Kingston

“Kitchen Chicken” Is Delightfully Delicious

“Kitchen Chicken” (photo shamelessly pilfered from the Kick & Push site)

“What just happened?”, you may find yourself asking as you leave the Grand’s traditional main stage auditorium…It turns out that “Kitchen Chicken” is a dinner party the likes of which you’ve never seen – and it is a fabulously outrageous and entertaining one, at that!

In all honesty, despite the kinetic mayhem and sensory overload, you likely won’t have any doubt what has transpired at all. There’s lots going on, and it can be a little hard to keep up and take it all in, but there’s a solid narrative woven throughout and the L’Orchestre d’Hommes-Orchestres ensemble (Bruno Bouchard, Gabrielle Bouthillier, Jasmin Cloutier, Simon Elmaleh, Danya Ortmann, and Philippe Lessard-Drolet) takes us back to a time and place where the kitchen was the place to be, and meal prep was a family affair. Sure, supper is made – and enjoyed by everyone! – but there’s so much more to be savoured here than today’s microwave and tablet dining experience.

Although there’s no dialogue per say, the communication between the performers is crystal clear, and given all that is going on at any one time, their timing and cooperation is simply incredible. The enthusiasm and laughter is contagious. The music keeps the pace and energy up for the cast as well as the audience. My only complaint would be the mixing of sound, as the vocals and lyrics to several of the songs were often lost – and given the precision in choice and placement of every other element of the show, I do feel like the story told would have had even more clarity and punch with the benefit of those words.

I have never seen anything like “Kitchen Chicken”, and that certainly adds to the appeal and amusement of this one-of-a-kind experience that is not to be missed!

(I may go back for seconds ūüėČ …)

“Kitchen Chicken” continues its run as part of The Kick & Push Festival until Saturday, August 10th…

There’s A LOT Going On “In Ireland…”

Nathan Coppens & Lauren Allen in “In Ireland We Rented A Car From Criminals” (submitted photo)

Much like the play’s title, “In Ireland We Rented A Car From Criminals” attempts to fit an awful lot into relatively little time and space – and it’s mostly worth the effort…

There are two stories intertwined here, one being a fun and versatile vehicle (pun fully intended) enhancing the accessibility and pathos of the other. The first is a contemporary comedy, centred on a couple’s trip in Ireland, with each on their own particular quest while there. The second slyly uses the first to delve into some of the country’s dark history, as well as its relevance to us today – especially as playwright Rod MacPherson neatly ties it all up in the end.

Nathan Coppens carries much of the load, flipping between one character and another – each distinct and memorable. His strong physicality serves him well throughout, and adds significantly to the comedic surface of the piece. Lauren Allen has a strong presence as well, but presents in a quieter and much more controlled manner, perfectly suiting her primary character while also serving to ground the overall production. There are a number of interactions between the two as a married couple that make it clear that they share a special chemistry that is essential to pulling off such a whimsical stage partnership. While much of the action is frantic, they each do have some very subtle, touching buttons where they could afford to take an extra beat or two, and allow the audience to settle in, share, and appreciate the moment.

The production is harried from the outset, and director Andrew Johnston’s use of the stage and placement of props and costumes initially felt messy, with set pieces apparently pulled from corners of this church venue, all contributing to a distracting level of discord. This, however, bothered me less and less as the show progressed, and as Coppens and Allen owned the space, finding and replacing each piece with an ease only available through muscle memory and confidence. The energy in this high-octane romp started to flag as they rounded the bend on the home stretch (particularly noticeable in the surprisingly anti-climactic realization of Tom’s “quest”) – but Coppens left enough in the tank to deliver a closing that was not only satisfying but impactful for an appreciative audience.

“In Ireland We Rented A Car From Criminals” is a quirky little show, well-suited to the character and pace of the Fringe. It is a production that entertains while offering many laughs, a few touching surprises, and a dose of reality, too.

“In Ireland We Rented A Car From Criminals” continues its run in Venue #3 of the Storefront Fringe Festival

“Stupidhead!” is a Smart Little Show!

“Stupidhead!” featuring Katherine Cullen (Image shamelessly stolen from The Kick and Push Festival site)

I was invited to join a friend to see “Stupidhead!”on relatively short notice, and it represented one of those rare experiences to walk into a show having no idea what it was about, or what to expect…

What an exciting way to start off my 2019 Kick & Push experience. And what a treat it was!

Billed as a comedic musical about dyslexia, and the embarrassment that is being a human, it certainly delivers as such – and a little bit more. Regardless of your familiarity and engagement with dyslexia specifically, this clever script, developed and performed by Katherine Cullen with music and accompaniment by Britta Johnson, has a relevance and accessibility to be appreciated by all. Quite witty and cheeky, but also honest and poignant, the fully engaged audience spent much of the hour in stitches, save a few touching moments when you could hear a pin drop.

