by Lynn on March 17, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

These reviews were broadcast on Friday, March 16, 2012 CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, 89.5 FM: DYING HARD, LEGALLY BLONDE and THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK

The host was Rose Palmieri

1) Good Friday Morning, Lynn Slotkin our theatre critic and passionate playgoer is back with some theatre reviews. What do you have for us this morning?

I’ve got three:

DYING HARD is an evening of verbatim monologues based interviews with miners dying of diseases caught on the job, or their family members.

LEGALLY BLONDE is the musical based on the movie about a woman named Elle who was trying to win her man back. He left her because he felt he needed someone smarter and more serious. Elle was blonde and so the man didn’t think she was suitable material.

And THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK which I think everybody knows, is a play based on the diary of Anne Frank, a Jewish Dutch girl who hid with her family and some friends in the cramped apartment above her father’s business from the Nazis during the war.

Kind of an eclectic mix.

2) Ok let’s start with DYING HARD. What are verbatim monologues?

Elliott Leyton, a professor of Anthropology at Memorial University, conducted taped interviews with miners who were dying from industrial diseases ‘contracted while working in the fluorspar mines of Newfoundland; and of the women who were married to them and tended them, while taking care of the family.

Performer Mikaela Dyke has taken six of these interviews and recreates them verbatim (word for word) in the voice and manner of the speaker).

3) Is there variation?


There is the smiling, low-voiced man who never met a consonant he would respect. He slides through his words, accent twanging so broadly you could hardly make out what he was saying.

But you listened hard, that was the unspoken deal—Dyke would say the words as the person did on the tape but we had to keep up and listen.

I thought that each monologue got easier to understand because the accents were not that broad, or perhaps I got used to them, or perhaps a combination of both.

Another man, bent over, wearing a plaid shirt, holding a beer bottle told his story, full of colour, quirky sayings, humour particular to Newfoundland. Gradually it would become clear. And used easy humour to lead up to the sobering story.

There was another with a man dying in the hospital, breathing slowly, every breath an effort.

There were stories of men who loved the camaraderie of the mines, the men who worked them, the stories of shenanigans, devilment, fun, drinking, but common to all was the deadly results of working there.
And the most moving was the last one in which a woman tells of her tender, endearing love for her husband and he for her. He got sick. She tended him until the end. She remembered him with clarity and fierce love 10 years after his death.

4) How well does the woman in this case do with those monologues?

Mikaela Dyke is a gifted performing with a keen ear for the differing accents and the variations in speech patters. She recreates speeches of both men and women in a compelling, engrossing way. And she is directed with great economy by Dahlia Katz. I so love the spareness of the whole enterprise. No flashy stuff from the director or the designers.

There are few props: a chair, a pair of boots, a coat tree with a clothes on it that would be used. Ms Dyke, jeans, a t-shirt perhaps socked feet and shiny hair that she put up or tied back or took down.

She got into each part, right to the heart of it.

The evening was compelling, moving, funny and held us so tightly because the stories are so real. David DeGrow’s lighting is beautifully atmospheric, haunting, moody.

I took a deep breath when it was finished.

I wish they spent less time on program notes that tell you what the play or book it’s based on was about and more time telling you how long it plays until, and where to buy tickets.
Both were missing on the program.

A quibble

Wonderful evening in the theatre.

5) If we haven’t seen the movie, what’s the story of LEGALLY BLONDE

Elle a pampered blonde woman loves a snooty man named Warner.

He wants to be a lawyer and is going to Harvard Law school to reach his goal. Elle thinks he is going to propose. He dumps her instead. She’s not serious enough for him. So she decides she too will get into Harvard law and fight to win her man back.

Wonder of wonders she does get into Harvard Law, realizes that Warner is not such a catch after all and learns that she can be a good lawyer because of the person she is.

Sweet and silly at the same time.

6) How does it translate onto the stage?

This is being done at the Lower Ossington Theatre and is cast with newly graduated etc. musical theatre people who just want to sing and dance. This space is a tryout in most cases for them.

I saw Avenue Q here and was mightily impressed with the energy and talent and it was no different here.

The show is very ambitious—about 23 in the cast who have to sing, dance and act—plus two dogs.

I am mighty impressed with the commitment and dedication of this cast and any cast who tackles the work. I think >LEGALLY BLONDE LEGALLY BLONDE quite nicely with this group under the able direction of Tricia Lackey.

8) And The DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. Is the play dated?

Unfortunately no. This play will always have resonance in our times and
In the future. We know the story.

The Frank family and the Van Daan family move into the little space above Mr. Van Daan’s office when the edict came down during the war, in Holland that Jews were being rounded up to be taken to concentration camps.

They were brought food and news by a friend for more than a year.
It was stressful; hard; they were hungry because food was scarce but they endured. Until someone betrayed them. A very powerful story. And of course based on one of the greatest pieces of literature to come out of WWI or any time really.

9) People who have actually seen the space in which these people lived, commented on how small it was. How does that translate to the stage?

It is interesting.

The space at the Miles Nadal JCC looks large, but the set by Glenn Davidson is clever in showing just how cramped it must have been.
People are always on top of each other they are so crowded.

I thought director Michael does a fine job of keeping the pace going and the blocking effective. He is the artistic director of Shakespeare in Action, the company that is producing the show. They do fine, interesting work.

As Anne, Sascha Cole is both properly annoying. Initially Anne was 13 at the beginning of the play and was flighty, energetic, careening around the apartment and always in everybody’s way.

But she matured and it was interesting to watch Sascha Cole just take those moments and make them a whole person, maturing, growing up.
And of course we weep at the loss of that great writer.

There are some heartbreaking, elegant moments during the show, for example when Mrs. Van Daan is comforting Mr. Van Daan, As Mrs. Van Daan, Catherine McNally is tender, comforting, stricken with concern and a woman trying to hold on.

Lovely work here. Good work from many in the cast.

THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK is always a moving play.

On the whole, I thought it was good production.

Thanks Lynn. That was Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can read Lynn’s blog at

DYING HARD plays at the Tarragon Extra Space until Sunday, March 18. Phone: 416-531-1827.

LEGALLY BLONDE plays at the Lower Ossington Theatre.

THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANKplays at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre until March 24.

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