Bellissima: A Lonely Heart Finds Home in Theatre Calgary’s The Light in the Piazza

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Left to Right: Susan Gilmour and Anwyn Musico in The Light in the Piazza, playing now at Theatre Calgary. Photo Credit: Trudie Lee.

For its last show of the 2015/16 season, Theatre Calgary whisks audiences away to Italy with the Tony award-winning musical The Light in the Piazza.

Based on the 1960 novella of the same by Elizabeth Spencer, The Light in the Piazza tells the story of 26-year-old Clara Johnson (Anwyn Musico) and her mother Margaret (Susan Gilmour) who are away on holiday in Florence, Italy. While out exploring the city with her mother, Clara runs into a young Italian man named Fabrizio Naccarelli (Louie Rossetti), and it is love at first sight. Margaret pulls Clara away from Fabrizio, insisting that the two go their separate ways. In what seems like destiny, Fabrizio runs into Clara and her mother twice more, eventually inviting them to meet his family for tea.

At every turn, Margaret insists that Clara does not get involved with Fabrizio. Fabrizio’s father Signor (David Keeley) sees nothing wrong with their relationship, even if it is all very sudden. What Fabrizio’s family doesn’t know about Clara is that a head injury sustained on her 12th birthday negatively affected her mental and emotional development. Margaret fears that if Fabrizio were to find out the truth about her daughter, he would run away just like all the others, which would devastate Clara. Margaret is conflicted, however, when she sees how happy Clara and Fabrizio are together, and how taken the Naccarrelis are with her.

With the musical opening a week away from Mother’s Day, Margaret’s conflict over letting go of her only child is particularly relevant. Margaret wants only the best for Clara, that is she wants to see her daughter happy. The problem is, there are a number of risks in allowing Clara to be with Fabrizio. Is it her decision, though? When, if ever, do her responsibilities as a mother end? What if the doctors were wrong about Clara, says Margaret to her husband Roy (Christopher Hunt) over the phone.

Meanwhile, Clara is eager to fly free from her overprotective mother and live a fulfilled life, like any young person her age.

What’s interesting about the musical score (music and lyrics by Adam Guettel) is the presence of both English and Italian in the lyrics, with some songs sung entirely in Italian. The book (by Craig Lucas) also features both languages, although with broken english from the Naccarelis added into the mix. As well, the score is majorly influenced by opera, borrowing elements for a less than traditional musical.

For those wondering, there are no translations provided. The lack of translations may seem intimidating, but director Michael Shamata’s effective staging makes clear what the Italian-speaking characters are expressing.

The musical score is magnificently interpreted by musical director Jonathan Monro, who also plays piano in the band. The band is positioned onstage, behind the actors, for a concert feel. The score captures the wonder and innocence of young love, and the pains of old love, splendidly; It’s like a candlelit dinner on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

Speaking of which, the production is a feast for the eyes. Set designer Christina Poddubiuk has seemingly airlifted the splendor of Florence into the Max Bell Theatre. The stage rotates to create the illusion of walking along the streets of Florence, and to allow for fluid scene changes. Lighting designer Alan Brodie hits Poddubiuk’s set with an array of warm lights, casting the stage in a romantic softness.

Audiences will fall in love with Musico as the bright-eyed Clara. The young actress brings tremendous vibrancy and vulnerability to her character. Gilmour succeeds in playing a variety of shades as Margaret, a parent who acts only out of love. Rossetti has a lot of fun as Fabrizio, a harmless puppy in love. His charming smile can be seen rows and rows away from the stage. Rosetti and Musico share a delightful chemistry together, making for an adorable stage couple.

From its beautiful musical score to superb performances to strong aesthetics, there’s a lot to love about Theatre Calgary’s production of The Light in the Piazza. The story of a young American woman whose heart finds a home in Italy is told with such grace and elegance that it should not be missed.


