Deserters and the deserted deal with their just desserts in NB Acts’ Caged and Wasters

4 08 2016

Angela Bosse

Walking into the theater at UNB’s Memorial Hall, you are hit with the sound of Vietnam-era protest rock and roll. I expected to see college students in hippie garb painting protest signs, but instead we look into two empty prison cells.

Caged, the first of the one-act plays performed as part of the NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival, is a workshopped story of two military deserters written by Alex Donovan and directed by Jake Martin.

Frank and Rebecca are two unlikely individuals detained at the Canada-US border. Frank (Scott Harris), is an old man who was in the military during the Vietnam War. He deserted and was never caught, until he tried to re-enter the United States to visit his injured son. Rebecca (Stephanie Doucette) is a young Marine sergeant and mother who deserted both her job and her child.

The beginning feels slightly forced—the idea of a man being imprisoned for deserting a war that ended roughly forty years ago, and being guarded by two order-following moronic hyena officers (Barry McCluskey and Paula Tozer) seems a little far-fetched.

However, as Frank and Rebecca’s relationship deepens, and their stories and their struggles to reconcile duty with family needs and wants shine through, there is a profound sense of the importance of balancing family and duty, and how difficult it can be to see that from a veteran’s perspective.

Harris’s portrayal of Frank comes off with great vocal expression and a quiet but deep emotion. There is realness in Frank’s internal conflict over what he did that steeped his character and the tone of the play with what it means to regret, and what that experience can do to a person.

Doucette, as the chatty but secretly vulnerable Rebecca, complements Frank’s sadness well; there is a duality born between the two as they discover they feel the same things but show them differently.


When it comes to feeling the same but showing it differently, Wasters, the second play of the Acting Out series, really hits home.

Written by Jake Martin and directed by Alex Donovan, Wasters is the story of two survivors in a post-apocalyptic world. Sid and Cam are two friends stranded on an apartment rooftop after a devastating flood wipes out their entire city (country? world?). It’s a terrifyingly plausible end-of-the-world scenario, when you hear so often in the news scientists warning about the impending doom that climate change may cause in the future.

Wasters essentially asks the question “what would you do?” in a survival situation. Cam, played by Dillon Matchett, copes with his situation the way I think most of us would—he keeps himself busy, sets goals, needs, and tasks to accomplish. Sid, played by Esther Soucoup, acts more rationally, but the practical stoicism seems to be a front for hopelessness and despair. Sid’s rationale: if there is nothing that needs to be done, why bother doing anything?

The set appears like any apartment rooftop … if two environmental disaster refugees were camping on it—tin can lights strung across the top, a tarp tent and a shed that leads to the underlying flooded apartment building.

As time slowly passes without any way to differentiate the days, Sid and Cam slowly unravel, and their different coping mechanisms cause them to turn against each other. Cam’s longing for some hope to cling to painfully conflicts with Sid’s determination to not give a shit about what happens.

Wasters has some really heart wrenching moments. While watching, I was rooting for the stubbornly optimistic Cam just as much as I wanted for the pessimistic Sid to find some sort of hope.

Perhaps it was the plausibility of the scenario, or the realness of the characters, but watching Wasters hits home the message of what it is like to be human. When all civilization is wiped away, what is it that defines us as a species? The drive for work and purpose, so apparent in Cam, rings true for me at least, but there will always be a part of us that is the voice of Sid, making us question, “What is the point?” Wasters’ answer to that question may be that as humans we need to hope, even when all seems hopeless.

NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival premiered Alex Donovan’s Caged and Jake Martin’s Wasters at UNB’s Memorial Hall July 28-30, 2016.

First Sight, Forth Faith, and a River Valley Promo delight in NB Acts’ site-specific offerings

4 08 2016

Angela Bosse

The NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival presented three short, site-specific plays that take the audience on a mini walking tour of downtown Fredericton, from the striking Christ Church Cathedral to the scenic vista along the Saint John River, to the historic Officer’s Square.

The first play in the lineup is First Sight, written by John Ball and directed by Len Falkenstein.

For anyone who has ever taken a guided tour of the cathedral before, or anyone who has been a Fredericton tour guide as their summer job, the beginning of the play might conjure déjà vu. The audience is ushered into the building by actress Melissa McMichael, playing our friendly and chipper tour guide Sarah.

The real plot unfolds when Jake (Miguel Roy), a passionate young man visiting Fredericton, bursts out a proposal to Sarah, whom he has just laid eyes on. The flustered Sarah tries to dodge his advances as Jake’s mother interferes, reminding Jake that he already has a fiancée. The love-struck Jake insists that he and Tanya are over, and that in Sarah he has found the person he wants to “eat bagels and lime marmalade for breakfast with” for the rest of his life.

