Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Recent Theatre

As a non-performer, I'm often amazed at the effect a talented actor or musician can have. That effect is even more remarkable when it stands out in an already-strong ensemble. I'm not talking about scene stealing, but the seemingly effortless portrayal of something or someone. I had such an experience a few weeks ago.

I was spending the weekend in Stratford with my parents (they used to live there so it was a sort of homecoming for them). The Stratford Shakespeare Festival (a blog favourite) was presenting Harold Pinter's, appropriately enough, The Homecoming, directed by Jennifer Tarver, as part of its season. It boasted a wonderful cast (Brian Dennehy, Aaron Krohn, Ian Lake, Cara Ricketts, Mike Shara) with not a weak link, although the varying accents threw me a bit. Stephen Ouimette as Sam was the stand out; I can hardly describe his performance without falling into cliché (hey, I'm no drama critic!), but it was natural, vulnerable, touching, and funny.

The previous evening we saw the festival's The Misanthrope. I've been searching my brain, but I'm sure this is the first Molière I've even seen. This was the twinkliest, most stylish production full of gorgeous costumes and chandeliers. I enjoyed the verse translation by Richard Wilbur, and wonderful performances by Ben Carlson and Juan Chioran as Alceste and Philinte. But it never seemed to take off. I missed Brian Bedford and Tim MacDonald (who'd both withdrawn from the production). A high point in my years of visiting the festival was both actors in The School for Scandal and Tim MacDonald's "Fie, Uncle!" I STILL think about that!

Last week I saw 2 Pianos, 4 Hands, at the Panasonic Theatre in Toronto. I first saw it many moons ago at the Royal Alexandra, and I can't help thinking that being in that theatre enhanced my experience. It's a sweet, funny show, for anyone who's taken at least one piano lesson or who has the imagination to wonder what that might be like. It's a real feel-good evening, but not so much if you have to experience it in the Panasonic, which is industrial-ugly and quite uncomfortable. Oh, and airless. Yikes. Anyway, I still recommend this delightful two-man show, written and performed by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt. Oh, and after many years, I ate again, with my companion, at 7 West - just as cozy as ever.

Two of my friends and I were looking for a place to eat before a performance of In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play at the Tarragon Theatre. I came upon Bistro Tournesol: great food, service and atmosphere. This was one of the best eating-out experiences in a long time. I'll be back and I can't wait! The play was disappointing. It seemed an interesting premise: the historical fact of doctors using a new electric vibrating device to cure women of "hysteria", basically stimulating then to orgasm. The script (nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony) was a series of variations on a a joke. I was bored and found all the hooting and hollering in the audience a bit of a surprise; what's a downtown Toronto crowd doing, carrying on like a bunch of 11 year olds listening to pooh-pooh jokes? Meh!

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