Theatre Calgary’s The Light in the Piazza runs April 26 – May 22.

For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit:
https://www.theatrecalgary.com/2015-16/the-light-in-the-piazza

Harmon’s Bad Jews Stirs Up Bad Blood At Theatre Calgary

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Joshua Harmon’s Bad Jews runs March 15 – April 10 at Theatre Calgary. Pictured, left to right: Jeremy Ferdman, Bobbi Goddard, and David Sklar. Photo Credit: Trudie Lee.

Roaringly funny,  Joshua Harmon’s Bad Jews is the type of show that draws lines in the sand, then crosses them with absolute glee.

Presented by Theatre Calgary, Harmon’s Bad Jews stages a tense night between three cousins brought together by a death in the family. Of the three cousins, Daphna Feygenbauum (Bobbi Goddard) is the most devoted to the family’s Jewish faith. Her cousin Liam Haber (Jeremy Ferdman) is an atheist who studies Japanese youth culture at the graduate level, and Liam’s brother Jonah (David Sklar) is seemingly indifferent altogether.

Daphna and Liam have a history of not getting along, and the single night inside Jonah’s studio apartment proves no different. Liam’s grandfather has passed away, leaving a family heirloom up for grabs. The heirloom is a gold pendant, or chai, that survived the Holocaust and was given to Liam’s grandmother in place of a wedding ring. Ownership of the pendant is yet to be decided, and becomes a matter that Daphna wants resolved in her favour since the religious heirloom should go to a deserving religious person, she argues. Liam opposes the idea on the grounds that his grandfather supposedly promised it to him before his death, resulting in a heated confrontation between him and Daphna.

To say tempers flare would be an understatement as Daphna and Liam throw the worst of the worst at each other, saying the type of things that can never be taken back. Liam’s bubbly blonde and totally not Jewish girlfriend Melody (Katherine Zaborsky) gets caught in the mix with Jonah who tries to mediate peace between the two cousins.

What’s at stake in Harmon’s play is more than just a pendant, but the responsibility of tradition. What do the next generation owe their family, if anything at all, in regards to carrying on tradition? For Daphna, it’s a major responsibility given that her family’s Jewish faith not only survived the concentration camps, but thousands of years of persecution against her people. So, to have it all abruptly end with her is just not a possibility since it has never been easier to practice the faith, she says. Liam approaches the tradition from a more individualistic point of view. Why should he follow something that he doesn’t personally agree with, that has barely any relevance in the 21st century? From Liam’s perspective, it seems that tradition survives as a result of unfounded, sentimental guilt, and surely that’s not a good enough reason to keep tradition alive.

There are mostly strong (exaggerated) arguments for both sides, but unfortunately they are spoken by two very awful people. Daphna’s incredible insecurities have turned her to a self-righteous ball of loathing that has no other outlet than tearing people apart. Liam is a smug, upper-class academic who has no problem calling his cousin a certain ‘C’ word in front of his girlfriend. He walks over his brother like a metal boot on a doormat, and pressures him to take his side on the pendant fiasco. Harmon makes it not only hard to agree with anyone, but to agree with either Daphna or Liam for any time longer than a minute. The audience’s loyalty is in a constant state of flux, but one thing is for sure: the audience can’t help but feel bad for Melody who becomes Daphna’s latest victim.

The days following the passing of a family member are certainly sensitive times, but Harmon’s family drama reaches levels outside of the stratosphere. Harmon’s wild ride travels between the dramatic and the comedic like a rollercoaster from Hell. The audience is never certain what’s next for this play that turns on the dime frequently.

Director Valerie Planche manages the action well, bringing a sustained energy to Harmon’s tight script. Although, the play does begin to dip near the end as Harmon’s arguments on the importance of family legacy start to wane in careful thought and approach empty, profanity-laden rhetoric. Still, Planche succeeds in developing a pressure-cooker type environment where the actors are just about to pop their lids at any moment.

