2018 Shaw Festival Reviews
By David Grapes
Must See Productions:
Henry V **** Stars!
Henry V at the Shaw proves once again that truly transformative theatre requires only a few great actors and a willing audience. Inventive, theatrical, simple, immediate and truthful this Henry V is another must see production in the 2018 season. **** 4 Stars!
Oh What a Lovely War **** Stars!
Unfortunately, the Shaw Festival’s stunning new adaptation of the 60’s cult musical Oh What a Lovely War remains all too relevant in our modern war torn world. Delivered with beautiful clarity by a talented 10 person ensemble cast, War is a must see at the Royal George. **** 4 Stars!
Grand Hotel **** Stars!
Grand Hotel is the Shaw Festival at its musical best. It features an ensemble cast of triple threats, a spectacular orchestra, beautiful design work and a darker than average concept that enhances the emotional impact of this already powerful musical. **** 4 Stars!
O’Flaherty V. C. *** ½ Stars!
Packed with music, humor, political satire and some energetic performances, Shaw’s oft neglected one act O’Flaherty V.C. Is receiving a well deserved revival as the Shaw Festival commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of WW I with this Shavian gem. *** ½ Stars!
Of Marriage and Men *** Stars!
There is a little something for every Shaw lover to savor in the two one act plays that make up Of Marriage and Men now playing in repertory at the Shaw Festival’s Royal George Theatre. The first half How He Lied to Her Husband is frothy and fun while the second half Man of Destiny unleashes that famous Shavian political wit. *** Stars!
The Magician’s Nephew ** ½ Stars!
Trapped somewhere in limbo between a focus on Theatre for Young Audiences and a script that is adult in content The Magician’s Nephew at the Shaw Festival never manages to find its own dramatic footing or its own true stylistic world. Too much narration and too little action made all of us young and old restless in our seats. ** ½ Stars!
Stage Kiss ** ½ Stars!
While I have always admired the plays of Sarah Ruhl, this contemporary production of Stage Kiss at the Shaw Festival seems strangely out of place and inappropriate at the Royal George Theatre. While well produced and adequately acted this modest work is an appetizer and not an entree for a destination theatre festival like the Shaw. ** ½ Stars!
The Hound of the Baskervilles ** Stars!
While sparks fly in the opening scene of The Hound of the Baskervilles at the Shaw, the remainder of the play quickly fizzles out from a narrative heavy script that provides no character development and even less dramatic action. Kudos to the designers for the beautiful scenic and projections work, who at least provided stunning eye candy while we waited in anticipation for the play to finally end. ** Stars!
Did Not See:
Mythos: A Trilogy – Gods. Heroes. Men.
The Baroness and the Pig
Coming in January/February my preview of the 2019 Shaw Festival season!
2019 Tickets and Information at: https://www.shawfest.com/
2018 Stratford Shakespeare Festival Reviews
By David Grapes
Must See Productions:
Paradise Lost **** Stars!
Lucy Peacock delivers a tour de force performance as Satan in this contemporary rendering of Milton’s classic poem Paradise Lost @stratfest. Visceral and thought proving, it is Stratford at its best! **** 4 Stars! Don’t Miss it!
The Rocky Horror Picture Show **** Stars!
Stratford’s Rocky Horror promised lots of flash and trash and that’s exactly what it delivers. This high-octane fun is delivered by a sensational cast and a band that really knows how to rock. Pure adult fun and not to be missed. **** 4 Stars!
The Music Man **** Stars!
Stratford’s The Music Man is high octane fun! The exuberant cast is chock full of triple threats, who all know their way around a classic musical. Although all together familiar the production feels fresh and joyfully alive. **** 4 Stars!
Coriolanus *** ½ Stars!
Dazzling visually, Robert LePage’s Coriolanus is a bit too visually linear and claustrophobic for my taste. However, this innovative “Robin Phillipsesque like” production concept does feature a number of powerful performances that do stay with you once the beauty of the show’s projections have dimmed from your memory. Patrons new to the Bard, will find this production well-spoken and exceedingly accessible! *** ½!
Napoli Milionari *** ½ Stars!
While I find Napoli Milionari more of an appetizer. Antoni Cimolino sets this slice of life Italian comedy out as a full course meal at Stratford’s Avon Theatre. While the first act is a bit trivial and simplistic, the real dramatic payoff comes in acts two and three from actors McCamus and Rooney. Well-crafted and expertly produced this is indeed a dramatic morsel to be savored. *** ½ Stars!
To Kill a Mockingbird *** ½ Stars!
An unusual and powerful concept is used to open this year’s revival of To Kill a Mockingbird. Not only are the moments emotionally evocotive in their own right, they also enhance the plays gripping thematic elements. A solid production all around. I just wish that the play’s message was not so relevant to contemporary American society. *** ½ Stars!
An Ideal Husband *** Stars!
Oscar Wilde’s brilliant observations on society and politics are fully realized in this stylish production of An Ideal Husband at the Stratford Festival. While not groundbreaking, it is certainly beautiful to look in addition to being thoroughly entertaining. *** 3 Stars!
A Long Day’s Journey Into Night *** Stars!
While I continue to admire the dramatic brilliance of Eugene O’Neill’s masterwork A Long Day’s Journey into Night, I don’t always enjoy seeing it on stage. However, I must admit that it gets yet another strong production this season at Stratford, this time in the intimate Studio Theatre, which really adds another dimension to the characters and their relationships with each other and with us. *** Stars!
The Comedy of Errors *** Stars!
There is a lot of gender swapping to keep track of in this slight but enjoyable production of The Comedy of Errors at the Stratford Festival. What the production lacks in nuance, it makes up for in energy and enthusiasm from the youthful cast. I did not always buy into or understand the odd visual design but again it was fun. And you can never go wrong with a smart cutting to a single act that brought the afternoon’s entertainment in at one hour and forty minutes. *** 3 Stars!
Julius Caesar ** Stars!
There are not many highlights to be found in Scott Wentworth’s dark and dull Julius Caesar at Stratford. It plods along at a snail’s pace with little to no immediacy or dramatic energy. Unfortunately, the visuals are also as mundane as the rest of this production. ** 2 Stars!
The Tempest ** Stars!
The Stratford Festival has produced a number of memorable productions of The Tempest over the years. Sad to say that this is not one of them. While I want desperately to champion Martha Henry as Prospero, her performance feels studied and listless and there is just no chemistry between her and any of the principle characters. The pace of act one seems lethargic while the ending moments of act two feel hurried and too rushed. ** 2 Stars!
Did Not See:
Bronte: The World Without
Coming this January/February my preview of the 2019 Stratford Shakespeare Festival season!
Tickets and Information at: www.stratfordfestival.ca