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|Written by Wayne Current|
|Monday, 23 November 2009 09:13|
Many of my reviews and blog posts have been written in the Carleton Tavern. I like the eclectic mix of people the place attracts. It's a diversity that is reflected in the surrounding community and neighborhood of Hintonburg-Mechanicsville. As such, I was very excited to discover that Chamber Theatre would be putting on a show, The Mechanicsville Monologues, at one of my favourite haunts. I eagerly set off to grab a tasty smoked-meat sandwich, down a pint or two of beer, and review the November 18 opening night performance at the Carleton Tavern for (Cult)ure.The Chamber Theatre team are really onto a good thing.
Monologues writer/director Donnie Laflamme and the Chamber Theatre team are really onto a good thing by bringing theatre into bars in the Ottawa community. There is something wonderfully refreshing about being able to enjoy a beer and a play at the same time. More importantly, by staging their productions in non-traditional spaces, Chamber Theatre is tapping into new audiences. I recognized very few of the usual Ottawa theatre crowd on The Mechanicsville Monologues opening night, despite a sold out house. Chamber Theatre is bringing theatre directly to the community, and the community is responding by coming out to see their shows. It is encouraging and demonstrates the large appetite for theatre in this town.
The Mechanicsville Monologues is a departure from Chamber Theatre's usual fare. This collection of monologues, written by Laflamme, aspires to tell the stories and history of Ottawa's Hintonburg-Mechanicsville neighborhood. Unfortunately, Laflamme's script and his directorial choices result in a play that comes across as, at best, a parody of a generic working class community.
Every cliché from the bad cop, the drag queen prostitute, the john, etc., is represented in Laflamme's script, and there are very few surprises in the narratives of the monologues. Often the actors slip into a Brooklyn-like accent as they affect a "working class toughness," despite the fact that people from this neighborhood sound exactly like the rest of Ottawa's residents. In short, people from or familiar with this community will not see themselves or their community reflected in this production, and that is unfortunate given the play's title.People will not see themselves or their community reflected in this production.
There are, however, some solid performances in the piece. Robert Reynolds' portrayal of a cab driver in the opening monologue "Taxi Driver," and later a drunk in "The Drunk With The Black Eye," are both very good. Annie Lefebvre successfully opens and closes the show with the boisterous drunken musical number "911 Saturday Night." While the song itself goes on much longer than is necessary, Annie's caricature of a woman who has had a little too much to drink is fun to watch. Also enjoyable is Will Somers in "John School," a monologue that has the feel of a Saturday Night Live sketch; it is definitely over the top, but also very funny.
While this production of The Mechanicsville Monologues is not entirely successful, I really like the concept of Chamber Theatre. Their production of Arthur Miller's A View From The Bridge was outstanding. In the future, I am sure Laflamme (also the producer of Chamber Theatre) will return to the 20th century American plays that Chamber Theatre does so well.
As always, I encourage you to check out the play for yourself, and I am curious to hear what you think of it. Feel free to use the comment field below, or send me a tweet @FacesofWayne. Who knows? Maybe you'll see me at the Carleton Tavern and we can talk about it there. Try the pizza. It's excellent.
Wayne Current is a writer, communications expert, director, and blogger. Check out manyfacesofwayne.wordpress.com for more of his work.
Tags: can con, carleton tavern, chamber theatre, donnie laflamme, hintonburg, ottawa, review, the machanicsville monologues, theatre