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Thursday Theater Roundup: the Canadian Edition

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Peter Krantz as Elwood P. Dowd and Donna Belleville as Betty Chumley in "Harvey" at the Shaw Festival.

As summer approaches and the theater season proper winds down and the whole entire theater community exhales in the wake of Monday's annual Artie Awards, it's relatively slim pickings this weekend for seekers of dramatic thrills and chills. Fortunately, we have the Shaw Festival over in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., where a series of compelling dramas and comedies (and some things in between) have opened in recent weeks.

Hence, this week's Canadian-flavored Thursday Theater Roundup. We'll start with two very worthy local shows, one closing on Sunday and another running through the end of the month.

"Lovers" through June 27 in the Andrews Theatre in a production by the Irish Classical Theatre Company. From the review: "[Brian] Friel’s writing, O’Neill’s caring interpretation, and the cast’s relish and skill all combine to create an affecting experience. This is not the romantic evening implied by the play’s single-word title. It is, however, another excellent opportunity to join the Irish Classical on its journey, exploring the breadth of human emotion with creativity and heart." --Ted Hadley

THE EXONERATED 

Michael Atkins Yawn rehearses a sceen for "The Exonerated" at Ujima Theatre. Photo by Mark Mulville / The Buffalo News

"The Exonerated" through June 13 in TheatreLoft, in a production of Ujima Theatre. From the review: "As strong an indictment of the American criminal justice system as has ever been produced for the stage... Ujima and director Lorna C. Hill are to be applauded for honoring this gravely important topic with a production that simply sings." --Colin Dabkowski

At the Shaw

GUSTO SHAW Ideal Husband "An Ideal Husband" through Oct. 31 at the Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., in a production of the Shaw Festival. From the review: "The intricacies of the plot — which, truth be told, is a little tiredly conceived and tends in spots toward the maudlin — all serve one over-arching and worthy point: We are all hopelessly imperfect creatures whose only hope for forgiveness comes through the redemptive power of love. It’s a beautifully simple, almost naive idea, and it’s what elevates the play beyond a chuckle-worthy society comedy. That it was written while Wilde was embroiled in a public scandal over his forbidden homosexuality, and from which he would never recover, lends the play’s storybook conclusion a gloss of wistful fantasy that makes it all the more compelling." --Colin Dabkowski

"Harvey" through Oct. 31 at the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., in a production of the Shaw Festival. From the review: "'Harvey' should be completely exempt from deep analysis. It is about happiness. Its simplicity and gimmicky humor are its chief strengths, a fact exploited by director Joseph Ziegler and carried on ably by his cast. This is the antidote to Chekhov, the perfect cure for world-weariness and a great affirmation of eccentricity that strives to bring out the dreamer in us all." --Colin Dabkowski


GUSTO The Cherry Orchard 

Severn Thompson as Varya and Laurie Paton as Lyubov Andreyevna Ranyevskaya in "The Cherry Orchard" at the Shaw Festival.

"The Cherry Orchard" through Oct. 2 in the Court House Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., in a production of the Shaw Festival. From the review: "This production, featuring Shaw veterans Benedict Campbell as Lopakhin and Laurie Paton as Lyubov among a great many other gifted actors, employs an excellent Irish-tinged adaptation by Tom Murphy. This imbues the script with subtle sense of modern urgency (“How’s tricks?” instead of “How are you?”) and expands it ever-so-slightly beyond the insularity of its rural Russian milieu."

--Colin Dabkowski

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