Ruth (Mary Ellis) and Walter (John Koensgen) photo by Richard Ellis
Last Thursday, I set off to Arts Court to check out New Theatre Ottawa’s (NTO) production of Dreams of Whales by Dean Hawes. NTO’s mandate is near to my heart. They aim to produce plays by local playwrights, starring local actors, with production design by Ottawa talent as well. In my view, this is the best way to nurture the talent that already exists in this city. Local writers, in particular, are underused in this town. This is why I was eager to see a script written by a playwright who lives and works in my community, rather than an import from America, Toronto, or elsewhere.
Hawes script tells the story of Walter, a retired lonely dentist, who has returned to his hometown to pursue his childhood sweetheart Ruth (recently widowed). There a few structural issues in Hawes’ script. Part of the story is told through Walter’s monologues (taking place in a dream) and the rest is told in real time. The dream sequences seem kind of unnecessary, as very little key information is conveyed that isn’t already presented in the rest of the narrative. Overall, I enjoyed Hawes’ story and the characters of Walter and Ruth are compelling to watch.
John Koensgen (Walter) and Mary Ellis (Ruth) carry the show. In fact, this is one of Mary Ellis’ strongest performances in recent memory. I found the characters of George (Brad Long) and Susan (Shannon Donnelly) much less interesting, due to uneven performances, and the directorial choices by Koensgen and Janet Irwin (assistant director). Unlike Ruth and Walter, these characters came off as two dimensional whiny brats. The evidence in the script suggests that there is more depth to these two than was witnessed on the stage.
I think Dreams of Whales is very much worth seeing and I applaud NTO for taking a risk by producing a new play by a local writer. I plan to attend the rest of their season to discover what theatrical treasures they can unearth from Ottawa artists.
Well, it’s been a ridiculously busy couple of weeks for me. I’ve wrapped up one writing contract with Parks Canada and I am in the process of lining up another contract with a different government department. Combined with Thanksgiving, I’ve gotten behind in my reviewing. Here is a much delayed review of Plosive Productions latest show:
Last Wednesday, I saw Speed The Plow at the Gladstone by David Mamet. Mamet is an iconic American playwright and the majority of his work has a very dark tone. Mamet assaults his audience with his language and the characters often have a pessimistic view of human nature in general and women in particular. Speed the Plow is no exception. The script, punctuated with the “f word”, tells the story of Hollywood executive, Bobby Gould (John Muggleton), a self described corporate whore. Bobby is at the height of his career and desires to find a woman who will not be drawn to his power but his true self. His colleague Charlie Fox (Chris Ralph) believes the only women attracted to a man like Bobby are either dumb or manipulatively ambitious. Enter the temp. Karen (Kayla Gray) somewhat naive, but definitely not dumb. A bet is made. Will Bobby be able to seduce her?
Those familiar with Mamet’s other work will not be surprised by the conclusion of the play;nonetheless, I found myself in an intense post-theatre conversation,that went very late into the evening, about the themes of the piece and well misogyny in general.
I would have liked to see Bobby Gould played with a bit more of an edge. I think the artistic choices made by Muggleton and director Teri Lorretto-Valentik resulted in Bobby coming off as a nice guy. The evidence in the script,however, suggests that there is absolutely nothing redeeming about this character. He is a misogynist, which underlines and influences all the action on the stage.
Overall though, I enjoyed Plosive Production of Speed The Plow and I recommend seeing it.
I especially liked the way that Loretto-Valentik reached out to audiences before and after the show. Building relationships with audiences is key to a theatre’s (or any business for that matter) success. Loretto-Valentik excels at this, others would be wise to imitate her.
For more information on show dates and ticket prices click here.