The Basics on Getting Out and About – Pre-Planning matters!


How do you start planning a trip? Do you decide when, pick a place – and then find out what’s going on there? Or do you do the reverse – decide what you want to do – find out when it’s happening – and then move foward?

I take a combo approach.

First step – Pick some place interesting to visit. That’s the most random part for me – because basically anywhere I’ve never been – and sometimes places I have been – are on the hot list. Budget matters too of course – we’re very restricted – $3000 for 4 to 5 weeks of travel – including air fare – doesn’t leave a lot of room for places to sleep and food to eat. So Cheap places tend to perk up to the top of our list – seriously expensive to visit places – like London – tend to perk down. But there are other concerns besides value for our Canadian bucks.

We love interesting places – historical places – places off the more beaten paths. While that may explain China in 2007 and Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam in 2005 – it doesn’t explain Berlin, St. Petersburg, and Brussels in 2015. Nope – this next trip is not off the beaten path – but it will deviate from the norm in terms of how long we’ll be staying in each city.

Unlike most of the folks I’ve chatted with – we’re spending 2 whole weeks in St. Petersburg. Our inital thought was to have enough time to do the Hermitage slowly – 4 days felt right to us based on our inital reading. This contrasts with the more normal visit of 1/2 day if you are off a cruise ship – or even 3 days as is described in many guide books – including Tripadvisor.com. Honestly – how can you possibly see anything in 3 days in a city as complex as St. Petersburg? On tripadvisor – the 3 day plan puts the Hermitage, the Faberge Museum, and the State Russian Museum – all in one day. Are you supposed to run thru the museums? Just find the greatest hits and go?

Not my style.

Berlin was a must do for the Intrepid Traveller – she’s never been – and historically it’s a really interesting place. Great museums too – so win win as far as we’re concerned. A week there is the minimum. But then – for us – a week in a city is pretty much a minimum regardless of the city!

And last but not least – Brussels. We’re cutting that one short – just 5 nights – but the Battle of Waterloo looms large – and I hear the trumpets calling me to battle! (More on Waterloo and fighting for the Emperor in another blog).

So on to inital planning.

Once The Intrepid Traveller and I had agreed on where – it was a question of when. I first check weather, and then check for when a place gets crowded. I want to avoid the worst weather, and I definitely want to avoid high season. Shoulder seasons work best for budget travellers – restaurants have better specials, theatre offerings are more geered towards locals, lower cost housing is easier to find.

High season is definitely to be avoided!

So – St. Petersburg in late spring sounded perfect. And we totally lucked out with that option – because low and behold – there’s the ‘White Night’ Festival. We here in Montreal know all about ‘Blanc Nuit’ – but for us – it’s held during our coldest month – an attempt to cheer us up during the doldrums of winter. In St. Petersburg – it’s about 24 hour long days! And even better – it’s all about theatre – the major ballet troops (at the Marlinsky and Mikhallovsky Theatres) are performing one outstanding ballet after another. By shopping early – I scored center seats in the 3rd tier – I could have paid a lot more and been on the partiere – but hey $20 to see ‘Sleeping Beauty’ – I’m so on it!

Even better – the opera troops are also performing almost nightly – for similar prices if you are willing to buy early and sit in the 3rd tier. Tickets to Aida and La Travaita – here I come.

So – take advantage of what’s happening when you are there – don’t berate yourself for not being in New Orleans for Mardi Gras – plan ahead.

Planning to Feed the Mind. The Intrepid traveler and I adore going to Museums. 42 museums in 5 weeks in Italy is probably our record – spurred on by free museum week in Florence. So before a trip – I research. What is happening in all the major muesums. How do I get tickets? Are there senior prices? Are they closed on specific days – are they super busy on other days? Knowing this information helps prevents standing forelornly in front of locked doors. And more importantly – when you hit the ground in your city of choice – read the signs, get the newspapers – even the touristy ones, and chat up your host. What happening this week that’s special? How do we get to see it? You never know until you look around and ask.

