Tag Archives: cole humeny

Inspired silliness and spontaneous hilarity all over the Citadel.

Ronnie Burkett’s The Daisy Theatre is in the Club downstairs.

One Man, Two Guvnors is upstairs in the Shoctor.

And in between, Rapid Fire Theatre is at Ziedler Hall with two Theatresports shows every Friday, a Chimprov long-form improv show every Saturday at 10 pm, and next weekend also a public-workshops student show Thursday at 7:30 (I am going to be in this one, probably singing) and a Maestro elimination game Saturday night at 7:30.   Tickets for all Rapid Fire shows are available through EventBrite and at the door.

Ronnie Burkett’s Daisy Theatre  is returning after a long Citadel booking last year.  Some of the same puppet characters are in the show this year, but there are some new ones, and all new stories with the old ones, and apparently different things happen every night.  I saw it once last year and enjoyed it, but I thought this year’s show was even better.   Mrs. Edna Rural is still one of my favourites.  This year’s bits with Schnitzel, the poignant little creature who wishes for wings, were not as disturbing to me as last year’s (which reminded me of Robertson Davies’ World of Wonders), and they were still charming, especially watching Schnitzel climb the curtains.  As last year, Ronnie Burkett includes various audience members or takes amusing liberties with them, and he also makes lots of jokes about local establishments and politics.  I wish I had time to see it again.

One Man, Two Guvnors had its first preview tonight.  It had a long cast list with many familiar names and faces, John Ullyatt, Lisa Norton, Julien Arnold, Jesse Gervais, Cole Humeny, Louise Lambert, Orville Charles Cameron, Mat Busby, Andrew Macdonald-Smith, and all of the Be Arthurs.  Performers I hadn’t seen before were Jill Agopsowicz as the young romantic lead Pauline and Glenn Nelson as Harry Dangle the lawyer (of the firm Dangle, Berry, and Bush).  Bob Baker was the director, and the script was written by Richard Bean based on Carlo Goldoni’s 18th century comedy The Servant of Two Masters.  John Ullyatt is the main character Francis Henshall, the quick-talking easily-confused small-time crook who starts the show so broke that he hasn’t eaten, and desperate for money he hires himself out to two different people, the gangster Roscoe  – who turns out to be Roscoe’s twin sister Rachel in disguise, Lisa Norton –  and the higher-class criminal Stanley Stubbers (Jesse Gervais).  Assorted wacky hijinks ensue, as Francis tries to get some food and then the affections of the accountant Dolly (Louise Lambert), various other romances play out, prison-trained chef Lloyd manages a “pub with food” (apparently a novelty in 1963 Brighton) with the help of servers Alfie (Andrew Macdonald-Smith who should probably have a massage therapist or physiotherapist lined up for the run of the show) and Gareth (Mat Busby), and criminal mastermind Charlie The Duck (Julien Arnold) is involved in some financial negotiations with his solicitor Harry Dangle that I never did quite follow, but it didn’t matter.  There was slapstick, physical comedy, bad puns, lots of asides to the audience, musical interludes by the Be Arthurs playing as The Craze (Ryan Parker, Scott Shpeley, Bob Rasko, Sheldon Elter), and other funny business.  The pace did not drag at all and although it was a fairly long show I wasn’t restless, I was just giggling all the way through.  It was a little tiresome that Pauline’s defining character trait was a cluelessness or stupidity, but there was good contrast with Louise Lambert’s character Dolly, a 1963 model of feminist sass and control of her sexuality reminiscent of Joan on Mad Men, and with Lisa Norton’s character Rachel, who disguises herself as her brother and tracks down her missing lover (hence leading to a priceless reunion scene with a glimpse of two characters making out in matching boxer shorts and gartered socks.)  The script also had lots of scope for ridiculousness in male characters, notably Cole Humeny as Alan (Orlando) Dangle, would-be actor in black turtleneck and leather and overdramatic anguish.   This might be the best pure comedy I have seen on the Shoctor stage.  I liked it better than Make Mine Love and possibly better than Spamalot.

 

The Daisy Theatre runs in the Club until November 2nd.  One Man, Two Guvnors runs in the Shoctor until November 16th.  Tickets to both are available through the Citadel website.

The Genius Code, from Surreal SoReal Theatre

The concept of The Genius Code intrigued me – putting different audience members into the viewpoint of different characters, by giving them headphones.   I am fascinated by the idea of piecing together the truths of different people’s experiences.  It’s easy to do and fairly common in written fiction.  And I’ve seen movies and tv shows where a scene is shown from one character’s viewpoint, maybe with some voice-over retrospective narration, and then repeated from another character’s viewpoint and voice with a very different impression.  It’s also doable on stage, although harder – it might be a fun improv game for experienced players.

But in The Genius Code, the writer and director (Jon Lachlan Stewart) doesn’t control which of the viewpoints an audience member chooses.  And in attending one performance, you only get one viewpoint – you can’t switch.  This performance-art choice leads to some fascinating differences in audience experience.

