All posts by Ryan Oakley

GRIMMtoo – Theatre Smith Gilmour

by Ryan Oakley

When people who hate theatre imagine a modern play, they imagine something like Theatre Smith Gilmour’s GRIMMtoo at Factory Studio. It seems more like drama students practising their craft than a finished piece, more like a television comedy mocking theatre than an actual play.

It’s a collection of incomprehensible short pieces, and it starts very badly. A man sits on the edge of the stage and tells us about all the strange things he’s seen. This would be fine but, like most of the play, it’s interminable. He goes on and on and on, giving us a list instead of a story until he bludgeons any magic out of these strange things. And finally, the lights are turned off and the play begins.

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Guantanamo Hotels & Resorts: Pandemic Theatre

Guantanamo Hotels and Resortsby Ryan Oakley

Guantanamo Hotels & Resorts playing at Bread and Circus Theatre attempts to make a comedy out of a concentration camp. It’s a difficult task. Some are likely to shout: “Too Soon!”

In 1990, when Air America, a comedy about CIA drug smuggling in Laos, was released, people wondered if America was ready to laugh at Vietnam; a war that had ended fifteen years before. Is anyone ready for a comedy about September 11? And is anyone ready to laugh at Guantanamo Bay? After all, the camp is still open. It’s not just soon, it’s now.

If you might be offended by the subject matter, you will be. Don’t attend the play. This review is for those people who, like me, have a dark sense of humour. I’m ready to laugh at Guantanamo Bay and at September 11, I love nothing better than a good Hitler joke and I think that cancer can be funny.

I live in “too soon” with weekend trips to “too much.”

Having said all that, this play just isn’t that funny.

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The Belle of Winnipeg: The Keystone Ensemble

by Ryan Oakley

belle of winnipeg

The Belle of Winnipeg, playing at the Winchester Street Theatre, fulfilled a long-time wish of mine: Actors were silent. Throughout the entire play, not a single actor said a single word.

This wasn’t done in the spirit of some German art-house, where they moped about the stage, sadly reflecting on the meaninglessness of life, but in the style of a silent movie. Set to live piano music and using film projection, the play tells the story of a bride in 1882 who, without prospects, runs away to Winnipeg and finds herself in a bordello. Those who have read enough history to know the likely fate of such a woman will be surprised to learn that hilarity, rather than horror, ensues.

Or is supposed to.

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The Turn of the Screw: DVxT at The Campbell House Museum

turn of the screw

by Ryan Oakley

A strange tale told in an old house during the Halloween season should be sufficiently gruesome. It should tingle the skin and infuse even the most banal aspects of your surroundings, the creaking step and flickering light, with menace. At this, DVxT’s adaptation of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, playing at The Campbell House Museum, is particularly effective.

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Waiting in the Wings – East Side Players

By Ryan Oakley

(ed. note:  This is a repost of the original article because WordPress apparently ate the original.)

Before I attended the East Side Players’ adaptation of Waiting in the Wings my editor told me that community theatre doesn’t get enough reviews.  After ten minutes of watching the play, I could understood why:  It’s very hard.

The cast, who were mainly older ladies, looked like they were having fun.  There was no pretention, no high-flown stupidity disguised as vile philosophy and no monologues from some rich beatnik in a turtleneck.  It just seemed like decent people having a genuinely good time.

This completely dulled my spite.  And I need my spite.  Without it, I’m simply one of you.

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Miss Julie: Sheh'mah; KICK Theatre

By Ryan Oakley

To see KICK‘s production of “Miss Julie: Sheh’mah” – the adaptation of Strindberg‘s play about sex between the upper and lower classes— I wore a two thousand dollar suit, a five hundred dollar shirt and a pair of seven hundred dollar shoes. My date wore jeans and a sweater: An ensemble that cost as much as my socks and much less than my tie.

Yet Shalome has money and no job, being a jet-setting creature of leisure and a blaxican American democrat, while I am, in everything except my politics and attire, decidedly working class. Not to mention broke and white.

These things may seem irrelevant. Yet it is precisely this blurring of social lines that makes it difficult to relate to an 1888 Swedish play about class. Just how does one render “Miss Julie” relevant to the times and land we presently live in? As radical as Strindberg’s play once was, it’s now in danger of becoming quaint.

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The Great Gatsby: The Classical Theatre Project

By Ryan Oakley

I didn’t expect much from Classical Theatre Project’s interpretation of “The Great Gatsby.” I only hoped for good-looking actors clothed in high style. My hopes were low and they were wrong. The costumes were merely adequate and I was irritated by the length of Gatsby’s jacket sleeves throughout. But the play was well-executed by both cast and crew. More importantly, it made the right choices.

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