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Jason Cadieux, Salvatore Antonio, Michelle Monteith. Photo: Steve Boyton
Jason Cadieux, Salvatore Antonio, Michelle Monteith. Photo: Steve Boyton

Theatre Review: Leo in Ottawa

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Leo runs through December 10 at the Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at the opening night and has our review.

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Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

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LEO by Rosa Laborde is a coming of age story of three childhood friends set in Chile during the time of Allende's and subsequently Pinochet's rise to power.  Told in non-linear form, the story begins and ends with Leo, a poet, and flashes back to his childhood and adolescence with his two closest friends; Rodrigo, who becomes an activist, and Isolda, whose affections and loyalties constantly waver and float.  The play deals with the paradox of adolescence - a time when, as Leo says, "Want and need are very different."  These three young people have to deal with their maturing emotions and characters in the context of terrible upheaval in Chile, which Isolda refers to as, ". . . this spaghetti strand of a country."

Deeter Schurig's simple and effective set echoes the triangle of their relationships and the Bermuda Triangle of people and ideas that have disappeared.  It consists of a large fractured Chilean flag of stained glass center stage and in front of it a single wooden chair.  Jock Munro's wonderfully atmospheric lighting changes the colors of the glass and moods of the scenes with lightning speed, as does Cathy Nosaty's brilliant sound design.  The music, primarily guitar and pan flute, is particularly haunting.

I must congratulate Stage Manager Kim Bujaczek and the technical crew for their split-second timing of the complex light and sound cues, especially in the final scenes.

As Isolda, Michelle Monteith gives a strong performance.  Her body language and voice go through subtle and believable changes as the character matures.  Jason Cadieux's performance as Rodrigo grew on me as the play progressed.  In the early scenes we see the seeds of his activism which grow to full flower in the later scenes.

As Leo, a poet whose, quote, "Words imprison my emotions so they don't eat me alive," end quote, Salvatore Antonio gives a powerful and moving performance.  At times he's charmingly playful, as in the early scene with the candy, and is able to turn emotionally on a dime to mature anguish.

Director Micheline Chevrier, whose work I've previously admired, has done a masterful job of creatively staging and directing LEO.  She's helped her actors create three-dimensional characters and has used every technical means at her disposal to heighten the ideas and emotions of this powerful piece.  Her use of sound and light in the final scene is particularly effective.

LEO runs approximately seventy-five minutes and is played without intermission.  As my companion said, "It's a good length.  I don't think I could have taken much more."  I agree - Leo kept me totally involved and left me emotionally wrung out.  That's good theatre.

On a scale of one to five the GCTC production of LEO gets four and seven-eighths pizzas.  For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng. 


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