Angélique, the story of the black slave tortured and put to death in New France (later Montreal, Quebec) for allegedly setting the fire of 1734 that burned down the only hospital and left hundreds of people homeless, is most remarkable for the fact that so few Canadians know about this incendiary incident in Montreal’s history.

It’s a story with everything: chaos, love triangles, danger, a woman’s determined quest for freedom.

Yet, despite these features that make Angélique a perfect candidate for telling and re-telling, like many stories of slavery in Canada’s history, and many narratives sympathetic to disadvantaged people of colour, the story of Marie-Joseph Angelique has been largely ignored until very recently.

In fact, the play currently being billed as the first collaboration between Black Theatre Workshop and Tableau d’Hote Théâtre, is the first time this story has been presented on stage in Montreal, the city where the true story took place. It is running from March 15th to April 2nd at the Segal Center.

Angélique is the story of the strong-willed black slave tortured and put to death for allegedly starting the fire of 1734, which burned down the majority of what is now Old Montreal. Though it was generally accepted that Angelique did commit the crime for which she was accused, it has recently been argued that she was innocent, convicted on the basis of her reputation as a rebellious runaway and hard-to-control slave. The evidence used to convict Angelique would not stand up in a modern court of law.

“I am a very proud Canadian, and a very proud Montréaler, but I don’t think we are doing ourselves any favours by not acknowledging the bad along with the good in history,” says Black Theatre workshop artistic director Quincy Armorer. “I’ve noticed this play is educating a lot of people about some of the forgotten or ignored times in Canadian and Montreal history, and I am very, very happy to be a part of letting people know this happened here.”

Mathieu Murphy-Perron, artistic director for Tableau d’Hote Theater, agrees: “As someone who generally tries to be aware of where we live and the land we are on, and the fact that it’s stolen land, and Canada is not the land of milk and honey…to have zero-ZERO-knowledge of this show, it spoke to our educational shortcomings of telling the stories that make up this city, Quebec and Canada”

“I didn’t even know about this before,” adds Jenny Brizard, the lead and title actress of Angélique “They didn’t talk about slavery in Canada at all when I was in school.”

Having left her native Montreal to pursue a career as a dancer in Toronto, Ms. Brizard has returned in a blaze of glory with a breakout performance as the title character in Angélique. This is her first professional acting role, and though the performance seemed a little manic at times, this is certainly fitting as an artistic choice for a character under an incredible amount of mental, emotional and physical stress.

Speaking of artistic direction, the costuming decisions in this production were extremely powerful, working as an additional layer of social commentary. ‘Upper class’ members of society began the production dressed in contemporary business wear, and ended the production dressed in 1730s period clothing. Conversely, slaves began the production in period clothing and ended the production in contemporary street wear, or in Angelique’s case, an orange prison outfit.

The closing images of a modern black woman being put to death for a crime, with no evidence that she had committed it, while being looked upon by people stuck in the past, were extremely powerful and speaks to the ongoing issues with class and race that still exist today. The play ended with Angelique hearing the drums of her homeland (drums were banned in New France in an effort to sever slaves from their culture) and dancing her heart out in the traditional style of her childhood, which she had been previously embarrassed and nervous to display in New France.

The musical backdrop of Angélique was completely percussion based, set to an original composition by SIXTRUM Percussion Ensemble. The use of drums served as a clever musical allegory for Angelique’s struggle and personal erasure, due to the nature of the importance of drum music in Angelique’s internal life and history versus their ban in New France.

When Angélique is first introduced at a slave purchasing block, thick chains were used as an instrument by SIXTRUM, who were playing above the stage. It was fresh, creative, and enhanced the narrative.

Though the script, written by the late Lorena Gale, doesn’t claim to be completely factual (and how could it be, when the source material is from the 18th century), one creative inclusion bothered me:

In the play, Angélique is repeatedly raped by her master François, and it is implied that she gives birth to a child fathered by him. Though I couldn’t find any historical rumours that this had taken place in real life, and the father on record for Angélique’s children is listed as fellow slave César (played with subtlety, depth and range by Tristan D. Lalla), I can understand its inclusion in this play. This is the story of a black slave woman, a group that is underrepresented in the telling of their stories and for whom rape, and the subsequent fathering of children, by white masters was most certainly a frequent occurrence.

