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Sunday, 31 May 2015

Review: The elegant symmetry of Scott Wentworth’s Pericles

The Adventures of Pericles, by William Shakespeare
Directed by Scott Wentworth
Designed by Patrick Clark (set / costumes), Kevin Fraser (lighting), Verne Good (sound), John Stead (fights)
Composed by Paul Shilton, with some lyrics by Marion Adler

Evan Buliung as Pericles (centre) with members
of the company. Photo by David Hou
What is it indeed that gives us the feeling of elegance in a solution, in a demonstration? It is the harmony of the diverse parts, their symmetry, their happy balance; in a word it is all that introduces order, all that gives unity, that permits us to see clearly and to comprehend at once both the ensemble and the details.  ~ Jules Henri Poincaré
These words from Jules Henri Poincaré, were used in describing mathematics, but could also be applied to the result of Scott Wentworth’s direction on the sprawling epic that is The Adventures of Pericles.

For those who are unfamiliar with these tales, please take a moment to read a synopsis here. You will be glad you did before going to see this production, and you must go see this production.

You must see this production not only because Pericles seldom produced anywhere (at Stratford only four other times in the Festival’s 63-year history), and not only because it is a beautiful fairy-tale of a story, but because this production is the epitome of elegance from its Victorian costumes, through its inclusion of song, in the actor’s performances, and right down to its staging.

To understand this, one must understand just how expansive this play is. Shakespeare had help writing it (George Wilkins), it is set in six different kingdoms around the Aegean Sea and the action switches among them at great speed. There are at least 24 identifiable characters, plus the various lands’ various lords, ladies, citizens, prostitutes, priestesses, fishermen, sailors, pirates, servants and knights. The degree to which one must be willing to suspend one’s disbelief is high. In short, the play is as vast as the ocean itself.

Mr. Wentworth’s solution: get rid of Gower and let the entire cast provide the chorus, then create a series of mirrors: the cast playing fishermen will also play pirates; the women playing priestesses will also play prostitutes and princesses; the person playing the bad king will also play the good king, and so on. At every turn of the globe one sees the same faces, but in different circumstances and thus lighter or darker reflections of themselves. Thaisa, Pericles’ wife, is played by both Deborah Hay and Marion Adler; Deborah Hay also plays Marina, Pericles’ daughter, and Marion Adler also plays Diana, the goddess whom protects both Marina and Pericles. What a tangle, one might think – but give one piece a tug and it forms a perfect double triangle. (The triangle becomes a visual metaphor throughout the play, but let’s not give away everything before you see it…)

Deborah Hay as Marina.
Photo by David Hou.
This paradox works itself out in the most beautiful staging: at the end of the plays first half, we see the maid Lychoridia (Marion Adler again) – who will later become Thaisa - holding the infant Marina. Lychoridia gazes across the stage into the eyes of Thaisa – who will become Marina in the play’s second half.  Thaisa is in fact, looking at her older self, holding Marina – the only time Thaisa holds her infant – while elder Thaisa looks on her younger self as she is led away to join the priestesses of Diana. A mirror within a mirror – a perfectly elegant solution.

As with any seafaring adventure (in my humble opinion) there should be a fair amount of music, and thanks to the Celtic-infused talents of Paul Shilton there is far more music in this version of the play than usual.  Most lovely is a deceptively simple air referred to in the program notes as “The Pearl”, a melody sung both by Pericles as he is falling in love with Taisa, and later by Marina as she is trying to revive the melancholy king. Far from weighing down the play, these tunes give the tale an even more fairy-tale-like quality, thus further disarming anyone looking for realism.
Wayne Best as Siminides (centre) with members of
the company. Photo by David Hou.
The realism is provided by the incredibly strong ensemble cast whose real enjoyment of this play simply shines.  Nearly every performance holds a small surprise – Stephen Russell gives Helicanus not only the necessary faithfulness but also an unmistakable air of command – no wonder the folks of Tyre want him in charge.  Claire Lautier shows the hardness of Dionyza but also gives her the protective instinct of a mother-bear. Antoine Yared's Lysimachus is less loathesome than dignified. Brigit Wilson’s Bawd is funny yes, but much warmer than one expects. Randy Hughson’s Bolt is less crude than world-weary, Wayne Best gives the good King Simonides not just the heartiness he needs but also an endearing giddiness (completely unexpected from the actor known for his bad-guy roles).