When the audience is wearing headphones, the lighting design has the house quite dark, and the logistics of cable management mean that the audience members tend to sit still.  I think that mostly people aren’t listening to the same commentary as their neighbours.  And the audiences for the two performances I’ve attended have been unusually quiet while we were wearing headphones.  Mostly, the characters’ inner thoughts were heard in one set of headphones only, and the conversations taking place on stage were transmitted by floor mics to all three sets of headphones.  But even when all of us were hearing the conversation, I thought the audience wasn’t very responsive.  I kept wanting to sigh and smile and gasp and chuckle and wince in recognition, but somehow the awareness of being surrounded by a room full of people listening quietly in headphones made me hesitate.   Later in the show, there’s a part where we’re instructed to take the headphones off.  The house lights came partway up, the story continued unamplified, and the audience immediately became more responsive.  This fascinated me, and I wondered if it was disconcerting to the actors when we were quieter.

Technically, I was relieved and impressed that the headphones thing worked.  I never heard any sound bleeding over from the other feeds, either in the full house of opening night when I was surrounded by people listening to different feeds or on the preview night when I had empty seats next to me.   Soundscapes (Aaron Macri and Jonathan Krawchuk) and video backgrounds projected on an unusual surface (Matt Schuurman) added to the atmosphere and provided more information.

I’ve attended two performances and listened to two points of view.  I’m planning to return one night next week to listen to the third one.  Listening to the second one made me re-think some opinions I’d formed during the first show, and then wonder whether the assumptions that led me to those opinions were unfair.  Things kept surprising me during the second show, things that I know rationally must have happened the same way both times but for some reason I didn’t remember them clearly.

The characters in the story are Sky (Jamie Cavanagh), Gyl (Laura Metcalfe), and Gene aka DJ Genius Code (Cole Humeny).  As the story starts, Gene has just brought his two friends together, and as they seem to hit it off, they agree to let Gene record all their conversations.  This is a convenient explanation allowing Gene to move about the stage adjusting microphones so that the audience will hear the conversations through our headphones, but it is also important in showing how Gene relates to the other two.  It provides some important plot movement, and the option to re-play or re-mix the recordings also gives some interesting framework.  The phrase “Let’s start again” is used several times during the performance, usually in a sense of “let’s play this recording again from the top” but in other senses as well.  And in fact, sometimes in life and relationships, sometimes one cannot just start again.

My first impressions of Gyl were that she’s a wacky outspoken young woman, talented and attractive.  Sky struck me as a glib provocative young man who enjoys playing with words and is also accustomed to being desirable.  And Gene was a puzzle.  Humeny plays the character with near-flat affect and an immobile face, usually looking down or to one side rather than making eye contact with his friends.  Costume/Set Designer Cory Sincennes has dressed him in a hooded shirt a bit too big for him with sleeves too long, making him look small and not in control (a very different impression than when I saw him as an enlisted Marine in A Few Good Men).  There were scenes of credible friendship and affection.  There were a couple of intensely erotic sequences of dialogue and movement, one of which turns disturbingly into a fight scene (choreography credit Ainsley Hillyard).

I had not seen any of Jon Lachlan Stewart’s work before, but now I will make a point of seeing anything else available.  I’d seen all the performers at least once – Metcalfe as the grasping sister-in-law in The Three Sisters, Humeny in Ride, Strike!, and a minor role in Clybourne Park as well as in A Few Good Men, and Cavanagh in several plays and improv shows over the last couple of years, starting with Sexual Perversity in Chicago and most recently Romeo and Juliet.

As I said, I’ve seen two viewpoints and I plan to return for the third.  I wondered whether it was fair to post about it before seeing the third side, but I want to encourage more people to see it, It’s playing until Sunday June 8th at C103, the theatre in the Strathcona Market parking lot.  And I imagine many theatregoers will see it only once, but will compare notes afterwards with other people about the versions they saw and what they thought.

I liked it.  There was one thing that I found unsatisfying, I found myself wanting to put the headphones back on and hear more about how things were unfolding later from my character’s POV.  I don’t really know why this bugged me – maybe because it felt asymmetric not finishing the way we started, or maybe because I liked the internal-monologue parts, or what.  And I guess the private-to-shared transition is part of how this story needs to get told – medium being the message and all that – but I kept wanting there to be a headphones ending.  I hope it was a legitimate artistic choice rather than some decision to put the audiences back into their comfort zones – because when I go to theatre I don’t mind being out of my comfort zone.  (SLIGHTLY out of my comfort zone.  That does not mean I sit on the aisle at a bouffon show.)

Clybourne Park: optimal discomfort

Clybourne Park, by Bruce Norris, is a story – or two stories – about racial shifts in neighbourhoods in Chicago.  The concept of this play has two interesting notes.  One is that the two acts are set in the same house in 1959 and in 2009.  The other is that it’s intended to connect with the 1957 play Raisin in the Sun, written by Lorraine Hansberry.