Where I take issue that it is then used as THE major point of contention between Angelique and Francois’ wife Thérèse. I think, in a story that already has so much drama and intrigue, it’s a bit lazy to then add as a major plot point, a shift away from Angelique’s real struggle, towards a jealousy fight between women arguing over the affections of a shitty guy. It reinforces the stereotype of women as petty and jealous, and having nothing more of substance to do or think about than the affections of a man.

In fact, this same theme is echoed again between Angelique and Manon, a Panis-Native slave, who in this play rejects Angélique’s friendship and sells her out at trial over Manon’s love of César, who in turn loves Angélique. According to the historical record, Manon more likely tried to divert suspicion to Angélique for self-preservation as she herself could have been severely punished if suspicion had fallen on her own shoulders.

However, I suppose pitting women against each other over a guy once again adds easy intrigue and a familiar stereotype. Despite the historical setting of the play, it’s 2017, and I think we can do better.

Overall, Angelique is a skillful and extremely important retelling of a chapter in Montreal history that is conspicuously absent from most history books. It is powerful, visceral and necessary, and with tickets starting at $22, much more accessible than the majority of professional theatrical productions.

Bring a date, bring your mom, bring a history or theatre buff, a lover of Montreal, or even your favorite arsonist, but don’t miss Angélique’s first (and certainly not last) tour in Montreal. It is a tribute to a powerful and strong woman who was persecuted until the end by a society that did not value her.

Only one question remains in the fiery tale: Did she do it?

“At this point, I don’t really care…if she did it or not,” says Ms. Brizard. “The fact is, she didn’t have a fair chance. Period. And that’s how I approach the work. She didn’t get a fair trial, a fair chance, as a woman, as a black woman. Period.”

Angélique presented by Black Theatre Workshop and Tableau d’Hote Théâtre runs through April 2nd, 2017 at the Segal Centre, 5170 ch. de la Côte-Ste-Catherine,  tickets available through the Segal Centre box office

The Chilean refugees who arrived in Canada in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in Montreal, have been a community that has captivated me throughout the past two years. I was therefore ecstatic to have the opportunity to see The Refugee Hotel staged at The Segal Centre. Despite some awkward translation into English and a difficult script to work with, the play is an excellent one that I recommend – particularly after yesterday’s events in the USA.

These brave Chileans who came across the oceans were faced with two choices; the first being to trust that everything would be okay for them in Chile if they kept their heads down, stayed in line, and trusted that the military would “make Chile great again”. The second: to restart their entire lives in a country with a new language, new food, new music, and of course, the omnipresent “Canadian values” (still searching for a definition of those, other than the ability to properly cross-check someone).

Teesri Duniya Theatre’s production of The Refugee Hotel does its sincere best to answer these questions. The script draws from author-and-playwright Carmen Aguirre’s lived experience as the child of Chilean refugees growing up in 1970s Canada. It’s an impressive story made even more poignant by its autobiographical basis.

The Refugee Hotel Trailer from Chris Wardell on Vimeo.

This is one of the reasons that it is so frustrating to review this play. Though the premise is admirable, Aguirre’s play shortchanges itself by trying to fit too many facets of the Chilean refugee story, and indeed, the story of human migration, into two short acts.

At the centre of the play are Jorge (Pablo Diconca) and Flaca (Gilda Monreal), a married couple who represent two sides of the resistance movement in Chile. Jorge is something of a milquetoast pacifist anarchist accountant, while his wife is a firebrand Marxist active in the MIR (the Revolutionary Leftist Movement).

Their two children escape with them to a hotel in Canada, where they meet other Chilean refugees subjected to inhuman torture in the Carabineros’ concentration camps. The rest of the play progresses at a slow pace as each rediscovers their humanity and intimacy, one-by-one in a frustratingly perfect way.

By “frustratingly perfect,” I mean that of course the mute girl is coaxed into to talking at the end of the second act, and she falls for the man who talks with her first, and of course they end the play with a freeze-frame photo motif. The play’s unfortunate dives into clichés keep it from developing serious critiques.