Throughout the confusion, Sarah continually apologizes to the audience and insists the tour will resume shortly, once Jake and his mother, who are now arguing, are sorted out.

The scenario isn’t the only thing humourous about First Sight. With lines like “Everyone I’ve met in Fredericton goes to yoga” and “who I just met in N…B in this place,” the script pokes playful fun at Fredericton and New Brunswick. The witty digs at what it is like to be a New Brunswicker and a Frederictonian have the audience chuckling.


The second play, Ralph and Laura and the River Valley Promo, written by Gordon Mihan and directed by Jesse LaPointe, takes place in a lovely spot with a quintessential Fredericton riverview. Whether it is the right spot, however, is the question of the play, as brother-sister duo Ralph (Jean-Michel Cliche), and Laura (Arianna Martinez), scour the riverside for the perfect spot to film the commercial for Ralph’s newest business venture: “Lawrence of Arugula Boat Tours.”

Tensions rise as Ralph wants to continue further down to find the “perfect spot” while Laura, frustrated with the constant searching and her brother’s ceaseless business startups, begins criticizing Ralph’s unrealistic idea of starting a boat tour company, the name “Lawrence of Arugula Boat Tours,” and his constant creation and abandonment of new ideas.

While the comedy is light and a little eccentric, the plot takes a heavier turn when they start to argue about their father, from whom Ralph is estranged.

However, with the help of quirky Craigslist actor Johnny (Lee Thomas), whom Ralph has secretly hired to be part of the commercial, the siblings eventually reconcile as they release their aggression toward each other and show that it was actually rooted in the dysfunctional relationship they both have with their father.


The third and last play is Fort Faith, written by Jean-Michel Cliche and directed by Alexa Higgins. Two soldiers, one a French hostage and one an English guard, are alone in a fort. We learn that the Seven Years’ War rages outside.

The two soldiers, William and Morris (Ian Goff and Jesse LaPointe respectively), show that they are as much friends as they are enemies. They are polar opposites in many ways: Morris likes to ask existential questions, William prefers to live without knowing anything because knowing or asking questions complicates existence; Morris wants to stay, William wants to go so he can fulfill his duty to the British crown.

Their differences serve to highlight the age-old feud between the French and English. However, when William and Morris slowly begin to realize that they have been left alone for years, those differences fade away. As our present time starts to creep up on them, the realization that the war has passed and the world has moved on without them—but is swiftly returning to snap them back up—causes William to panic while Morris resigns himself to the fact that what they thought was the future has arrived.

Together LaPointe and Goff work splendidly, creating a biting chemistry between their characters. The intense fight choreography at the end when it seems time itself is starting to unravel is done so well it actually feels as though things are out of control.

The play also cleverly incorporates pop culture references, such as the Star Wars theme song and lines like “Shaken, not stirred” and “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” to show just how long William and Morris have been in that fort.

The time standing still twist comes unexpectedly, but lightens the play delightfully, while still keeping it grounded in the reality of the French-English “frenemies” theme.

The play reveals in an interesting way how over time, superficial differences like accents or common sayings meld together, to the point where our two characters are more alike than they are different.

NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival premiered John Ball’s First Sight, Gordon Mihan’s Ralph and Laura and the River Valley Promo, and Jean Michel Cliche’s Fort Faith at three site-specific locations across Fredericton July 24, 26, and 27, 2016.



the coop’s A Record of Us moves Richards’ writing on the Playhouse stage

4 08 2016

Angela Bosse

I must confess, as a non-New Brunswicker I have never experienced David Adams Richards’ works. While watching excerpts of this work unfold in the NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival’s mainstage production of the coop’s newest creation, A Record of Us, I imagine there is less of a plot than would be found in reading his stories. Yet the evocative messages and emotions the words present are striking.

The six cast members that make up Fredericton physical theatre group the coop—Jean-Michel Cliche, Alex Donovan, Ian Goff, Alexa Higgins, Lexi MacRae, and Kira Chisholm—speak and move across the stage with raw intensity emanating from every action and word.

Under the direction of Solo Chicken Production’s founding artistic director Lisa Anne Ross and choreographer Lesandra Dodson, who together makeup the coop’s artistic leadership, each scene is short, moving from one snippet of a story to another and then back again. Despite the brevity of some moments, there is never a sense of fragmentation. Rather, the whole play feels like a blended stream of intertwined stories and characters.

