Stage Door

Stage Door Reviews of Stratford Festival 1996 Season

As You Like It

by William Shakespeare
Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ontario, May 17 to September 14, 1996
A Stage Door Review by Jim Lingerfelt and Roger Kershaw
(Your comments and reviews are also welcome. Please?)

We Like It

Shakespeare's ambiguously titled As You Like It is another of his comedies with love at first sight and transvestism as ubiquitous themes. Not to be confused with Much Ado or All's Well, this joyous play concerns the lovely Rosalind's instant attraction to Orlando and their subsequent journey of love and confusion in the forest of Arden.
-----Duke Senior is living in exile in the forest while his brother Frederick has usurped his dominions. Duke Senior's daughter Rosalind is banished from Frederick's court and travels to Arden in the company of her cousin Celia. Rosalind assumes a countryman's dress and takes the name Ganymede; Celia passes as Aliena, Ganymede's sister and they meet with Orlando who has joined the banished duke. Ganymede encourages Orlando to pretend to make love to her as though she were his Rosalind.
-----Composed of members of the Festival's Young Company, the cast is superb and their talents are not less than those of the main troupe. Jonathan Crombie is excellent as Orlando, the ardent suitor. Jane Spidell, playing Rosalind (Shakespeare's longest female role), put her acting in top gear after her transfiguration into Ganymede. Caroline Gillis portrayed Celia, who falls in love with Oliver (Tom Barnett). Everyone seems to fall in love at first sight; at each magic moment the twang of Cupid's arrow resonates throughout the theatre, a clever device by director Richard Rose. Touchstone the fool (Kevin Bundy) falls for Audrey (Tamara Bernier) and Phebe (Kristina Nicoll) pairs with Silvius (Colin O'Meara). David Jansen plays the melancholy philosopher Jaques with total conviction.
-----Worthy of mention is the stage (design by Charlotte Dean) filled with cones of varying size that represent at first the gardens of Duke Frederick, and then instantly transform in to the forest of Arden with the simple removal of some burlap wrapping. Enhancing the forest spirit are several inventive devices such as a cone that explodes into a fountain of butterflies, and pine cones that drop from the sky. The final scene transforms the simple set into a glorious medieval wedding scene with actors in resplendent attire. Rosalind concludes the play with a wonderful epilogue speaking directly to the audience.
-----As You Like It plays until September 14 at the Tom Patterson Theatre in Stratford. Call 1-800-576-1600 for tickets.

(Your comments and reviews are also welcome. Please?)
Back to index of Stratford Festival 1996 Season reviews

A Fitting Confusion

by Georges Feydeau
Stratford Festival, Ontario, May 17 to September 14, 1996
A Stage Door Review by Roger Kershaw and Jim Lingerfelt
(Your comments and reviews are also welcome. Please? For one Guest Review, click here!)

Confusion reigns in this Stratford comedy

Billed as a farce, this sometimes funny play was translated from the original French by Norman R. Shapiro. Playwright Georges Feydeau's humour springs essentially from the fear of chaos. Chaotic it is, throughout three acts.
-----Dr Moulineaux (Stephen Ouimette) stays out all night and then explains to his bride (Marion Day) that he was with a sick friend, Bassinet. Of course, Bassinet (Barry MacGregor) is not sick and the doctor ends up renting an apartment from his friend for his assignations with the ingenuous Suzanne (Jennifer Gould). The would-be mistress' husband (Wayne Best) follows her there and later brings his own mistress along (Sharon McFarlane)-who turns out to be the erstwhile happily long-lost wife of the doctor's friend. As always in Feydeau, the complications fly fast and furious until everyone manages to sort things out. Assisting in this free-for-all is the Moulineaux family butler (Bernard Hopkins); the redoubtable mother-of-the-bride, Madame Aigreville (Barbara Bryne); Madame d'Herblay (Diane D'Aquilar); Mimi (Chick Reid); and Stephen Ouimette's own dog, Squirt, in the role of Bijou.
-----Creative, eruptive sets by Morris Ertman contribute to the chaos, especially in the dressmaker's apartment as radiators steam, cats scamper across the stage, dressmakers' dummies break apart, and several other inventive disturbances occur. Martha Mann's early 1900s costumes are magnificently crafted.
-----Directed by Richard Monette, the production is a test of precision timing and is brilliantly acted, especially by Ouimette in a tour de force performance that, while the action appears to dissolve into anarchy, is always firmly in control.
-----However, the play was, and is, a farce, notwithstanding the program notes by David Prosser, which read more like a PhD dissertation: "[Feydeau's] plays depict a stable, bourgeois, materially solid world...a kind of Aristotelian purging, in which we confront and master the emotions not of pity and terror but of desire and guilt: a catharsis of mirth." If, after that mouthful, you are still interested in a afternoon of laughs, you can catch A Fitting Confusion at Stratford's Avon Theatre until September 14. For tickets, call, 1-800-576-1600.

