Latkes, Molière, Wilde, Kitty Calling and a Bloomsday treat
Even more reviews and some new stuff to watch during the Holidays
By Byron Toben
Lyrics and Latkes
Originally streamed from December 16 to18, this event can still be watched on YouTube.
The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre was founded in Montreal 62 years ago by Dora Wasserman. She passed away 17 years ago, but her work was continued by her daughter Bryna until she moved to New York a few years ago.
The annual Lyrics and Latkes Hanukkah Celebration now enters its 7th incarnation with many young voices and a goodly number of DWYT veterans from the early days. The event was scripted by Edit Kuper. Four moderators, well known to Segal Centre audiences, presented this streamed event, which went smoothly. They were Aron Gonshor, Bronna Levy, Raizel Candib and Richard Martz.
In addition to many local talents zooming in, there were six special guests: Shira Lipovsky from the Netherlands, Polina Shepherd of England and Efim Chorny of Moldova, as well as hometown stars Cantor Adam Stotland, Josh ‘So-Called’ Dolgin and Henri Oppenheim.
The festivities began with auctioneer/cantor Fishel Goldig lighting seven candles in the Menorah. This was followed by a medley of traditional Hanukkah songs sung by the Goldstein family (Danny, Liat and four children).
The festivities began with auctioneer/cantor Fishel Goldig lighting seven candles in the Menorah
Promptly after, Mr. Dolgin, aka ‘So-Called’, known for his fusion of Klezmer and hip-hop, contributed his version of Drey Dreidl (the three-sided top). The event continued with another 18 numbers extolling hope and love, lots of good lyrics. Latkes (potato pancakes) cannot yet be delivered digitally but viewers at home presumably whipped up their own batches.
Brooklyn based Molière in the Park is a new group making waves. Its current streamed production Pen/Man/Ship can be seen for free on YouTube until January 4.
This group debuted in November 2019 with School For Wives, followed by socially distanced The Misanthrope in May 2020, Tartuffe in July 2020 and a remount of School for Wives in October 2020.
Co-founders Garth Belcon and Lucie Tiberghien state they are dedicated to socially conscious causes that resonate with Molière’s attacks on hypocrisy. These English language translations are partnered with the Alliance Française and the LeFrak Center.
There is a host of Shakespeare in the Park festivals all over North America, so it is a pleasure to see one dedicated to Molière as well.
Although Molière was born about 22 years after Shakespeare, they share a few oddities besides being their country’s greatest playwright. They both died at 51 or 52 years of age. Shakespeare managed to time his death with the anniversary of his birth (April 23). Molière, also an actor, collapsed on stage while performing as a deathbed patient in his last play, The Imaginary Invalid.
‘There is a host of Shakespeare in the Park festivals all over North America, so it is a pleasure to see one dedicated to Molière as well.’
With Pen/Man/Ship, the group has chosen an accomplished young playwright Christina Anderson. She holds a Master’s from the Yale School of Drama and has written ten plays to date, best known for Good Goods and Inked Baby.
Pen/Man/Ship posits a group of free Blacks sent back to Africa to populate the new country of Liberia in the 1860s. However, things go awry en route and a detour is needed.
The Importance of Being Earnest
New York’s Bedlam Theatre ended its Do More free series for 2020 with Oscar Wilde’s ever-popular play, The Importance of Being Earnest. I last saw it live at the Segal Centre’s excellent production in 2005. What a pleasure to watch this witty classic again, created with deftly acted head shots.
The title character calling himself Earnest in the city but Jack in the countryside, rang a bell with me, Byron in Montreal but Biron in the Quebec countryside.
Once again, we witness Earnest and his friend Algernon sparring clever dialogue while devouring cucumber sandwiches (apparently a fad in 1890s London), all the while cowed by Algernon’s overbearing aunt, Lady Bracknell, whose daughter Gwendolyn is the object of Earnest’s desire.
‘What a pleasure to watch this witty classic again, created with deftly acted head shots.’
Parallel to this, Algernon is enamoured with Cecily, Earnest’s ward, who lives in the countryside where she is governed by a Ms. Prism, who plays a small but pivotal role in the plot.
Both Earnest and Algernon have a fictional character whom they invoke as an excuse to avoid undesired commitments – the hospitalized ‘Bunbury’ for Algernon and an absent younger brother for Earnest.
Despite all the complications, in the end, the two couples are united, along with ‘sloppy kisses’ on Zoom screens in more detail than possible on a distant stage.
Among Wilde’s bon mots in this play are “The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple” and “To lose one parent may be considered a misfortune, but to lose two seems due to carelessness”.
The Do More episodes have raised $26,044 in voluntary donations for several small NPOs. Earnest was for the Know Your Rights Camp.
Watch The Importance of Being Earnest on Bedlam’s Facebook page.
Colleen Curran’s Kitty Calling
Popular Montreal playwright/novelist Colleen Curran is not one to let the grass grow under her feet during this COVID live theatre onslaught. She has churned out 12 (so far) mini-episodes of a series called Colleen Curran’s Kitty Calling, available on YouTube. Caution: use this full title, not just Kitty Calling, lest you be deluged with an armada of cute cat antics.
The Kitty referred here, played by Debra Hale, is a ‘pandemic do-gooder’, who phones shut-ins to lend moral support. Among her targets is Bernice (Lorna Wilson), who subsists on wine and a variety of snacks while watching cars go by from her apartment window. Occasional special guests appear – an angry neighbour, a concerned priest, and a ditsy friend of Kitty’s.
‘Each episode is only about 3:20 minutes so you can pig out the whole in less than 45 minutes.’
Typical, witty, topical Curran humour and crisp editing, akin to that of the Beatle’s A Hard Days Night, move things along briskly. Each episode is only about 3:20 minutes so you can pig out the whole in less than 45 minutes. Did I mention that Ms. Hale and Ms. Wilson are both accomplished actors perfectly cast? I have good vibes about this series as it slowly gains eyeballs and hopefully gains a sponsor for expansion.
This being Christmas Eve, I recommend getting a taste with Episode 12 about Ms. Claus (no Santa in this screening).
Festival Bloomsday Montréal
And looking ahead to the New Year, consider on January 6, a treat by Festival Bloomsday Montréal, a streamed reading of Kathleen Fee’s new play Midnight Court.
Catch it on the Festival Bloomsday Montréal YouTube channel.
Feature image: frame from Episode 12 – Ms. Claus of Colleen Curran’s Kitty Calling
Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.