The creative lighting adds much to the beauty of the performance. Simple costumes of black with some white articles of clothing added in, combined with the stark lighting, make for a high contrast visual experience, with each muscle and movement clearly defined.

Each move is purposeful and calculated, but there appears to be no caution from the actors. Much like a choreographed dance, each step comes from the heart.

The precision of the show is impressive. There is control, even while playing out some of the most wild and uncontrollable emotions.

Although there is a consistent gravity of expression and the overall tone of the play is serious, not every scene is dark and deep. The moments of comedic ‘light’ shine through, with the audience chuckling along to a depiction of what it is like to work at a busy Tim Hortons while having a serious discussion with your coworker at the same time.

Sound also plays a key role in the show. From plates sliding across the floor to heavy breathing, startled gasps, and the babble of everyone speaking at once, the noise provides another layer that brings Richards’ works to life.

In showing what being from New Brunswick is like, the coop represents the broader human experience; while the context might be New Brunswick, the emotion is universal.

NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival premiered the coop’s A Record of Us at the Fredericton Playhouse July 20-23, 2016.

Bard’s Pericles hikes you across Odell Park, but you won’t Tyre of it

9 07 2016

by Angela Bosse



The lords of Tyre (l.-r. John Ball, Tilly Jackson, and Kelsey Hines) conspire as the assassin (Jesse LaPointe) sent to kill Pericles listens in during Bard in the Barrack’s production of Shakespeare’s The Adventures of Pericles in O’Dell Park. Photo Credit: Michael Holmes-Lauder.

The cloudy skies over Odell Park added to the sense of adventure and foreboding storms during Tuesday night’s Bard in the Barracks performance of Shakespeare’s The Adventures of Pericles, directed by Len Falkenstein.

This year’s annual Shakespeare-in-the-park follows the trials and tribulations of the Prince of Tyre as he travels the seas to distant lands escaping assassination attempts, winning the heart of a lovely princess, saving kingdoms from famine, and battling raging storms.

Fredericton’s Odell Park provides a fitting and stunning backdrop for the unfolding plot of one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known epics. The audience’s sense of interaction is heightened as cast members guide us from scene to scene through winding trials while singing sea shanties. Like Pericles, viewers get to experience the journey as they stumble upon the good, the bad, and the just plain zany characters of the show in the many vistas Odell Park has to offer.

The hero of the story is Pericles, the virtuous and honourable Prince of Tyre, played by Jean-Michel Cliche. Dressed in gentleman’s clothes that would not be out of place in the steampunk scene, Cliche plays the spectrum of Pericles’ evolution exceedingly well, from the confident royal, bashful suitor, broken husband, and reunited father.

By far the funniest scene of the play is at Pentapolis where the slightly deranged (but still politically competent) King Simonides is holding a tournament for the hand of his lovely daughter. In this adaptation, the tournament takes place in the form of a lumberjack competition, a decidedly New Brunswick touch to Shakespeare’s story. Five bumbling, flannel-clad knights and a recently-shipwrecked Pericles compete in log-throwing, wood-carving, and beer-chugging competitions. The physicality and antics of the would-be suitors played by Lucas Gutiérrez-Robert, Alexa Higgins, Rebekah Chassé, Barry McCluskey, and Kyle Cameron got lots of chuckles from the audience.

Also of note is Alex Donovan, playing the jolly, wine-faced Simonides, with a roaring forceful laugh and hyped-up facial expressions.

Along with the fading forest light and cloudy skies, Odell Park’s fallen trees play their silent parts as ship masts, bridges, palace pillars, and more. The uneven terrain allows for interesting staging choices, with the audience sometimes below the actors, and vice versa.

One of the most haunting experiences of the production is when the audience follows their guide through the forest after a character’s death (I won’t say who) while the cast walks alongside singing a mourning sea shanty. The sound of the sorrowful voices ringing off the trees and the line of players and audience members made it feel like a funeral procession full of grieving and regret for the loss of life.

Overall, the Bard’s Adventures of Pericles is just that: an adventure. The show is very well adapted to the various landscapes, and allows the audience to quite literally follow along as the adventure unfolds.

Bard in the Barracks presented Shakespeare’s Pericles in Odell Park June 22-July 3, 2016.


Mary pops in for Mother’s Day courtesy of TNB Senior Musical Theatre

9 05 2016

Burt (Ben Smith) and Mary Poppins (Olivia LaPointe) are working class Edwardian Brits on a cool posh roof in TNB Senior Musical Theatre’s Mary Poppins. Photo Credit: André Reinders

by Angela Bosse

Some lucky Fredericton moms got one of the most famous nannies to take care of their kids this Mother’s Day weekend: Mary Poppins.

