Revolution is not a universal language

Dawson’s Daughters of the Revolution is a complex, political play

Theatre reviews should be easy to read, easy to process, and not riddled with complex terminology and jargon. That said, it is very difficult to write a comprehensive, all-inclusive review of a production that was written in the almost impenetrable language of “revolution.”

Let me preface this review by saying that the professional theatre students of Dawson College faced a multitude of obstacles in their staging of David Edgar’s politically-charged opus Daughters of the Revolution, and managed to proceed with relative success.

The play, written by Edgar in 2003 as the second of a two play series about American politics, follows community college professor and former ‘60s activist Michael Bern (played by Jean-Michel Chartier). During a surprise birthday party thrown by his girlfriend Abby (Keren Roberts), he is presented with a copy of his FBI file, discovering that one member of a group of activists he was involved with was, at the same time, an FBI informant.

Jean-Michel Chartier gives a laboured performance as former radical Michael Bern.

Following this alarming realization, Bern sets out to track down the seven other members of his former anti-government group and uncover the traitor. The journey takes him from the ghetto to the throes of a political campaign, a gated community, and the depths of a sacred redwood forest.

The play is easy enough to synopsize on paper, but is entirely a different beast when executed in front of a live audience. Each scene was weighed down by long-winded, disjointed speeches and antiquated turn-of-phrase that was very difficult to understand. Without a prior understanding of the 1960s political landscape, or the overall “speak” of that era’s anarchists and revolutionaries, the average audience member would be lost.

Even our protagonist seemed confused, and at some points bored, in the tedious delivery of his lines. The two most striking performances belonged to secondary characters. Jack Sand (Nils Svennsson-Carell) appears only for a handful of lines in flashback segments, yet Svennsson-Carell remarkably portrays a renegade, anti-authoritarian hippie with an understated finesse. His dirty, drawly, Matthew McConaughey-esque Southern accent was razor-sharp and completely convincing. Nicky Fournier was also commendable in her turn as crooked, phony politician Rebecca McKeene, a former activist who renounces her views in hopes of pulling ahead in her campaign run.

Though the vocabulary aspect certainly muddled the experience, the rest of the undertaking was admirable. The use of popular ‘60s songs to transition between scenes kept the audience in good spirits, and the set design, while minimal, facilitated the many changes needed to follow the plot’s trajectory.

The costuming was also one of the more memorable aspects of the production, and was no doubt difficult to bring about. Not only was there a need for semi-authentic hippie costumes, but costume and makeup designer Pierre Lafontaine had to convincingly age quite a few members of the young cast. These two aspects combined actually produced a roster of believably middle-aged characters.

Overall, Director Doug Buchanan managed to put forth a production whose value extends far beyond the reach of a typical college student. A few technical glitches and acting unease did not slow the show’s pace. However, audiences are still left with one fundamental and still unanswered question in mind, which does impact the overall comprehension: who exactly ARE the “daughters of the revolution?”


A spellbinding tribute to Leonard Cohen

Photo by Per Victor

Cohenites rejoice! Another year, and another tribute to Montreal’s legendary singer, poet, and novelist Leonard Cohen, is upon us. The Centaur Theatre Company will be hosting the North American debut of Dance Me To The End On/Off Love, bringing this artistic creation, which is originally from Denmark, to Montreal. The show is a synthesis of theatrical disciplines: it intertwines them to create an amalgam that is part dance, part concert and part performance art. This inspired production is as highly captivating as it is unusual.

Palle Granhøj, the professional dancer and internationally acclaimed Danish director responsible for the drama, is known for having developed a form of dance called “the obstruction technique.” Essentially, when putting together his choreography, he would ask the dancers to perform a certain move but then disrupt it with a restriction. By doing this, a struggle would be created, and a yearning for completion would be manifested in the dancer’s expressions.

This craving for liberation is brought to stage as a reflection of a myriad of Cohen’s characteristically melancholic songs. The result is a highly emotional depiction of desire and isolation, in its most sensual form, on stage.

Beloved songs such as “Suzanne,” “Hallelujah” and the title song, “Dance Me to the End of Love,” all make an appearance throughout the show, in a unique arrangement of dialogue-free renditions of some of Cohen’s most famous songs. Demonstrating emotion through motion, themes of sexuality, rejection and the examination of relationships are also evoked as the hypnotizing musical-dance interpretations play out on stage.