Helmed by Evan Buliung as Pericles (the one cast member not required to double-up on characters), Mr. Buliung gives a star performance as a model king who feels too deeply for his country and own family.  Deborah Hay has the job of playing both wife and daughter but she is easily believable and delightful as both, and the reunion scene between them as father and daughter is poignant, conjuring many happy tears indeed. And Marion Adler, doing quadruple duty as priestess / Lychorida / Diana / Thaisa is remarkable in that she anchors the entire play without ever imposing herself over it, supporting the cast in their love, honesty and humour whenever necessary. What a gift she provides both cast and audience.
Deborah Hay as Marina and Evan Buliung as Pericles.
Photo by David Hou.

In short, this production has all the elements I personally adore – sea-faring, romantic adventures, fairy-tales and maritime melodies, as well as meticulously crafted theatre. To quote a less notable source on the elegance of a well-executed project: “I love it when a plan comes together.”

The Adventures of Pericles continues in repertory at the Tom Patterson Theatre until September 19th. It is my pick for the sleeper hit of the 2015 season.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Review: Diary of Anne Frank: a hard-working production that fails to reach the heights history demands

The Diary ofAnne Frank, by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett
Adapted by Wendy Kesselman
Directed by Jillian Keiley
Designed by Bretta Gerecke (set/costumes), Leigh Ann Vardy (lighting), Don Ellis (sound)

Sara Farb as Anne Frank.
Photo by David Hou
I know enough about the horrors of the Holocaust, been overwhelmed with sorrow when visiting the National Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., and in my household we celebrate Hanukkah as well as Christmas. My husband is a Holocaust scholar and educator.  This is well-travelled, saddened ground for my family, and I had tissues at the ready for Jillian Kieley’s opening of The Diary of Anne Frank. But I was left wondering why I was not moved to tears until the play’s final minutes.

It might be because for the first half of the play I found myself more in sympathy with Mrs. Frank than Anne. Anne is truly a self-centered teen, incapable of reading the dread and anxiety that is weighing down her mother - impeccably conveyed from start to finish by Lucy Peacock – and this makes her unlikeable and nowhere near the sentimentalized heroine we are meant to idolize. By the second act – set two years later – Anne has matured and is a little more subdued, and there is tragedy in that we finally get a glimpse of the young woman who might have been.

Members of the company in The Diary of Anne Frank.
Photo by David Hou
The problem, with this play then, is perhaps its source material – a diary written by a thirteen-year-old girl. Despite the circumstances under which it is written the diary is the inner musings of a teenager, with no more drama than that which her internal voice creates. It is why some of the characters seem mere caricatures (Mr. Dussel), as she is unable to see past her own view of them and understand their complexities. However it is a miracle the diary survived the horror of World War II, it is a revelation about the day-to-day hardships of those in hiding, and the tone is one of irrepressible hope. Therein lies the tragedy, since the Franks, Van Daans and Mr. Dussel came within a hair of being liberated.

Nevertheless, Jillian Keiley’s production tries hard to make the most of theatrically dramatic moments that are fleeting: frightening nightmares of Hitler and storm troopers, a Hanukkah celebration cut short by a burglar, the way the day-to-day silent monotony is portrayed, and a puzzle-box set that cleverly conveys more space than most would guess they had (in fact the Franks did use the office spaces at night when the workers went home – some surmise this is how they got caught). The entire cast reads excerpts from the diary (not just Anne) as activity goes on behind them, keeping the pace ticking along. In the final moments of the play the set is transformed into the cattle-cars that transport the terrified families to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. – one of two real gut-punches in the production, neither provided by the text of the play.

L-R: Maeve Beaty as Miep Gies, Sara Farb as Anne Frank, and
Shannon Taylor as Margot Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank.
Photo by David Hou
The company works just as relentlessly. Sara Farb delightfully recreates Anne’s spirit in both her flippant impertinence and later maturity, while Shannon Taylor gives a portrayal of her sister Margot that mirrors Ms. Peacock’s Mrs. Frank in haunted suffering. Yanna McIntosh gives Mrs. Van Daan a touch of the restrained histrionic without being foolish, while Kevin Bundy somehow gets the audience to empathize with Mr. van Daan, the weakest-willed of the men. Both Andre Morin and Christopher Morris subtly show how isolated Peter and Mr. Dussel feel from the others, while Maeve Beaty provides a ray of sunshine to both the Annex residents and the audience, while still communicating the stress of her own situation as provider for eight fugitives.