I haven’t watched or read the play Raisin in the Sun, but the movie of the same name, with Sidney Poitier, is conveniently available on iTunes.   That story focuses on an African American family, living together in a small apartment, who use some life-insurance money to buy a house in an all-white neighbourhood.  In one scene, a delegate of a neighbourhood association attempts to buy the house back from them, using the 1959 version of trying to justify the segregated neighbourhood while claiming that they aren’t acting out of race prejudice.  My impression from the movie was that while it was a fascinating portrayal of the lives and limitations of African American people in a northern city in that era, the conflict with the new neighbours was not the main focus of the story.

The first act of Clybourne Park is set the same day as that visit, in the house that the white family has just sold.  And similar to the source material, the fact that the buyers are non-white does not come up until late in the first act and is not even very important to the couple who are selling, Russ and Bev (Doug Mertz and Kerry Sandomirsky).   Their bigger troubles are revealed gradually, as friends and neighbours (Cole Humeny as Jim in clerical collar and hernia truss, Martin Happer and Tracey Power as Karl and Betsy) drop in and awkwardly express concern, and their household help Francine (Sereana Malani) finishes her work for the day and is collected by her husband Albert (Michael Blake) who gets roped in to carry a trunk.   Because the audience is aware that the play focuses on race issues, the details of how the white people treat Francine and Albert are immediately uncomfortable.  A poignant telling example is the way that after Bev makes a little speech about how she and Francine are such close friends, she’d be glad to have Francine and Albert and their two lovely children as neighbours – but the audience already knows that Francine has three children.

However, there are lots of other details about 1959 life and customs that were equally jarring to me.  Tracey Power’s character is Deaf, and the 21st-century audience was frequently gasping about how her friends talked about her and treated her.  And in the initial conversation between Russ and Bev, a long-married couple, there was an accepted dynamic of the husband being the expert and the wife being unaware of geography, politics, or other significant facts – and I never did make up my mind how much of that was put on, Bev kind of choosing to play that role to support her husband.

The story explains why they want to sell the house, and why they’ve been relieved to find a buyer.  We don’t actually meet the buyers, but the first act ends with us feeling glad that Russ and Bev will be able to move on.

While the curtain was down for intermission, the house was aging 50 years and the set underwent an astonishing transformation.  I loved looking at both sets – the fussy details of the well-cared for 1959 living-room covered with moving boxes, and then the graffiti and broken banisters of the living room of the abandoned house in 2009.   The situation of the second act was that a young white couple (Happer and Sandomirsky) are buying the house with plans to fix it up and expand it.  They, their real estate agent (Power), and a lawyer (Humeny) meet with delegates from the current neighbourhood association (Malani and Blake) who have some concerns about the proposed renovations.   But the conversation soon reveals the 2009 versions of condescensions and flawed assumptions, men talking over women and white people patronizing black people, and also the 2009 version of reluctance to talk directly about racial issues – which then descends painfully into some telling jokes full of horrible stereotypes, as the audience winces while anticipating punchlines and then laughs out of sheer awfulness.  Eventually we learn that the real estate agent is the daughter of Karl and Betsy from the first act, and that Malani’s character is the niece (or some kind of relative?) of the first African American woman to own the house in 1959 (she’s not in this play, but in Raisin in the Sun that would be the grandmother Lena who uses her husband’s life-insurance money).  So we see that a circle has been turned, and we also see the similarities between attitudes in the two eras despite surface differences.

There is a short coda with Evan Hall filling in a hinted-at piece of the 1959 story, and then we went home with a lot to think about.   It made me uncomfortable, but it didn’t make me too uncomfortable.  And I liked it that it wasn’t a bigger story – that a lot of it was just about people getting by, with the big family issues and the bigger social issues in the background.  I identified easily with almost everyone in the second act, but the character I liked best was Bev (Sandomirsky) in the first act.

Clybourne Park is playing at the Citadel until February 16th.

A Few Good Men

Last weekend I saw Aaron Sorkin’s play A Few Good Men at the Citadel Theatre. Maybe I should have bought a season subscription, but I was more excited about some of the offerings than others, and I couldn’t buy a subscription on line or see the prices by the time I thought about it. So I got one really fabulous seat for the first performance, instead. (Row C, centre).

I never saw the movie, so I didn’t know more than the basics of the story beforehand. I thought it was really good. The thing that impressed me the most was that although everyone was in uniform with the bearing of military personnel and the expressionless faces of enlisted Marines, the actors managed to convey a lot of information about the characters just in small changes in stance or facial movement. And because we knew that they weren’t going to make those things obvious, the audience (or at least me) was working hard at paying attention.

The set was not elaborate but it set the mood and it made it easy to tell which scenes happened in which location. It made use of a rotating thing in the middle of the stage to bring different bits to the front.

The story had a satisfying resolution, but it also brought up a bunch of more complicated questions about right and wrong. And I liked it that the one female character (Lora Brovold), her story didn’t turn into a romance.

Since then, I’ve also watched the 1992 movie, which is full of famous actors. It was good, and very similar, but I actually preferred watching the play. Because instead of letting me find out from scratch who the characters were, it felt like the Jack Nicholson character was just loudly Jack Nicholson, and so on. Again, I was hugely relieved that although the Demi Moore and Tom Cruise characters come to respect each other, they didn’t end up romantically engaged.