Jorge and Flaca’s struggle to be intimate once again despite the horrific sexual torture that the Carabineros inflicted upon her is a topic that is criminally underrepresented in works of art; and even less so is it approached sensitively. An exploration of that theme alone would have made for a powerful and moving production, but Aguirre’s insistence on shoehorning so many important themes into the play means that extraordinarily difficult trauma from torture is treated as nothing more than a plot point. For example, two suicide attempts that happen within two minutes of another are treated as comedic moments.

Moreover, I felt that the repeated flashbacks to scenes of torture in the Estadio Nacional de Chile are not used to explore the characters’ motivations and histories, but rather as punctuation marks for the drama as a whole.

The play is being performed at the Segal Centre, which bills itself as the heart of Montreal’s Anglophone theatre culture. This presents an interesting double-edged sword for the actors in that they are reading from a script originally written in Spanish, for an English-speaking audience in French Canada.

Certain recurring parts of the script (such as the nickname for Jorge, “Little-Big-Bear”) sound awkward in English where they would have made perfect sense in Spanish (“Osito Grande,” better understood as “Teddy Bear”). On a larger scale, the familiar words, particularly “desaparecido,” used to articulate the brutality of the Pinochet regime are lost in translation.

Furthermore, the play misses opportunity to develop a more nuanced comedic character in Bill O’Neill, the enthusiastic Québécois hippie who helps the guests at the Refugee Hotel find work. In the Spanish script, he speaks with comically poor but confident command over Spanish, but in this English adaptation, his dialogue sounds like a 19th-century caricature – “Army me take to stadium. Bad men take Bill!”

Other than awkward phrasing, this makes the characterization of Bill difficult for the audience, as he is repeatedly referred to (kindly) as “the only gringo who speaks Spanish.” In poor translation, Bill’s character shifts from that of a Canadian activist with a sincere wish to improve his Spanish and act in solidarity with Chilean refugees into a buffoon.

This is the part of reviewing that I do not enjoy. The story itself is captivating, and the curation behind the set design and music choices was phenomenal. I just wish that the story was more focused on one or two of these families, instead of a script that leaves several important facets of post-traumatic stress equally unexamined.

All of this is not to say that I did not find the play enjoyable and tastefully performed – in fact, the actors did a stellar job working with an awkward script, and the set direction was simple and elegant. I give a special commendation to the Set Designer, Diana Uribe, who placed the beds of the hotel at an upright 90º angle, which allowed the actors to remain part of the action, while staying true to the stage direction to lie supine.

The music choices, namely the major-key Victor Jara folk ballads that accompanied scenes of horrific torture in the Estadio Nacional may have been shocking to people unfamiliar with Chile’s musical history – but it seems a deliberate nod to the famous Cueca Sola spot produced by the Anti-Pinochet Campaign during the 1989 plebiscite made famous by Pablo Larraín’s 2012 film. This is made all the more poignant by the fact that Victor Jara was tortured to death in the Estadio Nacional, specifically targeted and brutally murdered for his popularity and beliefs.

Speaking with the actor who played Jorge, Pablo Diconca, I learned that many of the cast came into this production with the explicit goal of putting faces to the communities so left behind by history. Diconca is a Uruguayan-born Montrealer who has been an integral part of the local theatre scene since his arrival in Canada at 19:

“I can not ever forget the fact that I have an accent, and I will always have one. This has restricted me as an actor – I have played drug dealers, murderers, and taxi drivers more than I can count,” Pablo told me. “When I came to Canada, I refused these roles out of principle…but with time, I came to realize that acting is my passion, and that by being on stage, this is how one becomes involved in the local culture and community. One must put their heart into acting. It becomes easier when the script is [about] something you already have in your heart. I was invited to be a part of this cast, and I didn’t see how I could turn it down. This is a play that can help to open minds.”

Teesri Duniya’s Artistic Director and co-founder, Rahul Varma, explained to me that he chose to stage this play as a way of “challenging the notion that 9/11 of 2001 divided the world into pre-9/11 and post 9/11…there have been so many other 9/11s, such as the 9/11 of 1973.” Rahul is of course referring to the military coup in Chile that took place on September 11, 1973, where the Chilean Air Force bombed downtown Santiago and assassinated the democratically-elected head of state, Salvador Allende.


Rahul continued, referencing the current Syrian refugee crisis, “I thought that this play brings certain realities of the past and connects them to what is currently happening.  The idea is to look into what has happened – why is it that refugees are coming to Canada? Why do people leave their homes elsewhere?”