I was impressed by the economy of the overall production, especially given its light-hearted approach to such personal subject matter. It is a tidy little show, succinctly packaged and neatly revealed, and it knows exactly what it is and what fits. As must be the case for these Festival shows, the production values are simple but effective, and in this case, subtly add to the overall experience of the play. Kudos to director Aaron Willis for keeping such a creative and impulsive production within the invisible but necessary parameters that delivered a perfectly satisfying arc for the audience to follow, yet still leaving room for Cullen and Johnson to have some fun while expressing some very real and personal emotion. The writing is remarkably tight as well, and confidently walks that fine line of self-deprecating humour and storytelling that allows the audience to laugh along “with”, but never “at” Cullen, her challenges, or her pain. There is far greater dramaturgy credit given for the piece (Willis, along with Andy McKim and Jivesh Parasram) than one usually sees or might expect for a shorter work such as this, and I recognize that this was likely a significant factor in their ability to settle on a piece that is so damn comfortable in its own skin. Frankly, it is all incredibly brave, and I can only imagine how gratifying the payoff must be for Cullen to have an audience so obviously on her side throughout, given the isolation that we all typically feel when dogged by our perceived shortcomings and inadequacies (whatever they may be). It is with an uncommon and noteworthy combination of sincerity and skill that Katherine brings us along on her journey, with the loving support of her friend Britta – which is by no means over yet…

The show is a charming piece of poetry, beautifully delivered…Suck on THAT, Peter Dyakowski!

More Information:

www.thekickandpush.com/stupidhead

Dusting this thing off…

storefront 2019Another summer of The Kick And Push and Storefront Fringe Festivals is now underway, and I gotta say that the buzz around this year’s programming is contagious – so much so that here I am back again, with a reinvigorated drive to spark conversation and provide a platform for its continuation beyond the storefront or the local pub

My agenda remains the same as it was when I first started this little experiment a few years back…I will certainly share my thoughts and feedback on the shows that I get to see, from my perspective, but this is intended to be a dialogue and a means to share experiences and perspectives…PLEASE share your thoughts openly, honestly, and respectfully – and let’s make the most of this incredible opportunity to enjoy and learn from the craft that so many artists are generously sharing with us…

I encourage you to get out and see as many different shows as you can, and drop back by here and share your stories…I look forward to sharing mine as we go…

HAPPY FRINGING, FRIENDS!

Storefront Fringe Festival Details

The Kick and Push Festival Details

Share Your ‘Storefront’ Reviews!

SFF on whiteThe inaugural Storefront Festival, conceived and presented by Theatre Kingston as part of The Kick and Push Festival, kicks off on Friday, July 15th!

I recognize that this site has been dormant for sometime – but my desire to engage and promote dialogue in response to innovative theatre offerings remains the same.¬† I can think of no more suitable opportunity to reboot this¬†project than a Festival¬†such as¬†this. Brett Christopher’s vision out of the gate was encapsulated in the tagline “Uncurated, Uncensored, Unboring”, and I have to admit, it piqued my interest!

Here’s what I would love to see happen…

1/ Go to a show.  Go to MANY shows.  Support these ambitious artists, who are pushing the envelope and testing the limits of their talent as well as the parameters of the traditional theatre experience.  Be a part of the audience with whom they so desperately want to connect.

2/ Come back here and post a mini-review of whatever you see, by way of a comment.¬† I think it’s safe to say that these eager artists are looking for your feedback – both positive reinforcement and constructive criticism.¬† Keep in mind that the purpose of this site is to help foster our local theatre community, and everyone’s Festival experience only stands to be enhanced.

3/ Keep the conversation going.  Personal commentary and multiple perspectives serve to enrich live theatre, so feel free to reply respectfully to reviews posted by others.  Do not passively watch these cutting edge productions.  Digest and discuss them.  Be a Storefront Festival participant.

And finally, don’t limit the discussion to this site – take the conversation to your favourite pub or restaurant after each show, and share your thoughts across social media platforms.¬† Trust me.¬† The larger and more lively the conversation, the greater the Storefront Festival experience will be for everyone…

I look forward to reading YOUR reviews of the shows that you get to see over the next 9 days!

Find the Storefront Festival brochure here

A Beautiful Play

Amy Rutherford & Becky Johnson, “A Beautiful View”

It is through the partnership of Theatre Kingston and Volcano Theatre that “A Beautiful View“, Daniel MacIvor’s play about another partnership, is currently playing in the Baby Grand Studio.¬† Two women appear on stage and tell the story of their relationship.¬† Sound simple?¬† Of course it does.¬† But of course it’s not.