For St. Petersburg – I’ve already bought my passes to the Hermitage – and for Berlin, I’m pricing out the Berlin Museum Card. The options can be overwhelming – which feels frustrating – but the results are generally worth it.

Some more ‘beaten path’ options I tend to avoid include tour buses. I’ve had great experiences on tour buses – the trip in South Korea to the temples springs to mind – but more often than not – bus tours are about the common denominator. You rush past stuff so fast, you can barely read the signs, let alone see things. And too often your fellow tourists are – well – tourists! So generally we avoid the bus tours – considering them expensive and too fast paced. Instead we opt for the slower, more patient route of simply walking a city – or riding public transit! Never underestimate the joys of public transit. Bus routes in most cities are clearly explained in pictorial fashion, so our lack of language skills doesn’t kill us. And they are cheap. You can spot stuff that looks fun – and hop off if you feel like a visit. With no time contraints – and no herding into pricy lousy restaurants for mandatory rest stops.

Ok – enough for this blog – Next up – feeding the Body – so do follow me – I love followers! Signing off to create a blog on eating in strange and wonderful places… The Soup Lady

Planning to feed the body

Ah restaurants! One of the intense joys, and most frightening aspects of extended travel in an unknown city is deciding where to eat. I’ve picked winners so good I was blown away – and losers so bad, I feared for my digestive system. But along my culinary journey into the unknown – I have learned some important lessons – which I happily share.

Cooking Confessions – Tohu Scores Again


I adore the Tohu – it’s a specially built building for Circus arts built on the campus of the Cirque du Soleil here in Montreal. It houses – along with a variety of circus performances throughout the year – a school for Circus arts. So it’s a multipurpose building – with very cool seating options, super high ceilings to allow for the kinds of high performances we expect from acrobats and the like, plus great sight lines. Not a bad seat in a very big house.

We have season tickets – which means that we picked out 3 of their 6 different performances to see this year. For us – this is a minimum – normally we opt for 5 or even 6 of their offerings, but our travel plans this year cut out a lot of the options.

But on to the review of Cooking Confessions – or in French – Cuisine & confessions

Clearly the theme of the night was going to be food – but since the performers are the highly talented, multi-lingual Sept Doigt a la main – 7 fingers on a hand – one can expect that food isn’t going to be the only thing being tossed around. And the set – a multi-level kitchen with a working stove, a sink,  a fridge, and of course rolling tables, hidden furniture, and hooks descending from the ceiling was quite the sight.

We sat down – and were immediately approached by one of the performers – a young lady from Argentina who invited me up on stage to visit her kitchen and help fold wash clothes. Victor was invited up by a young man with rasta hair – who confided in him that Basket Ball was his favorite sport. Other members of the audience were also invited to visit the stage – with its surprisingly springy floor. Despite the paint job that made it look like hardwood – in fact it was padded to give the performers extra spring! Very neat – and quite surprising.

Our guides escorted us back to our seats – and went on to find other members of the audience willing to walk up on stage.

Cool part – since we’d ‘chatted’ with the performers – we felt more part of the action – and this lent an added layer of personal interest to the later tossing and jumping around that was bound to happen.

The party begins when the audience is assembled – and starts with food confessions – performer after performer talking about their food memories – or listing their favorite foods – from the sublime to the desert! One incredibly thin gal, who one can guess never actually swallows anything, listed nothing but deserts – each with more love in her voice than the last.

While the confessions are going on – each performer takes center stage in their turn. There is a remarkable juggler – juggling kitchen tools of course. He does a wonderful turn with stainless steel bowls – and ends his act juggling over-sized wire whips – 7 at a time. Stunning.

The pole dancer/climber/acrobat was probably my personal favorite. He’d come over to chat with us in the lead-up section – so we knew that he’d been injured and has a wrap on one hand. To say he worked thru the pain would be obvious. He ran up and down the 50 foot pole with a grace and a style that the squirrels in my back yard would envy. Several times he climbed to the top – and then apparently let go – dropping down to inches from the ground before grabbing hold to stop. Once he even did it head first. Man – that guy was outstanding.