(Your comments and reviews are also welcome. Please?)

 Speaking of which: Here's one of You talking back to StageDoor about A Fitting Confusion:
"After a week of marvelous theater in Southern Ontario, I was exhausted. We had one more play to see in Stratford - something like a comedy, I expected, and (yawn!) hopefully not too long. That was my expectation on stepping into the theatre that beautiful, sunny afternoon. Then I started to read the director's notes. They were high-minded and so gloomy that I tried to read them again. Had I stepped into the wrong theatre? Had I misread the synopsis when booking the play? I pondered. And, true to what was about to unfold before me, I was already in a fitting confusion.
-----"This was a snip/snap crisply fast moving comedy of deceits. It seems like they used every yuckable joke in the book but still we were riveted to our seats, enjoying the comedy and faux pas that blew over us as the blast of sound in an ADVENT speaker commercial. The lead actors (see another review for all the important names, characters, etc.) were commanding, and not afraid to pander and dress up even their most absurd moments.
-----"Another excellent aspect, and something I had come to expect in our fast-paced theatre week was the stage set. Even some months later, I keep remembering the wrought-iron art-decor 'thing' that framed the stage. How do they think of these things? Go to see it. And save it for last."
--------Guest Review by Joy L.




(Your comments and reviews are also welcome. Please?)
Back to index of Stratford Festival 1996 Season reviews

King Lear

by William Shakespeare
Stratford Festival, Ontario, May 6 to November 2, 1996
A Stage Door Review by Jim Lingerfelt and Roger Kershaw
(Your comments and reviews are also welcome. Please?

Hutt does Lear Lite at Stratford

The Stratford Festival seems to have trouble staging their annual Shakespeare tragedy, and this year's King Lear is no exception. Stephen Ouimette's Hamlet and Scott Wentworth's Macbeth both fell short of critical acclaim, and the great hopes of audiences this year fell upon the award-winning talents of William Hutt. Hutt was close, but somehow managed to miss the fury of the role.
-----The story is one of power, greed and deception. Lear, legendary king of Britain, abdicates in favour of his three daughters, determined to divide his kingdom according to the amount of love each professes for him. Goneril and Regan both exaggerate their complete devotion to their father, while Cordelia expresses that she must reserve some love for a future husband. Enraged, Lear disinherits Cordelia, who marries the King of France and leaves England and her plotting sisters behind. Goneril and husband, the Duke of Cornwall, joined by Regan and husband, the Duke of Albany, usurp not only Lear's authority but also his self-respect, and cast him aside, a king without a throne. Other political schemes involve Gloucester's bastard son Edmund, and legitimate heir, Edgar. France invades and is defeated by Albany and Cornwall's armies. Cordelia and Lear are captured, Cordelia is summarily executed and a broken Lear unites in death with his tragically misjudged daughter.
-----While it is difficult to imagine who else among this year's Company could have better executed the title role, Hutt seemed tired, and not up to standard we have come to expect from him. His performance rests more on his history than his presence, a fact driven home at the curtain call when, despite gesturing for a standing ovation, it was not to come.
-----Lear's three daughters are portrayed with mixed success by a trio of accomplished Company members. Diane D'Aquila's Goneril is a believable vixenish mix of raw lust for power and sex contrasting with Colombe Demers's sweet and unobtrusive Cordelia. Martha Burns's Regan is well-acted but ultimately forgettable in counterpoint with the gifted D'Aquila's Goneril.
-----Two skilled Stratford veterans play the husbands to Goneril and Regan. Wayne Best is superb as the vicious, eye-plucking Duke of Cornwall while Barry MacGregor's excellent diction greatly enhances his expert portrayal of the repentant Albany. Lewis Gordon, who is to act Lear at several performances, plays the banished Kent with aplomb. The blinded Gloucester is portrayed in a lamentable style by Eric Donign, while his bastard son and priest, Edmund, is well acted with hidden sexual tension by Geordie Johnson. Supporting the main cast are Peter Donaldson (Edgar), Jordan Pettle (Fool), and a limp-wristed King of France (by Martin Albert).
-----Designer Patrick Clark has produced a Victorian setting for this famous tragedy. A sooty, dying world is created in beige and browns, with the actors attired in carefully detailed costumes of the era. Subdued lighting by Michael J. Whitfield effectively furthers the dreariness of the designer's concept.
-----Arguably the greatest of Shakespeare's tragedies, director Richard Monette's King Lear was a noble effort that fell short of expectations. King Lear plays at the Festival Theatre until November 2, 1996. For tickets, call 1-800-576-1600.

