properly—always a proper English gentleman.

You get the whole sense of that desolation, and desperation in this production. But then a sense of relief—we can go home. Hennesey and Whitebread aren’t so lucky.

Glad I saw this.

DON GIOVANNI plays at the Elgin Theatre until November 5.

2 PIANOS 4 HANDS plays at the Panasonic Theatre
until Dec, 4.

DITCH plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace
until Nov. 20.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.