by Lynn on June 13, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Life and in person at the Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. Plays until Oct. 8, 2023.

Written by Tom Stoppard

Adapted from Einen jux will er sich machen by Johann Nestroy

Directed by Craig Hall

Set and costumes by Christina Poddubiuk

Lighting by Kimberly Purtell

Original music by Alessandro Juliani

Sound by Mike Rinaldi

Projections by Jamie Nesbitt

Cast: Jason Cadieux

Kristin Frank

Patrick Galligan

Élodie Gillett

Alexandra Gratton

Claire Jullien

Graeme Kitagawa

Julie Lumsden

Sanskruti Marathe

Mike Natadewski

Drew Plummer

Ric Reid

Jonathan Tan

Taurian Teelucksingh

Lindsay Wu

It’s a farce  of slapstick shenanigans, mistaken identities, malapropismsdouble entendres, and romantic complications. But I found Craig Hall’s direction less inventive and more overt in moving people faster with little at stake. The pace was too slow for farce. Fine acting by Mike Nadajewski and Ric Reid. But over-all a disappointment.

On the Razzle was written by Tom Stoppard which premiered at the Royal National Theatre, London in 1981. It is an adaptation of the 1842 Viennese play Einen Jux will er sich machen by Johann Nestroy. It’s been adapted twice by Thornton Wilder. The most notable The Matchmaker, was later adapted into Hello, Dolly!  Stoppard’s adaptation eliminates the Dolly character.

Herr Zangler (Ric Reid), a bit of a buffoon of an upscale grocery store in a small Austrian village, plans to marry the proprietor of a women’s clothing shop in Vienna. He arranges to send his niece Marie (Lindsay Wu) to his sister-in-law in Vienna, Miss Blumenblatt (Claire Jullien) to protect her from the penniless Sonders who is courting her.

As Zangler departs for Vienna, Zangler entrusts the operation of his business to his wily head clerk, Weinberl (Mike Nadajewski), and his naive apprentice, Christopher (Kristi Frank), but they decide to go “on the razzle” to Vienna—a trip of free-wheeling adventure and probably drinking. You can imagine it.  They all meet Zangler on the way and spend lots of time trying to escape his gaze.

Circumstances escalate and propel the two and Mr. Zangler and his intended into the same restaurant. Hiding becomes paramount for Weinberl and Christopher. High jinks seem a natural result.  

It’s a farce  of slapstick shenanigans, mistaken identities, malapropismsdouble entendres, and romantic complications. But since it’s Tom Stoppard, it’s also supremely literate, lots of puns, intellectual gymnastics with language and ideas. Facts, language and humour should wiz by. You can’t wait for the audience to get it because that slows down the pace. I got the sense that is what director Craig Hall did—slowed down the pace so the audience could keep up. Deadly.

There is a lot of hard work on that stage. Farce and slapstick are hard work—I must confess- farce is not my favourite kind of comedy. Too frenzied and frantic and complicated. All I want to do is say stop and sort this out. That said there is fine work by Mike Nadajewski as Weinberl. He is serious, smart, calculating and has comic talent in his fingers. Nadajewski is such an inventive comedic actor, he never stops delving into the heart of his part to find clues and humour.  Ric Reid as Zangler also is serious and full of malapropisms. That seriousness and those malapropisms are magically delivered.

But I found Craig Hall’s direction less inventive and more overt in moving people faster with little at stake. I found the production a bit tedious—that’s deadly in farce.

The Shaw Festival presents:

Playing until Oct. 8, 2023.

Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (one intermission)

Prince Caspian

Live and in person at the Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. Play until Oct. 8, 2023.

Adapted by the stage by Damien Atkins

Based on the novel by C.S. Lewis from the Narnia series.

Directed by Molly Atkinson

Set and costumes by Cory Sincennes

Lighting by Jareth Li

Original music and sound by Alessandro Juliani

Cast: Kyle Blair

Fiona Byrne

Shane Carty

Patty Jamieson

Qasim Khan

Andrew Lawrie

Michael Man

Marla McLean

Jade Repeta

Sanjay Talwar

Kiana Woo

Prince Caspian is the fourth book in the eight books of the Chronicles of Narnia seriesso beloved of Tim Carroll, the Shaw Festival’s Artistic Director. It’s a complex series of stories involving the four Pevensie siblings who magically found their way to Narnia through a wardrobe. There they had adventures with queens, Telmarine soldiers, dealing with horrible prophecies and being embraced by Aslan a magical lion with great insight and powers.

In Prince Caspian the siblings try to save the Prince from a prophecy in which he will be killed by his uncle who wants to be king. They encounter all manner of difficulty, getting lost, looking for markers, fighting soldiers, encountering dwarves, and looking for Aslan for help.

The set and costumes by Cory Sincennes are impressive, especially a majestic, magical tree up stage centre, that sometimes takes on a life of its own. The large ‘puppet’ of Aslan, carefully manipulated by Qasim Khan.

The four Pevensie children are played by adult actors: Peter (Kyle Blair), Edmund (Andrew Lawrie), Susan (Marla McLean) and Lucy (Kiana Woo). They are all extremely serious, with Peter (Kyle Blair) leading the way, and Lucy (Kiana Woo), the youngest, who adds a touch of whimsy.

The children all stick together to solve the various problems of finding their way home—Peter leads them in the wrong direction but they don’t chide him. Kyle Blair as Peter is contrite and humbled. When Lucy says that she sees Aslan in the distance, the others can’t see him. They gently question her if she really saw him, if they can’t. Peter says, solemnly, “if they can’t seem him, does he exist?” C.S. Lewis injecting a bit of religious philosophy into his ‘children’s series’ questioning the existence of God.

Molly Atkinson has directed Prince Caspian in such a reverential way the pace is plodding. Characters stand in a row and talk to each other or the audience. The production lacks lightness.

Presented by the Shaw Festival.

Plays until Oct. 8, 2023.

Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes, (1 intermission)

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