According to their website, Teesri Duniya Theatre “is dedicated to producing, developing and presenting socially and politically relevant theatre, based on the cultural experiences of diverse communities.” They are an incredibly important part of Montreal’s Arts community and I am thrilled to see that they took it upon themselves to tell the story of an underrepresented and important part of Canada.

As we draw to the closing of this play’s run at the Segal Centre, as well as the dawning of an unprecedented dark cloud over North American immigration politics, it is important to remember the lessons left by Chilean-Canadians’ struggles in and out of their homeland. I salute Teesri Duniya Theatre, The Segal Centre, and the cast and crew of this production for shining a light on the challenges faced by refugees in a sensitive and responsible manner despite an unaccommodating script.

El pueblo unido jamás será vencido.

The Refugee Hotel is playing until Sunday at The Segal Centre (5170 ch. de la Côte-Ste-Catherine). Tickets available here.

Poster by Rashad Nilamdeen.

Forget The Box’s weekly Arts Calendar is back with for its Halloween edition! We’ve got some great onstage performances coming up in the city, and as always; if you’re interested in going to one of these events and want to cover it for us, send a message or leave a comment below.

We’ve got two different but wildly entertaining version of Halloween cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show – both are sure to sell out so get there early for last-minute tickets!

Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show – Live Montreal Musical

See the sensational play that sparked an international phenomenon. MainLine Theatre presents Richard O’Brien’s musical-theatre masterpiece as camp sci-fi meets sexual exploration, glam-rock, and sensual daydreams to treasure forever. Experience #RockyMainLine up-close-and-personal in an intimate experience with a full live cast, band and dancers!

The show was directed and choreographed by Mainline’s Amy Blackmore with additional choreography by Holly Greco and Patrick Lloyd Brennan. It features Stephanie Mckenna as Dr. Frank N’ Furter.

Oct 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 at Mainline Theatre, 3997 Boul St-Laurent. Tickets $20 in advance or $25 at the door ($15 for students and seniors + a Quebec Drama Federation discount, please call 514-849-3378 for discounted tickets)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show Halloween Ball 

This is the more “traditional” Rocky Horror experience, featuring the original film with live on-stage performances. It will sell out, so get there early!

There is a limit of six tickets per person and all in-person sales are cash only.

There is a student discount of $5 which applies to the October 31st shows only. A valid student ID is required at one of our advance ticket outlets. Limit of two tickets per student. Student discount tickets can also be purchased at the door the night of the show but cannot be purchased online.

Oct 28, 29, 31, Cinéma Impérial, 1432 Bleury.

The Refugee Hotel

Teesri Duniya Theatre’s The Refugee Hotel is a dark comedy about exile, love and the Canadian resettlement experience. Told from the point of view of a young woman looking back on her childhood, Award-winning writer Carmen Aguirre poignantly chronicles the true story of a wave of Chilean refugees who are placed at a hotel in downtown Montreal in 1974, following the aftermath of the brutal Chilean coup d’état, one of the watershed moments of the Cold War.

While chronicling the true story of hundreds of thousands of Chileans who resettled across Canada and around the globe, The Refugee Hotel explores Canada’s ability to accept, support and embrace refugees as new citizens.

The play was written by Carmen Aguirre and is directed by Paulina Abarca. It will be performed in English with Spanish-language subtitles.

The Refugee Hotel Trailer from Chris Wardell on Vimeo.

October 26 – November 13, Segal Centre, 5170 Chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine, Call 514-739-7944 for tickets or purchase them through the Segal online box office

An Illiad

A poet recounts the bloody epic of Achilles and Hector in a sweeping story of rage, violence and grief. Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare’s An Illiad is an award-winning adaptation of Homer’s classic which has gone viral, from New York to Egypt.

Chocolate Moose Theatre Co. revisits the Canadian premiere that earned them #1 Theatre Company in this year’s Cult MTL poll! The show, which runs again starting next week is directed by Lynn Kozak in collaboration with Shanti Gonzales It features a performance by Martin Law, set design by Mikey and Sarah Schanz Denis and lighting design by Ceci MacDonald.