The dimly-lit stage, designed by visual director Per Victor, was minimally but artfully styled with a uniform array of black cloths, cubes, tables, and boards. Even the performers are dressed head to toe in black when it comes to attire, with their suits, jump suits and dresses. And, as if that is not austere enough, no fewer than 20 bald mannequin head props serve to illustrate the gravity of feelings of the performers‘ sketches, inviting the audience to examine the beautiful as well as the grotesque.

Thankfully, there are sufficient moments of comic relief interspersed throughout the show to alleviate the audience from the austerity. Other Cohen songs such as “Sisters of Mercy,” “Famous Blue Rain Coat” and “I’m Your Man” make the crowd roar with laughter, as the performers take liberties reinterpreting the lyrics to suit their characters.

Continually changing pace, from tragedy to hilarity, all 13 performers act, dance, sing and play instruments in some capacity on stage. Guitars, a double bass, cymbals and even a ukelele are used to bring Cohen’s words to life, as they are played and sung live on stage. The particular vocal talents of Palle Klok and Dorte Petersen are hauntingly memorable, as they capture both the elements of sadness and playfulness Cohen’s lyrics usually embody.

Better described as a dance-concert, this groundbreaking theatrical production successfully translates Cohen’s evocative words onto the human body through dance, video and written word. Though imaginative and albeit eccentric, the performance transports viewers to an otherworldly place, a realm of contrasts, where joy and sorrow coexist and they can sway to “dancing violins.”

Dance Me To The End On/Off Love plays at the Centaur Theatre until April 14.


A night celebrating vaginas

Press photo for The Vagina Monologues

The beginning of 2013 left many of us with a bitter taste in our mouths as millions watched the news of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai’s attempted assassination in Pakistan. As an activist she dealt with promoting education for girls, the Delhi gang-rape case and the ongoing ‘War On Women’ in the United States. These are exactly the kind of issues V-Day tries to raise awareness about and fight against. In fact, one of the ways they plan on doing so is by putting on shows like the upcoming production of The Vagina Monologues, being held at Café Cléopâtre later this week.

For those of you who are unaware, The Vagina Monologues is the brainchild of playwright Eve Ensler, who composed the monologues in 1996 after interviewing hundreds of women on subjects such as virginity, sexuality, rape and love. The monologues have since been continually tweaked and added to in order to address topical issues such as women’s oppression under Taliban rule or the social integration of transgender people in society.

This year’s production has been in the works ever since director Emily Schon, a theatre-development student at Concordia, participated as an actress in last year’s show.

“This production is very exciting for me as a director [because] as part of the theatre department, we struggle to find work with a lot of female characters,” she explains.

Cast member and first year theatre student, Leah Goldie, adds that “there are quite a few plays that are all male and no one questions this,” expressing how thrilled she is to finally be part of an all female cast.

As the themes of the monologues vary between hilarity and horror, Schon made it a priority to create a safe and intimate environment for women; instilling trust in order to embark in the process of undertaking and discussing the personal, gritty subjects brought forth. Koumbie, another cast member, explains: “We eased into it. We had to discuss the content before we could begin to discuss the show.”

And what a show it promises to be. The 75 minutes will include dance, originally composed music, spoken word and yes — our yearly dose of the notorious triple orgasm. The show is “a celebration of women, of young women,” Schon says. Composed of nine monologues, the topics will include Bosnian rape camps, ovarian cancer and vagina workshops. “[The monologues] resonated with me because these are real stories. You can connect with them because these things really happened,” Koumbie says.

When asked about the choice of venue, the infamous Café Cléopâtre, Schon said “What better place to talk about vaginas than in the oldest strip club in Montreal!” In keeping with the venue, the play has a cabaret feel as well as a sense of intimacy, as the monologues frequently directly address the audience from a stage that is at knee level with them. Schon hopes to create an atmosphere that allows for an open and wide discourse on the successes and struggles of feminism.

Proceeds from the show, sponsored by Volunteers in Action, will go to Herstreet, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping homeless women in Montreal by providing shelter, meals and counseling, along with many other services.

The Vagina Monologues will run for one night only on March 24 at 8 p.m. at Café Cléopâtre, 1230 St. Laurent Blvd. Tickets for students are $10 dollars and $12 dollars at the door.


