Thursday, April 11, 2013

Theatre Catch Up... Hey... Where are you Going? Would it Help if I Interspersed Some Cute Puppy Videos?

A long and rambling post covering recent theatre, music and opera was lost in the doom-laden Blogger void. Anyway, here is a shorter and incomplete version of my recent recap!

I'll start with theatre...


Each year, around the holiday season, Soulpepper Theatre has been alternating (annually) their wonderful production of Parfumerie (read my thoughts here) and A Christmas Carol (adapted and directed by Michael Shamata). This past December 28 was the first time I'd seen the latter. It was excellent, managing to suspend my obsession with the British film of 1948, as beloved as that remains. The cast mainly took on multiple roles, with Joseph Ziegler as Scrooge, excellent both as his twisted unhappy self, and his enlightened, joyous self at the end. John Jarvis was the three ghosts and Jacob Marley, and, after expending all that energy, looked still full of vigour as we watched him cycle away after the performance, over the cobblestoned streets of the historic Distillery District which houses the Young Theatre.

Written by Arthur Schnitzler in 1893 or 1895 (he also wrote Reigen in 1897, better known to me as La Ronde), directed by Morris Panych (who was behind the above-mentioned Parfumerie), it was lovely to look at, but, the piece never really took off. Anatol is a serial boyfriend, living in 1900 Vienna. He's unable to settle down with any one woman permanently. Well, why should he? There's no reason proposed in the play. There was little depth to the shallowness. Schnitzler's La Ronde will be presented by Soulpepper this year. I'm curious to see it.

Another winner from Soulpepper. Tom Stoppard's first, brilliant play was a great night out, on a cold Toronto night. We stopped first at Mill Street Brew Pub, which was extremely busy, but our reservation found us placed right in front of the fireplace. My back got very toasty and I was so happy. When we got to the theatre, we found that the theatre-in-round set up that Soulpepper had used for A Christmas Carol is still in place. It works! Ted Dykstra and Jordan Pettle (pictured below by Cylla von Tiedemann) were the title characters respectively, and worked off each other so well with great charm and humour. What seemed like the entire Soulpepper company rounded out the various players. It was one of the wittiest nights I've experienced in a long time, as Stoppard's/Shakespeare's two goofy guys loped dimly and hilariously through the on-stage/off-stage carryings on of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Joseph Ziegler, such an excellent and moving Scrooge over the Christmas season, directed. What a mensch.



If you can't fly to London regularly (I can't) and you have the remotest interest in excellent theatre, I urge you to try National Theatre Live, as it transmits select productions into cinemas around the world.

This play was adapted by Simon Stephens from Mark Haddon's novel), and was a riveting piece of theatre, seen through the thought processes of an austistic teenage boy, played brilliantly by Luke Treadaway. Niamh Cusack was his teacher, but everyone in the cast was perfect. This sort of performance from NTLive makes me so, so wish they would release the performances on DVD. The Met does it with their operas; I just wish this was available to witness over and over.

Shakespeare's Timon was new to me. It starred the versatile and brilliant Simon Russell Beale as Timon, a rich man who loses everything... and more. In Act II he railed at his lot, and it was stunning. And, set in present-day London, very timely.

Arthur Wing Pinero's play had John Lithgow in the title role, a kind, thoughtful man whose life goes off the rails in a delicious and stylish farce. I could have lived without the added musical interludes, but it was such fun overall. I love good farce. There's not enough of it.

This was actor Stephen Beresford's first play - I mean, he wrote it! I don't this it will be his last. This splendid family dysfuncion-fest had Julie Walters as the impossible and wonderful mother, and Helen McCrory and Rory Kinnear as her troubled adult children. What a cast - what a show! I'm sure the National has the same struggles financially as other performing arts institions around the world (or do they?) but you wouldn't know it by the lavish attention to every detail. The set for this play was as star in itself.

Alan Bennett's new play had me bouncing with anticipation. And then... not so much. It's the first piece of Alan Bennett's ever that I haven't been captivated by. In parts it's moving, nostalgic, hysterical, outrageous, but as a total it never came together for me. Occasional plot holes and inconsistent behaviour from the characters left me feeling cold to the whole thing. Of course with performers like Frances de la Tour, I was also thrilled I hadn't missed it. She leads a great cast, including my teenage crush, Peter Egan, who is still doling out the hotness factor.

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