My husbands favorite performer was the young man with rastas. His specialty – jumping thru hoops. But this is a ‘cooking’ show – so he starts off jumping thru the kitchen cabinets – and graduates to jumping thru people posing with legs and arms forming the hoops. My top favorite jump – hands and feet first – bum in back – thru the looped leg of one of the other female performers. How does he do that.

During the cooking demonstration – they toss eggs – the ones that got thrown to the audience were fake – the ones that got thrown around the stage were real, and got cracked into the stainless bowls for future cooking. They even made banana bread – and had everyone in the massive audience set their iphone alarms for 36 minutes. When they went off – the bread was baked to be sliced and served to lucky members of the audience.

Standing ovation – of course.

On until November 6th at Tohu. But not to worry. If you miss this one – these ober-talented performers will be back next year with a new show – and there is still an entire Tohu season to enjoy.

Tohu – one of the Great places in Montreal – don’t miss it.

 

Belles Soeurs – Sisters-in-law – Just Friends


The distinct advantage of living in a big city like Montreal is the amount of Theatre one can choose – or not choose – to see.

I choose yes. I love to see ‘live’ theatre – give me some actors, a stage, and a story – I’m a happy camper.

So this week was pretty well amazing. 3 great pieces of theatre in 7 days. It just doesn’t get much better – well except that it’s going to be 4 in 8 days tonight. Again – advantages of living in a big city.

Belles Soeurs – that’s a french title – but what we saw was the English version – done as a musical. So it was actually a premiere – if you ignore the fact that the play itself is 50 years old.

First – a bit about the story line and history of the play. Written by Michel Tremblay when he was just 23, this play was quite the stunner in 1965. It portrays French Canadian Women of the lower class in a hyper realistic way – from their dress, to their language and their concerns about religion, family, friends, and their lives. To the staid society of 1965 Quebec, that these women had a voice was considered shocking. To say that it’s a great piece of theatre is an understatement. Belles Soeurs is the most frequently performed play in the French Canadian repertoire. So I suppose an English language Musical adaptation was just going to have to happen.

And I loved it! While no song is particularly memorable – you aren’t going to go around singing Somewhere over the Rainbow, although I love Bingo has a certain catchy lilt – the ensemble is stronger than the sum of the parts. I was particularly impressed with the gal that sings the role of Pierrette – the much maligned ‘bad’ sister who got sucked in and spat out of the ‘club’ scene on St. Laurent.

As a musical – the flow of the play starts and stops as the performers break apart or gather to sing. I rather enjoyed this ebb and flow – it made great use of the Segal Center stage – it’s very shallow and quite wide – and definitely kept my eyes moving. Nice use of the space, I’d say.

But back to the story line – in brief, Germaine has finally won something – a million trading stamps. For those of us of certain age – we remember these stamps. You got them for shopping in stores, pasted them into books – and then in the words of the play – traded them in for worthless junk. But nifty junk – like toasters, and dresses, and wooden carving boards. All the things that today you shop for on the net – in those days they were only available thru these catalogs – and because you didn’t pay for the stamps – they seemed ‘free’. An early loyalty program like Sky Miles, but without the electronic tracking!

To suddenly have a million stamps – or once pasted into books – over 800 books – would be a god-send. And that’s exactly what Germaine thinks it is – a gift from her favorite saint.

But the stamps have to be pasted into the books or they are worthless – so Germaine gets the brilliant idea of inviting her friends from her parish (hence the title – Belles Soeurs – officially Sisters in Law – but in this case – sisters as in unrelated female friends) to come and help her paste. Their reward will be a few cokes and the company. Germaine plans to keep her winnings to herself.

This party sets up the rest of the musical. The ladies gather, they paste stamps and they complain about their lives, tellingly miserable stories of bored husbands, ungrateful kids, or the loneliness of the single woman who sees in a traveling Fuller Brush salesman her one chance at happiness – once a month.

