Broadcast text from CIUT review of : ON THE ROCKS and THE FLOOD THEREAFTER

by Lynn on September 27, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following reviews were broadcast on Friday, September 27, 2013. CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, 89.5 FM ON THE ROCKS at Theatre Passe Muraille until September 25 and THE FLOOD THEREAFTER at the Berkelely Street Theatre Downstairs until Oct. 6.

 The guest host was Phil Taylor


1) Good Friday morning, Lynn Slotkin our theatre critic and passionate playgoer is back to give us our theatre fix with her reviews. So Lynn, what are you reviewing this morning?


Hi Again Phil. I’m reviewing two shows that have a tenuous connection.

 The first is On The Rocks, a one woman show, which opened a few nights ago at Theatre Passe Muraille. And The Flood Thereafter which opened last night at Canadian Stage at the Berkeley Street Theatre, downstairs. The tenuous connection is that both shows were written by French Canadian women.


2) Ok, let’s start with On The Rocks.


Andy McKim, Artistic Director of Theatre Passe Muraille, took a chance and opened his 2013-14 season with the first play of a new playwright, with a familiar name. The play is On the Rocks. The writer is Louise Pitre, performing star of such musicals as Les Misérables, Mamma Mia! A Year With Frog and Toad, Piaf and Toxic Avenger.

 McKim’s challenge to her was to create a show for Theatre Passe Muraille that she would never get a chance to do anywhere else. What Pitre did was write a very personal story about her childhood in Quebec and her passion for singing that led her to perform across the country and on Broadway. As if this wasn’t hard enough she also wrote the music and lyrics, along with her husband W. Joseph Matheson, to nine original songs for the show.

While a small part of her show seems like a “and then I went into this or that show”, it’s less about that and more about the personal journey she’s taken. Her early exhibitionist was evident when she wanted to go topless because her brother and father did and her mother said that wasn’t proper. She was seven-years-old.

 She always sang, either with her sister or by herself. While singing was easy, so was unerringly picking the wrong men. She says that for years she had a warped sense of needing approval from men. A failed marriage, guilt, and finally happiness with her second husband, Joe.


3) How do the songs fit into this journey?


They add to it by expressing the emotions of the moment, longing, yearning, regret. The songs are a collection of tuneful offerings that talk about believing in yourself. (“If I Can See It”), The importance and effect of dreaming (“The Power of Dreams”), and a Piaf-like song, “Say Goodbye”.

 The three songs that Pitre wrote herself talk about her huge love for her husband (“I Just Wanted to Say.”); a heartbreaking song to her father that she lost to Alzheimer’s Disease (“Please Say My Name Out Loud”), and an equally moving song to her mother (“Please, Please, Please”) show the range and scope of Pitre’s creativity.


4) What’s she like on stage?


Pitre is a feisty, impish, passionate performer with boundless energy with a strong voice. She wears a white shirt and a black formal tails. Very striking.

Director Jen Shuber keeps the pace moving with minimum intrusion. There is subtlety there and Diane Leah offers wonderful accompaniment at the piano. Both accompanist and star do not seem as if they are microphoned and that’s wonderful. If they are, the enhancement is minimal and that’s wonderful too.Pitre is a stylish writer with a fine sense of comedy, impeccable timing as a performer and a consummate musician when she sings. Her heart and soul goes into her work and she takes her willing audience along for the journey in On the Rocks.


5) And now for The Flood Thereafter, another French-Canadian connection. What’s the story?


The Floor Thereafter is written by French-Canadian playwright Sarah Berthiaume. It’s her first play. She’s 29 years old.

 She has set it in a small fishing village in the Lower St. Lawrence Region of Quebec. But there are echoes to ancient Greece, The Odyssey and the Sirens.


5) A bit of background explanation please.


Sure. The reference is to the 10 year journey of Odysseus to go back from the 10 year Trojan war, to his wife Penelope who waits patiently for his return.The Sirens….beautiful treacherous women with beautiful voices, who lure sailors with their singing on to the rocky shores to their deaths. Odysseus knows about this so as he’s sailing near them he stuffs wax in his sailors’ ears so they won’t hear the singing. And he has them tie him to the mast so he won’t be drawn to them. So he and his men are saved. How does this apply to The Flood Thereafter? Twenty years before in this fishing village, a fisherman named Homére saved a woman from the water named Grace. Was she a mermaid? All the men fell in love with her. She would do an impromptu strip-tease in a bar every night and the men would cry at the beauty of it. Grace had a daughter June—the father could be anyone. And now June does the striptease in the bar and all the men cry, including Homére.

June wears a wig during the striptease.The wig is a creation of Homére’s wife Penelope who patiently waits for her husband to come home and pay her some attention. Into this setting comes Denis, a truck driver who is blinded by the sun and just stumbles into the bar. When he does sees the vision of the naked June that intrigues him and she returns the interest. I would think lust is involved as well there. So lots of ancient echoes into this modern story.


6) Considering the melding of the ancient Greek Myth and the modern world, does the play work?


First of all I think Berthiaume is very brave and imaginative to try and create a play that uses references from Ancient Greece to tell a modern story. And I think it’s interesting to change the seduction of the sound of the sirens to the seduction of the sight of naked June.

 But I think the play is a mess of images and ideas without a clear through-line. For some reason Grace speaks half of everything in French and English even though everybody else speaks English. Why? I rolled my eyes at the Homére character.The Greek poet Homer wrote The Odyssey. Homére-Homer, too cute for words. Patient Penelope was the wife of Odysseus. But not in this play. Here she is the wife of Homére, who lusts after June. Why?

 It’s confusing because Berthiaume has not written a strong enough character in Homére to show why Penelope is pining for him. Denis the truck driver blinded by the sunlight. Do we believe it, a truck driver without sunglasses? Ok I’m being pragmatic.

And the production is not getting much help from the fussy direction by Ker Wells.


7) You better explain that.


Ker Wells is determined to keep that siren theme in our ears even if the playwright has not. There is frequent echoing of wispy soprano singing in the background—like the sirens of ancient Greece. It’s the EYE SIGHT of every man in this play that is the thing that is driving them crazy when they see June naked. We have annoying sound effects of going into a restaurant; walking along the water front; water rising up, that distracts.

The pace of this is glacial and that’s deadly. There should be huge tension with this seduction and a terrible sense of danger and there isn’t. You just want to tell Wells to serve the play and get out of the way. The jumble of a set by Yannik Larivee makes sense only in the last minutes of the play


One performance stands out…the patient Penelope is played by the wonderful Maggie Huculak. She can speak in the soft low, slow voice and it’s riveting because she knows how to entice and enthral. She is still and watchful and therefore we can’t take our eyes off her. But for all the rest, it is hard going.


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

 On the Rocks plays at Theatre Passe Muraille until September 25, with an added performance on September 29.

The Flood Thereafter plays at the Berkeley Street Theatre until October 6.

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