Here's a great chance to see works in progress by some of Toronto's sharpest writers. The Tarragon offers free readings of scripts by members of the 2006 Playwrights Unit: Tara Beagan , Greg Nelson , Beatriz Pizano , Alan Dilworth , Hannah Moscovitch and Brendan Gall . The performers - pretty good, too - include Maev Beaty , Darrell Dennis , Cara Ricketts , Michael Rubenfeld , Jovanni Sy , Ben Carlson , Susan Coyne , Michelle Polak , Severn Thompson , Matthew Edison and Liisa Repo-Martell .
The readings begin Monday (November 27).
Fielding the winner
Comedian Nathan Fielder is the winner of the 2006 Tim Sims Encouragement Award . Presented at the 10th annual Cream Of Comedy gala Saturday night, November 18, the award includes a $4,000 cash prize and the chance to write and star in his own short film, to be produced by and aired on the Comedy Network.
There's a real lilt to parts of Opera Atelie r's revival of its visually gorgeous version of Mozart's The Magic Flute . It's also charming musically, with David Fallis briskly conducting the Tafelmusik Orchestra and some excellent singers in the lead roles. Colin Ainsworth and Peggy Kriha Dye make a winning couple as romantic leads Tamino and Pamina, Carla Huhtanen 's Papagena is a standout, and Penelope Randall-Davis has all the notes (if not all the stage presence) for the Queen of the Night.
There's fine work by the Queen's three ladies, too ( Jennie Such , Vilma Indra Vitols and Laura Pudwell ), and director Marshall Pynkoski gives them some good comic scenes. Elsewhere, though, his attempt at humour is annoyingly heavy-handed, and the dialogue scenes need tightening.
The directorial touch also hampers Olivier Laquerre 's birdcatcher Papageno, well sung but acted in hammy fashion; what's intended to be childlike becomes childish.
Another problem is Curtis Sullivan 's Sarastro, the opera's source of wisdom and light. Sullivan has trouble tackling the role's lower notes, and he lacks the role's necessary gravitas.
But even with its glitches, the production is worth seeing, not least for the sumptuousness of Gerard Gauci 's set and Dora Rust-D'Eye 's costumes, which draw on Chinese, Egyptian, Venetian and Indian sources.
Got their goat
Family tensions run high in Thomas Bernhard 's Ritter, Dene, Voss , but they're often skewered with sardonic laughs. The tale of two Viennese sisters, both actors, and their philosopher brother who's just been released from psychiatric care is filled with sexual overtones and sarcastic remarks. The unnamed histrionic women are a study in neurotic contrasts, the elder ( Maev Beaty ) a detail-oriented optimist, the younger ( Shannon Perreault ) a sneering naysayer.
They're in constant competition for the last word and for the affection of their brother Ludwig ( Greg Thomas ), though he's not exactly a lovable figure.
Director Adam Seelig conveys lots of nuance in this tale of three well-to-do, game-playing sibs, people so worried about the holes in their lives that they fill every minute with action and speech. The first act of this One Little Goat production is the most successful, with the sisters engaging in one-upmanship, shooting verbal darts that often hitting their target.
There's a light touch here that's not always apparent later, with the arrival of the overbearing, paranoid Ludwig. Attacking each sister in turn, he brings added stress and rapid, manic mood shifts to the action. Ludwig's not even sure he wants to be home, and by the end of the show neither are his sibs.
The play's not always engaging - Bernhard stretches out his point too much - but the cast lends weight to this picture of a family whose members can't escape a sense of rejection.
Razzle Dazzle Rockettes
If you're in the mood for a retro holiday show, check out the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, complete with a touch of Currier and Ives, ensconced through December at the Hummingbird Centre.
Running nearly two hours, it offers dozens of familiar Yule songs, many of them syrupy, sung and danced with verve but little charm. Director/choreographer Dennis Callahan's work is largely ersatz Broadway-style set pieces, with Santa Claus (John Paul Almon) as the central figure. Not only does he get to "ho, ho, ho," but even to rock and roll. It's a cheesy sight.
In addition we get Mrs. Claus, lots of elves, dancing Christmas trees, snowmen, bears and poinsettias, but fortunately also the Rockettes, the real reason for seeing the show. The 18 precision-drilled dancers are indeed splendid, especially in one of their signature pieces, the parade of the wooden soldiers.
The second half's especially treacly, but you don't go to a show like this without expecting a fair amount of schmaltz. Even so, the final number, the Living Nativity, makes us feel as if we've been transported to a southern-states Bible theme park.
Those who like that sort of thing will be transported. The rest of us can watch the live sheep, donkey and camels.
Leo Tolstoy's War And Piece is epic, so it's no surprise that Helen Edmundson's theatrical adaptation is also supersized; it runs nearly five hours.
But the rich story, set before and during Napoleon's invasion of Russia, justifies the performance length. Director Jeannette Lambermont's production for George Brown Theatre's graduating class, which played earlier this month, had an intentionally filmic sweep.
Staged with the audience on either side of the action, the show swirled from one scene to another and one set of characters to the next. Though at times the feeling was that of never-ending furniture moving, the central narrative involving Natasha (Marie Claire Marcotte), Andre (Craig Pike) and Pierre (Tim Walker) came across clearly.
What we didn't get was much depth in most of the dozens of other characters. Exceptions were sharp portraits by Noa May Dorn as Pierre's unfaithful wife and Roger Bainbridge as her unscrupulous brother. They were both involved in a striking operatic episode about an attempted seduction, which drew its music from Beethoven's Fidelio.
The cast's standout was Walker, who created a nicely rounded Pierre, at first pro-Napoleon and then one of his bitterest opponents, a character who moved from pleasure-loving naivete to enlightened generosity.