Text of Broadcast reviews: The Tempest and A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur

by Lynn on July 27, 2014

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following two show were reviewed on Friday, July 25, 2014 on CIUT Friday Morning, 89. 5 fm: The Tempest at Withrow Park until July 27, and A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur at the Shaw Festival until Oct. 11.

The Host was Phil Taylor.

Good Friday Morning. Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer is here, so it must be theatre talk time. What’s up this week?

Hi Phil.

I have two plays by masters. The first is The Tempest by William Shakespeare of course. It plays at Withrow Park until Sunday, July 27. This is part of Driftwood Theatre Group’s Bard’s Bus tour around Ontario. It’s their 20th year bringing outdoor theatre to various communities.

And then there is the wonderful one act play by Tennessee Williams, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur at the Shaw Festival. It’s a touching, cathartic ache of a play.

Ok, let’s start with The Tempest. A brief description please.

Sure. Prospero and his daughter Miranda have been stranded on an island for about 12 years. He was prosperous in Milan but his jealous brother usurped his position and sent him to that island to spend the rest of his days. Prospero gets even. He knows magic.

His brother and other dignitaries sail close to the island and Prospero conjures a tempest to bring them unharmed to his island so he can get even. He is on the island with Ariel, a sprite and Caliban, a really ugly troll-like character who gives Prospero aggravation.

The summer seems to be the time for outdoor Shakespeare. You’ve talked about it before. How does this company tackle the subject?

Really well. As I said, it’s their 20th year. The artistic director and director of the show is D. Jeremy Smith. He is a smart, inventive director who knows how to cut the play to a reasonable time to spend in the park watching Shakespeare, but still keep the poetry and serve the story. It’s a small company of actors who play many parts. They have varying experience with Shakespeare, but this is a good place to learn on the job.

The part of Caliban is played by a large, formidable puppet that is manipulated by two actors in masks. The tempest that begins the play is suggested by characters holding blue pompoms and shaking them in the air in formation; other sway as the wind blows. It’s effective, creative and neatly sets up the situation. Instead of a boat, the characters come to the island by a plane that crashes in the storm.

Ariel, the sprightly spirit is suggested by a large-winged, feathered creation on the end of a pole that is drawn through the air. The lines are voiced by the person manipulating the pole (Madeleine Donahue). Also effective.

Is it unusual for such a heavy play to be done outdoors? I would have thought light fare would have been more appropriate?

No I don’t think it’s unusual. Theatre in parks is evolving and maturing and audiences are hungry for anything that engages them. So last week I reviewed The Humber Shakespeare Company that did Romeo and Juliet—not a lot of laughs in that one.

Canadian Stage does it’s Shakespeare in High Park—I see their two shows next week—and one of them is Titus Andronicus, in which all sorts of nastiness happens to a lot of people. I’m seeing audiences coming out to these shows and getting involved and engaged with it, and certainly lots of young people who are gripped.

You said last week you cut them slack when it comes to the acting. Does that apply this week?

Sure because of the varying experience. As Prospero, Richard Alan Campbell is a stalwart of the company and has acted with them over the years. He has a firm grasp of the language and the poetry. He is both tender with Miranda and impatient with a lot of other happenings on the island. After all this is his chance to get even. He’s waited a long time.

As Miranda, Miriam Fernandes is buoyant and girlish when she sees other men mainly Ferdinand—a first for her. As Ferdinand, Miranda’s suitor, Kaleb Alexander is strapping and courtly. I could believe he is a prince in the Italian court.

All in all, I think it’s a worthy production—so grab your blankets and go down to Withrow Park or check out the other stops on their tour.

And now A Lovely Sunday for Creve Couer. Why do you call it a touching, cathartic ache of a play?

It’s written by Tennessee Williams who knew a thing or two about heartache. Dorthea is waiting anxiously for the phone to ring. She is sure the young principal at the school where she teaches will call her for a date—they had one already that got rather hot and heavy. In the meantime she does a series of calisthenics to pass the time and keep her shape.

Her roommate Bodey, a no-nonsense woman, is making food for a picnic for her and her twin brother. Bodey thinks her brother would be perfect for Dorthea. Dorthea thinks the brother is vulgar.

There is Miss Gluck who is in heavy mourning for her recently dead mother. Miss Gluck comes down to Bodey’s apartment seeking a coffee and solace for her sorrow. Bodey tries.

And finally there is the social climbing Helena, also a teacher, who wants Dorthea to move into an expensive apartment with her to share the rent. Helena is a snob, condescending, phoney and obviously needy. Both Bodey and Helena know some information about the principal and know that Dorthea will be disappointed by him.

Tennessee Williams could get into the heart and soul of the wounded and fragile minded. At its heart, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur is a moving, tender play about people seeking comfort and love.

We see their struggle and every sad thing we might be suppressing bubbles to the surface in this cathartic, ache of a play. It’s cleansing rather than depressing.

The play is wonderful and the production is a gem.

Give us the details about that.

The play is directed by Blair Williams. He began as an actor—a fine one too—but has branched out into director over the past few years. He’s very gifted. He is able to balance the humour and the more serious moments of the work. He has a keen sense of the humour of the play—the many and various calisthenics that Dorthea does is a case in point. Watching her twist, turn and scissor her legs comes from a great sense of humour.

But while the play is funny, there is that underlying sense that these characters are hanging on for something better, and waiting anxiously for it. Blair Williams realizes that delicate balance.

He has a wonderful cast. As Dorthea, Deborah Hay brings out her flakiness, her expectation and her heart squeezing disappointment. Dorthea looks to be a bit dim, but Hay plays on that and reveals an inner strength. You see Dorthea working so hard not to break down or reveal her crushing disappointment and it’s so touching in this lovely performance.

As Bodey, Kate Hennig is matter of fact, direct, can see the phoniness of Helena and is compassionate to Miss Gluck. Hennig does ‘bristling’ like no one else. She almost puffs herself up to meet phoniness head on.

The always crying Miss Gluck is played with lovely flair by Julain Molnar. As I said, we don’t laugh at her. We are touched by her. And she is funny because her whole part is in German, and we understand every word.

Finally as Helena, Kaylee Harwood is beautifully turned out, always ready with a subtle put down to those she thinks are beneath her, and that’s everybody,
and has that smiling condescension that makes you roll your eyes. Terrific performance and of course we cheer when she gets her comeuppance.

A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur is one hour of exquisite theatre.

Thanks Lynn. That’s Lynn Slotkin our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can read Lynn’s blog at www.slotkinletter.com Twitter @slotkinletter.

The Tempest plays at various locations in Ontario until August 17. Check their website for the schedule: mail@driftwoodtheatre.com

A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur continues at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario until Oct.

To hear the podcast of the show plus an interview of Leonard McHardy of TheatreBooks, please go to the CIUT.fm website at www.cuit.fm click on the schedule at the top of the page; go to Friday morning at 9 am to CIUT FRIDAY MORNING; click on that and then scroll down to the bottom of the new page for the mp3 of the broadcast.


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