charming winter selection
Bits from the Bard features famous excerpts from nine Shakespeare plays
By Byron Toben
Dramatis Personae, Westmount’s community theatre, now in its 32nd year, continue to deliver the goods with the enthusiasm of its amateur but talented performers.
Like the Montreal Lyric Singers, the players pay to join the group to practice their avocation on a higher level. The City of Westmount provides rehearsal and public performance room, but neither it nor any governmental body gives cash grants. Thus, fancy sets and special effects are limited. But the best scenery is in the imagination of the human mind and especially so with great words such as this winter’s selection which was ten scenes drawn from nine of Will Shakespeare’s 32 plays.
… the best scenery is in the imagination of the human mind and especially so with great words… drawn from nine of Will Shakespeare’s 32 plays.
Current professional director Christopher Moore, who has played the roles of both Hamlet and Iago himself, not only helped in the selection but also narrates a short intro into each snippet to set the stage for those who may not know or had forgotten that particular entry.
This year, as usual, various performing stalwarts double in off stage roles – Ellen Rubin and Ann Elbourne (producers), Malcolm McRae (website), Karen Saunder (costumes, program) and Carly Terreault (stage manager).
These and other vets, such as Fanny Dvorkin, have been joined by a slew of new faces that bodes well for future shows. Helping to balance the ratio of male performers to female were Brian Bradley (who grabbed meaty selections such as MacBeth on the heath and Petruchio wooing the Shrew) and David Hall (a Dawson theatre grad with professional experience) who exhibited such as Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Phillip Dumouchel and Rashed Chowdhury also excelled as respectively, Julius Caesar and Bottom.
Jenny Chopra was a crowd pleaser as Katherine of France learning English for body parts (and, ‘fangers’, ‘niles’, ‘nelbows’) in Henry V from her maid (Ms. Rubin).
Ms. Elbourne had a fun time being a lion, and, with Ms. Terreault and newbie Kathryn Radford, one of the three witches.
The selections were from MacBeth, Comedy of Errors, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Henry V, Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing and As You Like it.
Centuries later, G. Bernard Shaw puts words of disapproval of the last two plays above into Shakespeare’s mouth wherein he states to Queen Elizabeth I that Much Ado About Nothing is truly that and As YOU Like It means it is not as ‘I’ like it. (All in a plea for her to finance a National Theatre so he can do heavy stuff like Lear. Her reply that she will refer it to the Treasurer results in Will’s undoing – he had to wait until 1963 under Queen Elizabeth II for that to come about.)
A clever finale to the evening was a cute script by John Owen Smith, a parody entitled Twelve Minute Night wherein the whole play is condensed into an accelerated twelve minutes. This ties in neatly with both the Shakespeare theme and the current Holiday season.
Original music by sound and lighting techie Roger Jochym captured the feel of the era in bridging the short interval between scenes.
Bits from the Bard ended at Victoria Hall on December 11.
Feature image: The Three Witches – Kathryn Radford, Ann Elbourne, Carly Terreault
Images (unless specified): Malcolm McRae
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Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.