Theatergoers across the region are waiting with bated breath for next Friday's annual Curtain Up! event, when Western New York theater companies launch their 2010-11 seasons (the first show, MusicalFare's "Shout! The Mod Musical," gets started on Wednesday). After that, you can expect the Thursday Theater Roundup to burst with recommendations from our reviewers about all the must-see shows from the region's more than 20 companies.
For now, though, we will have to content ourselves for one final week before the big kickoff with a list of what's on offer just across the border at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. Our recommended Shaw shows are listed below. And don't forget to check this space two weeks hence for a look at what's hot this fall.
"Age of Arousal," through Oct. 30 in the Court House Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. in a Shaw Festival production. From the review: "It is a marvelous ensemble, but the performances of [Kelli] Fox and [Sharry] Flett are most delightful: masterpieces of comic timing, mild slapstick and pointed comment... In this production, desperation can be wonderfully entertaining." --Melinda Miller
"The Doctor's Dilemma," through Oct. 30 in the Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. in a Shaw Festival production. From the review: "...audiences might not agree with Shaw’s opinion. But it’s difficult not to be sucked in by the inherent drama, the wonderfully idiosyncratic characters and the overall charm of this show, which dives headlong into the challenges of the medical establishment in a stratified society." --Colin Dabkowski
"John Bull's Other Island," through Oct. 9 in the Court House Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. in a Shaw Festival production. From the review: "[The production] uses an intelligently and heavily abridged script that, together with Christopher Newton’s sure-handed control of stage action, provides a performance that rolls along purposefully and compellingly, leading the audience by the ear and eye even through the most pontificating of Shaw’s soap-box orations." --Herman Trotter
"Half an Hour," through Oct. 9 in the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. in a Shaw Festival production. From the review: "Barrie has packed a surprising amount of humor, hope and tragedy into such a compact package that you may walk out of the theater thinking you’ve seen a full-blown production.... It’s not Shaw, it’s not Shakespeare and it’s perhaps too sentimental for some tastes, but “Half an Hour” may be the most effective piece of drama from concentrate I’ve seen. It is, at the very least, well worth the time." --Colin Dabkowski
The cast of "One Touch of Venus at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
"One Touch of Venus" through Oct. 10 in the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. in a Shaw Festival production. From the review: "With Weill’s music enhanced by S. J. Perelman’s book, and lyrics by the one-and-only Ogden Nash, the prospect is for top-level music and laughs. And to a large degree that’s what we get. But it doesn’t take long to discover that the joy of Ogden Nash’s lyrics can sometimes be diluted in the transfer from printed page to song... Directed by Eda Holmes, the large cast was given a lot of latitude to exploit the show’s louder, more boisterous possibilities." --Herman Trotter
"An Ideal Husband" through Oct. 31 at the Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., in a Shaw Festival production. 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 Shaw Festival production. 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
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 Shaw Festival production. 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