3 min

GCTC gears up for blockbuster season

War, death, satire and hundreds of boyfriends

Credit: Colin Seaman

The Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC) takes the stage this fall for their 28th season with a crop of new plays. From the closeted to the confined, from the infected to the eclectic, the pastiche began earlier this month. The company’s latest live theatre offerings will once more have Ottawans struggling with one of the national capital’s most tongue-twisting acronyms.

First up on stage is Kevin Kerr’s award-winning Unity 1918, which is set in the Saskatchewan town of the same name after the end of World War I. Unsuspecting Canadian troops are returning home and bringing with them one of the worst influenza epidemics of modern times.

Billed as a mixture of celebration and examination of war and plague, with a dash of painful humour thrown in, the play is directed by Stewart Arnott. Kerr, the playwright, who won the 2002 Governor General’s Literary Award (Drama) for this gripping portrayal, depicts the panic that ensues once a plague invades a small town already at grips with a world at war. There’s love, sex and death mixed in, so it has all the ingredients a play needs to set the tone for a season.

Self-discovery and adversity are the grist for many new GCTC productions. Several have characters poring over the details of their lives and asking how they got where they are. Marion Bridge, written by Daniel MacIvor and directed by Linda Moore, follows the lives of three sisters who return home to Cape Breton because their mother is dying. By confronting her mortality, they see their own and have to reconcile their adult selves with who they thought they would eventually become. Nominated for a 1999 Governor General’s Award for Drama, Marion Bridge is also a Film Movement motion picture starring Canadian sweetheart Molly Parker.

Henrik Ibsen’s The Doll House portrays the main character, Nora, stepping back and questioning her marriage, which appears perfectly happy on a superficial level.

In Kit Brennan’s The Invisibility of Eileen, the main character has to learn how to be noticed by her son, ex-husband and co-workers, with the help of an old woman she finds asleep in her flowerbed.

The North American premiere of Alistair Beaton’s Feelgood, directed by Charles McFarland, should do well with cynical audiences this October. From the same writer that brought you Not the Nine O’Clock News comes something not completely different. Spin doctors and politicians vie to run the country, scandals sour a government party convention, and a mess of other details, including anti-capitalist riots and muck-raking, all cloud a press secretary’s speech for the Prime Minister. It’s rather hard to believe this isn’t simply the news.

From the cheeky back to the bleak, David Young’s Inexpressible Island draws eerie parallels to reality shows about people thrown together on islands. A Royal Navy scientific expedition in 1912 becomes stranded in the Arctic and the crew has neither supplies nor shelter. RH Thomson directs three officers and three men who have to work out their differences.

While being stranded with a handful of other people in a frozen wasteland may be frightening to some, others may find previous boyfriends just as frightening. As part of the Great Canadian Comedy Series, Cathy Jones’ Me, Dad, & The Hundred Boyfriends takes a kick at those dates you have tried so hard to forget. The star of CODCO and This Hour Has 22 Minutes has not been on stage since her 1986 play, Wedding in Texas. The title of her new play says it all. Jones reminisces over her exes, with the help of some family photos and home movies. This is not for the faint of heart.

Last but not least, this year’s queer comedic content comes from Steve Galluccio’s Mambo Italiano, directed by Lorne Pardy. The two main characters, Angel and Nino, are living together. Angel comes out to his parents, but doesn’t bother sharing this news with Nino. A little spicy Italian never hurt anyone, least of all the sold-out houses that saw Mambo Italiano in Toronto and Montreal.


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