FHS Drama Club’s The Government Inspector offers timely satire for corrupt times

30 04 2017

by Alexander Rioux

The Fredericton High School Drama Club’s production of The Government Inspector leaves audiences blissful and bewildered.

The Government Inspector, written by Nikolai Gogal with translation by Adrian Mitchell, is a satirical work that depicts greed, stupidity, and political corruption. The FHS Drama club has had a streak of performing challenging works superbly. Some examples include their 2012 production of The Crucible, and their production of Dracula in 2016. With The Government Inspector, director Peter Ball maintains this reputation.

Gogol’s play follows the corrupt Governor (Jason McIntyre) of a small Russian town and his fellow corrupt officials. They are set into panic when they learn an Inspector will be arriving in town “incognito.” They are given information that a suspicious man from St. Petersburg has arrived and they assume this man is the inspector. However, it’s merely a moronic clerk by the name of Ivan Khlestakov (Jacob Martin). Thinking Khlestakov is the Inspector, the Governor invites him to his home, and things only get more out of hand from there.

The cast clearly varies in degrees of experience, yet they make a wonderful ensemble.  McIntyre as the Governor delivers a believable idiot blinded by his goals of trying to seem smart and important. Martin as Khlestakov is charismatic, but his performance feels very one note. Briana Corey as Petr Bobchinsky is phenomenal, delivering physical and verbal comedy with a clear understanding of her motivations, thus delivering a fully engaging performance. And Rose Messenger takes the cake as the Governor’s wife Anna. Her performance is energetic and engaging. You can see every thought she has come right through her face.

The set, designed by Taylor Sinstadt, is both simplistic and versatile. Being only a framework of two walls, with two red doors at opposite ends, the set lends itself to numerous possibilities. With hooks behind the frame, all the stagehands need to do is hang portraits and curtains to transform the space from one location to the next.

Despite these strengths, at times the show feels confused. Scenes begin as satire, but at times make the jump to full on insanity. One scene, though hilarious, comes completely out of left field. In this scene, Khlestakov is gaining bribes from town officials and merchants, and then we are given an onslaught of people throwing money all over the stage, from rolls of coins, to bills, to massive cheques. This moment, though true to the themes of the show and entertaining to watch, doesn’t feel like it belonged to the reality that has been established.

This production is certainly a timely one. When the current political atmosphere is full of corruption and greed, it is important to have plays like this one that remind us that such people don’t hold the power they think they do while the world is sitting comfortably laughing at them.

Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector, produced by the Fredericton High School Drama Club, ran April 6-8, 2017 at FHS’s Tom Morrison Theatre.


Gogol’s The Government Inspector at FHS is professionally polished and politically preposterous

30 04 2017

by Jessica Murphy

One of the first things to make note of in the Fredericton High School Drama Club’s production of Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector is the outstanding direction. Peter Ball (director) and Bea Devlin (assistant director) deserve great recognition as the guiding hands as not only a successful team, but as a successful team of student directors. FHS’s Drama Club is in good hands as it passes down from Ben Smith and Georgia MacNaughton (directors of Dracula in the 2016 lineup) to this fantastic team.

Following a town that is desperate to impress a man that could make or break their businesses and political futures, the Governor (Jason McIntyre) and his acquaintances go out of their way to welcome this “government inspector,” Ivan Rastakovsky (Jacob Martin), into their hometown. Showered with gifts and becoming greedier by the minute, Rastakovsky plays the game until he is found out. Unfortunately for the town it is much too late.

Full of high energy, the twenty-person cast stages an engaging production that is crazy, fun, and suspenseful all in one. McIntyre puts on a performance well beyond his years as the suave and sly “inspector.” Amanda Thorne and Brianna Corey are a hilarious “Petr pair” that truly know how to play on stage together. Rose Messenger and Kate MacEwen deserve a round of applause as the battling mother/daughter duo, setting their sights on the inspector’s affection and always drawing out the laughs with their banter.

