Clowning around is a good thing - when it's done well. And Jesse Griffiths , who as the conniving judge Azdak dominates the second half of Bertolt Brecht 's Caucasian Chalk Circle , knows how to beguile viewers with an outrageous performance and a twinkle in his eye.
The season opener at Ryerson Theatre School , Circle is a parable about goodness in a world of misfortunes. Kitchen maid Grusha takes care of the infant of the vain Natella, wife of the governor, when Natella flees from an insurrection; several years later, with order restored, the sneering Natella demands the return of her child.
Directed by Guillermo Verdecchia and its multiple characters nicely costumed by Camellia Koo , this tale of sacrifice and generosity -- "Terrible," says one character with Brechtian irony, "is the temptation to do good" -- sometimes loses energy in the first act. Even so, there's heartfelt work by Carlyn Burchell as Grusha and James Wallis as the soldier who loves her.
But Griffiths's appearance in the second half, with his wonderful audience rapport and power of persuasion, moves the piece into high gear. A former poacher and long-term rascal, Azdak takes bribes, makes arbitrary decisions and entertains himself as much as he holds court.
In the trial involving Grusha and Natella, with its echoes of King Solomon's decision, Verdecchia and the company create growing tension as we wonder who's going to win.
Other standouts in the large cast include Ari Millen as Grusha's demanding husband, Dana Rogers as the fat prince who plots a government's downfall and Shannon Taylor as the haughty Natella.
See Continuing, page 90.
Wish we could have gone to Ottawa for the world premiere of Allen Cole 's The Wrong Son , the first production by the National Arts Centre 's new artistic director of English theatre, Peter Hinton . But theatre here in Toronto kept us busy.
So we're delighted that the show, presented in collaboration with Toronto's Arraymusic Ensemble , gets a staging here in concert form. Too bad we won't see the design by Dany Lyne and John Monro , but projections of the production will give the flavour of the original.
What we will see and hear, though, is the original cast in this murderous noir tale of a 40s musician caught between his new girl and his ex-wife.
And what a cast it is: David Keeley , Tamara Bernier and Corrine Koslo form the central triangle, with strong support by Randi Helmers , John Millard , Martin Julien and Frank Moore . Bob Stevenson leads the Arraymusic ensemble in Cole's jazzy score.
It's a good bet, but act fast; there are only two performances at Harbourfront Centre Theatre. See Opening, page 88. bourfont Centre Theatre.
Friday (October 13) marks the second-year launch of Picasso PRO , a program that helps integrate artists with disabilities into the city's performing arts. Rose Jacobson manages the program, with the help of Equity Showcase Theatre .
The event at Tallulah's Cabaret is a good chance to network and party. The evening also features Picasso ExClusive 2006 , a "performance anthology" curated by Wanda C. Fitzgerald and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard . Among the performers are Andre Arruda , Mark Brose , Elizabeth Dawn Snell and Andrya Duff .
Free, with cash bar. See One-Nighters, page 88.