The Irish have come to town

Press photo for Centaur Theatre’s production, TRAD

There’s nothing quite as Irish as a mistrust of the English, a drunk priest and a fiddle. Ordinarily, a play that centres around a pair of old men, of which the youngest is an impressive 100 years old, would not see the light of day.

That’s what makes the Centaur Theatre’s most recent production, TRAD, such a great feat. Its playwright, Mark Doherty, has managed to bring to life a robust work full of colourful dialogue that tells an expansive and quintessentially Irish story.

TRAD is the story of an Irish centenarian, Thomas and his father, Da. A series of laments on Da’s behalf about the impending end of his family line push Thomas to reveal that, although he never married, when he was a 29-year-old young lad, he fathered a child during a brief affair with a girl from another town. Without even the child’s name and with only the mother’s first name, Thomas and Da set out to find the youngest member of their family, a now 70-year-old son.

As the duo’s journey takes them across Ireland, a historical journey is also undertaken through a series of Da’s recollections, who is played by actor Patrick Costello. Costello brilliantly captures the physicality of a centenarian: a hunched, restless body, complete with twitchy eyebrows, rounded jittery fingers and a hoarse but proud Irish voice. In addition, Da is missing a leg and wears a prosthesis during the search for his grandson. One can’t help but think that it’s a true accomplishment on Costello’s part to endure 80 minutes without bending his knee.

On another hand, Thomas, who is played by Graham Cuthbertson, offers a refreshing contrast to the centenarian’s character, putting forth a great deal of vivaciousness throughout the entire play. Managing to deliver his character’s sweet and docile nature, Cuthbertson’s sincerity was a perfect foil for the embittered and cynical Da. The two characters played off each other, complementing Da’s role as a man trying to move forward after a century of being told to look back.

While the subject and message of the story are certainly laden with depth and acumen, that is in no way the case of the play itself. The third actor in TRAD is the play’s own director, Andrew Shaver, who takes on the roles of two different characters. The more important of the two is Father Rice, a ridiculous Gary Busey-looking priest who helps the pair locate their kin. Shaver is utterly hilarious playing the drunken priest, making the audience roar with laughter as he incorporates both lively story-telling and his physical comedy into his acting.

The physical theatrics that the characters engage in during the play were no doubt enabled by the deceptively simplistic set design. Each prop on set was well thought out, surprising the audience and giving more dimension to a play that is already rich in content. Old men jumping around, apples thrown towards the audience and booze being spit all over the place was completely energizing and emphasized a sense of involvement for the spectators. As a final touch, the musical score, composed by Doherty’s own father, Jim, completed the play masterfully. Played through a guitar and a fiddle, it transported us to a rural Irish scene and helped intensify both the tragic and comedic moments in the play. Silly and playful from beginning to end, TRAD is as hilarious as it is poignant.

TRAD will be running at the Centaur Theatre (located at 453 Saint-François-Xavier St.) until March 24. Tickets are $36. For additional information on showtimes, visit or call (514) 288-3161.


The Yellow Wallpaper’s Jane comes off the page

Press photo for SIPA Concordia’s production The Yellow Wallpaper

Jane enters the room and sits on the folding chair that’s been placed beside the bed they’ve created out of a stained folding table. She clasps her hands in her lap and crosses her ankles.

“What is your relationship with the wallpaper?” director Jen Cressey asks from across the room. Jane raises her eyes and answers in a despairing, timid voice that has a distinctive Victorian era intonation.

“I’m not quite sure, it’s obviously there and it’s what I’m looking at and it’s what I can engage with. I guess right now I’m just very, very sad. I’m sad that my husband didn’t listen to me and that I wasn’t important enough to listen to. I’m very sad that as hard as he tries he won’t be able to make me better.”

The year is 1899. Jane has just given birth to her first child, a boy. Unfortunately, she is suffering from postpartum depression. Her husband, John, a physician, is treating her. He has prescribed bed rest, a diet heavy in meat and absolutely no writing or other artistic activity.

“I tried very hard. I tried very, very hard to follow what he wanted me to do but none of it really worked, it only ever made me more upset and more deceitful,” Jane laments.

