Reviews

My Brilliant Divorce

by Geraldine Aron.

 

Review – Jamie Portman

Capital Critics Circle, Ottawa.

 

A Shining Achievement!

One-person shows are drearily frequent on the theatrical scene — and often they smack more of budget-controlling measures than anything else. But Geraldine Aron’s My Brilliant Divorce, now at the Gladstone, is an exception. That’s due, not only to the quality of the text but to Kate Hurman’s terrific performance as a woman picking up the pieces of her shattered life after the breakdown of her marriage.

Hurman makes the character of Angela our irresistible confidant in this play, inviting us to share moments of rage, resentment, sorrow, despair and humiliation, but also ensuring that we also experience the release of laughter when her naturally buoyant sense of humour reasserts itself.

To a point, our response to Angela’s unreeling of her miseries may seem suspect. Should we really be enjoying Hurman this much as she rants about her estranged spouse’s new girlfriend, a sexpot with the voluptuous lips of Angelina Jolie? Or, as she caustically recalls her encounters with a chauvinistic divorce attorney, or as she makes a disastrous middle-aged attempt to re-enter the dating circuit?

There’s a certain element of the spectator sport in our natures when it comes to gluing ourselves to the spectacle of a human train wreck — witness the addiction many of us have to the ongoing Rob Ford saga — and we can be cocooned against its full implications by knowing that it’s not happening to us.

But Geraldine Aron’s textured and affectionate script offers a bouquet of opportunities to an attentive actress. The play, discreetly directed by the reliable John P. Kelly, has a natural flow at the Gladstone. And, thanks to Hurman, who also takes on a variety of other roles, we’ll never make the error of regarding My Brilliant Divorce as no more than an extended stand-up routine.

There’s a certain element of the spectator sport in our natures when it comes to gluing ourselves to the spectacle of a human train wreck — witness the addiction many of us have to the ongoing Rob Ford saga — and we can be cocooned against its full implications by knowing that it’s not happening to us.

But Geraldine Aron’s textured and affectionate script offers a bouquet of opportunities to an attentive actress. The play, discreetly directed by the reliable John P. Kelly, has a natural flow at the Gladstone. And, thanks to Hurman, who also takes on a variety of other roles, we’ll never make the error of regarding My Brilliant Divorce as no more than an extended stand-up routine.

The play, which provided a personal triumph for British actress Dawn French in the London production, is ultimately a study in loneliness, and Kelly and Hurman ensure genuine moments of pathos as Angela comes to terms with what to her is a humiliating tragedy in her life.

The moments of self-pity are legitimate, but what ultimately rescues Angela is her robust self-awareness. More important, Hurman convinces us of a natural good humour, which keeps reminding Angela that there’s a ludicrous side to so much of her current misery — be it a frenzied display of hypochondria or her embarrassment at paying a solitary visit to a sex shop.

My Brilliant Divorce carries the promise of a happy ending — one that may seem a bit contrived and almost too good to be true. However, despite its warm heart, it remains a play about being alone — and how one copes. But thanks to Hurman’s sad, funny and always truthful characterization, it’s also about the resilience of the human spirit. A performance to savour.

 

Absurd Person Singular

THE CHARLEBOIS POST – CANADA: March 7, 2013

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The timing and precision required to do the play was executed terrifically well and the actors were so comfortable in their performances that it seemed like they’d already been running it a while, it was so free of opening night glitches.
John P. Kelly consistently finds the right key to play in and his surefooted direction gives the actors the confidence to play with abandon.
What you will definitely see is absurdity put under a microscope or possibly projected through a telescope, broadly played to hilarious effect. This is an evening that is ridiculously funny and ridiculously entertaining.

Absurd Person Singular

CAPITAL CRITICS’ CIRCLE: March 8, 2013

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John P. Kelly’s wild and woolly but beautifully orchestrated free for all at the Gladstone has plucked out the essential conflicts and set them up in David Whiteley’s fine, functional , solidly constructed and beautifully decorated set, built to withstand the slamming, pushing and mistreatment that the action calls for.
John P. Kelly kept the pace running beautifully, pinpointing the highlights and most meaningful moments of the play. His madcap orchestration, along with Stewart Matthews’ performance as the working class clown and his desire to become one of the boys, are all worth the price of the ticket. You have to see it to believe it. Don’t miss Absurd Person Singular.

NOVEMBER

CAPITAL CRITICS’ CIRCLE – CANADA : December 2, 2012

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Political incompetence showcased in a fine production.
In the SevenThirty Productions presentation of November, slickly directed by John P. Kelly, Todd Duckworth is simply terrific as the sinking president. Maintaining a knife-edge balance between humour and pathos, he is always believable, despite the excesses that Mamet has injected into his character.
He is ably supported by Steve Martin as his restrained chief of staff and Chantale Plante as his speechwriter.
Enhanced by David Magladry’s Oval Office set and lighting, this production of November is a highly entertaining version of Mamet’s cynical attack on political incompetence.