These are not witty women, these are women stuck with the fuzzy end of the lollipop – and they know it. But despite the challenges of their lives, the play and the musical keep you tuned in. All is not hopeless – as Germaine’s teen-aged daughter gets to remind us.

I left feeling that I’d had a chance to meet some people I wouldn’t normally get to know. The Walmart greeters, the cashiers, the cleaners – who want the best for themselves, but lack the education and finances to pull it off. So a million trading stamps looks like a good way out.

Great theatre if it makes you want to tell others – go. It’s worth it.

On until November 19th at the Segal Center in Montreal – but coming soon to a musical theatre house near you. And definitely worth it.

Shen Yun – Interesting, but not Great


Heavily advertised with glorious pictures of flying dancers – Shen Yun has always been something I’ve been meaning to see. It comes to Montreal annually – so even though it’s gone on the greener pastures for this year – you can still catch it next year – or even this year if you live elsewhere.

All of which explains why I went – and why I’m blogging about the experience.

For those of you who haven’t seen the heavy-handed marketing efforts of Shen Yun – let’s me explain the concept. This is a 40 performer epic event staged at the big hall at Place des Arts. The marketing features lovely Chinese ladies in flowing outfits free leaping apparently in mid-air. I was totally expecting something out of Spider Man – or at least Peter Pan.

But the reality was just a bit different. First off – the staging is extremely centered – that means if you were on the sides, you got a cropped view. We solved that problem in the 2nd half by simply changing seats. Which gives you a good idea of the amount of vacant seats available. The row ahead of us was almost empty, as were all the lodges and as far as I could see – most of the balconies. Anyway – if you go – get centered seats!

And there are no flying feats. Lots of leaping – and some pretty incredible feet over head flying flips – but to convey the feeling of flying – they used the huge video screen behind the stage. Performers would jump off a raised area at the back of the stage – and disappear from view – only to re-appear almost instantly on the big screen. Their image would fly around – change shape, whatever – and then eventually the person would re-appear on stage. A modern adaption of the Laterna Magika , for those familiar with Expo 58.

Like the Laterna Magika – sometimes the magic worked – sometimes it didn’t. I particularly loved the segment with the Monkey King and the Evil Toad. The story is the traditional good conquers evil – but the character of the Toad was played with absolute stellar skill. And the movement between the stage and the screen made excellent sense.

Similarly – the story of Ne Zha Churns the Sea used the combination of Video and stage extremely well – the actor on stage would wave his magic hoop – the ocean on the screen behind him would react. Neat.

So there were bits and pieces that were outstanding – memorable, interesting, beautiful.

But no new ground was broken, and for the price – that seemed wrong. The stories were all short vignettes – which added up to a lot of theatre, but left one feeling a bit disoriented. A bit like going to a Juste Pour Rire Gala – some of the comedy is great – some just well – not so good.

Most disappointing to me personally however, were the two heavy-handed Falun Dafa sections. I know that this ‘spiritual meditation discipline’ (taken straight from the very expensive, tri-lingual program) is persecuted in China – but I found the black shirted ‘bad boys’ with their painted red hammer and sickle logo in poor taste. And I’m not a fan of heavily promoting any religion – so the dramatically staged final piece with Lord Buddha appearing left me cold. Similarly the 4 singing segments – clearly songs that resonate with Falun Dafa thinking, while well performed, were too heavy-handed because they were unexpected.

Would I go again? No. Would I suggest that you go? If you got seriously discounted tickets (free would be best), and you had no other option – then it’s not an unpleasant way to spend an evening.

But great? No.

Take a Trip on the WildSide! Well worth the $$


I know – it’s been over a month since I’ve done a post. And it’s not because I wasn’t busy doing stuff – it’s just plain old lazy if you ask me.

But tonight was exceptional – and it ends next week (Jan 15) – so you must hop right on this band wagon.

