Tag Archives: John Koensgen

Corpus: Theatre Raising the Past & Raising the Bar

A play that tackles the holocaust is never going to be uncomplicated yet Darrah Teiltel’s tale, in its world-premiere, recalling events in Auschwitz between a Nazi camp wife and a Polish Jewish prisoner is fresh, modern, entertaining and strikingly amusing. Director Bronwyn Steinberg assuredly marks out present from past with maps tile-ing the stage and characters that are vividly real. The tragedies of the past are delineated from the chaos and humour of the present; this juxtaposition deftly resonating with the truth that history never exists in a void and is forever influenced by the outsider’s perception.

Moving in flashbacks between 1940’s Poland and modern day Toronto as Genocide research student Megan (Sascha Cole) pulls the curtain back on the unconventional relationship between Eva Reiniger and Auschwitz prisoner & SonderKommander Eli.  The work obsessed, overwrought and forlorn Megan defies her Professor (John Koensgen) when the mysterious Heinrich reaches out over the internet from Berlin to tell her that Reiniger survived the evacuation of the camps and is desperate to share her memories…

With actors feet apart conversations are held on video chats with screens at either end of the theatre. The sound and video design and the set are nothing short of successful. The staging and use of innovative props is stunningly evocative. Steinberg’s innovative re-positioning of the theatre and use of the full space transports the audience with her remarkable cast through time and territory.

CorpusThe five cast members work together beautifully. Without overshadowing one another the presence of each was riveting. Colleen Sutton as Eva is nothing short of mesmerising as she primps in the mirror before her first Polish lesson, Eli (Eric Craig) defines enigmatic while Laurie Fyffe brings the older Eva’s fears confusion and need for confession vividly to life – these characters lingered long after the curtain dropped. Daniel Sadavoy brings humour with a nimble Baron-Cohen take on Heinrich alleviating tension yet becoming achingly vulnerable when reaching out of cyber-space to try for a literal connection.

The only perceived stumble in a remarkable production is a lag at the opening of the 2nd act where Megan’s publishing success of Eva’s survivor story is slightly drawn out and lacks the compelling transfixing quality of the rest of the play.  This is but a small and even insignificant criticism of a truly excellent production which raises the bar in Ottawa’s Professional Theatre. Bravo Counterpoint Players.

ESNPF Review: Short Plays Deliver a Uniquely Entertaining Evening

nto_extremelyshort_brochThe Extremely Short New Play festival defies its comically long title with singularly brief stagings; 10 plays each under 10 minutes in length.

Though some works are stronger than others the overall quality of plays, direction and acting guarantees an evening of diverse entertainment. The playwrights do themselves proud with an impressive array of compositions; stand-outs include Jessica Anderson’s “Terminal Journey“, Pierre Brault’s “Coach of the Year” and a gut-wrenchingly personal account of loss accompanied by innovative staging and technology in Tim Ginley’s “There’s More to the Picture“.

AndrewAlexanderPhoto - EricCraig (Gorilla-Top Job) Colleen Sutton (Tammy-Out of Gas)

Comedic Roles – Colleen Sutton in Out of Gas & Eric Craig in Top Job
Photo: Andrew Alexander

The smorgasbord of theatre – with only 2 or 3 pieces not fully to my taste – left us exhilarated by the ability of the 4 cast member to create such varied and memorable characters. Brian Stewart appears in a staggering 7 performances – managing, with seemingly chameleon-like ease, to keep his characters fresh. Stewart’s sensitive human portrayal of Caleb in Terminal Journey came right on the back of the challenging two-hander Seeing which demanded a broad range of conflicting emotions as an unhinged haunted Intelligence expert grapples with dark thoughts. Maureen Smith and Colleen Sutton transitioned smoothly into and away from the historical characters in Loyal Opposition. Smith toe-tapping impatience was irritatingly authentic followed by her tense unmoving delivery of measured restraint while Sutton’s strengths shone in dramatic roles.

Eric Craig taking to the Ottawa stage for the first time is one to watch; bringing undeniable presence and subtle nuances to his roles we consistently lost the actor finding only the character on stage. As a duty-bound ticket attendant, a grunting primate, a mullet-headed moron or haunted long-haul trucker Craig is in equal measure empathetic, eerie, funny and riveting.   

The balance of comedy to drama demanded some difficult shifts; in particular with the slapstick Denial sandwiched between the night’s two most emotionally-charged works. The comedic pieces at the end of each set however keep the tempo flowing and unite the room with laughter.

Finally, it’s hat’s off to director John Koensgen who sets a fine pace throughout the evening and creates the virtual “space” allowing each time-compressed work to truly shine, for 10 minutes, at the Arts Court theatre.  

31 October – 10 November (Tues-Sat 8pm)
Arts Court Theatre, 2 Daly Ave.