She spends her days in her room at the rental house they’ve leased for the summer. The room looks like it might have previously been a children’s nursery; the windows are barred and there are rings in the wall like one might see in a gymnasium. Furthermore, the floor is scratched and gouged and there is a black “smooch” running around the base of the room. Most notably, however, is the yellow wallpaper. The paper is peeling in places, it is stripped off in great patches all around the head of the bed, about as far as you can reach while lying on your back and in a great place on the other side of the room near the baseboard.

Natasha Perry-Fagant, who embodies Jane onstage, believes that John loves Jane very much and only wants her to get better.

“He loves her very, very deeply and he just thinks if she just believed in this treatment, if she just actively participated and put these thoughts out of her head, she would get better.” The reality is that Jane is not thriving within John’s confinement treatment, though she tries her best. She finds herself getting more and more depressed.

It’s been a 114 years since Charlotte Perkins Gilman first put Jane onto paper in the form of a short story called “The Yellow Wallpaper”. She put her there as a way to set her free from the confines set upon her by her husband. For a century she’s lived and thrived within the text, opening society’s eyes to her situation and consequently that of many women like her.

Now, three women are trying to bring her out and onto the stage so her story can impress the world in a new fashion. Perry-Fagant is serving as a conduit through which Jane can speak. Cressey is in charge of facilitating Jane’s emergence. She takes on the role of therapist in order to help Jane connect to her feelings and she directs the portrayal of Jane’s story as it will appear onstage.

Miranda Abraham keeps everything running smoothly. She makes notes on every decision that is made concerning Jane’s staging and sets up the appropriate set pieces. The women have been working on bringing Jane forth since the winter semester of 2012. It has been a long process, but their devotion to having Jane come across as accurately as possible speaks to their love for her.

As Perry-Fagant is where Jane resides for the most part, she often finds that Jane takes over outside of rehearsal. Sometimes Perry-Fagant will realize she’s thinking Jane’s thoughts or seeing things through Jane’s eyes, “Sometimes, I’ll be walking down the street and I’ll turn into Jane,” she said.

In the play, Jane is preoccupied with the wallpaper in her room.

“This wallpaper has a kind of sub-pattern in a different shade, a particularly irritating one, for you can only see it in certain lights, and not clearly then. But in the places where it isn’t faded and where the sun is just so, I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design,” she explains from her text.

Jane finds in the yellow wallpaper an engagement she can’t get from John. Confined as she is in her room, the paper becomes her escape from reality. She’s been spending all her time staring at the paper, peeling away the paper in spots, she thinks, John won’t notice. She sees something in the pattern of the wallpaper, she sees something…

Jane, why are you touching the paper so? What is it that you see there?

“A woman. A woman trapped within the pattern. She’s out. She’s gotten out!”

Round and round the room she goes, creeping along the baseboard, dragging her body around and around the room.

“What is the matter? For God’s sake, what are you doing!”

Jane smiles, “Creeping.”

The SIPA Short Works Festival will take place from March 7 – 10 at the Cazalet Theatre on Concordia’s Loyola Campus. Tickets are $2 per show for students and $5 general admission. For more information visit


Double, double, toil and trouble

Photo by Eric Chad

On the damp and gloomy moors of the Scottish highlands, generals Macbeth and Banquo are accosted by three witches as they make their way home from battle. The witches foretell that Macbeth will be made King and Banquo’s sons will inherit the throne. The witches vanish and the pair think none too much of their ramblings until the prophecy starts to come true.

Lady Macbeth shares all her husband’s ambition, but none of his misgivings, and when Macbeth arrives home, she convinces him to kill King Duncan that night and blame it on his guards. Upon learning the next morning that Duncan has been slain, his sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, flee to England and Ireland, fearing that they are the assassin’s next target. With no heirs of Duncan to rival him, Macbeth is declared King, an event that does nothing to strengthen his already fragile state of mind. Seeing enemies behind every curtain and challengers under every bed, Macbeth orders the death of Banquo and his son, for the witches had foretold that Banquo’s heirs would form a line of Scottish kings. This marks the beginning of the rapid deterioration of the mental faculties of Macbeth and his wife to the point that they start seeing things that are not truly there.