Billed as the hottest thing in Montreal in January (which given that today was a warm -7 – and yesterday was a much colder -30 is possibly true) – the WildSide Festival at Centaur has always had a warm and fuzzy place in my heart. At just $15 a show (down to $10 if you are a subscriber at Centaur – and buy the super pass) – it’s a steel. And this year two of the three plays we saw were absolutely outstanding.

V-card – which features 4 of Montreal’s most talented young performers wearing masks so that they portray over 20 different characters is a tour de force you do not want to miss. Not for the easily embarrassed – it’s a lively conversation about when you lost yours. And it’s fantastic. Go.

Iceland is even better if that’s possible. The 3 performers alternate telling a story – which starts off with a murder – and well – ends in an uproar. In between you get to meet the characters – who engage with the audience to tell their sides of the story. It’s a fab performance, brilliantly written to be both entertaining and enlightening. And trust me – you will come out the wiser for the experience.

Centaur – Wildside – Go!

The Awkwardly Shaped Tom Patterson Theatre – and Mary Stuart


Last but not least – there’s the Tom Patterson Theatre. I describe it as awkward because the theatre is in a curling rink – long and thin, with rows of seats extending all the way from the narrow front of the stage to the far back. It’s a huge space – and the actors are challenged to be heard and to be seen when their backs are to at least 1/2 the audience at all times. By definition the staging is minimalist – but this is Stratford – minimalist doesn’t mean boring or empty.

At the Tom Patterson, lighting takes on a leading role. In the case of Mary Stuart – the only play we saw there this year – lighting produces the mazes that the players walk to show their captivity, their helplessness, their forced upon them artificial lives. Lighting makes the play.

And when the theatre suddenly went dark because of a Stratford wide power failure – the audience and the actors were stunned. The actors quite literally froze in their paces – I’m guessing hoping that the computer controlled lights would remember where they had been moments earlier. No such luck. The lights had to grind thru their positions, and the play had to start over several pages back. Kinda neat – as an audience you rarely see how professionals can with such apparent ease virtually repeat every movement again and again.

For those wondering about the play – the story tells of an imaginary meeting between Queen Elizabeth and her rival for the throne of England, Mary Stuart. But the meeting, despite being the ‘heart’ of the play – is fore-shadowed by the preamble to the meeting – the posturing by both Mary and Elizabeth, the fawning of their staff, the desperate need to be right, to be loved, to be respected. It does make for powerful drama.

I’d give this play/production a medium recommend. Not as much fun as Fiddler, not as uncomfortable for the audience as The Merchant of Venice, not as noisy as Tommy, not as fun as Blythe Spirit and not as dramatic a tour de force as Thrill, but still worth the money.

The Avon – Window Wall Proscenium Theatre, at least one play worth seeing


The Avon Theatre – Just because its Proscenium doesn’t mean its boring

The Avon is a converted theatre – dating back over 100 years – and both it’s age and it’s format are reflected in the type of plays choose to be produced in this hall. There is a decidedly conservation bent to most of the productions – captured as they must be within the window wall space. But that hardly translates into dull or boring. In fact, some of my favorite productions in the past have been produced here.

But not this year. We saw 3 different productions at the Avon. Othello, Tommy, and Blythe Spirit. Of the 3 – there were parts to love, and parts to sleep through. The most sleep worthy was unfortunately Othello. There were moments of superb drama – as one would expect at Stratford, and for some of the audience, the story was a complete surprise. Spoiler alert here – Desdemona dies, but apparently the people in the seat next to me didn’t know it. One urgently whispered to the other – right at the heart of the bedroom scene – Oh my goodness – he’s going to kill her! But the designers attempt to break out of the window space using a revolving triangular stage sloped dramatic to one side meant that actors were being flung off in all directions. Several times I saw people stumble trying to regain their balance as the set rotated them out of the ‘center’ space. On the other hand – when the rotating stage worked – it worked well. At one point we see the bed from one view-point, later on from the opposite side. A clever device that makes us feel like we are there with Desdemona. But great set doesn’t quite balance against mumbled lines, something that really shouldn’t happen here. Oh well – it’s still in preview – maybe they will get it together before it opens. One lives in hope.

