Review: Winnipeg Jewish Theatre’s Another Way Home

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The cast of Another Way Home. Keith Levit/Winnipeg Jewish Theatre. 

The Nadelmans, the featured family in Another Way Home, are a pretty typical quartet. They could even be likened to The Simpsons, minus baby – a tall breadwinner father, an overbearing, worrisome mother, a troubled older boy and a genius younger girl. So it would’ve been easy to caricature them. But that’s not at all what playwright Anna Ziegler did.

 

In the Canadian premiere of Another Way Home, Ari Weinberg directs a cast of Winnipeg theatre vets in a heartwarming play about how a family comes to terms with growing up – yes, even the fifty-plus parents come to terms with maturing.

At first, it was difficult for me to slot myself into this play. How do I relate to anyone? I’m not an angsty teenager (anymore) and I’m not a parent (yet), so I didn’t feel immediately connected to any of the characters. But as it went on, I started to empathize with all of them.

Philip and Lillian Nadelman are visiting their son Joey at summer camp, where he’s training to be a counselor. When they show up, Joey has a breakdown because he never asked for them to come or care about him. His father yells at him, and Joey bolts. His family, including his sister Nora back home, and his counselor Mike T. spend the play looking for him.

I was a moody teenager (and a moody eight-year-old). I told my parents I hated them when I of course never did, I thought I could be independent when I didn’t have a dollar to my name, and I thought that I had it all figured out – now I know that nobody ever really figures it out. That’s exactly what this play reflected. Philip says that it just hits him that he’s been alive for 54 years and it all seems like it was just yesterday. Does he know how to interact with his moody son so that they don’t constantly quarrel? Of course not. But figuring it out is part of what makes these characters so human.

Cory Wojcik did what he does best – playing an intimidating, howling father. I gotta give it up to the actors that go toe-to-toe with him. If papa bear Wojcik yelled at me like he does some of the characters in this play, I probably would’ve peed myself. He has his tender moments too, which makes the scenes when the claws come out so much more valuable. He just wants what’s best for his family, and he’ll fight for it.

The real standout for me was Darren Martens as Mike T. His collected counselor brings a calming presence to the whole stage, even when he’s not in the scene – a skill usually reserved for actors that are much older. He doesn’t pretend to be wise or have all the answers, but his reserved coolness earns Joey’s respect, the one thing that his parents want the most.

After I left the theatre, I realized that I could see myself in all of the characters. I could see past self in Joey and my future self in Philip. I could see me and my brother in Joey and Nora’s relationship. I could see how no matter what age you are, you never stop growing up and you never stop learning. Audiences of all ages can surely relate to this.

Another Way Home runs until November 6 at the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre. You can get single tickets, or tickets to this plus a discount on the rest of WJT’s season, here.

4/5 stars

Review: FOX’s Rocky Horror Picture Show

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The cast of FOX’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again. *gasps for air* Image via PopCrush.

Let me begin by saying what I said in my review of FOX’s Grease Live!: I will always support televised theatre. This version of Rocky Horror may have been some kid’s introduction to musicals and maybe they’ll go on to be the next Sondheim. Now let’s get into it.

The first time I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I was seventeen. I had a friend who was obsessed with Tim Curry and recommended it to me. I knew nothing about it. I honestly thought it was a horror film and I was scared starting to watch it. After it was over, I thought: What the hell did I just see? Then the songs stayed in my head. Then I dressed up as Magenta and went to a live screening.

That’s the success of Rocky Horror in a nutshell. It likely didn’t go well in its initial run because people left the theatre with that “what the hell” feeling, but it became a cult classic because it stuck around in your head. The message of the movie – don’t dream it, be it, and be it as wildly as you can be – is timeless and is still inspiring today.

When FOX announced that they would be reviving Rocky Horror starring Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, I was thrilled. Having a transgender woman play a character that describes themselves as a “sweet transvestite” is honestly genius, and Cox said that the movie inspired her when she was in college and figuring out who she was. But then I realized that Rocky Horror is also about sexual awakening and this was going to be aired during primetime. I had no idea what was going to happen.