(Your comments and reviews are also welcome. Please?)
Back to index of Stratford Festival 1996 Season reviews

The Little Foxes

by Lillian Hellman
Stratford Festival, Ontario, July 28 to October 13, 1996
A Stage Door Review by Roger Kershaw and Jim Lingerfelt
(Your comments and reviews are also welcome. Please?)

Nothing tender about The Little Foxes at Stratford

The enigmatically titled The Little Foxes, written in 1939 and now at Stratford's Festival Theatre, is playwright Lillian Hellman's second play, following the groundbreaking The Children's Hour. Much of her acclaimed writing deals with human existence set within a framework of sin. Abject greed is a major theme in The Little Foxes and this superb production delivers on all counts.
----- Picture a charming home set in turn-of-the-century American South. Into this peaceful scene put the prosperous, despotic Hubbard family-Ben, possessive and scheming; Oscar, harsh and arrogant; his son Leo, weak and unprincipled; Regina, wickedly clever-each trying to outwit the other. In contrast, meet lonely, intimidated Birdie, now a drunk whom Oscar wed for her father's cotton fields; wistful Alexandra, Regina's daughter; and Horace, ailing banker-husband of Regina, between whom a breach has existed for years. Within this grim family environment Hellman spins a discomforting web of theft, deceit, racism, hatred, cruelty, and greed.
-----This magnificent production is supported with inspired casting. The distinguished Martha Henry plays Regina Giddens in a mesmerizing star performance. Regina's abhorrent and detestable nature is illustrated by the line "I'm just waiting for you to die," delivered to her sick husband with such hatred that the disquieted audience gasps in disbelief. As suffering spouse Horace, Brian Bedford displays his customary virtuosity: fire and brimstone one moment, loving paternalism the next. After a disappointingly economical performance in King Lear (or "Lear Lite" as we called it), more was expected of the venerable William Hutt playing calculating Benjamin Hubbard. Hutt's tepid acting seems more an informal rehearsal than that of a nightly performance. In contrast, scene-stealing Diana Leblanc's long-suffering Birdie Hubbard was a revelation, and received the only spontaneous mid-act applause we've seen this season. Her humiliating husband Oscar is played with relish by accomplished Stratford veteran Peter Donaldson while son Leo is well acted by Tim MacDonald. Colombe Demers' colourless Alexandra Giddens is the production's only weak link; inconsistencies in her Southern accent further weaken the performance. In support as two house servants are Roy Lewis as Cal and Sandi Ross, playing the loving Addie in a wonderfully engrossing manner. James Blendick portrays Chicago businessman William Marshall.
----- Guido Tondino has splendidly recreated a Southern mansion drawing room: all Corinthian columns, oversized vases, burnished wood and lovely period furniture. The detailed period costumes of Ann Curtis serve to enhance and legitimize such an enchanting scene.
-----Director Richard Monette should be commended for inspiring such wonderful performances from three exalted stars without any hint of upstaging each other. Interestingly, Martha Henry takes the final curtain with Bedford and Hutt linking arms in united triumph.

(Your comments and reviews are also welcome. Please?)
Back to index of Stratford Festival 1996 Season reviews

The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare
Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ontario, May 13 to November 3, 1996
A Stage Door Review by Jim Lingerfelt and Roger Kershaw
(Your comments and reviews are also welcome. Please?)