A surprising, show-stealing element of the production is the simple yet striking set. Taylor Sinstadt pulls the show together with a beam structure that opens with several hanging portraits, giving the illusion of a great office passed down from governor to governor. In quick, musically entertaining transitions, the office transforms into a spectacular room tied together in a palette of rusty reds, browns, and hints of gold that catches the eye. It is rather unfortunate that a lot of the spectacular display is lost to dim (and sometimes altogether dark) lighting. But for what scenes are lost, the overall design makes up for when it is seen in all of its glory.

FHS’s Drama Club most definitely raises the bar in Fredericton’s theatre community with The Government Inspector. This production is professional, politically preposterous, and positively pleasing!

Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector, produced by the Fredericton High School Drama Club, ran April 6-8, 2017 at FHS’s Tom Morrison Theatre.

Érick Villeneuve’s Immortal Chi astounds at Fredericton Playhouse

30 04 2017

by Laura-Beth Bird

Immortal Chi: A Warrior’s Quest for Balance, created and directed by Érick Villeneuve, looks for balance with this kung fu-fused production.

Villeneuve has taken Immortal Chi on its world tour since 2014, now making a stop at the Playhouse in Fredericton. The production brings elements of Chinese classical performance and martial arts training, along with an all female drumming ensemble, and gives these a modern twist. The audience cannot help but feel the old world colliding with the new with this multimedia show.

The piece revolves around a singular character reflecting back on his life and training while meditating. The show opens and closes on the Master as he works through the motions of his Tai-Chi training on a pillar whilst a large ornate clock swings into the background. The 12 Kung Fu acrobats skillfully perform their Kung Fu stylized dance with swords, tridents, and various other classical Chinese weapons in an effort to tell the Master’s narrative.

The show is visually captivating, from the costumes and projections to the stage. The drummers add another level of depth with their heavy and impressive performance. Yet the ensemble often steal the spotlight with their perfectly choreographed routines. This results in them unintentionally outshining their Kung Fu counterparts.

That being said, the show is not without its laughs and a trick or two up its sleeve. A Kung Fu fighter runs through a projected maze that looks an awful lot like a video game. Another walks a tightrope. A comical fight scene is played out on stage and then is quickly followed by a crowd favourite of balancing sticks in an ever-extending network that seems almost impossible.

Villeneuve has tried to create a show that combines Chinese traditions with the technical advancements of today. His all-Asian cast was traditionally trained in Kung Fu, drums, and guzheng (a Chinese zither) before coming together to create this piece.

Overall, the show is interesting and a good night out for the family. Any self-respecting Kung Fu lover could watch with awe the carefully choreographed fight scenes and feats of balance and strength.

Immortal Chi: A Warrior’s Quest for Balance ran April 6, 2017 at the Fredericton Playhouse.

“Interests Aren’t Gendered” message from The Damsel in Distress saves the day for NB elementary schools

30 04 2017

by Miguel Roy

Children’s theatre can go one of two ways. It can be one hundred percent for the kids, or it can be “for all ages.” The Damsel in Distress Who Saved Herself clearly falls under the latter category.

Written by Fredericton’s Kira Smith and presented by TNB’s Young Company under the direction of Tania Breen, the show revolves around three central characters—Princess Cordelia (Rachel Hastings), Prince Colby (Jean-Michel Cliche), and the Witch (Freitzen Kenter)—who make up the cast of this grand adventure through the perilous towers that hide the princess.

The adventure takes place as Princess Cordelia, who much prefers the name Corrie, is getting fed up with living in a cursed tower guarded by a Witch who just wants the best for her. The handsome prince Colby comes to the rescue as the duo makes their way through challenges both dangerous and puzzling. As the tale unfolds, we find out that these two characters aren’t your traditional fairytale Prince and Princess. Corrie happens to enjoy archery and adventure, while Colby much prefers cooking, poetry, and musical theatre. All this is represented by the show’s clearest message: “Interests aren’t gendered.”

The show sports a powerful message for boys and girls of all ages: they can be brave heroes no matter what they like to do. And the message is reinforced with a message of friendship and cooperation. Not only do the characters exist outside the preconceived gender norms of most fairytales, they do away with the common love story and allow the characters to exist as their own people, rather than two halves of a couple.