Set designer Cory Sincennes’s Manhattan apartment is ritzy indeed, but what goes down within the four walls is far from glamorous. Goddard’s fury matched with Ferdman’s strong, if arrogant, will just about brings the whole place down. There’s a real ugliness brought to the stage by the actors who throw themselves hundred percent into their roles. Zaborsky is a real treat as Melody, a trained opera singer now working as an administrator for a non-profit. She brings a doe-eyed innocence to Melody so palpable that we can almost feel her little heart shatter into a million pieces as Daphna twists her well-intentioned words to hate speech. Sklar doesn’t have as much to do since his character tries to stay out of the way as much he can. But Sklar’s reactions are enough that his character’s final moment hits hard after all is said and done in the 90 minute production.

A truly insightful debate about legacy escapes Harmon, but what’s here is enough to spark discussion about the significance of religious tradition in an era where young people are less religious than ever. The rise of non-traditional families also puts into conflict family values carried over from different eras. Harmon doesn’t hit this specific point head on, but he at least starts the dialogue at a very good place: with young people.

Theatre Calgary’s production of Bad Jews earns its opening night standing ovation.


Joshua Harmon’s Bad Jews runs March 15 – April 10 at Theatre Calgary (The Max Bell Theatre).

For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit: https://www.theatrecalgary.com/2015-16/bad-jews

 

The Little Prince Fails to Stick The Landing

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Adam Brazier (The Pilot), Sarah Caraher (The Prince), Louise Pitre (The Snake). Photo Credit: Trudie Lee.

If any book should not be judged by its cover, it’s The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. At first glance, the novella appears to be a children’s story, an imaginative tale about a young boy who travels the stars. Then, the reader is hit with deep, solemn meditations on love, friendship and growing up. Many have fallen in love with the story’s poetic elegance and universal themes, so much so that Saint-Exupéry’s novella is the fourth most-translated book in the world.

Imagine then, the excitement surrounding the world premiere of The Little Prince – The Musical at Theatre Calgary, in association with Lamplighter Drama.

Adapted by Nicholas Lloyd Webber and James D. Reid, The Little Prince tells the story of a Pilot (Adam Brazier) who crashes his plane in the Sahara Desert. Here, in the sweltering heat, he meets The Little Prince (Sarah Caraher), a boy who has left behind his asteroid and beloved Rose (Elicia MacKenzie) to travel the universe, eventually landing on Earth. The Pilot befriends The Prince after meeting a Snake (Louise Pitre) who tells him he can help fix his plane. Unbeknownst to The Pilot, The Snake has other, more sinister, plans for The Prince.

The first act is magnificent with its stunning visuals and catchy musical numbers – book, lyrics and original compositions by Webber and Reid. Director Dennis Garnhum stages what looks and feels like a storybook. The big production number ‘Welcome to My World’ is marvelous, a real crowd-pleaser. Bretta Gerecke’s costume designs for the six Men of The Planets are deliciously elaborate and colorful, as are most her creations for the show, ideal for the musical number’s circus-feel.

Of course, the show’s lightheartedness is underscored by musings on the human spirit. These musings eventually make their way to the forefront, and this is where the production stalls and flounders.

The trouble with this stage adaptation is, the novella can be a deeply personal experience. Saint-Exupéry’s story is enigmatic, something like a Gordian Knot that the reader has to decipher. The production mimics that quality, as demonstrated by The Pilot’s constant confusion, but then chooses to tediously unpackage and spell out the story’s various allegories through song. (If you didn’t get it the first time, you’ll likely get it the second time, or third time…)

Garnhum claims that the production is perfect for both adults and children alike, but some audience reactions say otherwise. There are children restless in their seats, while a few adults seem to simply lose interest once the glitz passes. The second act’s dull pace is a major factor, as it hangs its hat at the end and calls it a night. The finale sums up the show’s ultimate message, then quietly slips into the background. An underwhelming finale, to say the least.