Attacked by many as the play that should be buried forever along with the anti-Semitism it celebrates, Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is the most controversial of his works. Considering that Shakespeare had probably never even seen, let alone met or dealt with, a Jew, it is remarkable that he could even have written a play on the subject that would survive nearly five centuries, and especially, the last fifty years of abuse. Yet survive it has, along with the ugly stereotypes it created. Even the word Shylock, apparently invented by Shakespeare, is now part of the common language, appearing in dictionaries in lower case as a synonym for "a ruthless moneylender; a loan shark." And we all speak of "getting our pound of flesh."
-----The trend in most contemporary productions of this play, which surprisingly is still required reading in both public and Catholic high schools, is to soften the anti-Semitism, even omitting entire scenes, such as the forced conversion of Shylock. Not so with Marti Maraden's current version at Stratford, though. Set in pre-Second World War Italy against the backdrop of growing Fascism and the coming "Final Solution," the offensive aspects of the work are emphasized, and short visual scenes are even added to leave no mistaking the ugliness of bigotry in any age. In one such addition, Shylock passes through a sidewalk café, as the waiters scurry ahead of him tilting each empty chair against the table. In another, as the defeated moneylender leaves the courtroom, mocking bystanders knock off his yarmulke, as the audience quietly gasps in incredulous disbelief. Whether Shakespeare's intent was to expose the bigotry or to cultivate it, there is no doubt about Maraden's interpretation: It is a reprehensible and shameful chapter in human history. Could we ever have tolerated that behaviour? Or worse, do we tolerate it today? Or have we simply switched from kicking Jews to bashing other groups we don't understand or want to know?
-----The story, you will remember, concerns a penniless Bassanio who convinces his mentor, Antonio, to borrow money to finance his courtship of the fair Portia. Antonio's fortune is at sea on his ships, so he turns to the moneylender Shylock, who advances him the funds on the contract that should he default, Shylock, embittered by shabby treatment of his Christian users, will extract one pound of flesh as retribution. Of course the ships sink, the loan is forfeit, and Shylock goes to court for justice, and revenge. Shakespeare being what Shakespeare is, however, there are several other plots in concurrence (and ample transvestism to qualify the play as a comedy). Portia's late father has cursed her with a will that commands she marry whichever courtier picks the correct casket (options are gold, silver or lead), and a bevy of unsuitable suitors each try and fail, until lucky Bassanio appears, picks the lead, and wins the ring. His friend, Gratiano, along for support, grabs Portia's maid, Nerissa, while they are at it, and then old Shylock's daughter appears on the scene, having stolen a pouch of gold and the old man's heart and eloped with (ye gads! a Christian!) Lorenzo, another of Bassanio's rutting buddies. In addition to his stolen bride, Lorenzo brings news of Antonio's sinking ships and Bassanio, in despair for his first love (a little homoerotica always helped Shakespeare sell to the masses), runs back to Venice in support. Portia and Nerissa grab lawyers' garb and follow in secret, whereupon Portia delivers the "The quality of mercy is not strained..." speech to deaf ears, yet still manages to trick Shylock out of his just deserts. The Jew is forced to convert to the "One True Faith" and they all live happily ever after.
-----If the production has a weakness, especially in comparison to the last version in Stratford in 1989, it is that the comic elements are so overshadowed by the dramatic, they are nearly forgotten in retrospect. It is, underneath it all, a solid comic vehicle, nowhere moreso than the scenes involving the casket selection. But foremost, it is a riveting drama, compelling in its message and the medium.

-----The cast includes Susan Coyne as Portia, in an interesting interpretation that gently grows on you, not entirely winning me over until the second act. Now, I can see no other in the role.
-----Similarly,Douglas Rain's impassioned Shylock has nearly erased the indelible image of Brian Bedford in that role, seven years ago.
-----Roland Hewgill is Antonio, an older image than I had presupposed, tempering somewhat the otherwise overt love he holds for Bassanio (Paul Haddad) to a more avuncular fondness. Michelle Fisk elevates the role of Nerissa from handmaiden to affectionate equal, a much more contemporary interpretation.
-----Other cast members include: Richard Clarkin, Richeard Quesnel, Michael Shanks, Wayne Best, Sarah Dodd, Claire Jullien, Sharon McFarlane, David Kirby, Roy Lewis, Xuan Fraser, Gerry Mackay, Douglas Chamberlain, Vince Fera, Scott Wilson, Marion Day, David Warburton, Andrew roft, Craig Erikson, Robert King, Terra McKenna, Gary Brenna, William Needles and Tom Bates. Set design by Phillip Silver, costumes by John Pennoyer, lighting by Louise Guinard, with original music composed by Louis Applebaum.
-----See it. Playing at the Avon Theatre in Stratford until November 3. Call 1-800-567-1600.