Director Martin Law’s production of Macbeth for the Players’ Theatre is well executed, but unfortunately lacks vision. Set in post-WWI Europe, the production seeks to use the brutal and chaotic birth of the twentieth century to emphasize the cruelty and violence of Macbeth, as well as the moral depravity and madness of the title characters. While the idea is intriguing, the contextualized setting does little to provide further insight. Contrary to a simplistic popular belief, the twentieth century did not have a monopoly on violence and moral depravity. Simply transplanting a Shakespearean play into another violent chapter of human history does not constitute a search for deeper meaning. More work is needed to achieve this end. Perhaps likening Macbeth to an actual historical monster of the era (read: Stalin) would help to unearth more of the human frailties with which the text is riddled.

The character of Macduff, played by Alex River, was rigid and stern but convincingly emotional upon hearing the news of his family’s death. Matthew Rian Steen inhabited the role of Macbeth well, but at times appeared to be waiting to say his next line rather than listening to his fellow actors and reacting accordingly. Deserving of special note is Annie MacKay’s chilling portrayal of Lady Macbeth, whose lust for power and descent into madness superbly embodied the arc of the tragic hero. Hers was a wonderful performance.

The cast and production team deserve much credit for making the most of the confined space of the Players’ Theatre. Eric Chad’s turntable set design made the scene transitions as engaging as the action and David Costello’s lighting, although simple, was extremely effective at capturing the mood of the scenes.

Although the overall vision lacked depth, the climax fits seamlessly into the context of post-WWI. Macbeth has been told by the witches that he cannot be harmed by a man born of a woman, making him believe himself invincible. However, when he learns that his opponent Macduff was “from his mother’s womb untimely ripped”, meaning he was not born of a woman, Macbeth realizes he is indeed vulnerable to harm. And thus Macbeth becomes the victim of a piece of moral depravity which the twentieth century knows all too well: he neglected to read the fine print.

Macbeth runs Feb. 27, 28 and March 1 and 2 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $6 for students/seniors, $8 for adults. Reserve tickets online at or by emailing


Coming out of the cage

Photo by Brian Morel

Apes think with their bellies and when freedom is out of reach, the only solution is to cease being ape. Kafka’s Ape is a captivating monologue about Red Peter, a man who tells the story of his life from apehood to humanhood. In a renovated swimming pool, Infinitheatre presents the world premiere of Kafka’s Ape, Guy Sprung’s adaptation of Franz Kafka’s short story, A Report to an Academy, at Bain St. Michel from Jan. 28 to Feb.17.

Members of the Peace Industry, the entrepreneurial world of mercenary soldiers, capture primate Red Peter and take him away from the Gold Coast of Africa. In his cage, he realizes he cannot be free, but he can escape by becoming Mr. Red Peter: a walking, talking, spitting, hard-drinking ‘Ou-man’.

Howard Rosenstein’s performance of Red Peter is not only physically impressive, but thought-provoking. The actor takes up the entire space and interacts with the audience. He shuffles from one end of the stage to the other, empties his glass of wine in a single gulp and leans over and looks straight into our eyes. Although his imitation of Homo sapiens is a satire, one can recognize one’s self and wonder: “but am I free?”

Red Peter’s wife, played by Alexandra Montagnese, remains off stage and yet, she is a fundamental element of the play. Much like a child, the she-ape is antsy and bored throughout Red Peter’s speech. In her full-out ape costume, she even succeeds in making some of the members of the audience genuinely uncomfortable. As the gap between human and ape narrows, the she-ape reminds us of how ridiculous we actually are: the shareholders who are quiet and too polite in our seats.

Kafka’s work was a major influence for the genres of existentialism and surrealism, but Guy Sprung really pokes our ribcage throughout the play. Many questions arise about our society and our freedom as Homo sapiens and animals. Whether or not we are different, or if we have merely domesticated and caged ourselves into thinking so.

Kafka’s Ape runs from Jan. 28 to Feb. 17 at Bain St. Michel, 5300 St-Dominique St.


Get ready to think pink!

Press photo for WISTA’s Legally Blonde: The Musical

Get ready Montreal because Elle Woods is coming to Lindsay Place Theatre. Running for two weekends, the West Island Student Theatre Association presents Legally Blonde: The Musical.