From start to finish, the music is absolutely delightful. The soundtrack is an eclectic mix of styles, going from quirky, funky fun to emotionally riveting ballads. Brazier’s vocals are on point, although not showcased enough. Caraher struggles with the high range that rests just a touch outside her abilities. In a more comfortable range, Caraher’s clear, emotive voice knocks it out of the park. Speaking of emotive, Pitre is simply wonderful as The Snake with her sultry, sinister voice that could entangle any prey, our ears in this case. Jennie Neumann is bright and peppy as The Fox, and MacKenzie is a real treat as the Rose.

With that being said, there’s a strong sense that this show would work better as a concept album, than a big-budget musical production.

Hardcore fans of The Little Prince will want to fly in and check out the latest musical from Theatre Calgary. Those curious about the show, perhaps taken by dazzling production stills, should check it out, but hold their expectations steady. Others, well it’s a difficult sell. Audiences will certainly feel good watching The Little Prince, but how long that effect will last is questionable.


 

Theatre Calgary’s The Little Prince – The Musical runs Jan 19 – Feb 28 at the Martha Cohen Theatre (Arts Commons).

For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit: https://www.theatrecalgary.com/2015-16/the-little-prince-the-musical

Theatre Calgary’s A Christmas Carol Summons Good Cheer Amidst Downturn

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The cursed ghost of Jacob Marley (Robert Klein) visits Ebenezer Scrooge (Stephen Hair). Photo Credit: Trudie Lee.

Let us not sidestep reality, times are tough for many Calgarians right now. The economic downturn has severely interrupted this holiday season’s jubilations. And so, given the current situation, there could be no better time to stage Charles Dickens’ hymn for goodwill, A Christmas Carol.

Now in its 29th year at Theatre Calgary, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge (Stephen Hair), an elderly miser who is visited by three spirits on Christmas Eve. (Allison Lynch and Graham Piercy return as the Spirits of Christmas Past and Present, respectively, with Joe Perry playing the Spirit of Christmas Future). Just before the spirits arrive, the ghost of Scrooge’s dear friend and business partner Jacob Marley (Robert Klein) warns him to heed the spirits or else face dire consequences in the afterlife. Scrooge’s journey with the spirits transforms him into a man of charity, kindness, and friendship after he sees the errors of his ways.

For many, A Christmas Carol is familiar territory. There is good reason the story has endured so long, because its message still remains true today, especially now when charity is needed most.

Everyday life leaves no room for charity, because there never seems to be enough time. Someone else will help the hungry, we tell ourselves, shedding any responsibility. Time is, of course, a luxury, and some only have so much time, like Tiny Tim (Annabel Beames). It is only until we step back from our daily business, as Scrooge does thanks to the spirits, that we realize both how how precious time truly is and the urgency of charity.

Dickens calls on us to help those in need as much we can, not only for their benefit, but the benefit of everyone. For charity is not just about helping others, but strengthening the social fabric we belong to as just a single thread among many others. In difficult times, a strong sense of community is vitally important to all as hardship can affect everyone, no matter who they are.

It is this message that makes this production of A Christmas Carol immensely moving during these difficult times. Amidst the turmoil, Calgarians have embraced the spirit of giving by doing what they can to not only help those affected by the downturn, but also refugees entering Canada. And it is not out of fear from spirits, but a passion for community, for laying the groundwork for a better tomorrow.  Charity enriches us all, the ultimate lesson from Scrooge’s journey.

Simply put, Theatre Calgary’s production of A Christmas Carol is pure magic. Director Dennis Garnhum stages the sheer terror and joy of this classic tale with gusto. The audience is taken through a marvelous journey, full of singing, dancing, and skating in the park, that moves like a reader eagerly flipping the pages of a book. Patrick Clark’s fantastic sets, in fact, have something of a pop-up book feel to them, giving Victorian England a vibrant look. The imaginative production is a feast for the eyes that will dazzle even the most hardened audience member. Audiences will be enchanted by the grand scale of this adaptation, rich with effects, staged inside the Martha Cohen Theatre.