(Your comments and reviews are also welcome. Please?)
Back to index of Stratford Festival 1996 Season reviews

The Music Man
by Meredith Willson
Stratford Festival, Ontario, May 10 to November3, 1996
A Stage Door Review by Roger Kershaw and Jim Lingerfelt
(Your comments and reviews are also welcome. Please?)

The Music Man one of Stratford's finest this season

Meredith Willson's The Music Man is one of the best-loved Broadway musicals of all time, opening there in 1957 with Robert Preston and Barbara Cook. The current Stratford production certainly must equal any there or elsewhere; indeed, the thrust stage of the Festival Theatre provides a visual advantage that few other theatres can match.
-----The familiar story begins when con man Harold Hill breezes into River City with a suitcase full of dreams for sale. Marian, the town librarian, remains skeptical of his promise to organize a boys' band, but Harold inadvertently works a minor miracle in the town, and strikes a major chord in Marion's heart.
-----The most ambitious of this season's Stratford playbill, and the only musical, The Music Man features a large cast of triple-threat singers/dancers/actors. Fresh from his Bobby Child in Toronto's Crazy For You, Dirk Lumbard is Harold Hill, a Robert Preston replica despite his claim to the contrary. He is always firmly in control in a role that showcases his wonderful voice, energetic dancing and fluid movement.
-----Marian Paroo is played by June Crowley in her Stratford debut. An accomplished singer and performer (Christine Daaé, in Phantom, among others), she brings a remarkable freshness to the role with a sweet voice that thrills the audience. As Mrs. Paroo, Jacqueline Blais, also in her Stratford debut, is wonderfully maternal. Eric Donkin handles the stern Mayor Shinn. The mayor's wife, Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn, is Karen K. Edissi, hilarious in several scenes, especially as the leader of the Grecian Urn Dancers, and as the Statue of Liberty.
-----As Marcellus Washburn, Scott A. Hurst dances well and also shares some funny moments. Another secondary character, Tommy Djilas, performed by Danny Austin, is particularly memorable; Austin is a superb dancer, the clear leader of the dance corps. Jennifer Rockett plays Ethel Toffelmier as clumsy and awkward but doesn't quite grasp her character.
-----Two talented youngsters handle the major child roles with ease: Marisa McIntyre is Amaryllis, and, as a surprise standout, Jonathan Wexler is the lisping Winthrop Paroo. Wexler's ovation at the play's conclusion was almost equal to those of the two adult stars. Another Ron Howard in the making?
-----Willson's use of the barbershop quartet is always a pleasant surprise each time we see this play or the movie, both to themselves and to the audience. Lee MacDougall, Phillip Hughes, Jeffrey Prentice and Bradley C. Rudy carry on the tradition beautifully.
-----Designer Debra Hanson selected shades of cream and beige, even in the American flags, as an inventive and effective device to emphasize the brilliant reds and golds of the band uniforms in the final scenes. Elaborate props appear and disappear effortlessly, in particular the train where an a cappella male chorus sings and bobs in rhythm with the coach. Director and choreographer Brian Macdonald has created a series of memorable scenes taking full advantage of the thrust stage.
-----Above all The Music Man is a musical with a wealth of beautiful songs, including Goodnight, My Someone; My White Knight; Gary, Indiana; Till There Was You; and of course Seventy-Six Trombones. This outstanding music is brilliantly performed by the Festival Orchestra under the inspired direction of Berthold Carrière.
-----For tickets to this marvelous and seldom performed musical now playing until November 3, 1996, call 1-800-576-1600. Don't miss it.

