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Alix Sideris & John Koensgen<br />Photo: Andrew Alexander
Alix Sideris & John Koensgen
Photo: Andrew Alexander

Theatre Review: "Like Wolves" at GCTC

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The black comedy "Like Wolves" runs at the Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa through June 23.

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Reported by

Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

GCTC is closing out their season with the world premiere of LIKE WOLVES by Canadian playwright Rosa Laborde.  To celebrate their 44th wedding anniversary Sam surprises Vera by bringing her back to the spot of their rural honeymoon.  No longer a charming B&B, it’s now a residence complex surrounded by high rises.  When Sam has an unexpected heart attack, their two squabbling daughters arrive, one with a Chechen doctor in tow.  Add a slick salesman to the mix and you have the ingredients for a black comedy about marriage, dreams and life choices.

This is an exceptionally strong cast.  Matthew Edison is fine as Tom, the overly helpful salesman for the residence, with a nice touch of smarminess.  As Mia, Sam and Vera’s younger daughter, Kimwun Perehinec embodies the vulnerability of a woman obviously unfulfilled in her marriage.  The always excellent Alix Sideris as Nina, her older sister, is a perfect example of a woman avoiding family responsibility by committing to the so-called larger responsibilities of her work with Doctors Without Borders.

I tend to think of John Koensgen as a serious dramatic actor, so am constantly surprised at how funny he can be.  He’s terrific as Yuri especially in the vodka scene, complete with a good Russian accent and great comic timing.  Nancy Beatty is very good as Vera who comes to the realization that she’s spent her life, as she says, “waiting for something to happen.”  As grumpy old Sam, Peter Froelich has a hauntingly human moment in the penultimate scene, sitting alone with the TV remote.  His abortive sex scene with Vera is hilarious.

Although Jessica Poirier-Chang’s costumes are good, her set feels lopsided.  The stage right third of the rather sterile room contains only the door and Director Peter Pasyk doesn’t seem to know what to do with the cavernous empty space as regards staging.  The other two-thirds are very workable, especially the upper platform.  However I found the black tile behind the bar both distracting and tasteless.

Robert Thomson’s lighting is just fine, in particular the quiet moment with Mr. Froelich.  I liked the sound by Al Connors, especially the pre-show music selections.

The major problem for Director Pasyk is that Miss Laborde has written two-dimensional characters without any background as to why they behave as they do.  This gives us no reason to care about their outcomes.  For example, with no explanation of Vera’s frustration, her physical tantrums, although very funny, have an element of spoiled brat.  Even Mr. Froelich, one of Ottawa’s most sensitive actors, has trouble giving Sam some depth.

In other words, LIKE WOLVES, although it has many funny lines and some amusing physical comedy, feels superficial.  We know no more about these characters at the end than we did at the beginning, with the possible exception of Yuri.  Yes, it’s entertaining, but so is BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.

On a scale of one to five the Great Canadian Theatre Company’s production of LIKE WOLVES gets three and a half solar panels.  For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.







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