Radio Review text: LEGOLAND and LA RONDE

by Lynn on April 5, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following two reviews were broadcast on Friday, April 5, 2013 CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, CIUT 89.5 LEGOLAND at Theatre Passe Muraille until April 13 and LA RONDE is at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until May 4.

1) Good Friday morning. It’s that time for our weekly fix of theatre with Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer.

Hi Lynn. What’s up this week?

I have two shows.

One is LEGOLAND at Theatre Passe Muraille about a 16 year old precocious girl and her oddly dressed, strange acting 13 year old brother, who went on a road trip that resulted in her being arrested for selling drugs and hurling hot coffee at a rock star.

And the other play is LA RONDE at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, which is a daisy chain of brief encounters involving sex.

You might call it an odd coupling of plays. Or maybe not.

2) An odd coupling indeed. Let’s start with LEGOLAND. What’s the story?

LEGOLAND is produced by an interesting company called Atomic Vaudeville out of Vancouver. LEGOLAND is the prequel to their hugely successful award winning play, Ride the Cyclone.

With that one we get the quirky stories of six teenagers from Uranium, Saskatchewan, who all sang in the school choir and all died when the amusement ride they were riding, the Cyclone, malfunctioned.

That show established the company’s off the wall imagination, vaudeville style and odd-ball storytelling. After that I wanted to see their next show, soon.

I got my wish with LEGOLAND, playing at Theatre Passe Muraille.

Penny Lamb is 16. She must do lots of community work as penance for selling drugs, attacking her favourite rock and roll singer with his favourite coffee drink, and generally wrecking havoc.

She is aided in her moment of crime by her serious, oddly dressed 13 year old brother, Ezra. Ezra wears a grey cape, grey shorts, white tights and Mary Jane shoes of sorts. He wears big horned rimmed glasses and his hair has dramatic swoops and curls. He talks in a deep monotone.

Penny and Ezra live on a commune with their hippy parents not far from the deserted town of Uranium, Saskatchewan. It’s a rocky growing up for both siblings. They are so odd they are ostracised by their mean classmates. Penny is naturally exuberant and stream of consciousness speaking. Ezra is an intellectual who spouts Nietzsche.

3) Where does the title come from?

Legoland is what their parents call the world outside their own small one. Writer Jacob Richmond means that to be the rigid, conforming society that is outside the Lamb family’s hippy all embracing world.

Where ever the siblings go, adventures follow them, whether they are lying to the border guard about their dead parents (they aren’t dead); or traveling by bus across the United States first to get the rock star’s favourite coffee in Seattle then to Florida to give it to him, but with startling results.

4) After Ride the Cyclone is LEGOLAND worth the wait?

Sadly, no. Jacob Richmond is relentless in his determination to be quirky and off the wall funny, be it his writing or co-direction. The result is generally leaden with the whole effort weighted down with the—well, effort.

Humour is the result of the juxtaposition of the incongruous—the formally dressed man slipping on a banana peel is hilarious, unless you are the formally dressed guy.

But when you can see the jokes coming a mile off it becomes tiresome and endless, even at an hour running time, which this show was. The performances are intriguing and even compelling. As Penny, Celine Stubel is eager, impish and charmingly devilish. Penny is as energetic as her brother Ezra is sedentary. As Ezra, Amitai Marmorstein is stony-faced and monotoned in his seriousness.

That mixed with the occasional manic movement is mildly amusing. But too often both are inaudible either because of speaking too fast, screaming, or mumbling. And while directors Richmond and Britt Small do fill the space with the antics of both characters, it does tend to be invention for invention’s sake. Lots of formation arm waving that soon muddies the point.

That said, they have the most eclectic mixing of music in the show: the duet from Lakme; the Gavotte of the Departing Guests from Romeo and Juliet the ballet; even Loreena McKennitt… loved that…

I am very glad I saw Ride the Cyclone first to see how a show can work when it is full of quirkiness.

LEGOLAND was a disappointment for me but I sure want to see their next show.

5) Now for sex; always an interesting subject. Tell us about LA RONDE.

This might be one time when sex is not really an interesting subject….but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The play was written at the beginning of the 20th Century by Arthur Schnitzler, a Viennese playwright. The play was met with such invective by the public and critics that its premier was held in Germany not Austria. It was called filth, pornography etc. It had a rocky beginning but went on to become a classic play of how sex cuts through class distinctions.

One could think it’s about trying to make some connection to another person. It’s a daisy chain of 10 scenes of brief encounters. A soldier meets a prostitute. He then goes off with a parlor maid. The maid has a sexual encounter with the son of the family who employ her and so on until we meet the prostitute again this time with a rich client.

For our purposes LA RONDE has been adapted by Jason Sherman. This is a coup. Sherman was a stalwart of the theatre in this country for years until 10 years ago he quit writing for theatre because he couldn’t make a living. So he wrote for radio and TV.

But Albert Schultz, the Artistic Director of Soulpepper
Charmed/cajoled him back into writing for the theatre and this updated version of LA RONDE is the result.

6) How has it been updated?

We are in Toronto in 2013. The prostitute is running away from something and is desperate for money to get a passport. The soldier has seen action in war torn counties—the congo being one. He knows the maid he goes with after the prostitute. The maid is from the Congo and was brutally raped there and is haunted by the experience. We are lead to believe that the soldier could have helped but didn’t and is trying to make up for it. He wants to marry her.

There is a sex therapist; a university professor who tries to get the sperm of one of her students because she and her husband can’t conceive. There is a Bernie Maddoff character at the end with kinky requirements. There is an encounter in a club with two men and one women.

So while it’s still about sexual encounters Jason Sherman has added stories ripped from the headlines to give the stories weight I guess.

Director Alan Dilworth says that the play is about sex and loneliness. The suggestion being that with these encounters people are just trying to connect and combat their loneliness.

7) Does the updating work?

No. All these characters have so much headline baggage that it bogs everything down and doesn’t develop anything satisfactorily. Sherman never met a quip or smarmy joke he could ignore and so his play is loaded with characters mouthing jokes, that are wrong for the character and inappropriate for the moment.

The young rich kid is helping the maid with her refugee application—he really wants to get her into bed. She’s from the Congo yet knows nothing about what she might have experienced. One question on the form is have you ever been involved in genocide and Sherman has this young man assume a German accent and give the line “Ava have we ever been involved in genocide.”

Is that supposed to be funny somewhere in the world? It undercuts the character; takes us out of the moment and generally destroys any connection to the characters. He does that all through the play. The only loyalty, connection and obsession any character has is to their cell phones.

8) Does the production improve upon the play.

For the most part it’s a good cast but if the script is less than stellar even they can’t lift it no matter how much nudity (and there’s a lot) to take our minds off it. I thought many of them were just embarrassed.

The set by Lorenzo Savoini is stylish but too unwieldy in the scene changes. It’s directed by Alan Dilworth—usually a fine director—but here leaves nothing to the imagination, which makes the whole thing strangely boring.

There was one moment that was wonderfully aching. The prostitute is on the bed with the rich client. Her bare back is to us; she is still and her head tilts down, in despair? That is the one moment of true loneliness, sadness, humanity in this whole cold, unfeeling, unconnected show.


Thanks Lynn. That’s Lynn Slotkin our theatre critic and Passionate Playgoer. You can read Lynn’s blog at

LEGOLAND plays at Theatre Passe Muraille until April 13.

LA RONDE plays at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until May 4.

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