 Your comments are welcome. And speaking of that, here's what one of you had to say:
  Just a note to say thank you for this pleasant surprise! While surfing I happened on this review for the 1996 Stratford Festival production of The Music Man. It was one of the happiest seasons that I have ever done at Stratford, and the production was enjoyable from beginning to end. Thank you for the review, I agree it was a sumptuous show and we had as much fun doing it as the audience seemed to have watching and listening to it. You've made my day. Thank you again and keep up the great work! Yours, Scott A. Hurst (Marcellus Washburn)

Sweet Bird of Youth

by Tennessee Williams
Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ontario, June 15 to September 15, 1996
A Stage Door Review by Jim Lingerfelt and Roger Kershaw
(Your comments and reviews are also welcome. Please?)

Sweet Bird of Youth showcases Stratford talents

The overriding theme of Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth is loss: loss of youth, hope and love. This wonderful new production at the Stratford Festival features strong performances to dramatize those themes.
-----The soap opera is now famous: Chance Wayne, a would-be actor turned gigolo, returns to his home town in the company of a faded movie star, Alexandra del Lago, or the Princess Kosmonopolis as she is called. He wants to reclaim the love of his life, Heavenly Finley, the beautiful daughter of a corrupt and bigoted local politician. Boss Finley forced her to send Chance away but Chance's love for Heavenly has never died. Chance means to use del Lago to obtain Hollywood contracts for himself and Heavenly in the hope that they can start a new life together.
-----Things have changed during Chance's absence. Heavenly is no longer the girl he left behind in the steamy Florida backwater of St. Cloud. Her father wants to exact revenge on Chance for some misdeeds with Heavenly, but despite the warnings of Finley's sister-in-law, Nonnie, and of his mistress, Miss Lucy, both of whom were fond of Chance in the old days, Chance remains determined to stay in town until he has won Heavenly back.
-----Geordie Johnson is Chance Wayne enacting this difficult role with his customary flair. He's very effective, especially in the second act where physical dexterity-falling off a chair and fighting-is needed in addition to interpreting the heavily emotional scenes. Princess Kosmonopolis is played by consummate professional Martha Henry in a performance that awes at one moment and irritates the next. Take it down a little, Martha? But the chemistry between Henry and Johnson is undeniable.
-----The supporting cast, however, does not reach the heights of the stars' performances. The venerable Lewis Gordon is the corrupt bigot Boss Finley. His acting style is not well suited for this role, with the Southern accent proving difficult for this Stratford star. Martha Burns is totally miscast as barren daughter Heavenly. Surely a voluptuous temptress, and the object of hunk Chance's desire, Heavenly is portrayed here in a mousy fashion by the otherwise capable Burns. Chick Reid as Boss Finley's mistress Miss Lucy would have been more realistically cast in the role of Heavenly. Busy Stratford performer Peter Donaldson plays surgeon George Scudder and the illustrious Joyce Campion is Aunt Nonnie, both actors seemingly unable to make the most of their roles. Waiting for Godot star Tom McCamus is vicious thug and Boss's son Tom Junior; his booming voice and robust delivery impresses the audience, but his fellow thugs are the sweet-faced Jonathan Crombie as Bud and Kevin Bundy as Scotty. Other supporting characters are Martin Albert as Stuff, Conrad Coates as Fly and Sandi Ross as Delia.
-----The small but significant role of the heckler is played by As You Like It's David Jansen. Fight director John Stead constructed a scene featuring Jansen being beaten by a mob literally at our feet in the small confines of Stratford's Tom Patterson Theatre. So realistic were the punches and kicks that many audience members gasped in disbelief.
-----Director Diana Leblanc has done a superb job in creating the steamy, sordid world of St. Cloud. She brought out wonderfully engrossing performances from the ensemble-but, Diana, can you get Martha to come down a notch?
-----Designer Astrid Janson has done an outstanding job creating the old-South Royal Palms Hotel. The bedroom scene is quickly transformed into the bar, behind which is a magnificent wrought iron grille. The brilliant illusion of a ballroom behind the balustrade is illustrated when Boss Finley addresses his supporters, with his back to the theatre audience. Lighting designer Steven Hawkins and sound designer Jim Neil pooled their talents to create the illusion of a cheering throng of offstage supporters in the ballroom. Still photos of Boss and Heavenly projected on the grille's scrim greatly enhance the speech and heckling scene. Complimenting the torrid and sensual mood is incidental bluesy jazz composed by Stephen Woodjetts and played brilliantly by the composer on keyboards and Ian Harper on tenor saxophone.
-----Sweet Bird of Youth plays until September 15. Call 1-800-567-1600. Tickets are $46 to $55, with some special discounts available for groups, students, seniors and families.

