Tag Archives: justin kautz

Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience

My mother was very fond of Gilbert and Sullivan.  She and I went together to the Stratford Festival a few times, to see Iolanthe, and I think Pirates of Penzance.  The next year I thought I was giving her an extra treat by getting tickets to Hamlet.  (Later that season I also got to see Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, in repertory with the same cast.)  But on the way home, she confessed with embarrassment that she hadn’t enjoyed the Shakespearean tragedy as much, and for the next Mother’s Day could we please go to another Gilbert and Sullivan operetta?   For her, it seemed that watching Shakespeare was a virtuous duty, and watching Gilbert and Sullivan was such a guilty pleasure that she didn’t deserve it, even as a gift.  That seemed odd to me, even for a former high school English teacher, because I already had the idea that theatre should be fun, just like books and movies and other ways of telling stories.

A similar confusion of duty and pleasure lies at the heart of Patience, the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta running until Sunday night (Jun 11) at Capitol Theatre in Fort Edmonton Park.  Patience, a naive and earnest milkmaid, has so little experience of love (“only for a great-aunt” she says, when asked by one of the chorus of lovesick ladies) that from observing the pining chorus and hearing that love is unselfish, she comes up with the idea that if it’s joyful and pleasurable it isn’t true love.  Therefore, it is more virtuous for her to marry a man she detests.

This odd interpretation leads to various nearly-implausible repercussions for all the characters’ romantic aspirations, but of course this being a Gilbert and Sullivan work, almost everyone ends up happily paired at the end.

There are many other ways this production, directed by Robert Herriot and conducted by Kathleen Lohrenz Gable, is an admirable example of what Gilbert and Sullivan were known for.  There is a large chorus of ladies and of Dragoon Guards, and lots of romantic happy endings.  There are long verses of rapid rhyming iambic feet as clever as rap lyrics, there are ridiculous characters with preposterous motivations, and there are opportunities to show off some very impressive voices.  

Of particular note are the singing of Patience (possibly Charlotte Stewart-Juby, soprano, in the performance I saw), and the comedic portrayals of Meghan Goguen (mezzo-soprano) as Lady Jane and Justin Kautz (baritone, better known locally as one of the principals in Toy Guns Dance Theatre) as Reginald Bunthorpe.   Timothy Carter (tenor) was also delightful as Archibald Grosvenor.

patience 2

Justin Kautz as Reginald Bunthorpe, garlanded by two of the lovesick maidens.

 

The chorus of “twenty lovelorn maidens” – actually about fifteen, which probably didn’t distract anyone else except me – was delightfully costumed in faux-Hellenic draperies in a pastel rainbow of shades, striking a series of expressive aesthetic poses in attempts to emulate and attract flamboyant poet/poseur Reginald.  I giggled a lot during this show, starting with the maidens’ first entrance.  Later in the play the robes and art-book poses are repeated in an even funnier way.  Good use was made of the various entrances to the auditorium, which helped make the proscenium-stage space more intimate.  Musical accompaniment was provided by one pianist, Kerry Agnew.

Opera Nuova’s festival of opera and musical theatre continues over the next two weeks with performances of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Leoš Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, and the Rogers and Hammerstein musical Carousel as well as some other concerts and master classes.   Performances occur in various venues around the city and with a range of prices, allowing more audience members to attend.

The rest of the Fringe, 2013

The venue lottery for next year’s Edmonton Fringe shows has already been held, with the winners listed here, and other companies are setting up their BYOV (Bring Your Own Venue) arrangements before the BYOV entry deadline in February.  Wondering about what shows various companies are putting together for next summer reminded me that I never did finish posting about the shows I saw at Fringe 2013.  I guess I’m still prioritising seeing more theatre over writing up what I’ve seen. But since everything is dark from Christmas to Epiphany (except Cats at Festival Place, and it sold out before I noticed) I have a chance to get caught up.

I wrote about the shows I saw early, the solo shows, long-form improv shows, a day of stories, the one I stage-managed, and the shows exploring themes of death.  That leaves the following.

Poe and Mathews – brilliant creepy character portrayals by Brian Kuwabara and Emily Windler, ridiculous desert-island premise, fun.

Kilt Pins – this was a sweet sad unsurprising story about teenagers at a Catholic school in Ontario, with friendship and sex and family problems.  It was a contemporary setting, so I was a little disappointed to see the more-traditional story trope of “he (Morgan Grau) pushes her to have sex, she (Sarah Culkin) gives in to get affection and regrets it”.

Kayak – I don’t know why I didn’t find this one more compelling, because the concept was interesting – a woman (Christie Mawer) struggles to relate to her grown son (Justin Kautz) and his new partner the eco-activist (Emily McCourt).

Bombitty of Errors – a rap version of Comedy of Errors directed by Dave Horak.  Having read the script and seen a serious production of the play a few weeks earlier in Saskatoon, I was greatly amused to see how closely the four actors in the rap version could stick to the plot details and in some cases the actual Shakespearean lines, and still be coherent, credible, and very funny.  There was also a bit where they did some freestyle / spontaneous rhyming about audience members, which I enjoyed in part because some of it was directed at me.  The four actors were the two Antipholuses and the two Dromios, but they also played Adriana, Luciana, and any other characters needed – and it worked.

Hot Thespian Action – This sketch comedy troupe from Winnipeg (Shannon Guile, Jacqueline Loewen, Garth Merkeley, Ryan Miller, Jane Testar) made me really happy.  I can’t put my finger on why I liked their material and attitude so much.  Their timing was good and nothing was dragged out.  Their jokes didn’t feel mean-spirited or excluding, and I would not hesitate to recommend them to my progressive friends.  But that might make them sound boring, and they really weren’t.  Rutherford School isn’t the best venue, with several rows of seats on a flat gym floor making it a bit hard to see from the back especially the title cards that they used to introduce each sketch.

In the holdovers at the Westbury Theatre, I also saw three shows.

Weaksauce – this was a one-person storytelling show by Sam S Mullins about a first job working at a hockey camp, and the ups and downs of a first romance.  It was good but not great.

Jake’s Gift – this one-person show by Julia Mackey was an original fictional story of a Canadian veteran of World War II attending a reunion in Normandy, and meeting an inquisitive little local girl on the beach.  The performer’s body language and voice made charming convincing shifts to portray the little French girl, the old Canadian man, and the girl’s very proper grandmother.  The show was very well received, particularly by audience members with old enough memories to find it evocative.

Port Authority – In this story set in present-day Dublin, each of three characters told a story about a current struggle in his life.  Isaac Andrew was a young man clumsily trying to impress a female flatmate.  Cody Porter was a middle-aged man who took too long to realize that his career ambitions weren’t quite working out.  And Keiran O’Callahan was an older man who gets a mysterious package.  They all flailed unhappily, and I felt for all of them.

So that was it for From Fringe With Love.  Next up, Fringed and Confused.