WISTA works with students between the ages of 17-29 who share a passion for musical theatre. The group started off with some very small productions and then worked their way up to bigger productions every year. Although her role as voice and musical director is demanding and a full-time job, Joy Kertland divides her time between other jobs and activities as well.“I’m just like the students, I have some experience, I have a passion, but I also have other things that I do,” she said.

WISTA’s current production, Legally Blonde: The Musical, was adapted from the 2001 movie and novel by Amanda Brown, with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, and book by Heather Hach. Originally premiering on Broadway in 2007, the show tells the story of sparkly and spunky sorority girl, Elle Woods, who goes from majoring in fashion to pursuing the love of her life all the way to Harvard Law school. Soon, however, Elle discovers that Harvard is not the means for the fairytale ending she envisioned with former boyfriend Warner Huntington III and instead realizes that she has much more to offer the world than a pretty face and blonde hair.

Putting on two musicals a year is not an easy task. Legally Blonde, which opened Feb. 1, puts the spotlight on Katja Teixeira, who according to Kertland, is the perfect Elle Woods.

The pursuit of the perfect Ms. Woods started during the initial stages of the 40-week production. The auditions didn’t last long because they knew exactly what they were looking for since “the person needed to be excited and bubbly naturally,” according to Kertland.

The popular Broadway musical is very demanding and so is the role of the main character. Elle Woods is always on stage and has some very challenging songs. Finding someone who had all that personality as well as handle the singing was challenging. Towards the end of the auditions, Kertland says they just knew who was fit for the role and who was not.

The musical premiered last Friday, with a matinee and evening performance on Feb. 2. The play will run for three more shows, Friday, Feb. 8 and a matinee and evening performance on Saturday, Feb. 9.

Next up for WISTA is The Music Man coming March 21. Kertland says they have a busy year ahead and they are always in need of volunteers.

“We’re always looking for volunteers in terms of the technical side; coaches and choreography, even carpenters to build the set,” she explains. “We need everybody, we could use help.”

For more information on the show and volunteering visit

With files from Amanda L. Shore


Who exactly is the barbarian?

Photo by Andrée Lanthier

Nudity, sex, violence and death all come together to provoke and thrill in this certainly not-safe-for-children theatrical adaptation of Nobel Prize winning South African author J.M. Coetzee’s novel Waiting for the Barbarians.

The play takes place in an unnamed country run by “The Empire” where news has spread about an attack planned by “the barbarians” who live on the other side of a wall partitioning the country. In an effort to crush this supposed attack the Empire’s Third Bureau, led by Colonel Joll, sets forth on a campaign to stop the barbarians by torturing and killing them. One man, known only as the Magistrate, doubts the truth of this rumour and condemns the persecution of the barbarians. His protests are further escalated when he takes in and befriends a barbarian girl who was left blind and handicapped after a raid.

The play is directed and produced by international and local celebrities from the world of theatre. Alexandre Marine (adaptor, director) is an internationally acclaimed actor and director, and winner of multiple awards in Russia, the U.S. and Quebec. Maurice Podbrey is a pioneer of English theatre in Montreal and is the co-founder of the Centaur Theatre. Podbrey, along with Marine, first showed this production in Cape Town, South Africa, then brought the members of the South African cast back with them to perform in Montreal.

Nicholas Pauling delivers a spine-chilling performance as the bureaucratic and psychopathic Colonel Joll. In stark contrast, Grant Swanby plays the intelligent and sensitive Magistrate, who is eventually driven almost to insanity by the cruelty he witnesses in the treatment of the barbarians. The magic happens when Swanby and Chuma Sopotela, playing the dignified and blind young barbarian girl, interact together on stage, synching emotionally and physically in tender tension. A mention should be given to Montreal’s Kimberly-Anne Laferriere, who gave an exuberant performance as the prostitute Zoe, replacing Zimbabwe-born Chiedza Mhende who was not permitted to enter the country by Canadian Immigration.

It was the brilliant set design however, that truly stole the show. Set and costume designer Craig Leo’s simple but imaginatively placed multi-purpose glass screens expanded the parameters of the stage to create a world much broader than the confines of the stage originally permitted. The light play of shadows against light, snow against fire and dances interspersed within the performance expressed emotions beyond the lines of the script, evoking a surrealism that both alienated and indulged the senses in its starkness and luxury.

