live theatre

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…)


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…)

Mr. Green Is Worth A Visit

"Visiting Mr. Green" at the Domino Theatre, Jan 9 - 25, 2014

“Visiting Mr. Green” at the Domino Theatre, Jan 9 – 25, 2014

Visiting Mr. Green, currently playing at the Domino Theatre, is a solid play that is both topical and poignant, yet quite accessible in its touches of comedy and familiarity.  Written by Jeff Baron in 1996, one can readily see its attraction as a play so widely translated and produced around the world.  It is sophisticated in its subject matter and themes, yet pleasantly simple in its execution on the stage.  Whether it is a play you are familiar with or not, it is most definitely a highlight of this season’s playbill at Domino.

Ross is a young executive working his way up the corporate ladder, who is sentenced to community service hours to be spent with Mr. Green after he almost hits the elderly widower with his car.  Both characters are written with a great deal of personality, clever and meaningful dialogue, and rich subtext.  Each has his own colorful history, unique perspective, and significant internal struggles. (more…)