Manitoba Theatre Centre

Ride The Cyclone - Atomic Vaudeville @ MTC Warehouse

Any musical whose premise is that of dead children in an amusement park immediately sparks my interest. Morbid, I know, but a fact nonetheless. Atomic Vaudeville's production, now in its third incarnation and seeing interest from increasingly big name producers, lived up to its reputation for a wild, slightly silly, and ultimately touching ride.

Lets start with the good; again, the premise is joyfully dark, with six children in purgatory after dying in an amusement park accident in the town of Uranium, SK, led through a game to determine who will return to life by a puppet fairground game with a very creepy voice. Each child gets their opportunity to be showcased, singing a song about themselves, their hopes, their dreams, all the while making their case for being returned to life. The songs are of varying strength; the songs of Noel Gruber and Jane Doe are outstanding, while some others such as that for Ricky Potts seem to come from far left field, adding layers to the character that don't seem to be consistent with what we see from him in the bits of the show beforehand. The monologue given to Constance is very strong, but the subsequent song is only mediocre. Similarly, the choreography has its peaks and valleys; some songs are extremely clever, while others have a very unrefined feel, as though the choreography may have been strung together.

None of this, of course, takes away from the overall feel, which is like a firecracker. The cast are all very strong performers, with beautiful physical work carried through the show and its conventions. Most notable is Sarah Jane Pelzer as Jane Doe, who consistently has a dead look in her eyes, yet fully pulls the audience to her through engagement and physicality.

I'm told that some of the conventions were new for this tour of the show as it is undergoing development on its way to bigger and brighter stages. For me, the story could still use some work, but there is certainly a gem beneath this that deserves to be polished into recognition.

Review - A Few Good Men @ Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

MTC open their 2012-2013 season with Aaron Sorkin's A Few Good Men - a script made famous by the film version starring Jack Nicholson. Clearly stepping into some big and well-known shoes, the cast did a great job of making the words their own. There were only a few moments where delivery felt stilted or put on, specifically and inorganically recalling other interpretations. There was a lot of shouting (yes, I know this is a play about the Marine Corps...) however not all of it felt necessary. I would have liked to see more variation in the non-Marine-shouting scenes. A woman behind me commented a few times that she missed lines as a result of this.

The minimalist set evoked both a prison and a military base, and the beautiful lighting design helped create the buildings with long corridors and cramped offices evocatively. The use of a revolving stage piece was less successful in creating this feeling; luckily this device was used less frequently as the play went on. I found myself comparing the production to another recent play-of-fim I saw - The King's Speech, on the West End - Unfortunately I found that A Few Good Men lacked a bit of the theatricality in its staging that made The King's Speech so enjoyable for me months before. At times it felt like it was staged for the stage only because there were no film cameras. Detailed work was clearly done on military protocol; the actors' physical work clearly delineated levels of power, and gave the tense, testosterone-filled atmosphere of a millitary base.

On that note, though, the play really highlighted for me the misogyny in Sorkin's text. Perhaps it was the opening image, with a straight line of actors spanning the width of the large mainstage, and only one female actor which sparked the thought. As the play went on, I couldn't help but react to the treatment Galloway takes from the others, specifically Jessop and Kaffee. Each time she absorbed the words of disdain, I shuddered. Later in the script, when Kaffee berates her to the point of tears which causes her to leave, I was appalled that she gave in for the slapstick apology he offers. What kind of message does this give?

Overall it is a fairly strong production, just not really my cup of tea.