(Your comments and reviews are also welcome. Please?)
Back to index of Stratford Festival 1996 Season reviews

Waiting for Godot

by Samuel Beckett
Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ontario, July 7 to September 13, 1996
A Stage Door Review by Roger Kershaw and Jim Lingerfelt
(Your comments and reviews are also welcome. Please?)

"Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful!"

Morality tale, or nonsensical farce, it's very trendy to either love or hate the existentialist tragicomedy, Waiting for Godot, by the celebrated Irish writer Samuel Beckett, now being staged at the Stratford Festival's Tom Patterson Theatre. We will take the middle road. Many of the lines from the oft-quoted script tell the tale: "This is becoming really insignificant," "That would have passed the would have passed anyway," "Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful!" Beckett tried to be ambiguous about the meaning, but religious themes pervade the script.
-----By a country road, near a leafless tree, two tramps, Estragon and Vladimir, wait to keep their evening appointment with the mysterious Godot. However, neither knows for sure if Godot will come, nor can they recall exactly why they are waiting for him, or if they are waiting in the right place or on the right day of the week. Lacking all sense of time and place, they cannot even be sure what day it is a present, or whether they have been in this spot before. Their moods swing between irritability and terror as two travellers arrive on the scene: Pozzo and his slave Lucky.
-----The two stars are both wonderful as the philosopher tramps. Stephen Ouimette's Estragon (Gogo) is all physical dexterity and hilarity. His limp is so convincingly painful that one wants to aid him. Ouimette's considerable gifts are on display at Stratford this season in three contrasting roles (also being the philandering doctor in Fitting Confusion, and the petulant Mozart in Amadeus). Vladimir (Didi) is played by the stentorian Tom McCamus in a performance though technically outstanding, played like a Ouimette impersonation. The highlight of the production is the interplay between the two stars. Whether well-rehearsed or natural chemistry, the performances of these two stars was extraordinary.
-----Supporting the main players is a trio of Stratford actors who have mixed success with their roles. Pozzo was played by a blustering James Blendick in a performance that quickly became annoying. His slave, Lucky, whom he called Pig, is portrayed by the talented Tim MacDonald. His famous "quaquaquaqua" soliloquy was masterfully executed in a northern English accent (nice touch, Brian), leaving the audience both spellbound and confused. It must be difficult enough to memorize three pages of meaningful script-imagine the challenge when it is utter nonsense! Joe Dinicol, crisply tailored in English public school togs, played the boy.
-----Director Brian Bedford and designer Ming Cho Lee have created a different Godot, adding an interesting twist on the tree/tramp set: The stage is a dilapidated vaudeville house with requisite torn curtains, broken banisters and crackling music (composed by Don Horsburgh) coming from the speakers. Lighting designer Michael J. Whitfield has created a fascinating world that moves from daylight one minute to night the next. The two actors are spot lit at the opening and the play concludes the same way with a gradual fadeout following a glorious bright burst. Also interesting was the original makeup created by Clayton Shields. The clown white on the two stars added to the farcical nature of the production.
-----Waiting for Godot is a very famous play that provokes serious debate and created a lot of expectations this season. The production values are worth the price of admission, but the script, despite it reputation, doesn't really hold attention for two hours. It plays until September 13. Call 1-800-567-1600.

(Your comments and reviews are also welcome. Please?)

 Speaking of which: Here's one of You talking back to Stage Door about Waiting for Godot:
-Hear! hear! hear!-----Someone finally agrees that this play is two hours of nothing!!!!!!! We too enjoyed the talented actors in [a] Memphis [production of the play], but for me, the absolute agony of existenialism made me wonder why am I here busting my behind, only to discover there really was no reason.
----- --Joy L.
Back to index of Stratford Festival 1996 Season reviews

Disclaimer: Nothing here is "official." Everything is a composite of media releases, information supplied by or procured from the theatres by direct or devious means, or downright personal opinion. If you don't like what you see, blame us at Stage Door, not the fine folks in the theatres of Southwestern Ontario.

Do you have a review or opinion to share? Send us your reviews or stories about theatre in SWOntario, and we'll see they get posted.

 Stage Door