Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Troupe delivers entertaining but messy changes

  • Print

NAGLE Jackson's farcical The Quick-Change Room captures the immense social and economic upheaval of post-perestroika Russia in the early '90s through a once-renowned St. Petersburg theatre company.

The country is in the middle of a cathartic transition out of the tight grip of communism into a suddenly wide-open, free-enterprise state and the fictional Kuzlov Theatre becomes an amusing microcosm for the necessary evolution into a market-driven operation.

Theartre review

The Quick-Change Room

Shoestring

To Feb. 9 at PTE's Colin Jackson Studio

Tickets: $15 at 204-475-6821

Two and a half stars

Theatre review

About Love & Champagne

Fancy Bred Theatre

To Feb. 8 at 290 McDermot Ave.

Tickets: $10 at 204-894-2111

Three stars

Venerable artistic director Sergey needs to change with the times almost as fast as his actors, who dash into the quick-change room for lightning-fast, between-scenes costume makeovers before racing back on stage.

Shoestring's ChekhovFest offering is an entertaining peek backstage at the petty rivalries, strategic romantic couplings and artistic quarrels that occur at any theatre. Unfortunately, it is not crisply performed or paced. Short scenes sap momentum and comic impact. A couple of actors had to have their lines prompted from backstage. Even the quick changes of the play within the play need to be quicker.

Jackson was the first American to be invited to direct in the Soviet Union and helmed at the Bolshoi Dramatic Theatre in St. Petersburg, so he is familiar with the Russian revolution in theatre after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Most of the fun for ChekhovFest-goers occurs in the second act, when Three Sisters is tarted up in an hilarious attempt to make it a hot ticket.

The Kuzlov is in trouble -- for the first time since 1917 the theatre is not sold out. State support has disappeared as quick as soap for the theatre. Not even a case of windshield wipers, three issues of Hustler magazine and a date with an attractive redhead in the office lathers any seller to give up a few bars.

The traditionalist Sergey soon loses power to box office manager-cum producer Boris, who believes the company must give the public what it wants on stage and plans to stage the capitalist theatre's greatest money-spinner, The Phantom of the Opera, next season. Boris, a well-connected hustler focused on the bottom line, then orders a new musical version of Three Sisters, featuring only two singing-and-dancing siblings but one happy ending.

The change room is where the actors go to change and Nina, finely played by Laura Harrison, undergoes the most significant transition from grateful ingenue to scheming, materialistic starlet in the new order. Rhonda Kennedy Rogers earns some sympathy for the company's long-standing diva, Olga, whose fall in status is far and funny. Jean-Marc Blanc brings the proper artistic outrage to old-school Sergey while Katherine McLennan earns kudos for her portrayal of the lowly wardrobe mistress Maria, who wields mischievous power to cut down the high and mighty who dare to cross her.

Some other cast members could use a stint in a quick-change room.

-- -- --

Winnipeg actor Rodrigo Beilfuss scampers through the aceart gallery with what is purported to be a bottle of champagne (cider?), stopping to pour glasses for patrons before hitting the makeshift stage of his one-man show, About Love &Champagne.

He begins his monologue with a Russian toast and then says, "It's been a long time since I drank champagne," which just happens to be the last words of Anton Chekhov. Soon Beilfuss brings the subject of his chat around to himself, which might be dismissed as self-indulgent, but his story, and the ease with which it is told, earns audience attention. He relates how he is just back in Winnipeg after earning a graduate degree from the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art and how one of his teachers offered a humorous assessment of his potential as a romantic lead.

Beilfuss touches only briefly on Chekhov and romance as much of his hour-long talk is about the relationship he struck with the wife of a couple he was living with outside Winnipeg. Beifuss takes the advice of his instructor and presents himself as a tortured romantic figure who has an overheated farewell scene with his forbidden love.

The engaging actor/playwright displays much potential in About Love & Champagne, but it is not worthy of celebration with real bubbly.

kevin.prokosh@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 4, 2014 D3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Gary Lawless & Ed Tait try not to bleeping cry over the woesome Jets

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • A one day old piglet glances up from his morning feeding at Cedar Lane Farm near Altona.    Standup photo Ruth Bonneville Winnipeg Free Press

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will you get out and vote for a new mayor and council?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google