The rhythmical stream of consciousness monologues and the investigation of complex philosophical and moral issues demands emotional and intellectual investment from the audience, whilst the meta-theatrical elements and the overall visual aesthetic work together to pamper and satisfy the viewer.

Waiting for the Barbarians may seem to be an allegory for South Africa’s apartheid but it would be an injustice to deny the universality of its story. The play explores a political reality and examines modern day barbarism. The surreal and omnipresent quality of the story in its exploration of the alienation of “the other” leaves the viewer with a rewarding experience.

Waiting for the Barbarians runs at the Segal Center for Performing Arts until Feb. 17.


Romeo and Juliet with guns, denim and high kicks

Photo by Victor Tangermann

Take Romeo and Juliet and throw them into the violent, gang-ridden New York city streets of the 1950s and you have West Side Story. Oh, and throw a few songs in there while you’re at it. For the next two weeks, the McGill Arts Undergraduate Theatre Society is putting their own spin on the romance and tragedy of these timeless star-crossed lovers.

AUTS is an organization dedicated to putting on shows by students, for students. The team is made up entirely of undergraduates, most of whom are just amateur aficionados, not theatre students. Keeping this in mind, the production was impressive.

The story follows the unlikely and forbidden romance between Tony and Maria. He is the leader of the New York street gang, the Jets. She is the sister of the leader of the rival gang of Puerto Rican immigrants, the Sharks. The narrative plays out like Romeo and Juliet, but with more firepower, jean jackets and a lot more dancing.

Concordia student Piper Ainsworth took centre stage as Maria, the modern Puerto Rican incarnation of Juliet. The role calls for a mix of passion and demureness that can be tricky to pull off, and Ainsworth definitely favoured the latter characteristic in her portrayal. She played Maria’s naïveté to a tee, but when it came to the scenes of heart-wrenching emotion, her performance was a little lacklustre. All was forgiven however, every time she opened her mouth to belt out another of the all too catchy songs. With a powerfully operatic voice, Ainsworth commanded the audience with every impossibly high note she nailed.

McGill student Christopher Stevens-Brown plays Tony, Maria’s Romeo and leader of her family’s rival gang. His musical talent was equally standout, and the range in his singing carried his character from moments of intimacy with Maria to desperation in the face of senseless violence.

However, it was Vanessa Drusnitzer, who played Maria’s confidante Anita, who stole the show. Her emotive acting allowed her to command the play’s more dramatic moments, and the passion that came in her singing only enhanced an already powerful voice. Of the whole cast, she was the most believable in her role, down to the details of the Puerto Rican accent she put on — kudos to Drusnitzer for being the only one to fully pull that off.

The live orchestra, conducted by Sean Mayes, was by far the most professional aspect of the production. The difficulty of playing live against the foreground of actors singing and dancing is a challenge that the team executed flawlessly. The instrumental music added a dimension to the show that would have been lacking with pre-recorded music, and the talent of everyone in the orchestra really shone.

West Side Story is a notoriously difficult musical to put on, mainly due to the strength it needs not only in acting and singing, but also in choreography. Considering this was an amateur production, the dancing was good and the actors were fairly in sync in their movement. Although the fighting scenes between the Jets and Sharks might have been executed with more brutish movements, the ideas still came through and the story was not lost.

Overall, the production quality was a notch above a high school play, but the musical talent of the cast and orchestra was its saving grace. If you’re a fan of the story, it’s worth seeing, and worth supporting the efforts of the students who took on this ambitious project.

Tickets are $15 for students and $20 for adults. The show will be running on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from Jan. 31 until Feb. 2 at Moyse Hall, in the McGill Arts Building.


A comedy that will leave you thinking

Press photo for You Can’t Take It With You

Despite the fact that You Can’t Take It With You is set in 1936, the production put together by this batch of third year students from Dawson’s theatre program still manages to strike a very modern chord with its audience.

The play, which was written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart and won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Drama at the time of its release, revolves around the story of Ms. Alice Sycamore’s amorous endeavors. When the play starts out, Alice is being called upon by a fine gentleman, Mr. Anthony Kirby, the vice-president of the prestigious firm where she is currently working. Despite being overjoyed by this prospect, Alice can’t help but voice one major concern: how will her beau, whose family affairs have everything to do with Wall Street, contend with the likes of her family’s eccentricity.