Tommy is today, and was in the past, a mess. And Stratford’s highly original stage set with airplanes taking off into the audience, parachutes being shot out of the ski, and giant pin ball machines just doesn’t cover up for the fact that most of the music is really pointless. I didn’t really ‘get’ the story when I was 15 – and I’m afraid I still don’t ‘get’ it today. Neat visual effects though.

Of the 3 – Blythe Spirit is the clear winner – if one must pick a winner. The dialogue is snappy and smart, the debate on the meaning of life and death no less intriguing today than it was when the play was first performed, and the surprise ending is always a surprise. My favorite character of course is the medium. Such a wonderful character – so smartly performed by Seana McKenna Most surprisingly, she also takes on the deadly serious role of Elizabeth in Mary Staurt. One of the things I most love about Stratford is just that – the chance to see the same actor – sometimes on the same day – in 2 entirely different roles, both performed superbly. It’s amazing. And while my sister – who is a ‘theatre folk’ and commented that it’s all in a days work – for me, the non-professional – the ability to memorize so many lines, in such different performances, with different directors nothing short of awesome.

So – plays at the Avon – bit hit and miss – but for sure see Blythe Spirit. The other 2 can be missed.

Stratford Studio Theatre – Smaller is definitely better!


Of the 4 theatres at Stratford, the smallest is the intimate Studio space. Only two production were being featured there in August – but both are absolutely brilliant.

Both are new productions, but expertly produced, directed, acted, and told. I highly recommend seeing them both – but for far different reasons. “Thrill” is a tour de force for Lucy Peacock – one of Stratford finest. Her performance of a wheel-chair bound crip is so believable – that I was shocked – absolutely shocked – when she walked out to receive her well-earned standing ovation. She spends the entire play – and she is in almost every single scene, bent and contorted in one of those motorized wheel chairs – which she drives around the stage like a 6-year-old drives a Matchbook Car – in circles, spirals, with startling stops and starts. Amazing.

The story is both heartfelt, heart warming, and devastating. Despite the heroine’s severe handicaps – there’s no issue with her mental acuity – and she wins you to her side through wit and creative story telling. You are cheering madly for her at the end, regardless of the blinders you might have been wearing when you entered the Theatre.

“Taking Shakespeare” is a horse of another color completely. The hero this time is a rag-tag 24 year-old student is not living up to ‘expectations’. He is sent for private Shakespeare lessons with an aging female professor – and the chosen play is Othello. This is particularly appropriate because Othello is actually playing at the Avon – another theatre in the Stratford world. So one can easily apply the lessons the hero is learning to the play itself!

The ending, while not entirely unpredictable, is a story of growing up – at any age. I loved it, my husband loved it, our friends loved it, and by all accounts the audience loved it too. So go – if you can get tickets.

If you can’t – not to worry – I’m sure a production of this play will soon be done near your hometown.

Stratford – Canada’s Go to Theatre Experience – The Festival Stage


9 Plays in 5 days – really? Am I nuts? I guess the answer must be the obvious yes – but somehow it didn’t seem nuts to plan one trip to Stratford – and while there see as many plays as I possibly could.

And probably it’s only at Stratford, the repertory theatre par excellence of Canada, that one can squeeze in that many plays without worrying about conflicts and travel times. All the 4 venues are within easy walking distance of each other, and all performances start at 2:00 or 8:00. Since much of the staff performs in multiple plays – they need time to get to the next gig – just like the audience does.

I’m not going to review all 9 plays in one super blog – My plan is to break up the plays by Theatre – starting with the Grande Dame – The Festival Stage. It’s huge, it’s famous, the acoustic are awesome, the staging reliably stunning, and of course the acting is superb. So picking winners is a bit like choosing between grand-kids. You kinda love them all! But that said – here goes nothing.