Finally, Joseph Ziegler gives Otto Frank the patience of Job, and also has the privilege of providing the production’s only knock-out punch – at play’s end, after revealing all their fates, Mr. Ziegler comes upstage and presents a copy of A Diary of a Young Girl to someone in the front row. A spot-lit, anonymous hand reaches up to receive this gift before all fades to black. It is this image that seared itself into my heart and mind, the ultimate metaphor for the play and Anne’s own wish – to live on, even after her death.

A few more such gut-punches would have lifted this hard-working production to greater heights. In the end, The Diary of Anne Frank is an unforgettable story told by a wonderful cast and director, but is somehow diminished by the play’s text.  It continues in repertory at the Avon Theatre until October 10th

L-R: Josephy Ziegler as Mr. Frank, Lucy Peacock as Mrs. Frank,
Shannon Taylor as Margot Frank and Sara Farb as Anne Frank
in The Diary of Anne Frank. Photo by David Hou

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Review: The Physicists delights but lacks punch

ThePhysicists, by Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Adapted by Michael Healey, based on a translation by Birgit Schreyer Duarte
(World première)
Directed by Miles Potter
Designed by Peter Hartwell (set), Gillian Gallow (costumes), Steve Lucas (lighting), ToddCharlton (sound)
L-R: Mike Nadajewski as Ernesti / Einstein, Geraint Wyn Davies as Mobius
and Graham Abbey as Kilton/Newton. Photo by David Hou
The story (which contains spoilers) is thus: three physicists in a sanatorium – one thinks he is Sir Isaac Newton, one believes he is Einstein, and the last, Möbius, believes King Solomon visits him on a regular basis. However, it turns out that none of them are insane - Einstein and Newton are actually spies for different agencies, sent to keep an eye on Möbius , the super-genius who has solved some of physics’ biggest problems. Both Einstein and Newton have killed nurses who discovered their secrets - for the greater good, of course. Einstein’s agency wants to share these answers to benefit mankind, Newton’s agency wants them for pure scientific study, but Möbius believes his ideas could doom mankind and is determined to keep them secret at all cost, even murdering the nurse who loved him to do so. Möbius reasons that they are none of them are truly free, and that they must be held accountable for the murders they committed. They vow to stay in the asylum and work together for science. However their psychiatrist Fräulein Doktor von Zahnd reveals that she knows their secrets, has stolen Mobius’ research and has sold his ideas for commercial gain. The men are trapped and retreat into their alter-ego identities as the Fräulein Doktor takes her now enormous corporation private.

When The Physicists premiered on Broadway in 1964, the Cold War had the Western World in its grip of paranoia and the Cuban missile crisis is a very recent memory. Weaponized nuclear science is the core of this fear, a science that is badly explained by politicians and media.  Out of this comes Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s play of “big ideas” that can be dangerous when known to parties with different philosophies. Which philosophy is correct? Who gets to use these big ideas and to what end?

Members of the company in The Physicists.
Photo by David Hou
Leap ahead 51 years. There are invisible threats in the world from malware, identity thieves and home-grown terrorists, and at least in Canada, the current federal regime has been muzzling the scientific community for nearly a decade. Secrets are kept and revealed by vigilante hackers. So, nothing much has changed… except for the technology and speed at which things happen.

Michael Healey’s adaptation of Dürrenmatt’s Cold War play certainly brings the play’s language into the 21st Century; nurse #2 is strangled with an ipod charging cord, the insane asylum is now a “healing institute” and there are references to computers, bankers, mixed martial artists and fan fiction.  There are still throwbacks to the 1960’s in the nurse and police uniforms, and a throwback to Newton’s time with the armillary chandelier (although it could be an atom), but all in all the language of this adaptation is relevant and witty - perfect for Canadian audiences, so willing to laugh at ourselves and our leaders.