Runs November 2-13 at Mainline Theatre, 3997 Boul St-Laurent. Tickets: $15 general / $12 students and QDF
Available online through the Mainline Box Office or by calling 514-849-3378

Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

The sign of any good show is when time flies by and you’re left wanting more. It’s even more impressive when a single performer is able to pull off this feat. With his new one-man play BOOM, native Montrealer Rick Miller charms and delights with his tribute to the baby boomer generation.

Guiding the audience through 25 years of baby boomer history, the chief way that Miller grabs your attention is his voice. He is simply put, a master of impressions. One moment he’s graciously welcoming the audience as himself. The next moment he’s transformed into his own mother recounting her days growing up in rural Ontario. The next he’s Elvis Presley. This idea may seem strange when you read it online, but live in the darkened theater, you see how each character comes alive and flows into the next seamlessly.

The stories are also key to BOOM’s success. Miller weaves personal stories of his family and friends who were alive at the time,with key moments in world history. This approach allows audience members of any age to appreciate the performance. Older people can relate to the stories presented, while younger audience members can learn what it was like to grow up at that time. For instance, this millennial never thought about how many baby boomer’s parents were alcoholics as a way of dealing with the emotional stress of living through the depression and Second World War.

Finally, BOOM wouldn’t be able to truly be the successful show that it is without its props. With one prop and a simple lighting cue, Miller transforms from a Russian soldier to Winston Churchill to Buddy Holly. Major kudos have to be given to lighting designer Bruno Matte on this production. Add the occasional vintage ad, scrapbook photo and present day video, and you have one man who over the course of 100 minutes brings an entire generation to life.

BOOM plays at the Segal Center until April 10th

* Photo Paul Lampert via Segal Centre website

Given that it’s one of Modercai Richler’s most famous novels and a successful film starring Richard Dreyfuss, perhaps it’s not surprising that there have already been two attempts to mount a musical production of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. 

There have even been rumours of Broadway producers wanting to mount their own production. But it seems far more fitting that the latest musical adaption of an eager young Jewish entrepreneur from St-Urbain Street debuts in Montreal.

The expectations have been extremely high for this production. Critics across the country have been questioning whether Duddy is finally ready to sing, and whether this production will ever end up in New York. With the prestige of having music by Academy and Grammy award winner Alan Menken, and being directed by Austin Pendleton, it’s doubtful this latest musical adaptation will fizzle into oblivion.

Duddy Kravitz 2

The music is, without a doubt, the strongest aspect of the show. The story has been changed in certain ways that might bother die-hard fans of the novel. The songs meanwhile are guaranteed to please any musical theater lover. A Man Without Land/Leaving St-Urbain Street, Art and Commerce and The Final Hustle are all musical numbers on par with any great musical.

Sometimes it felt like the actors are just going through the motions. But, as Duddy Kravitz, Ken James Stewart gave an impassioned performance. His Duddy is more fiery and ambitious than the blundering hustler Richler wrote in his novel.

But with the tone of this production, that choice makes sense. Having a character be a miserable lout then burst into joyous song wouldn’t fit. The show definitely prefers a witty tone to a serious one, with most of the zingy one-liners falling on George Masswohl, who plays Duddy’s father Max.

In terms of singing, it’s Stewart’s co-stars that steal the show; Adrian Marchuk as Lenny and Marie-Pierre De Brienne as Yvette have the strongest voices in the cast. De Brienne shows her own star potential with numbers like Welcome Home.

If the production does become successful, it would be great to see more money be put into set design, as the current sets seem rather lackluster. So will this production ever end up in the city that never sleeps? It’s likely the show will continue a successful Segal Centre run if for nothing else than the sentimentality of having such a popular Montreal story brought to the stage. And while Duddy definitely can sing, its future success will depend on whether non-Montreal audiences connects to the show in the same way.

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz: The Musical plays at The Segal Centre until July 5th

* photos by Maxime Côté 

One of the most intriguing moments during the The Segal Centre press conference for their 2014-15 lineup was the announcement of a new adaptation of The Graduate. This past summer the star of that show, Luke Humphrey, generously agreed to answer a few questions for us via email. Here’s what Forget the Box found out about Humphrey’s love of Shakespeare, being an American in Canada, and stepping into the iconic role of Benjamin Braddock.

Stephanie Laughlin: As someone born and trained in the States, what brought your career to Canada?