The Sycamores of Manhattan are, to say the least, unconventional for their time and the audience will know it right off the bat. A fascination for fireworks, an outspoken playwright, a forlorn dancer: this eccentric family is a puzzle of characters with each one more comical than the next. The Kirbys are parodied as bland, conservative characters which serve the purpose of reminding us of the need for passion in our everyday lives.

A series of unfortunate events has the Kirbys showing up early for dinner and things are thrown, quite literally, into chaos. Needless to say, hilarity ensues.

The play presents audiences with themes and questions which are still very relevant today: What do we prioritize looking to the future? Do we opt for the job that will make us happy, or simply the one that will most likely bring us success?

The cast of the play is made up of young talented actors, lead by Julia Borsellino in the role of Alice. Zachary Guttman also deserves a particular shout-out, playing the vastly entertaining patriarch of the Sycamore clan.

The costumes were well-done in that they helped make the remarkably young crowd of actors seem quite a few decades older than they actually are. This is a considerable challenge considering that half of the characters range from 50 years and older. The choice of music, a jazzy, swing-like soundtrack that lingers in the background, also helped create a dreamy atmosphere.

There was an unmistakable enthusiasm present throughout the production. Cheers to a production that leaves spectators with both food for thought and a heartwarming sense of being at home.

You Can’t Take It With You runs Jan. 31 – 12:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.



A classic play comes to life at McGill Players’ Theatre

Photo by Victor Tangermann

When you’ve forgotten that a world exists outside of the one created by the play, you know you’ve seen a good play. The Glass Menagerie, as presented by the Players’ Theatre of McGill University, is one such play.

Executed brilliantly by the cast of four—Andrew Cameron, Ingrid Rudié, Arlen Aguayo Stewart and James Kelly—Tennessee Williams’ classic play left the audience in awe.

First premiering in 1944, The Glass Menagerie is narrated by Tom Wingfield, a young man who dreams of being a writer but is tied to his gregarious southern mother and painfully shy sister. He supports his family by working in a shoe factory, a job he hates. He is constantly hounded by his mother, Amanda, and longs to do as his father did and get as far away as possible.

At the insistence of his mother, Tom invites a colleague from the factory over as a potential suitor for his sister Laura, who has failed at procuring any suitors for herself or making any headway towards a career of her own.

The Glass Menagerie is a memory play, so everything is tinged with the bias of Tom’s personal memory, a theme that was well articulated in Colleen Stanton’s lighting design.

The set and costuming articulated the time period and character personalities appropriately, as well as referencing the idea that what we were seeing was conjured from someone’s memory. Matthew Banks’ set design was well suited to the space and vantage points of the audience seated in an L-shape around the stage’s perimeter.

Ingrid Rudié as Amanda Wingfield played matronly, southern and overbearing to perfection. She managed to imply that her character’s personality eclipsed those of her son and daughter, without eclipsing the actors themselves. The character of Laura Wingfield is a difficult one to represent. She has such severe anxiety that she can barely function, as well as having a slightly crippled leg. As an actor, one must appear small and quiet, without disappearing, so it speaks to Arlen Aguayo Stewart’s skill that Laura was the most memorable character in the production. Stewart’s body language spoke volumes and her emotional execution was flawless.

James Kelly, who appeared as Jim O’Connor only in the final scene, was the perfect embodiment of the egotistical former high school star that defines the character of Jim. From the moment Kelly stepped onstage he radiated smugness and even when he had no lines he was completely present in his character and in the moment.

Tom Wingfield is played by Andrew Cameron, and as both the narrator and actor in the play, he has the largest role and longest monologues to perform. Cameron excelled at playing the dynamics of a beleaguered son and caring brother, but he sometimes lost the audience during his lengthy monologues. As narrator, the audience relied on Tom to forward the play, but at times it felt as though Cameron was rushing to get through and his enunciation wasn’t always as crisp as could be desired.

Director Rowan Spencer should be commended on having taken such a well-known play with comparatively young actors and turning out a magnificent piece of theatre. The use of the stage was precise and appropriate and scene changes were well executed. If there was one flaw it would be that the glass menagerie prop was not as prominently featured as its role in the play warranted it to be. However, if you see one play this winter, this is the one it should be.

The Glass Menagerie runs from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 at 3480 McTavish. For more information visit

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