Despite the playwright’s best efforts, however, the comedy distracts from some of the message. In some moments where Colby’s interests are meant to shine through as being just as valid as Corrie’s, it is played for humour rather than a celebration of his skills. While these moments are few and far between, they still give the sense that Colby’s interests in cooking and singing aren’t necessarily as “cool” as Corrie’s interests.

As for the performances themselves, all three actors give a phenomenal show. Not only is their acting fantastic and funny, but their physicality is mind blowing. Major moments in the show are mimed so convincingly that you’ll believe every glass wall they get trapped behind. Mix this with Michael Doherty’s stellar sound design and you’ve got yourself a killer act.

The actors move the set around themselves, but this is never done outside of the story. Rather, the actors are constantly in character and performing while they move the large set pieces, giving every change a feeling of continuity and cutting down on silent air. It gives the entire thing a smooth, fluid movement that is greatly appreciated.

The audience at the Black Box performance on the 6th of April consisted mostly of adults, a departure from their usual elementary school performances, and yet every one of us was giggling along and loving the silliness of the whole thing.

Kira Smith’s The Damsel in Distress Who Saved Herself played to over 15,000 New Brunswick students on a two month TNB Young Company tour before its penultimate showing at STU’s Black Box Theatre April 6, 2017.

TNB’s Damsel in Distress saves herself (with her rescuer) with wholesome hilarity

30 04 2017

by Alexander Rioux

Theatre New Brunswick’s Young Company brings uproarious laughter to STU’s Black Box Theatre with their fun and energetic production of The Damsel in Distress Who Saved Herself. Under the direction of Tania Breen, the group have been touring to elementary schools across the province, teaching kids near and far that “interests have no genders.”

Written by Fredericton’s own Kira Smith, The Damsel in Distress Who Saves Herself tells the tale of the young Princess Corrie (Rachel Hastings) who is being held captive by a lonely witch (Frietzen Kenter). The Witch’s goal is to bring up Corrie like a proper lady. The only way for Corrie to escape is for a prince to save her and to pass several trials, including a fire-breathing dragon. Just as the show promises, it turns gender stereotypes on their heads, albeit in a watered-down fashion for its intended youth audience. Princess Corrie is a rough and tough warrior in the making, alongside Prince Colby (Jean-Michel Cliche) who would be satisfied being at home cooking, and doing musical theatre.

Although the material is intended for a much younger audience, people of all ages will find delight in the quick wit, slapstick, and unexpected modern culture references. It is difficult not to get a kick out of the scene where Corrie and the Witch are about to have a showdown, and Prince Colby exclaims “Rap battle!” turning tension into hilarity.

This sizzling script is beautifully brought to life through its strong cast. Hastings holds nothing back in her depiction of the rebellious Princess Corrie. She superbly shows Corrie’s transition from being hesitant to defying gender roles, to fully embracing her love of adventure, ripping away her dress and taking up a sword. Frietzen portrays the evil witch by bringing out her human qualities, and turning her from of a cold, heartless villain, to a sad and lonely woman.

The show has a relatively simple set. The Witch’s castle is comprised of one back wall that remains stationary, and two side walls that revolve to establish location changes. The spinning walls give the show an extra magical feel, especially in one scene where the wall revolves and an actor is revealed in a suit of armour. The sound design by Michael Doherty also adds an extra dimension to the show. Yet, it would not be pulled off if it weren’t for the attention of technical director Trent Logan. In one scene, Corrie and Colby find themselves stuck behind a glass wall. Each time they touch the wall Logan must quickly provide the sound cue. These sounds ranged from light thumps from hands, taps from fingertips, and loud bangs with fists.

The Damsel in Distress Who Saved Herself is a wonderfully executed piece, and is sure to make audiences leave with smiles on their faces.

Kira Smith’s The Damsel in Distress Who Saved Herself played to over 15,000 New Brunswick students on a two month TNB Young Company tour before its penultimate showing at STU’s Black Box Theatre April 6, 2017.