Graham Abbey as Beutler / Newton / Kilton.
Photo by David Hou
However, for a play that is full of plot-twists and grand reveals, the final denouement is not much of one for a modern audience. Given two minutes to think about it, it should come as no surprise that the real villain is a fanatical capitalist, the head of a giant corporation that has appropriated scientific ideas for monetary gain. This is so high on our collective radars that while it seems clever and indeed handled in a highly comedic way, it is not surprising at all.  So while the play seems fresh and relevant, at the end this adaptation lacks the knock-out punch the original must have produced.
Mike Nadajewski as Ernesti/Einstein and Geraint
Wyn Davies as 
Möbius. Photo by David Hou
That is not necessarily the fault of the text but rather a failure to realize just how savvy the audience has become in the last five decades. Also, this is not to say that the philosophies debated are any less debatable now, or that our moral compasses are in any less need of adjusting. We should still be horrified at injustices done in the name of law, wary of paranoia created by technological ignorance and cautious of leaping blindly onto whatever bandwagons Madmen (pun completely intended) create.

The production is solid – Miles Potter at the helm does provide the mixture of comedy-tragedy he does so well, albeit with much more gallows humour than usual. He makes no bones about the fact he believes corporations are the world’s current evil-doers, including dollar signs on the SWAT-team’s Armani uniforms like badges of honour. As Newton, Graham Abbey’s brand of understated wit suits the character perfectly, as does Mike Nadajewski’s distracted vehemence as Einstein. Seana McKenna is relishes in her role as the maniacal sociopath Fraulein Doktor (her look channelling Linda Hunt), and Geraint Wyn Davies’ constantly anxious, fearful Möbius convinces everyone, not just the other physicists, of the dangers they have created.
Seana McKenna as Fräulein Doktor
Mathilde von Zahnd. Photo by David Hou.
All in all this is a play for our times indeed, it just does not leave as much open for debate as one would expect from a play about the philosophy of politics of science.  The Physicists continues in repertory at the Tom Patterson Theatre until September 27th. 
Geraint Wyn Davies as Möbius. Photo by David Hou

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Mere Words are Inadequate: Feore Triumphs (Again) with The Sound of Music

Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
Suggested by “The Trapp Family Singers” by Maria Augusta Trapp
Directed and Choreographed by Donna Feore
Musical Direction by Laura Burton
Designed by MichaelGianfrancesco (set / costumes), Michael Walton (lighting) and Peter McBoyle (sound)

Stephanie Rothenberg as Maria and Anita Krause as
Mother Abbess. Photo by David Hou
Stratford is indeed blessed. For the third year running, there are two immediate hits on the Festival Stage.  First, Antoni Cimolino gave himself a hat-trick with Hamlet, and now so does Donna Feore with her Fiddler-Crazy-Sound of Music combo. 

The Sound of Music is immediately familiar – even to those who have never seen the Julie Andrews / Christopher Plummer film, the melodies of Do-Re-Mi or My Favourite Things are probably lodged in the brain-pan somewhere, and there is no doubt this is a heart-warming story and musical is meant to lift the audience to the very heavens. Or at least the mountains.

However it is a musical that can very easily be weighed down in the saccharine. The bones of the story are melodramatic: sweet nun wannabe sent to household of seven children starving for their father’s affections, a father who has shut himself off since his wife’s death. Nun wannabe brings music into the home and voila, love abounds and is powerful enough to defy the impending Nazi regime.

Read over the program notes and the realization sets in that the portrayals of both the von Trapps and Austria are nowhere near historically accurate. But what of that? Love conquers all might be a cliché, but a cliché by its definition is based in truth. Truth and honesty set this Sound of Music apart.

Zoe Brown as Gretl and Stephanie Rothenberg as Maria.
Photo by David Hou
In this production, the nun wannabe Maria is brought to ebullient life by Stephanie Rothenberg. This Maria is a true free spirit, one that would like to belong somewhere – she believes it is in an abbey – but whose passion for life simply cannot be contained. Ms. Rothenberg’s voice is as pure as the mountain air about which she sings, and she completely convinces as the naïve young woman who knows nothing of the world of men but whose instincts for affection and play are infectious, and her will to do ‘the right thing’ is as strong as the Captain’s.

Ben Carlson as Captain von Trapp with company members.
Photo by David Hou
The Captain in this instance is played by Ben Carlson - once again Ms. Feore chose to cast a lead from the acting company, and once again is pays off in spades. Mr. Carlson can do witty and acerbic better than anyone, but here he is a troubled, lonely man, one that must be willing to have his eyes and heart reopened to his family. Even the hardest heart will come over tearful when he “re-meets” his little Gretel, and Mr. Carlson provides so many of these moments that it can be argued that he is as much the heart of this production as Ms. Rothenberg.

