Rapid Fire #2: Theatre Review

Have you read my Rapid Fire Movie Review? The rules are the same: 4 plays, a tag line, approximately 200 words of thoughts and analysis, and my overall opinion of the play in one sentence.  Ready, set, go!

silence-main__largeSilence: Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell – A powerful start to the 2018/2019 English Theatre Season

Maybe an hour or so before I saw this play, I was lamenting the fact that Peter Hinton was no longer the artistic director for English Theatre at the NAC. So imagine my delight when I discovered he was the director for that evening’s show.  I was even more delighted to see how well this play was put together.  The set was incredible, although I will admit that the transformation from telephone wires on planks that opened up to reveal interior settings was underused; this is probably because it was a bit time consuming to make the transition.  The choices surrounding Mabel’s experiences were very well thought out as the audience could hear only what she wanted to hear.  Since she was deaf, when she turned away from the other characters and stopped reading their lips we stopped hearing them.  A subtle humming noise was used instead while the actors mimed their dialogue out of Mabel’s view.  And since this play was about a deaf woman, it was nice to see that there were ASL interpreters positioned onstage for any audience members who were hard of hearing.  Most importantly, it was wonderful to learn the story of Mabel Bell; in this play, she was not overshadowed by her infamous husband.

Overall Opinion: It was so lovely to see a play directed by Peter Hinton and it made for a very strong start to what has, so far, been a very good English theatre season at the NAC.

chasing-champions-main__largeChasing Champions: The Sam Langford Story – A real heavy hitter with a knock-out set

Unfortunately, I don’t have as much to say about this one.  That’s not because it wasn’t good – it was a very well thought out performance – but I was not able to watch the whole thing.  I saw this play when I was at my most overworked: at that time I was working between 5 and 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.  So obviously I was not getting enough rest or sleep.  The day I saw Sam Langford my body just gave out and I had to leave the show after Act 1 because I was unwell and struggling to stay awake.  I am sad that I missed the second half of this play because it was so good.  The story dealt with a lot of heavy issues surrounding race and segregation, and the actors did a superb job. But it was the set that was the most memorable part about this performance.  Since the story revolved around the life of a boxer, the stage was set up like a boxing ring.  And it wasn’t just there for show.  The act of boxing came up in the blocking to help illustrate things like the passage of time.  Even a punching bag was used as a stand-in for the body of a man who had been lynched.  The boxing motif was certainly well utilized.

Overall Opinion: I really appreciate the directorial choices and design choices made for this play.

hockey-sweater_0002s_0000_hs-main__largeThe Hockey Sweater: A Musical I dare you to find a more Canadian musical

If you’ve never read Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater then I encourage you to run to your nearest library or book store and grab the first copy you see.  This story is one of my childhood favourites, so this was the play I was anticipating the most.  In fact, my mother and I paid extra to upgrade to seats that were closer to the stage.  The upgrade was worth every penny. This play was nothing but fun! And it was a really good piece of musical theatre too – the songs were catchy, the dancing was well choreographed, and the hockey games on roller blades were well executed.  Of course the adult actors did a good job, but it was definitely the children who stole the show as they strove to be “Just like [Rocket] Richard”.  The content of the plot is just about as Canadian as you can get, as the story takes place in a small town in Quebec that is OBSESSED with hockey. Don’t like hockey? There was a song for that too. All in all, I just had so much fun watching this musical that I really couldn’t give any negative criticism if I tried.  This show was well worth the wait.

Overall Opinion: If this ever comes back to the NAC – or to any other theatre near me – I will buy tickets IMMEDIATELY!

nac_et_weddingparty_eventpage__largeThe Wedding Party – The most hilarious – and most stressful – show of the season

This play was hilarious! It was also incredibly stressful to watch. I am currently planning my own wedding and watching Act 1 nearly gave me a heart attack.  This first act takes place during cocktail hour and although some of the issues are a little over dramatic, this act presents a fairly realistic portrayal of a wedding. As we’re introduced to the wacky cast of characters, their feuds, and all of their issues, I found myself panicking. Thankfully, any issues I have come across during wedding planning have not been nearly as bad, but I could certainly understand the anxieties of the characters involved. The second act, which takes place during the reception, is where things get crazy. The comedy gets amplified, bizarre flashbacks and dream-like sequences are added, and the dialogue draws attention to the absurdities of the play.  With only 6 actors playing 3 or 4 characters each, we heard lines like “He and I can’t be in the same room together” spoken by the actor playing both characters that physically could not be in the same room at the same time. And the most interesting element: the bride and groom are mentioned but are never actually present! Rather than have the couple be the main focus, as in real weddings, this play is all about the crazy family members that add some flavour to that special day.

Overall Opinion: Once I got over the initial stress, Kristen Thomson’s outrageous play had me laughing so hard I cried.

My favourite out of these four plays? You guessed it:

THE HOCKEY SWEATER

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