As is typical of MacIvor’s work, “A Beautiful View” is far from a neatly packaged, linear and straightforward night at the theatre.¬† In this case, though, such is entirely suitable¬†because the same can be said of the nature of self-identity, friendship, and love as explored in the piece.¬† Just like any meaningful relationship, the play demands a level of commitment – a combination of effort and perseverance to see it through to its end. (more…)

Dine & Dash

Sara Chiodo, Matthew Hunt, & Brent Clifford Gorrie in "Don't Dress For Dinner"

Sara Chiodo, Matthew Hunt and Brent Clifford Gorrie in Blue Canoe’s “Don’t Dress For Dinner”

With his script “Don’t Dress For Dinner“, playwright Marc Camoletti serves up just the right combination of credible misunderstanding and madcap mayhem, such that his cast of characters never know what the heck is happening around them – yet the audience can enjoy the pleasure and laughter reserved for those who are in on the joke. ¬†The current Blue Canoe production playing at the Domino Theatre, however, loses something in its presentation. (more…)

Seeing Red

Ben Sanders & Randy Hughson, photo by Mark Bergin

Ben Sanders & Randy Hughson, photo by Mark Bergin

Since its very beginning as “Theatre Beyond” in 1991, Theatre Kingston has been known for bringing challenging pieces to local audiences – typically ambitious and risky productions¬†that may not have mainstream appeal, but are meant to enrich as well as entertain their audiences.¬† The current staging of John Logan’s “Red“, playing now in the Baby Grand Studio, is a perfect example of such a project, and is near-perfect in its execution.

“Red” is a vivid look into the life of famed artist Mark Rothko (circa 1958) as he undertakes the painting of a group of murals for The Four Seasons, an exclusive and expensive restaurant.¬† In addition to grappling with his own demons and creative process, he must also contend with a young new assistant, who has his own ideas and aspirations.¬† It is a play which explores the very essence of art: its creators, its creation, and its consumption.¬† “Everyone likes everything nowadays”, laments Rothko in the opening scene.¬† “Everything becomes everything else and it’s all nice and pretty and likeable.¬† Everything is fun in the sun!”¬† This play, however, is not.¬† And as such, the playwright has crafted a brilliant ‘case in point’ – if, that is, all of the elements of the production are¬†able to live up to the lofty expectations established by the script itself. (more…)

MADE YOU SAY “UNDERPANTS”

Nicole Garrett & Michael Catlin, Photo courtesy of John A Geddes

Nicole Garrett & Michael Catlin, Photo courtesy of John A Geddes

A description of “The Underpants”, adapted by THAT Steve Martin, which appears on the King’s Town Players website, suggests that the play is a “crazy satire…about scandal and celebrity“.¬† This particular production, however, treats the script as a farce about little more than…well…underpants.¬† The premise of the play is sound and intriguing.¬† Louise, the neglected wife of a blowhard bureaucrat, finds herself the centre of attention after her underpants fall down around her ankles at a public event.¬† Her egocentric husband fears scandal, while her neighbour and confidant senses opportunity.¬† Sure enough, two suitors arrive hoping to rent a room in the house and win the affections of Louise.¬† Unfortunately, this¬†staging¬†appears to place little emphasis on telling the story.¬† The objective, instead, seems to be to get to the next gag.

Most good comedy is developed and delivered as a one-two¬†blow – the first being the set up, and the next being the punch line.¬† Martin’s genius, however, is his ability to¬†turn that on its head, and use the overt punch line¬† to set up the real¬†gem buried¬†within the witty zinger to follow.¬† It’s a slight of hand, akin to the magic that Martin is so fond of.¬† Director Clayton Garrett’s treatment of the script as farce places far greater¬†focus on the¬†slapstick over the subtlety, and a great deal of the playwrights’s biting commentary is lost. (more…)

She’s A Nine

Blue Canoe's "Nine"

Alex Oliver and Katie Oake in Blue Canoe’s “Nine”

There is a quote from the Kingston Whig Standard that appears prominently on the cover of the program for Blue Canoe‘s production of “Nine”:¬† “imaginative, energetic and engaging”.¬† Although I have no idea which former show this statement pertains to, it is most certainly suitable¬†for this one, as well.

“Nine”,¬†book by Arthur Kopit and music/lyrics by Maury Yestin, is the story of 1960’s Italian filmmaker Guido Contini, who is facing the simultaneous breakdown of both his professional and personal lives.¬† The tale unravels at a very quick pace, so you best pay attention if you hope to keep up, as there is little exposition¬†or breathing room to provide any opportunity to catch up.¬† The narrative is neither linear nor straightforward, so those audience members who fall behind, are likely to be left behind.¬† Those, on the other hand, who follow along keenly will reap the benefits of some very¬†rich and clever writing. (more…)