The playful, yet sinister ghouls that haunt Scrooge’s manor look absolutely wonderful thanks to great costume design by Kevin Lamotte.

Hair, entering his 22nd year as Scrooge, is a magnificent talent. The actor is simply enchanting in this role of a man who, after many years, learns to laugh and cry. Piercy is lively as the spirit of Christmas Present, as he should be considering the spirit’s essence. Piercy has a wholesome laugh and bounce to his step that makes it all the more poignant when the spirit’s life draws to an end (the Present only lasts so long). Karl Sine plays Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s overworked and underpaid employee, with the sort of sweetness that makes our heart go out to such a defeated, yet optimistic character.

For nearly three decades, Theatre Calgary has staged this classic tale for Calgary audiences, and this year seems more important than ever in keeping the tradition alive. Good cheer is alive through and through. Rarely does a production offer relief in the way this adaptation of A Christmas Carol does. Audiences will be enthralled by this profoundly stunning production of A Christmas Carol by Theatre Calgary.


Theatre Calgary’s A Christmas Carol runs Nov 26 – Dec 24 at the Martha Cohen Theatre.

For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit: https://www.theatrecalgary.com/2015-16/a-christmas-carol

 

Theatre Calgary Stages Powerful Revival of Miller’s The Crucible

The cast of The Crucible. Photo Credit: Trudie Lee.

The cast of The Crucible. Photo Credit: Trudie Lee.

Widely considered a modern classic, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is at once a compelling drama about the Salem witch trials and a striking allegory of McCarthyism, a practice born from the second Red Scare. To think, however, that Miller’s play is a relic of the Cold War era would be naive considering the politics of fear that govern us still today.

First produced in 1953, The Crucible stages the mass hysteria that consumed the town of Salem, Massachusetts between the years 1692 and 1693. In Miller’s semi-fictionalized account of events, the town is taken by accusations of witchcraft after Reverend Samuel Parris’ daughter Betty (Kevin Corey and Caitlynne Medrek, respectively) is struck by a mysterious, seemingly incurable illness. Rumours begin to circulate between the townspeople that Betty’s illness is the work of witchcraft.

Samuel reveals that he caught Betty and other young girls, including Abigail Williams (Claire Armstrong), from the town dancing in the forest around a fire with his slave Tituba (Lennette Randall).  Fearing punishment for trying to conjure magic, specifically a death spell against Elizabeth Proctor (Vanessa Sabourin), Abigail deflects any accusations against her by accusing Tituba of being a witch. Soon, a witch hunt is underway as Abigail and the other girls begin falsely naming other witches living among them.

Abigail’s lie turns to something even more dangerous when she tries to win back John Proctor (Karl H. Sine), a farmer whom she had an affair with while his wife was ill. To be with John, despite him rejecting her, Abigail accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft, and it is an accusation that John fights hard against in order to save his wife from hanging.

Modern audiences may find the idea of witches laughable, certainly this audience does, but the belief in witches was very strong at the time. And the belief was largely reinforced by inexplicable behaviour, which we would recognize today as neurological disorders, displayed by the accused. Awash in the unknown, the people of Salem grasped at any explanation to provide them comfort in the face of an invisible threat.

Understanding this play within a modern context, there has been no greater, incomprehensible threat in the last 15 years than the threat of terrorism. No greater period of uncertainty than the days, months, and even years that followed the attacks on September 11th. Suddenly, in the public’s mind, there were terrorists everywhere. And sadly, to great harm, members of the American public identified potential terrorists as any who fit a specific ethnic or religious background. The threat was out there, and the public needed to project their fear and panic somewhere. The very same fear and panic would justify increasing the government’s surveillance powers e.g. The Patriot Act.