Theatre New Brunswick’s Theatre School presented the musical, directed by Tania Breen, at the Fredericton Playhouse May 5-7 to audiences of kids, mothers, grandmothers, fathers, and a few stuffed animals as well.

The show, which explores the themes of motherhood, child-rearing, and parenthood in general, was aptly timed for Mother’s Day weekend, making it a nice family outing to celebrate, or a way to get dad and the kids out of the house so mom can have some peace and quiet.

Although different from the Disney movie that most kids and their parents are familiar with, TNB’s rendition captures the same vivid sense of imagination and wonder the film inspires.

Bright, colourful costumes, animated backgrounds, moving set pieces, and the coat-stand in the carpetbag trick pulled off flawlessly create the magic that makes Mary Poppins so fun to watch.

Olivia LaPointe plays Mary Poppins, the titular nanny and benevolent dictator of the Banks’ household who doesn’t give a damn if you don’t want to play by her rules. There is no crossing her—you are going to eat that spoonful of sugar and like it, thank you very much.

And who can blame her for being a little bit imperious? After all, she’s “practically perfect in every way.”

Mary Poppins blows in with the wind, and takes the reins from the well-meaning but insecure Winnifred Banks (Georgia MacNaughton). Accompanied by jolly chimney sweep Burt (Ben Smith), she takes the spoiled Jane and Michael Banks (Mallory Kelly and Cormac Beirne) on an adventure with just enough medicine going down to help them change their ways and repair their relationship with their parents.

Smith does an excellent job as Burt, mimicking Dick Van Dyke’s off-kilter cockney accent that is now so associated with the role.

Also of note are Rose Messenger and Patrick Lynn, who add plenty of physical comedy to their roles as the duo of servants at Cherry Tree Lane. Sarah MacLoon sings as the Bird Woman with a voice so rich, I think anyone would gladly hand over two pence to feed some pigeons.

While the music, lights, pretty singing, and dancing provide entertainment for the youngest of audience members, I was surprised to realize just how applicable the show was for adult audiences too. Mary Poppins isn’t just about a magical nanny turning two bad children good—it’s about how to be a family. It’s about making time for things that matter, and not getting wrapped up in the materials that take so much of our attention and cause so much worry.

The story doesn’t just mean you should make time for your kids either. It’s about making time for your spouse too. The emotional developments of Mr. and Mrs. Banks throughout the show reveal the struggles of marriage and parenting go hand in hand. Parents can’t take care of their children unless they are able to understand and take care of each other.

All in all, TNB’s show is wrapped up in a nice little package that touches hearts and enchants minds with music, dancing, and a touch of that Walt Disney magic.

TNB Senior Musical Theatre’s production of Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman, and Julian Fellowes’s Mary Poppins ran at the Fredericton Playhouse May 5-7, 2016.


Burt (Ben Smith, centre) and, surely, all of London’s chimney sweeps “Step in Time” as Mary Poppins (Olivia LaPointe), Jane Banks (Mallory Kelly) (both at left) and Michael Banks (Cormac Beirne, at right) look on in TNB Senior Musical Theatre’s Mary Poppins. Photo Credit: André Reinders

FHS Drama Club’s Dracula rises above

15 04 2016

by Hannah Blizzard

I am still reeling with mere suggestion that this production is directed by high school students. Georgia MacNaughton and Ben Smith, co-directors of the Fredericton High School Drama Club, tackle William McNulty’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula with impressive success. The young dramatists possess a keen and refined eye for theatrical design.

The time old tale of Dracula is a harrowing adventure in which psychiatric physician Dr. Thomas Seward (Lucas Emery) and his professor companion Abram Van Helsing (Peter Ball) seek to explain the mysterious death of Seward’s fiancée. A foreigner with an unnerving accent takes a suspicious interest in the proceedings. Seward and Van Helsing soon discover they are up against a much stronger force than could be of the natural world. Dracula is a haunting narrative that revels in the horrific destruction of human life.

In theatre it is the details that matter. Clunky set changes, ineffective lighting cues, and sound cues going askew are just a few of the things that can entirely derail a production. The FHS Drama Club do a phenomenal job at maintaining a seamless pace throughout.