Luke Humphrey:  I’m actually the only American in a family of Canadians. Growing up I spent every winter and summer holiday visiting family, so moving here felt pretty natural.

I was at university at NYU when former Stratford Festival artistic director Des McAnuff saw me in a student production of A Winter’s Tale. We talked after and he invited me to join the season. My professional acting debut was in The Tempest at The Stratford Festival with Christopher Plummer. I played islander #3 in a skin tight lizard body suit. Ever since then, I have really fallen in love with Canada. I really believe the future of  both screen and stage is very exciting here, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

SL: What would you do if you weren’t acting?

LH: I love producing. I actually had a commercial production company for a while but acting took over and I had to step away. Though recently I have been really interested in becoming a truck driver, so maybe in another life I would do that.

SL:  What keeps drawing you back to the Stratford Festival?

LH: The Stratford festival is Disneyland for actors. There are classes, coaches, and workshops to explore and work on your craft and you get to work with some of the most talented people from so many fields. It is really supportive environment to be in as an artist. It was great to be able to start my career there, and I was able to just sponge off of so many great minds and talents.

SL: What’s your favourite Shakespeare play?

LH: That’s tricky. There’s plays that I love as an audience member, and plays I love as an actor. I have to say at this stage of my life, I’m very interested in Henry IV 1 and 2 into Henry V. I think it is a very human exploration of responsibility and duty and the search for greatness not from ceremony and title, but from action and deeds. I find myself mumbling those monologues as I walk down the street.

SL: What brought you to The Segal Centre for The Graduate?

LH: Lisa Rubin saw me in Taking Shakespeare with Martha Henry at Stratford last year and a couple months later I got a text message asking me if I would be interested in doing The Graduate. I thought it was too good to be true. I had heard a lot of great things about The Segal Centre both from audiences and artists who had worked there so was very happy to have the opportunity.  I had also been talking to Andrew Shaver about finding something we could work on together so when I found out he was directing I was overjoyed. I mean really, this whole project is a dream for me.

SL: How do you apporach a role like Benjamin Braddock, when it’s already been so iconically portrayed by someone else?

LH: Approaching something like this is very similar to approaching a Shakespeare play. You have seen it done and have an iconic image in your head, but you can’t just go out there and do an impression of the person who went before. You have to pick up the script and bring yourself to the part, allow your own qualities to colour the part in a way that makes it unique. It helps that the play is different from the movie, which is different from the book. While the story is more or less the same, the feel and tone is different enough where I don’t feel exactly like I’m walking down the same path that Mike Nichols and Dustin Hoffman created.

SL: What are your goals for the future?

LH: Right now I’m just thrilled that people keep allowing me to be in their plays. Down the road I want to combine my producing experience with my acting career and hopefully keep working on interesting projects with exciting people, I mean, that’s the dream.

The Graduate runs at the Segal Centre until September 21st, tickets available through

“When the curtain rises on that little three-walled room, when those mighty geniuses, those high-priests of art, show us people in the act of eating, drinking, loving, walking, and wearing their coats, and attempt to extract a moral from their insipid talk; when playwrights give us under a thousand different guises the same, same, same old stuff, then I must needs run from it, as Maupassant ran from the Eiffel Tower that was about to crush him by its vulgarity.”

With these words, Constantine taunts our inner skeptic, who yawns at even our most thespian of thoughts—us, the theatregoers. We sit and watch, season after season, waiting for that show or two worth watching. We eye-roll at this or that choice, lovingly palpate at another, glaze over too often. We smuggle Twix bars and corn nuts—a ration of respite from length, arduous rot, the same crap, yet again.

But also, and Peter Hinton and the Segal Centre’s production of The Seagull know this and blurts it out: theatre audiences are old. Dying, actually. My date to this Sunday’s performance couldn’t help but notice, as the rest of us younger folks do, how “Everyone is so ancient.” The play jeeringly estimated them at 60, or 65; the truth is they are more around 70, or older. Noticing this, she admitted she might have worn something slightly less enticing, had she known.

Meanwhile, though, and in keeping with Chekhov’s insistence, Peter Hinton’s brilliant adaptation pushed for something I had never seen before, and we were glued to every snarky bit of it from the first wink.

