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Nothing Like Vampires to Shake The Blahs

September 2010

By Mike Levin

September is not being kind to local theatre; reviewers and audiences are being downright cruel. I haven’t attended any performances this month so there’s no sense in getting specific, but only when arts columnist Denis Armstrong gets bored or local actor Kris Joseph, thankfully, gets huffy, has the the mist of blah-dom risen from the Ottawa scene.

Where is the unpredictability of theatre challenges,  the surreal environment of a play in a tavern or the adrenaline-stoked frenzy of alternative performance? This stuff goes on every week in other Canadian cities. Ottawa sleeps, even during recent performances I’m told.

Where are the boundary benders? Good theatre is not just about actors’ lines and set design; it’s an environment that produces tingles in the brain pan.

John Koensgen gets creepy. Photo by Mike Levin.

We won’t see Pierre Brault until March in The Shadow Cutter. A new Company of Fools’ production is nowhere in sight, and those luscious teasers at MiCasa Theatre aren’t even hinting about when their highly anticipated musical Live From The Belly Of A Whale will see a public stage.

November holds some promise when the Chamber Theatre in Hintonburg launches Mechanicsville Monologues at the Carleton Tavern and when I opens at The Gladstone Theatre. But everything else seems so predictable. Except one thing – something starting at Cube Gallery in late October.

That’s when John Koensgen reprises his 2002 role as Michael McGee in Conor McPherson’s St. Nicholas. This is the one-man play about an Irish theatre critic who follows his hormones, and an actress, to London and gets seduced by vampires.

This is causing a tingle.

“I love Hitchcock, that soft creepy stuff,” says Koensgen, who calls himself a “(regular) theatre type of guy” but whose New Theatre of Ottawa company has a habit of pushing borders, like performing at the National Research Council and organizing a panel of philosophers to follow a play about Josef Wittgenstein.

Don Monet. Photo by Mike Levin.

McPherson is one of his favourite playwrights because of his ghost stories (The Weir, Shining City) that are more psychological than Boo! “(St. Nicholas) is very adult, about taking responsibility for your actions. So you can look for the symbolism or just think it’s a very cool story,” Koensgen says. “The Cube is such an intimate space, art on the walls. It’s perfect for this piece.”

That the play will run during Hallowe’en (October 21 to November 6, no Sundays or Mondays) makes it even more interesting.

This is the first time the art gallery has collaborated on a multi-day event. Owner Don Monet has hosted a bizarre string of parties, weddings and entertainment since opening in 2003, and always seems open to a good idea, although all he’ll say about St Nicholas is “Yeah, we’ll see how it works.”

At least someone is colouring outside the lines this fall in theatre.


  • Nancy Kenny said:

    While I am very excited to see this, I’m also thrilled to see Turn of the Screw with Kris Joseph in October at Laurier House. Not mentioning this exciting site-specific piece also happening in October is a shame.

    Also, this is not the first time Cube Gallery has played host to multi-day events like theatre. John Koensgen’s New Theatre of Ottawa has put on a few shows in the old space on Hamilton Ave. (including Merz which won Peter Froehlich a Best Actor Award at the first annual Rideau Awards) and Evolution Theatre put on Arabian Night.

    I’m sorry Mike, I usually love your articles but this one just seems misinformed.

  • MLevin (author) said:

    Nancy. Don Monet told me this was the first multi-night event at the Cube. Turn of the Screw will no doubt be a great show. I didn’t realize it was gonna be in an alt venue. But it isn’t really new, made-in-Ottawa material. We have such great playwrights in this city that I wish more companies/venues would take chances on. Hope Toronto is treating you well. Mike

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