Alexandra Herzog as Liesel Von Trapp
and Gabriel Antonacci as Rolf Gruber in
The Sound of Music. Photo by David Hou
The von Trapp children are all played by real children, not professional actors, and it shows. No, this is not a criticism, their “realness” is happily delightful – they argue, bicker, poke at each other, share sly glances, and support each other. The one professional (Alexandra Herzog) who plays the eldest Liesel certainly can be said to be corralling the others at moments, but it always seems in the vein of a protective older sibling, not as a “hey kids, watch how it’s done” kind of way. That they are allowed to be kids, and be cute and funny and brutally honest is a credit to Ms. Feore’s relish for the truth. The children are played by Sean Dolan, Effie Honeywell, Alec Dahmer, Graci Leahy, Sarah DaSilva and Zoe Brown.

Ms. Feore finds ways to interject honesty everywhere. As the kids learn to sing they begin to march (the only movement they know), much to the hilarious dismay of Maria, and the kids gasp in horror as Maria bounds onto the sofa in a fit of joy – until she gives them permission to have fun. As the Captain begins to sing Edelweiss, the surrounding Nazi’s become fidgety and uncomfortable, faced with such quiet defiance. Even Max and Elsa are shown to have fearful cracks in their glib masks by Shane Carty and Robin Evan Willis.

Honesty, playfulness, heart – this review could easily be stretched to give more examples of how this production embodies these qualities, but go see for yourself and be carried away.  Indeed, words are not enough to praise this production of The Sound of Music, so paradoxically it would be best praised in music – Beethoven’s Ode to Joy springs immediately to mind.

The Sound of Music continues in repertory at the Festival Theatre until May 18.

L-R: Alexandra Herzog as Liesel, Alec Dahmer as Kurt, Graci Leahy as Brigitta,
Stephanie Rothenberg as Maria, Zoe Brown as Gretl, Ben Carlson as Captain von Trapp,
Sarah DaSilva as Marta, Effie Honneywell as Louisa and Sean Dolan as Friedrich.
Photo by David Hou

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Hamlet: The Readiness Was All

Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
Directed by Antoni Cimolino
Designed by Teresa Przybylski (set / costumes), Michael Walton (lighting), Thomas RyderPayne (sound)
Featuring: Jonathan Goad, Adrienne Gould, SeanaMcKenna, Tom Rooney, Geraint Wyn Davies

Centre: Jonathan Goad as Hamlet, with members of the company.
Photo by David Hou
Antoni Cimolino has done it again. With this production of Hamlet he has proven to his audiences that he can deliver the most complete version of any Shakespeare play on which he takes the helm, and that he can coax the most surprising turns out of his leading actors.

In the last several years Mr. Cimolino’s productions on the Stratford stages have been consistently the best dramas going. In 2013 his Merchant of Venice was unusually balanced and nuanced – hard to do with a play that can be so polarizing. In 2014 he enticed Colm Feore to give a performance so far out of his comfort zone that he was barely recognizable. And now in 2015, he has taken this play called Hamlet, this enormously significant piece of the English-literature canon, and chiselled it into something akin to a rough diamond. Near perfect, a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

In casting Jonathan Goad as Hamlet, Mr. Cimolino was taking a risk. Mr. Goad has been a constant at the Stratford Festival for some time, but it is for his more villainous and rascally roles that he is best known and remembered. He is really, really good at playing the scoundrel. But Hamlet?  Brooding, manic, heavy Hamlet?  Well, for loyal audiences who thought you knew his stuff, you didn’t.  He is simply a learning actor – one that consistently challenges himself, is willing to be directed, and it shows.  Mr. Goad is as charismatic as Hamlet as he is a rogue. Sure, the manic appears to come more naturally to his performance, but it is the quieter moments in the soliloquys, in the close friendships revealed that are surprisingly intimate and proves that he is an Actor’s Actor. His Hamlet may not break your heart, but this is a milestone performance for Mr. Goad.
Adrienne Gould as Ophelia and Tom Rooney as Polonius.
Photo by David Hou