Tearing at the text’s original fabric, but surely with a remaining reverence for it’s time-tested bones, this Seagull is very much Canadian Theatre, and a very bright direction for it, too. It is, refreshingly, neck deep in the worries of our current artistic zeitgeist, namely with the binary that cordons that landscape and always remains relevant: the old vs. the young, the entitled vs. the green, the Us and the Them.

This, of course, is central to this bit of Chekhov, a kind of Russian aristocracy of dysfunction—more underhanded comments and wordy slaps in the face than you can imagine. The schitzoid and dystemic children are still overdramatizing; the embittered, entrenched elders are largely as condescending and selfish as ever.

But where we might have had heavy turn-of-the-century woolens and sombre lakeside mannerisms, we god square, regional, Ontarian middle-age, star-actress furs and thrifty, skinny duds. We got our own artsy tug of wars at a fever pitch. And where we might have heard of Nekrasoff, the royal theatres, and classical orchestrations, we got Jian Ghomeshi and Saturday Night magazine—the NAC, Stratford and Stevie Nicks

The final result could not, for me, be more stirring. Well acted, expertly crafted, terribly well adapted, and cheekily, subversively blocked—this latest production of The Seagull actually has me excited about Chekhov again. It’s heavy with the meaty stuff all of us artsy types ebb in and out of as we age and choose our communities. What’s more, it colours me very impressed at what the Segal Centre has managed to put together, still a few seasons from the end of its first decade.

Danielle Desormeaux, Michel Perron, Diane D'Aquila, Lucy Peacock, Marcel Jeannin, Krista Colosimo, Patrick McManus_Photo AndrÇe Lanthier

The result, ultimately, was that even the old folks in there with us were way into it. Nina, summoned by Constantine’s lamenting accordion for their theatrical unveiling, stands atop a haphazard pile of deckchairs in a white dress and a blue cagoule, and we are all transfixed. The actors, too.

The chairs have been—figuratively for us, literally for those in costume—pulled out from under us, but all our eyes are glued to this very strange display. The whole troupe sits akimbo and something new is happening. More questions are being asked than answered, as the play itself will gander. Theatre is being made, I’ll melodramatically insist, and even the septuagenarians are down with that.

And that’s what good, important theatre can make—something that changes. The “same” stuff imposing its new shapes. I hope to see it again, actually, and know it’ll be different.

Luckily, this production, uncharacteristically for these snowbird months—when many part-time Floridians are too far South to attend—is doing so well it’s getting extended through till next Wednesday, February 19. Sometimes, the good stuff does last.

See it, whether you’re old or young. Thank me later.

Peter Hinton’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull runs until February 19 at the Segal Centre.

Photos courtesy of the Segal Centre by Andrée Lanthier.

Impressed by last years production of Guys and Dolls at the Segal Centre, I happily took the assignment to review this years Ain’t Misbehavin’.  What this musical (I have to admit marketing this show as a musical is a tad misleading) lacks in story it makes up for in spades with sass, fabulous sets and most importantly amazing songs.

The show is tribute to the black musicians of the Harlem Renaissance, an extremely influential period of African American culture in the 1920s and 30s. You don’t need to know anything about the Harlem Renaissance to get into the show, which gets swinging right from the start with Fatz Waller’s Ain’t Misbehavin.

While ain’t misbehavin is billed as a Fats Waller musical, the songs actually come from a variety of different musicians. While there were two or three sound glitches that temporarily affected the sound quality during the show there was nothing wrong with the musicians themselves. The main piano player was especially fantastic. I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw him headlining next time I went for a drink at Upstairs.

Of the five performers who took to the stage that night, the ladies were definitely the ones that stole the show. It’s hard not to get swept up in the fun of songs like This Joint is Jumping but my personal favourite of the night was the heart wrenching performance of  Mean to Me performed by the star and Juno award winner Kim Richardson.

The most impressive aspects of the show is that these five performers sing and dance in period costumes and stage lighting for two straight hours. When you think about just how much coordinating needs to go into getting it right, let alone getting it GREAT, it’s reason enough to see the show. But what makes it a must see is it’s a fun, easy night of  big band musical theatre.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ runs until October 20th at the Segal Centre, 5170 ch. de la Côte-Ste-Catherine, tickets are available online or by calling the Segal box office at 514-739-7944