Ryan Griffith’s The Boat rocks TNB’s Open Space

30 04 2017

by Laura-Beth Bird


(l.-r.) The Father (Jon De Leon), the Son (Ron Kennell), and the salty Uncle (Graham Percy) in Ryan Griffith’s The Boat. Photo Credit: André Reinders

Theatre New Brunswick’s latest production, The Boat, adapted by Fredericton’s own Ryan Griffith and based on the short story of the same name by Alistair MacLeod, brings the fishermen of Nova Scotia to TNB’s Open Space. The production, directed by Thomas Morgan Jones, paints a portrait that is hard to forget.

The Boat follows the son and narrator (Ron Kennell) through the memories of his childhood in a remote fishing village in Nova Scotia. Here he struggles with whether he should follow tradition and work on the boats with his father or carve his own future. Through his speeches he tells of his mother (Stephanie MacDonald) who is the epitome of a fisherman’s wife; his uncle (Graham Percy), a fisherman with 13 children and a love for the sea; and his father (Jon De Leon), a fisherman by trade but not in the soul. Although only an hour in length, The Boat gives the audience an accurate image of life for the coastal Maritimes, a community steeped in tradition suspended and surviving as the world transitions.

Mike Johnston’s set is minimal with coral and blue abstract canvases hanging at the back of the stage with four wooden structures complete with barnacles and ropes that can be moved to build doorframes, docks, forests, and boats. The actors stand in their wooden frames in Sherry Kinnear’s thick wool and heavy plaid with muddy rubber boots and tired expressions. The instrumental music beneath the text creates the tone for the stories. When accompanied by David DeGrow’s lighting design they create the rough days on the seas.

Although the set design helps the piece retain much of its haunting qualities, the audience cannot help but be drawn to the wooden structures as they roll around the stage. This is only amplified when the actors move deliberately from one section of the stage to another.

Despite this mild inconvenience, attention must be given to De Leon as he sings old maritime sea shanties with a haunting sadness that captivates the audience. His infectious, poetic, rebellious soul creates conflict with MacDonald, who endears with her accurate portrayal of the wife who remains resilient to change.

TNB has managed to create a portrait of the maritime fishing village with careful attention to details, all the way down to muddy rubber boots. Although a short evening of entertainment, the audience cannot help but walk away satisfied.

The Boat ran March 9-18, 2017 at Theatre New Brunswick’s open space.

Fred Nebula’s lengthy landing obscures strong performances

29 04 2017

by Jamie McArthur-Britt

Fred Nebula, a play that parallels Fredericton with an intergalactic beat-up ship traveling through space, should have stayed in its space setting.

The Next Folding Theatre Company creates brand new plays working with emerging Canadian artists, including this strangely conceptualized play, Fred Nebula. Much like the name, the play is confusing. It begins with audience questioning the title of the play. The program lacks a synopsis, leaving us nervous as the atrociously dressed actors enter the dark stage.

The first act provides much-needed comedic relief, beginning episodically and slowly transforms into a coherent, solid ending. However, audience confusion results form a lack of conclusion to each episode.

This co-written piece lacks fluidity, and it is clear that it is not just one writer. The scene transitions are filled with a strange tune as the makeshift spacecraft vanishes, contributing to the play to be drudgingly long. The ridiculous harmonizing during scene transitions is at first entertaining, but quickly loses its appeal.

Still, these transitions, give the audience a break from awkward chuckling at poorly timed jokes and lackluster attempts to reference Fredericton living. (The attempts include pointing out the two samosa stands at the market, Frederictonian’s love for camo and bright orange hunting hats, and having beef tips as lunch everyday—none of which  evoke personal relationship because they lack further development.) Fred Nebula is more like just Nebula.

The ten actors showcased the unique qualities of each character, despite the major character change halfway through. The director and actor/writers should be commended for their captivating props, projections, lights, and a funky blue liquid. Their acting skills managing to slightly bring together the different tones of writing. The use of the alley did allow for the best use of the space, giving the illusion that there was a rickety spaceship. This makes up in part for the mediocre script.

It is evident that these actors are enthusiastic about the performance and though there are some parts that are truly funny, the majority of it would be better off in outer space.

The Next Folding Theatre Company’s Fred Nebula ran March 2-4, 2017 in the Black Box Theatre.

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