Given recent anti-terror legislation in Canada, there could be no better time for Theatre Calgary to stage The Crucible. Still today, fear is used for political gain, to motivate public support for controversial measures like Bill C-51. And the public is encouraged still to watch their neighbours for suspicious behaviour – reporting them to a tip line if necessary! We may be long past claims that communists and Soviet spies have infiltrated every level of American society, but the same politics of fear continue today.

Director R.H Thomson translates the urgency of Miller’s play to the stage masterfully. Thomson’s staging displays careful attention to the text. Well-paced, the theatre seems to melt away as the audience becomes absorbed in the hysteria that suffocates all reason onstage. Given the large cast of actors, Thomson does well enough keeping the action open to the audience, but some audience members may feel left out at times nonetheless.

And what an outstanding set design from Cameron Porteous. Those familiar with Puritan beliefs will appreciate the encroaching forest in the background, a sign of danger in the wake of moral decay. Porteous’ set is lit beautifully by Kevin Lamotte.

The town of Salem comes alive thanks to exceptional performances from both veteran and emerging actors. Truly, Sine delivers an electric performance as John Proctor. The actor’s fury and sadness as the guilt-ridden farmer resonates across the theatre, leaving the audience shaken in the play’s final moments. Stephen Hair’s Deputy-Governor Danforth is like thunder, truly a force to be reckoned with. Caught in the storm is Kelly Malcolm who plays Mary Warren, a young girl whose testimony could end Salem’s hysteria over witches. Malcolm’s warm sincerity in gesture and emotion makes her character’s journey all the more involved.

Audiences will find themselves deeply frustrated with Abigail Williams who Armstrong plays with great malice. Corey’s Reverend Samuel is sure to agitate audiences, too, as he plays his character with the right sort of disgusting behaviour such an immoral, hypocritical character deserves. Such hateful characters break the Reverend John Hale, played wonderfully by Graham Mothersill, and his faith in justice.

So powerful and moving is this production of The Crucible that the audience cannot wait to applaud the cast and crew. The lights are barely dim when the audience bursts into applause, quickly rising to their feet for what is a well deserved standing ovation.

MIller’s The Crucible is an intense confrontation between personal desire and morality. Still relevant today, the play asks us to consider what we lose when we allow fear to rule us, and if what we lost can ever be gained back. Any opportunity to see such a timeless drama should not be missed.

More specifically, any opportunity to catch Theatre Calgary’s powerful revival of The Crucible should not be missed. A must-see.


Theatre Calgary’s The Crucible runs October 13 – November 8 at the Max Bell Theatre.

For more information about the show and how to purchase tickets, visit: https://www.theatrecalgary.com/2015-16/the-crucible

The Shoplifters’ Canadian Premiere Fizzles

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Morris Panych’s The Shoplifters premiered last year at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. (From left to right: Anna Cummer, Stephan Hair, Jeff Lillico, and Nora McLellan). Photo Credit: Trudie Lee.

Theft, it’s a victimless crime, at least for veteran shoplifter Alma (Nora McLellan) it is. Because really, in the grand scheme of things, who’s going to miss two juicy cuts of steak?

Enjoying its Canadian premiere at Theatre Calgary, Morris Panych’s The Shoplifters stages questions about theft in a world ruled by the almighty dollar. For what is a five-finger discount compared to global corporate greed, the sort of which devastates poor regions of the world?

Directed by Haysam Kadri, The Shoplifters sees Alma and her mousy associate Phyllis (Anna Cummer) waiting to be released by security for stealing two steaks. Eager to put away the two criminals, rookie security guard Dom (Jeff Lillico) spares no effort trying to break Alma and Phyllis in hopes of gaining a written confession. Dom’s efforts are in vain, however, when Alma proves to be a worthy, unyielding opponent. Phyllis, who could have spent the day at her unfulfilling job, is not so keen on defying the law any further, risking her and Alma’s release.

