May 282014

The SeagullWritten by Anton Chekhov, this play is about familiar themes: city and country life, the paths available to an artist, the difficulty of being a family, the bonds and conflicts between the old and the young. This version was adapted by the director, Peter Hinton, who made it a contemporary piece with modern references. This kind of change often wrecks a play, but in this case, it worked really well.

The older actors ran circles around the younger ones, which makes the play seem very much to take their side. It’d be interesting to see the same adaptation with young actors running circles around their elders because I suspect the play is complete enough to take the kids’ side if they did.

The Segal Center made a trailer for the performance that makes the whole thing look like a Denys Arcand film. Which is apt: the piece kept reading as a pastiche or homage to Le Déclin de l’empire américain. The synopsis provided by the theatre reads:

By a lake, in the country, a summer night inspires a family of artists to love, to live and to question the real exchange of art, passion and experience. Chekhov’s masterpiece is brought to life in a new version by visionary director and playwright Peter Hinton, starring two of Canada’s most celebrated leading ladies, Lucy Peacock and Diane D’Aquila. The Seagull is heartbreaking and comic, funny and bittersweet – a modern take on a classic play for our times.


May 262014

Marie TudorWritten by Victor Hugo and directed by Claude Poissant for the Théâtre Denise-Pelletier. The theatre summarizes the play as:

À la fois mélodrame et drame romantique, Marie Tudor raconte les calculs et les impulsions d’une reine d’Angleterre blessée par l’amour et écartelée entre son action publique et ses gestes intimes. C’est aussi la chute orchestrée de Fabiano, son favori, par Simon Renard, le représentant du roi d’Espagne, son futur époux. Mais c’est peut-être avant tout la rencontre entre Marie Tudor et Jane, la jeune et candide rivale, protégée de l’ouvrier Gilbert, manipulée comme ce dernier par le pouvoir de la reine et témoin des violences de l’État.

Denise-Pelletier is a theatre for college students to go to see classics presented straight. So this version was perfect for me: I’d never seen or read this play and was interested to see what a young Hugo would do with his British source. Interesting stuff.

Dec 032013

La cerisaieThe Beav and I went to see a performance of this play at Le Théâtre du Rideau Vert. I was fascinated by the performance but wasn’t sure what I was watching. At times, the whole thing played as farce; at others, tragedy. I assumed this was a problem with the direction: whoever he was–and we didn’t recognize him from his bio at all–the director hadn’t figured out what his play was about. Or so it seemed.

But then, intrigued by the whole thing, I did some research online, and it seems like the play has been controversial since its first performance. No one is sure whether the thing ridicules or mourns the passing of the cultured Russian aristocracy. The director of the version we saw staged clearly decided to capture the ambivalence rather than resolve it. Which is an interesting choice and one I can respect.


(Production Details after the break.)

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Sep 192013

Venus au visonThe Beav and I went to see an adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs at the theatre in Place-des-Arts. We had never really liked anything we’d seen there, so expectations were low, but the tickets were free. And surprise surprise: it was great. Hélène Bourgeois is one of my favourite Quebec actors and was very good here. The production was simple but effective: a table, some folding chairs, a chaise longue, a fauteuil.

The story is a frame narrative. A writer about to leave the studio after a long day of auditions, despairs of ever finding an actor to play the female lead in his adaptation of Venus in Furs, when suddenly a woman arrives late and wants to read for the part. She begins to read and the action of the play plays out in the frame simultaneously. Power, seduction, control. These are the issues fought over in terms of modernity and sexual equality. The frame space and story space are marked out by changes in lighting–fluorescent for the frame, incandescent for the story–that are made explicitly by the actors using light boxes on stage. A small touch that I really liked.

The epub and kindle versions of Masoch’s book are at the Gutenberg Project. A video of the Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” is here.

Sep 032013

Universal high-school reading in the States along with To Kill a Mockingbird. A French translation was being staged in a summer theatre in Rosemont. So the Beav and I headed out to Saint Hillaire to visit the Osias Leduc museum, had dinner at the Auberge Handfield, and then drove out to the theatre. The play was staged with a round backdrop with a circle of chairs on a raised dais at centre stage. It was well done, but–and I didn’t notice this as a teenager–extremely didactic.

Driving home I wondered if this play could be the origin of the American genre, the courtroom drama? It seems possible.

May 152013

Love Lies Bleeding (1)

The Beav and I went to see the Alberta Ballet’s Love Lies Bleeding. I know nothing about dance and expected to be left behind by the experience. Instead, I was swept up and ecstatic. Art had happened.

What I took away was the way it was a profoundly non-critical experience. I was present for the dance, attentive to it, and it was only itself. There was no need to to translate it into something else, an idea or a message. The thing was the thing and it was beautiful.

Came home and rented some dance films. Flamenco, Flamenco was good, but Pina and The Rain were extraordinary.

Love Lies Bleeding