The heartbreak is reserved for Adrienne Gould’s performance as Ophelia. In this production she seems desperately in love with Hamlet but also disconcerted by her family’s opposition. Yes, he is a prince, and she a clergyman’s daughter, but in the very brief moment we see them connect the connection is deep – as if they have tried to buck the class system that the world around them still embraces. Of course, Hamlet never confides in her the plot he has discovered, so any future relationship is doomed – and in this performance Ophelia’s unhinging begins with his brutal rejection, her realization of betrayal and loss, and her father’s subsequent callousness. Ms. Gould’s ‘mad Ophelia’ is raw, but her ‘rejected Ophelia’ will melt the iciest of hearts. (Keep tissues handy.)
Centre: Geraint Wyn Davies as Claudius and Seana McKenna as Gertrude.
Photo by David Hou
As King Claudius and Queen Gertrude, Geraint Wyn Davies and Seana McKenna are once more well-matched, and once more Mr. Cimolino has inveigled from them something more than Mr. Wyn Davies’ habitual charm, and Ms. McKenna’s usual piercing-eyed ferocity. For his part, Mr. Wyn Davies’ Claudius is more politician than king or lusty husband, making tactical errors close to home while trying to placate larger powers abroad; Ms. McKenna shows Gertrude to be the emotionally weaker monarch, capitulating to whomever is the angriest with her, her son or her new husband.

Jonathan Goad as Hamlet and Tim Campbell as Horatio.
Photo by David Hou
Adding to the array of high-note performances is Tom Rooney’s sincere but ultimately foolish Polonius, and Tim Campbell’s entirely honorable Horatio. This is exactly what these characters are supposed to be, of course; Polonius however is customarily a pompous buffoon, and Horatio really is the only character in Hamlet who maintains complete integrity throughout. However, Mr. Cimolino chose to make Polonius a Lutheran clergyman which then gives his endless diatribes and platitude preaching real credulity. With the character of Horatio Mr. Cimolino and Mr. Campbell keep him humble, sincere and never in the foreground unless he is supporting Hamlet, and this lends the character the necessary heft of trust that might otherwise get lost.

These subtleties are exactly what creates this nearly perfect production. There are a few misses that keep this production from being a brilliant diamond – the intended effect of the costuming is not realized for instance – but for the most part the audience should focus on those that work – the unexpected object over which Claudius prays; the pauses that make you lean forward with anticipation; the violin case that doubles as a small coffin and what’s in it; the happy looks exchanged among the gathered throngs when Claudius announces peace with Norway, looks that turn into ugly actions when Norway comes knocking; the clergyman who is suddenly distracted by realizing for the first time that his efficient secretary is a woman. 

And then there is the lighting… Lighting effects are meant to enhance, and usually if they are noticeable there is something drastically wrong. However Michael Walton’s lighting of Teresa Przybylski’s deceptively simple set of black obelisks is nothing short of stunning.  Stunning in that you are not aware of it until you are, and then it blows you away.

Ask anyone in the world to say the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the name “Shakespeare” and ten-to-one odds the answer will be “Hamlet.”  It is a name weighty with history and tradition, a play that must have a confident director at the helm, a director who can take the infinite layers of its text, history and humanity and mold them into a relatable, believable whole.  That director is Antoni Cimolino, and this is his Hamlet.  It continues in repertory at the Festival Theatre until October 11th.

Jonathan Goad as Hamlet.
Photo by David Hou

Friday, 22 May 2015

One to Watch: Good Tickle Brain

With Opening Night (Tra-LAAA!) just around the corner, I'd like to use this chance to give a shout-out to a blog I've been following for some time - one that almost entirely dedicates itself to Shakespeare and theatre, with the occasional foray into my other world, Library Land. This would be enough to keep me enamoured of this blog, but it also happens to be wildly funny - especially if any of those three topics are high on your priority list. Which for me, they are.

Good Tickle Brain is the creation of Mya Gosling, and her knack for highlighting the arcane and finding the funny in any Shakespeare play (yes, even the Scottish one) is a talent to be envied. Oh, did I mention that she does this in the form of a comic-strip? I submit exhibit A (with her permission):

This week Good Tickle Brain highlights all things Stratford, as the Festival gets ready to open this Monday night.  Mya has done an excellent job of taking each play and summarizing them in 3-panels, in a sort of Cliffs-version-of-Coles's-Notes way, so even those perplexed by Pericles will get the gist. 

This blog already has quite a following with Stratford Festival afficianados, and I encourage anyone with similar tastes and a funny-bone to follow along. (For an extra treat, check out her quite extrordinary Hamlet-Sound of Music Mash-up. I kid you not.)

Happy openings, all!

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