I settled in last night to watch the pre-filmed production (why wasn’t it live? I can’t tell you. Rocky Horror has been performed onstage for years) wondering how it was going to play out. I didn’t mind exchanging the iconic red lips for the usherette singing “Science Fiction Double Feature,” as last year the Wasteland Productions’ version of Rocky Horror I saw had a similar introduction. It set the scene for a grand movie theatre, where the audience is watching Rocky Horror and occasionally the camera pops back in to show audience participation.

But when Brad (Ryan McCartan) and Janet (Victoria Justice) arrive at Frank’s castle, it’s the crumbling old movie theatre, which confused me immensely. The people watching Rocky Horror are in the movie theatre, but the movie they’re watching takes place at that movie theatre that is now ruins? It took me out of the experience.

I live for the “Time Warp”/”Sweet Transvestite” suite, and I was a little disappointed with the former. The choreography was changed, which it shouldn’t have, because it’s literally a song instructing you how to do the Time Warp. Christina Milan was an over-the-top, over-acted Magenta. Former Spider-man Reeve Carney probably would’ve played Riff Raff better if he hadn’t pretended that Richard O’Brien’s hand was in his mouth, performing an exact imitation of the original. McCartan’s Brad was too deliberately cheesy, which is the great thing about that character – he’s inherently cheesy, even when you don’t try to make him that way.

Cox is the one that saved this show for me. Her deep voice, passion for the role, and the way her body looked in those William Ivey Long-designed sequined outfits hypnotized me into watching the whole thing. Some on Twitter mocked her for the transatlantic accent she performed, but I honestly believe that accent comes with the role. Tim Curry’s iconic, generation-spanning performance will never be forgotten, so we may as well give him an homage.

Curry, still recovering from a stroke, played a seated Narrator/Criminologist, giving his assistant instructions on how to Time Warp. His presence was almost permission to like this version. Adam Lambert’s Eddie was a highlight, simply because all Eddie does is ride in on his motorcycle and sing a song. Lambert is a rock star and he delivered. Annaleigh Ashford’s Columbia, who I had high hopes for, was forgettable. I literally forgot about it until I almost published this.

Ultimately, after I finished watching this version, I immediately popped in my Rocky Horror movie DVD and watched the original. Without the camp, blood, and sex, Rocky Horror doesn’t have its personality.

2.5/5, watch it for “Sweet Transvestite,” “I’m Going Home,” and William Ivey Long’s brilliant costumes.

Why Young People Should be at the Theatre

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Outside of the Royal MTC’s John Hirsch Mainstage. Image via LeifNorman.net.

I spend a lot of time with twenty-something hipsters. I’m probably one of them. We complain when something we like isn’t well-known, and when it gets popular, we jump off that bandwagon because it used to be better. We spend a lot of time in coffee shops and deciding which filter to put on our Instagram photos (Gingham is the standard for all of mine). Last night I was doing some research on the book publishing industry, and I found that people (namely women) between 13-35 buy the most books. I think that millennials are having a book renaissance and enjoy turning pages when enjoying a story instead of just clicking through.

Although we are the first generation to be essentially born into the digital age, we’re also the first to have nostalgia for real experiences. Like going out to the movies and buying popcorn and peeling your shoes off the sticky floor instead of just browsing through Netflix. Digging up grandma’s chocolate chip cookie recipe and meticulously measuring each ingredient instead of just ordering Starbucks from your app. Going to an indie bookstore and finding that first-edition Feminine Mystique instead of finding it on Google Books. We long for these days.

Theatre is the best part of my cultural life. (It’s probably one of the best parts of my life, period.) There is nothing more real and tangible than actors spilling their hearts out onstage every night while a live orchestra plays the score that sets the tone for the whole show. This is the kind of real experience my generation is begging for. So why don’t I see people my age at these events?

There’s this idea that theatre is expensive. It certainly can be. On the surface, when you first search for tickets, they can be anywhere from $50 to $100. But theatre companies are practically giving students tickets for free. When The Book of Mormon was in town, they offered a $25 student rush policy for every show. Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre has a Theatre Under 30 program, where young adults can sign up and receive an email offering $20 tickets to every show. Smaller theatre companies, like Theatre by the River, offer tickets for as little as $10. There is almost always a student price.

We need to get out there. My generation will jump at the opportunity to go to an art exhibit, but is hesitant to watch art on stage. We are future consumers, future moneymakers, and we need to focus our interest on the arts – all of them.