Home     Content     Articles      La Scena Musicale     Search   

La Scena Musicale - Vol. 13, No. 4 December 2007

English Theatre: Lots of Highs

by Jessica Laurence / December 16, 2007

Version française...

Autumn seems to be the time for theatre: every company stages their first play of the season and runs tend to overlap. In October, both Fallen Angel Productions and Tableau D’Hôte Theatre brought rarely done, dark and disturbing plays to the stage. Featuring sexual debauchery and perversity, both told the story of actual historical figures. Fallen Angel’s Quills, about the Marquis de Sade, and Tableau D’Hôte’s Jehanne of the Witches, about Joan of Arc, were widely entertaining and successful. Though both companies are young, they churn out exceptional work and never shy away from a challenging script. Both shows featured young, up-and-coming talent, beautiful, lavish costumes and marvelous special effects. Brad Carmichael was magnificent as the Marquis de Sade in Quills. Graceful, poised and charismatic, there seemed to be ease in everything he did, even at his most naked and vulnerable as an actor. Jehanne of the Witches, one of Sally Clark’s less known plays – though rarely done, this does not diminish its merit as a great piece of work. This hidden jewel of a piece recounts Joan of Arc’s story with historical accuracy, and explores modern, feminist ideals, while managing to also be funny. Using historical facts, Clark weaves a story exploring the strange relationship that existed between Joan of Arc and her comrade-in-arms, Gilles de Rais, a murderous baron who raped, tortured and killed hundreds of young boys to later become known as the figure of Bluebeard. Tableau d’Hôte gave the piece its well-deserved and wonderfully performed Montreal premiere.

Two great new plays by Canadian playwrights were staged here in November: Dating Jesus by Montreal’s Louise Arsenault, and Gas by Jason Maghanoy. Opening at the Théâtre Saint-Catherine, Dating Jesus, a tender, funny and contemporary piece set in Westmount, tells the story of a single mother – a sex-obsessed poet – looking for salvation while losing her mind. Featuring a handful of Montreal’s recognizable, well-established talent, the play managed to be as comical as it was moving. Gas, a shockingly intense play directed by Guy Sprung, has finished its run at the Bain Saint-Michel as the first play of Infinitheatre’s season. Jason Maghanoy, a recent graduate of the National Theatre School playwriting program and a McGill University alumnus, is forging a reputation as a writer of strong and provocative work. This play has to be one of his most thought-provoking pieces to date. Set in the current chaos of the war in Iraq, five young American soldiers bring a human face to the insidious carnage and atrocity of war. The terrific cast brilliantly portrays their moral and psychological destruction as they attempt to dehumanize their enemy to keep their sanity. The humanitarian act of “freeing” a country requires a plethora of inhuman actions.

An Enemy of the People opened on November 22nd at the Segal Centre at the Saidye and runs until December 9th. Written by Henrik Ibsen in 1882, and later adapted by Arthur Miller in the 1950’s, the play’s themes, concerns and issues are still painfully relevant today: the corruption of companies looking for any means to suppress the truth in order to save a few dollars; the pursuit of money rather than common sense. Directed by the esteemed Miles Potter, this profound, intricate piece is a must-see. It features an elite cast of seasoned actors, handling an extraordinary poignant text from one of the greatest writers of our time. (514) 739-7944.

The Syringa Tree is a spell-binding one-woman piece set in South Africa. The play, directed by Larry Moss and performed impeccably by Alberta native Caroline Cave, has been touring Canada, having stopped both in Vancouver and Toronto, before coming to Montreal. Cave’s performance has already won her a Jessie Award (Vancouver) and a Dora Award (Toronto) for best actress. The story, spanning four generations, includes over twenty-five characters, both black and white, into which the talented actress transforms herself at the blink of an eye. The play runs until December 2nd at the Centaur. (514) 288-3161.

Two student productions are currently running Shakespeare plays: The Taming of the Shrew at McGill’s Moyse Hall and Richard III at Dawson College. Directed by Professor Patrick Neilson. The Taming of the Shrew presents a fast-paced, very physical Commedia dell’Arte take on a classic Shakespeare piece. The cast, all McGill students, most of whom are not acting students, are interesting, energetic, jovial and zany. They keep the play cooking from beginning to end. Richard III, directed by Winston Sutton, is Dawson College’s Professional Theatre program’s first major production in their brand new theatre. The new theatre, now at 2000 Atwater, annexed to Dawson’s main building, is sparkling, immaculate and very sophisticated. The third-year students do a tremendous job with this profound and difficult play.

In the New Year, look out for Houdini, the next piece at the Segal Center at the Saidye. An original piece – and a musical – this play is sure to turn some heads. Directed by the artistic director of the Saidye, Bryna Wasserman, written by Ben Gonshor, and with musical scores by Elan Kunin, the play is certain to be a pool of talent. The magic skits themselves are worth the price of admission. Featuring a large cast and plenty of singing and dancing, it is gearing up to be the biggest production of 2008 (February 10th - March 2nd). (514) 739-7944.

Half Life, a tender, heart-warming award-winning Canadian play by mathematician and playwright John Mighton, will be playing at the Centaur from January 29th to February 24th. Directed by one of Canada’s most recognized directors, Daniel Brooks, it will feature quite a stellar cast, including the star of CTV’s Corner Gas, Eric Peterson. (514) 288-3161

Also, keep your eyes peeled for “Montreal Idle” by Tex Dawson, the ‘King of Montreal musical comedy’. A fundraiser for Infinitheatre, this musical murder mystery spoof pokes fun at the myriad of horrid reality shows that have monopolized the television. The audience will be invited to vote for their favorite Montreal performer, and the winner of the Montreal Idle competition will become the next ‘Prime Minister of Canada’. This performance is sure to be guaranteed entertainment. It will be presented at the Segal Center for Performing Arts at the Saidye on January 6, 8, 9 and 10, 2008. (514) 739-7944.

Version française...

(c) La Scena Musicale