For boy scout Dom, the law is black and white; criminals are criminals. Dom’s textbook knowledge of the law is challenged by Otto (Stephan Hair), a weathered security guard, who sees things differently. Otto argues that criminals are not always bad people, that sometimes people break the law not because they want to, but because they have to. For Otto, who Dom will be replacing, thinking about the law in terms of black and white does little to help the people it is supposed to protect.

As far as Alma is concerned, anyone and everyone at the bottom is being taken advantage of on a daily basis. Everyday, the average person is made a victim of theft by the outrage prices they have to pay in order to satisfy a basic human need. Shoplifting might be wrong, but what big chain supermarkets do daily is even worse.

Indeed, Panych gives plenty to chew on, but unfortunately there is little to support his arguments beyond hypotheticals and grand statements.

Alma’s acerbic charm is without substance. We gain only glimpses of Alma’s personal history and inner motivations, and rarely are these glimpses made known by her personally. Alma’s elusiveness is maybe taken too far for the character’s own good. And what’s strange is that Panych lets the fact that Alma has cancer float around, rather than pursue that angle in the interest of justifying her worldview. Perhaps the playwright feels that sickness needs no further exploration beyond its initial introduction, that it simply speaks for itself.

After developments occur between Otto and Alma, the play looks to Dom as its main antagonist. In order to fulfill that role, Panych has Dom turn from boy scout to religious nut. The character’s fanaticism is exasperating; a joke savagely run into the ground.

Really, Panych almost seems to lose interest in what the play has to say just by the way he over stuffs the second act with stale physical gags. The playwright’s sharply written dialogue slides into broad strokes, effectively losing focus on both the characters and bigger picture at hand.

Nonetheless, Cummer delights as Phyllis, winning the audience over nearly every time she plays onstage. The audience roars with laughter as Phyllis retrieves an absurd amount of grocery items from under her dress, eventually bursting into applause for what is a genuinely hilarious moment.

Set designer Ken MacDonald’s immense wall of boxes is visually striking, and a strong reminder of the imposing corporate influence Alma so very much detests.

Ultimately, Panych’s The Shoplifters has difficulty sustaining its big ideas without resorting to over the top, slapdash antics. A weak start to Theatre Calgary’s 2015/2016 season.


Theatre Calgary’s The Shoplifters runs September 1 – 27 at the Max Bell Theatre (Arts Commons).

For more information about the play and how to purchase tickets, visit: https://www.theatrecalgary.com/2015-16/the-shoplifters

WORLD PREMIERE: Theatre Calgary’s Liberation Days Is a Sentimental Look at the Past

The war is over. Celebrations erupt across Europe. This victory, though, has come at a great cost. And for the Netherlands, the fight is far from over.

David van Belle’s new play Liberation Days is more than a lesson in history, it is a meditation on perseverance in the face of extraordinary struggle. Although, despite its strong performances and stunning set design, Theatre Calgary’s latest production fails to leave a lasting impact.

The bulk of the play centers around the romantic relationship that develops between Canadian soldier Alex King (Byron Allen) and Emma de Bruijn (Lindsey Angell), a young Dutch woman. The language barrier is not the only thing that stands between them. Emma’s mother Aaltje (Valerie Planche) strongly disapproves of her daughter’s relationship with the Canadian. And if that were not enough, there is also the problem of Emma’s fiancee Jan van Egmond (Jonathan Seinen) – a Dutch soldier presumed to be dead by his community.

Meanwhile, the Canadian forces struggle to gain the trust of the locals they have been assigned to help with rebuilding. The clash between the two cultures plays out between Cpt. Miles Cavendish (Garett Ross) and the village’s religious leader Dominee Herman van Egmond (Duval Lang).

The play is narrated by Marijke Bos (Kelsey Gilker) – the village outcast who dared fall in love with a German soldier during occupation. Continue reading