KW & Beyond
by Irena Syrokomla
Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Niagara-on-the-Lake again is buzzing with activities this year: while American tourists are finding Canadian dollars more costly, Canadians are driving across the border for shopping - just like 25 years ago. Some of the shops along Queen Street have changed again; however, some of the usual and familiar, like the Christmas Shop, are still here. The restaurants are busy as always, the regional wineries are experiencing more visitors and B&B’s need to be reserved in advance, so let me mention again that the Chamber of Commerce is very helpful in assisting with accommodation as per request, their web site iswww.niagaronthelake.com and phone number is 905-468-1950.
The Circle at Royal George
The Circle written by Somerset Maugham opened in London, England in 1921. It was a success and each repeated staging of it in England or the US has been a continuing success. It is one of those "Shaw Festival plays" with classy detailed décor, beautiful dresses and social issues, which were so controversial 90 years ago. This time it is divorce, the grounds for adultery, and the place of a woman in society, with her economic dependency on a husband and consequently her social status. Much has changed since the 1920’s, and some aspects of the story are somewhat quaint leaving the audience amused or laughing as they enjoy this comedy.
The setting is an upper middle class English society country house, the residence of a young married couple, Arnold and Elizabeth (played by David Jansen and Moya O’Connell), and the husband’s father Clive (played by David Schurmann). About 30 years before Arnold’s mother had run away with a lover leaving behind a young son and the associated stigma. Unexpectedly there is an announcement of a visit from the mother Lady Kitty (played by Wendy Thatcher) along with her lover of over 30 years Lord Porterous (Michael Ball). The love affair of 30 years is a little stale; their relationship resembles the typical long-term married couples with their spats, their parties, in the not-so-passionate-any-more late 50’s. Everyone is very courteous and classy, but, by the time we are in act two, old ghosts and new shadows are coming to the surface. It’s difficult to maintain the image of a torrential love affair for over 30 years while being dependent on a lover. Meanwhile the young wife, Elizabeth, is contemplating an escape with a young male friend. We are in a time warp, the story repeating itself, this time the experienced father advising his son how to handle this to salvage his marriage. Lady Kitty does the counseling of the young wife. The conclusion is really a surprise both to the couples involved and to the audience. .
The play flows smoothly, the acting is great and the topic is after all not too heavy. It is directed by Neil Munro and will be running till October 28.
Hotel Peccadilloat The Festival Theatre.
L’Hotel du Libre-Echange is one of George Feydeau’s hilarious farces, dating from the end of the19th century, and presently adapted and directed by Morris Panych.-- which means it is really revamped and updated both in language and presentation. Be wary, please, and do not expect just a mild French comedy, as in some TV programs " this play contains scenes and language which may be disturbing to some viewers."
There is not much plot in this play, just a situational comedy evolving in and around the French hotel used for sexual encounters. The language of the play is very updated, - Viagara and AIDs are mentioned, and I do not believe either was known in 1894. The stage design by Ken MacDonald is especially worth noticing – the two lines of doors distorted by artificial perspective, opening and closing, letting the actors in and out. The music by Ryan deSouza and tangos and dances complete the show. It is different, it is fun – one of the better productions this season; however, the audience needs to assume a certain attitude for a time in order not to be disturbed – or offended. Anyway, it is different and entertaining and very much worth seeing.
It runs at The Festival Theatre till October 7.
The Philandererby George Bernard Shaw
at Royal George.
If you expect another comedy on the subject of philandering, well, The Philanderer is not much of a philanderer, definitely not by modern standards. It resembles Ibsen’s style in that it reflects woman’s role, her independence and status, rather than society. In this one, women are not objects or victims - they emerge as adventurous, intellectually curious, insisting on their autonomy. The subject is a little behind the times when seen in North America in the 21st century.
Some of Shaw’s plays are in a first class category, like Mrs. Warren’s Profession, or, Saint Joan at the Shaw Festival. - this play is a secondary one, but still well presented. It is directed by Nicola Correia-Damude and Peter Krantz with Deborah Hay, Ben Carlson and Nicole Underhay in main roles. Both directors also have acting roles in the play. Some performances are in two acts, some are shown in a three act version. Having seen the three act version, I believe the third act was not really necessary. It is performed at Royal George till October 7.
There are more selections available though - A Month in the Country, based on Turgeniev’s story, (oh, those moody Russians!) The Cassilis Engagement about a mother’s interference in her adult children’s lives. Saint Joan, of course, and Tennessee William’s Summer and Smoke.
In future columns, I hope to share more of my excursions to local theatrical and musical events and my impressions and appreciation of the artists and actors in our region.
The Shaw Festival box office is 1-800-511-7429, web-sidewww.shawfest.com.
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