Fluff – but fun fluff! St. Leonard Chronicles at Centaur Theatre

Sold out houses – night after night – says something about this fun to watch, and slightly heart warming play about an evening with an Italian extended family in St. Leonard. And it’s been extended to December. You have time to get tickets and join the crowd singing it’s praises!

There’s the young couple, their parents, and the mother of the mother of the husband – aka: Grannie. They are sitting around a dinning room table – behind them is a view into the kitchen that they can not see – being family. The direction alone deserves kudos. Roy Surette has managed to imagineer a small room with walls that yet is open to the theatre seating. You get completely the fact that this is not a huge home – in fact it’s a duplex/triplex – the young couple have renters that they manage below and above. By setting the kitchen above and behind the table, it is very easy to keep your eye on the action there – and yet build up unseen walls separating that action from what is happening in front.

The story unfolds as a string of conversations – starting with the Grannie who regales – for the hundredth time – her family with the story of what happened when she arrived in Canada.

Keeping with the Italian tradition – of course she and her young husband stayed with cousins they had never meet – living in a walk up served with an outdoor curving staircase. And of course the husband slips with the trunk half way up the stairs. Equally predictable are the reactions of the non-italian neighbors – Go home Wop! Maudit Italians!

Listening to the banter, laughter, and tall tales being told – you get a good idea of what life for this kind of extended family must be like.

There is a story of sorts – the kids are trying to make their lives better, the parents see any changes as change for the worse, and the old lady drinks wine and nods off from time to time.

I won’t ruin the play by revealing more of the story – but bottom line – the acting is terrific, the play itself a wonderful effort, and naturally the production values at Centaur is fabulous.

Join the troops – see the play. Everyone deserves an easy night out!

Trad and Cornered – 2 lousy plays in 2 Evenings. Bummer, eh?

I read with great interest Pat Donnelly’s long article in the Gazette – wondering if the fact she’d seen 4 good plays in as many night was a sign of a resurgence in the English Montreal Theatre scene. While I’m all for a resurgence – i don’t think that seeing 4 good plays in a week is a record – I’ve seen play after good play for years.

Unfortunately, while Pat saw great plays – I suffered thru 2 plays in 2 evenings that were both questionable. Both  were so slow-paced they actually had me sleeping. Not good people.

The first was ‘Cornered’ at my absolute favorite English theatre Venue – the Bain St. Michel. I’ve seen such great theatre there – and I have the greatest respect for Guy Sprung. But Cornered was directed by Paul Van Dyck – and it was a terrible let-down. For starters – the accents of the actors was so heavy – so ‘put-on’ that it left a great many of the customers the night I was there wondering what was going on. And the answer was – not much . It’s a rather pointless story, with little to recommend it, spoken by good actors putting on such heavy accents as to render the story incomprehensible to an English speaker. And if English wasn’t my first language – which was the case for most of the underwhelming small crowd of people there on Wednesday night – well – it was a complete waste of time.

My 2nd loser – the heavily advertised, and well re-reviewed ‘Trad’ at Centaur. The set was lovely, the music fun – but again – the actors put on fake Irish accents – and unfortunately – in doing so rendered huge sections of the play almost incomprehensible. I got the idea – they are both old – and thus live in a past that is more exciting than the current present. But was it absolutely necessary to tell the story in accents I didn’t understand. What is the point. It didn’t make me think better of the characters – it just made me go to sleep. Again – audience discussion tended to agree with me – This was not a great production. It wasn’t even a good one. Sorry Sidemark and Centaur. You may have delivered for Pat – but you didn’t deliver for me. Or the people sitting in front of me.

But good news – There’s more English theatre here in Montreal this week – including the Mahalia Jackson tribute at the Segal Centre that has garnered rave reviews from several of my friends. Lots to hopefully enjoy. Just please, please, please – don’t put me to sleep.

Innocence Lost – The Steven Truscott Story

I admit it – I didn’t know anything about Steven Truscott before watching this play today at Centaur Theatre here in Montreal. But man – now I want to know more.

It’s a completely fascinating story about justice gone completely haywire in 1959 when a 14-year-old boy is accused, found guilty and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl. The story is told from the point of view of one of the other children in the story – 13-year-old Sarah. The timeline from the discovery of the body to the sentencing is under 3 months – but the impact of what happened continues to still be felt today – over 50 years later.

The stage set is very minimal, but the acting is so believable that it is easy to get lost in the story – to feel the outrage, frustration, and justifiable bewilderment of the people involved. The director, talented Roy Surette, pulls out all the stops to make the tiny cast playing a multitude of parts both believable and sympathetic. Among many other cute bit of stage business is the use of ribbons, building blocks and load binding belts to draw a map of the town, complete with river, bridge, and roads. Very well done.

The bad news – the run at Centaur is over today. The good news – the play is going on the road. Next stop – Ottawa, Ontario and the National Art Center.


So all is not lost. If you live in the Ottawa area – or if you can manage a visit there before March 16, 2013 – do try to include getting tickets to this outstanding piece of theatre. And if you don’t live or visit Ottawa – no problems. You can read about the case on-line here:


I guarantee that you will not be bored…