NOVEMBER

THE OTTAWA CITIZEN – CANADA : November 22, 2012

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couched as it is in David Magladry’s attractive Oval Office set, this is one funny and very pointed show.
Under director John P. Kelly, all this — and more, believe it or not — unrolls at a quick, efficient pace.

NOVEMBER

THE CHARLEBOIS POST – CANADA : November 24, 2012

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John P. Kelly’s direction gives the show a surprisingly fast pace. There’s a lot of movement, especially for a production that takes place entirely in one room and involved more than a few telephone conversations.
The elaborate set is beautiful and authentic. It actually looks like the oval office, complete with paintings of George Washington, among other notable presidents.
Mamet’s writing style is cynical and features lots of well-deployed profanity and not quite politically correct quips.
November strikes a good balance between on-the-nose satire and complete absurdity.

Fly Me To The Moon [GCTC Production]

CAPITAL CRITICS’ CIRCLE: November 6, 2012

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Whatever degree of success Marie Jones achieves from her dark but undeniably funny comedy, Fly Me To The Moon, is dependent on her dexterity in continuing to weave continuing variations on one central situation. And any stage production’s degree of success is dependent on how well it responds to both the opportunities and challenges presented by the script. On that basis, John P. Kelly’s production for the Great Canadian Theatre Company is a winner.
Under John P. Kelly’s direction, the play is never allowed to fall back into easy escapism. Mary Ellis’s marvellous performance is often enormously funny, but also reveals Frances’s complexity. The character of Loretta, as written, offers less scope and more challenges for actress Margo MacDonald. But it is a solid performance of a woman consumed by anxiety.

Fly Me To The Moon [GCTC Production]

THE OTTAWA CITIZEN – CANADA : November 2, 2012

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Ellis, MacDonald stellar in comedic performances
Ellis and MacDonald also have enough edge to their performances that the playwright’s bleaker vision — a contemporary Ireland economically and socially adrift — leaves its imprint along with the humour.

Fly Me To The Moon [GCTC Production]

THE CHARLEBOIS POST – CANADA : November 3, 2012

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This is the Canadian première of Fly Me To The Moon and it would be hard to imagine a more delightful, honest and funny presentation of such deliciously flawed characters than what we have in this production.
John P Kelly mentions in his opening notes that he loves Belfast and knows the characters very well. Well, it clearly shows. There is great skill, care and respect for the characters and a keen understanding of their sense of humour, which is an important aspect of their survival instinct.

Stones In His Pockets

THE PRODUCTION OTTAWA – CANADA : Sepetember 8, 2012

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Written by playwright Marie Jones, and directed in this production at The Gladstone by John P. Kelly, Stones In His Pockets is a comedy with two actors and dozens of characters.
The play is funny, yes, but especially in the 2nd act, after the event on which the title of the play was derived, Stones In His Pockets shows a lot of heart as it digs into the effect that the giant Hollywood engine has when it moves into a tiny rural town.

The Communication Cord

THE CHARLEBOIS POST – CANADA : March 30, 2012

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The Communication Cord
(photo credit: Lois Siegel)
Janet Uren, Kat Smiley, Jess Preece, Genevieve Sirois, Michelle LeBlanc, Zach Counsil, David Whiteley, Alain Chamsi, JPK

Last month I had the pleasure of seeing Translations by Irish playwright Brian Friel at the Ottawa Little Theatre. Although there was a fair bit of humour in that piece, it was largely dramatic in tone. After the success of Translations, Friel followed it up with The Communication Cord. Both plays are set in the fictional Irish town of Ballybeg and both deal with language. Although The Communication Cord takes place 150 years later in the 1980’s, the picturesque rural setting is relatively the same, as it is set in an historic home in county Donegal. That is where all similarities between the plays end.

Director John P. Kelly is a funny man. His introductions are classic. He also seems to bring out playfulness in those around him.

David Magladry has designed and lit a beautiful set.

Brian Friel has based his well crafted farce on a simple lie.

David Whitely plays the uptight professor Tim Gallagher with just the right amount of nervous befuddlement.
Michelle LeBlanc as the old girlfriend Claire Harkin delights in stirring the pot. She plays the coquettish imp beautifully.
Steve Martin almost steals the show as Barney the Banks.
Tim Oberholzer adds to the fun as the womanizing and oh-so-sincere lawyer who lends out his house and Kat Smiley is the jealous girlfriend Susan.
The cast is rounded out by Alain Chamsi as the somewhat idealistic, self righteous Dr. Donovan, Genevieve Sirois as the comely French neighbour Evette and Janet Uren as Nora Dan, the Ballybeg’s version of Gladys Kravitz.

The 39 Steps

CAPITAL CRITICS’ CIRCLE: September, 2011

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Our very own fun-loving man of the Irish stage John P. Kelly , has brought into the Gladstone, an evening of humour, of the kind one only expects from The Company of Fools. Creating a marvellous hybrid of humours, director Ke