My favorites of the 3 we saw on the main ‘Festival’ stage was a toss-up between the absolutely brilliant Fiddler on the Roof – excellent in its ability to convey the conflicts, the joys, the troubles of the fiddler in top-notch fashion. Great singers, solid convincing acting, a lovely set that was inspired by the art of Marc Chagall combine to get and keep the audience enthralled. No wonder good seats are hard to get. This is a production worth seeing.

My second favorite – and it was a close call thing – was the outstanding production of the Merchant of Venice. The actor playing Shylock also plays Tevye – which quickly tells you a lot about his range and capabilities. He was quite literally mind-blowing in both roles, in such hugely different ways. For those who don’t know – and apparently some of these people were in the audience – the Merchant is one of Shakespeare’s toughest plays. Today no one likes to watch people callously making fun and then physically and verbally degrading another person – regardless of why that person is ‘different’. And at the end of the highly dramatic and very emotional court scene – Shylock lies degraded and abused on the very front of the stage. It is a highly charged moment – made more so by an audience member who choose that point to stand up – throw his program to the ground and state clearly enough so everyone could hear – “This is the most antisemitic thing I’ve ever seen”.

True – and my husband argued afterwards that the director had perhaps taken the text a bit too far by placing the play in Fascist Italy just before World War II. The presence on stage of ‘brown shirts’ did little to make the audience feel better about the behavior of the main characters, and even the color-blind casting doesn’t quite make us forget that in the Merchant – what is objectionable behavior today was very acceptable when the play was written. But topic aside – the production is outstanding. Just go prepared.

“Eating Pomegranates Naked” – Great Title – Wonderful piece of Theatre


The Black Theatre Workshop – also known as Theatre BTW for obvious reasons – traditionally offers a Discovery Series Performance – a one night a year in the spring ‘reading’ of a new play by an Afro-Canadian playwright. I’ve attended at least 3 of these – and found them consistently entertaining. They are always held in the cafe of the MAI building on Jeanne-Mance – a stone’s throw from McGill and St. Laurent.

I was quite thrilled to be attending another one of BTW’s public readings on April 15th. I was a bit concerned about the title – “Eating Pomegranates Naked” – but I will admit to being hard pressed to explain the title after having ‘heard’ the play. Perhaps I should have gotten up my courage and asked why “Pomegranates” and why “Naked” during the Q&A after the performance.

How does a ‘reading’ differ from a play I hear you mutter? Well, a reading – at least as interpreted by the folks at BTW – means limited reversal time, no need to memorize, no sets, no costumes, and an ‘up to the performer’ attitude towards the amount of ‘drama’. All this said – these are talented performers – and they aren’t going to just stand up there and read. Nope – these performances are very ‘theatrical’, which means that the lack of costumes and props focuses your attention on the facial expressions and nuances in the voices of the performers. The result is an intriguing performance blending low-tech with high drama.

The action starts at a dinner party thrown by 2 of the characters – and through their conversations, and through brief glimpses of their lives as couples and friends, throws a spot light on one of the key concerns of this group of 30 somethings – Having Children. To have or not to have – that is the key question, along with the complimentary concern – Can and Should you have children. Having listened to my kids explore exactly these same concerns – while slightly different in some of the details, I can feel for the conflict that the thoughts of children raise.

For one couple – the revealing discover that one of them can never parent a child is devastating, to another couple a series of mis-carriages has changed the meaning of parenthood completely, and to a third, the impossibility of finding a mate in order to have children has become emotionally overwhelming. As pairs of characters regroup to engage is one revealing conversation after another, their ‘woe’s’ mount up to insurmountable heights.

Fascinating.

Obviously – it is too late for you to hear the reading – it’s done. But the play is being produced as part of Toronto’s SummerWorks festival – and I suspect will end up on stage here in Montreal before long. Keep your eye’s peeled.

But more importantly – make it a promise to go to the next in the Discovery Series – sometime in April 2014. It’s a lot of fun – it’s generally well advertised – and if you visit the BTW website – you can even sign up to be notified by email.

http:www.blacktheatreworkshop.ca