MacNaughton and Smith handle the casting well. Each actor fills his or her role comfortably. It is a joy to watch the actors explore the physical range of their characters as the spellbinding nature of the Count consumes both performers and spectators alike. Madeline Sceviour gives a standout performance as the archetypal psychotic, Robert Renfield. She claims the top of the show with bold and violent physical choices which she expertly maintains throughout the piece. Other notable players include Rachel Forbes (Margaret Sullivan), Isaac Meadus (Norbert Briggs) and, of course, Jason McIntyre as Count Dracula. There are many instances where they tackle choreographed movement in perfect synchronicity.

McIntyre is a compelling choice in the titular role. He stands at approximately 5’3”—a significant deal shorter than many of his cast members. He makes up for this discrepancy with his dedication to the character. He really comes into his own. He is effectively sinister.

It is an interesting decision to have two actors portray Dracula. The Monster, played by Jacob Martin, is our first encounter with the Count. He appears as a mysterious figure clad  entirely in black with an unfortunate complexion. Upon feasting on the life blood of Mina Grant (Amanda Thorne) the actors seamlessly switch, thus demonstrating the essential impetus of vampirism and beautifully transforming into the iconic picture of Dracula. It is such a simple devise employed by MacNaughton and Smith that allows the audience to witness the duality of traits the character possesses: grotesque yet unignorably charismatic.

Where the cast as a whole fall short is the occasional stunted delivery of lines. Some actors choose to perform an accent—some do not. Regardless they are all inconsistent. Even McIntyre, who is strongest in this regard, occasionally drops his accent. Additionally, there are a few notable moments where it is questionable if an actor truly understands the gravity of the words he or she is invoking, for the inflection of tone does little to convey it.

Michael Doherty has created a haunting soundscape to accommodate the ambiance of the piece. The technical and stage designs are intuitive and contribute well to the overall cohesive structure of the piece.

It is the details that matter in theatre. MacNaughton and Smith have a keen, developed eye for the details—thus their success is well earned.

Dracula ran in Fredericton High School’s Tom Morrison Theatre from April 7-9, 2016.

Ballet Jörgen’s abbreviated Velveteen Rabbit wins hearts, not pocketbooks, at the Playhouse

11 04 2016

by Ashley Farwell

Canada’s Ballet Jörgen presents The Velveteen Rabbit at the Fredericton Playhouse. It’s show full of classic storybook wonder with a simple cast of five talented dancers. Their basic staging is really all that’s needed to wow the hundreds of elementary school children filling the seats. Eyes open wide and just as the lights go up, smiles appear instantly.

The Velveteen Rabbit appears as a large adult sized “stuffy.” Fingers are pointing, shirts are being tugged, and parents are whispering for their children to be quiet. Just then a large mechanical toy soldier comes from behind the stage! The strength, technique, and skill of the dancer is impressive as we watch him hold poses for extended periods of time. He makes this look sharp and flawless as you appreciate his strength and balance. Though this show is short, you can see moments that truly impress the “big kids” as well as the little ones sitting next to them. Disappointingly, however, these moments are few.

As the show concludes a cast member comes on stage and immediately begins a discussion with the audience. She asks the children several questions about the performance. She also goes on to explain the elements of theatre used in the performance (props, staging, and music) and how they are used to tell the story. This is really interesting to the children and they are completely engaged in the conversation. This is  easy to see from the countless number of little hands flying up eager to answer her questions.

But this isn’t the last of the surprises. She invites them onstage to learn a dance with the “real” ballet dancers! It’s chaos as all the children run for the stage. They spend the next ten minutes learning some new dance moves from the professional dancers. They show the crowd their new moves and take a bow glowing with excitement.

The Velveteen Rabbit is a good children’s surprise. It is not geared in any way for an adult audience. However, it does have moments that  capture your attention and is not necessarily a difficult children’s show to sit through. But it is not cheap family entertainment, with tickets for 2 adults and 1 child costing almost $60.00 for 1 hour of entertainment (including the pre-show and post-show discussion).

The Velveteen Rabbit is great for restless children and busy moms and dads, but could dance more of the story for a longer show without so much of the original tale cut out. This also would avoid a lot of the talking and whispering during the show as parents must explain what is going on. Because the story is so watered down it is hard for the young ones to follow.

If you are looking for a quick outing on a Sunday afternoon with the kids, this is the show for you. If you are looking for an intense ballet full of jaw dropping athleticism with a rich story, look elsewhere. The Velveteen Rabbit is a cute children’s performance that, simply stated, is short and sweet.

Ballet Jörgen’s production of The Velveteen Rabbit, based on the book by Margery Williams, ran at the Fredericton Playhouse April 3, 2016.

%d bloggers like this: