November 22, 2017

Smaller and fledgling theatre companies need our support

By everhobbes-37 Views-No Comment

The Suburban’s Bernard Mendelman talks of what’s on these days in Montreal English theatre, including Anita Majumdar’s Boys with Cars: “Majumdar has been touring and receiving praise and winning awards for this show across the country.”

Read on The Suburban’s website: Smaller and fledgling theatre companies need our support

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Bernard Mendelman – November 22, 2017

For its first production of the new season, the Segal Centre recently ended a twice-extended run of The Hockey Sweater. With original book and lyrics by Emil Sher and music and lyrics by Jonathan Monro, the show was put on in partnership with the city’s 375th anniversary celebrations. The two-hour musical is an adaptation of Roch Carrier’s well known short story published in 1979. I was there opening night and it was deserving of all the accolades it received. I was impressed with the group of teens stick handling and dancing with roller-type skates on a plastic stage surface. I also saw a star in the making with the performance of pre-teen Jesse Noah Gruman as a young Roch Carrier.

Centaur Theatre also began its season with a hockey inspired production. Playing With Fire is based on the book of the same name. The play is about the autobiographical memoir of Canadian hockey player Theo Fleury who, from humble beginnings in Manitoba, became a member of a Stanley Cup-winning team and the recipient of an Olympic gold medal. Written by Fleury’s co-author Kirstie McLellan Day, the show was a co-production with Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon and had its Quebec premiere at the Centaur. In a one-actor play, Shaun Smyth gave a compelling performance all the while skating on synthetic ice.

Both the Segal and Centaur are the cream of our city’s theatrical groups, backed by sponsors and benefactors and a large list of season ticket holders. However, there is many smaller and newer groups giving an opportunity to aspiring playwrights, directors and creative people involved with costumes, props, sets, lighting, and stage direction to participate in plays that are staged for just a few performances in partially-filled theatres.

Playground Productions was founded this year by Dominique Foucault, Nicola Hanchet, Emma Loerick, Gabriel Maharjan, and Merlin Simard. I saw Gruesome Playground Injuries, their first production, on opening night September 22 at the Harold Greenspon Auditorium. Doug and Kayleen meet at the nurse’s office in their elementary school; she’s got a painful stomach ache and he’s all banged up from a running dive off the roof of the school. Over the next 30 years, they continue to meet, brought together by injury, heartbreak, and their own self-destructive tendencies. Nicola Hanchet and Merlin Simard brought compassion and humour to this terse drama. The play had only five performances and deserved more than the sparse attendance.

Labyrinth Stage Productions, another new theatre group, staged its first production last Wednesday and Thursday at the Outremont Theatre. Queen of Chesed was written by its two co-founders and playwrights, Claudia Litvak Polachek and Pearl Rothenberg. The play was inspired by New York Brooklynite, Faige Jacobson, and her makeshift homeless shelter. The 11-member cast was headed by Ellen David as Faige. Playing opposite her as Tatti, Faige’s endlessly patient husband was Sam Stein, a Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre stalwart who has been entertaining for over 50 years. David, an award-winning stage, TV and film actor, also directed the play. I was impressed with this not too sentimental, not too schmaltzy play that had a lot of joy and a little oy in it. It certainly merited a longer run than two nights.

Another group worthy of more attention is Geordie Productions, who have been presenting live English theatre since 1980. Although known for appealing to young audiences, their aim has always been to entertain, provoke thought, and fire up the imagination of all ages. Their first offering of the season is Boys With Cars. Written, choreographed and performed by Anita Majumdar, the play tells the story of two diametrically opposed teen girls (both performed by Majumdar) in a Canadian high school and deals with today’s relevant subjects of female empowerment, unchecked male privilege and consent/rape culture. Majumdar has been touring and receiving praise and winning awards for this show across the country. It can be seen at the Monument National from November 24 to December 2.

Live theatre is flourishing in Montreal. Be part of it.

 

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