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"With theatre we express reality not as we experience it, but as we believe it to be true."


Ontario Arts Review - Pygmalion

PYGMALION, sans ‘The rain in Spain’, or ‘Loverly’ 

(originally published in Ontario Arts Review - Nov. 14, 2013)
Danny Gaisin

History 101 – Greek Mythology.  2006 years ago, OVID wrote his epic ‘Metamorphoses’ which 1500 years later, contributed to many of Shakespeare’s plots, i.e. ’The Tempest’’; “Midsummer Night’s dream” & Titus Andronicus. Chaucer plagiarized other sections and so did George B. Shaw. The latter modernized (circa 1912) the fable of a sculptor who falls for his granite creation, into the tale of a phonetics teacher who turns a guttersnipe into a lady by means of language, dress and mannerism.

Four decades later, Lerner & Loewe made Shaw’s account into their “Perfect Musical”; thus forever almost demolishing the original Shavian version.

The OAKVILLE PLAYERS under the direction of Brendan McDowell and produced by Mary Rose have revived the [almost] original Shaw and thus allow us to appreciate his philosophically and socially innovative concepts that are the core of the plot. Unlike the L & L happy ending, it is not the outward transmutation of Eliza Doolittle that is the point…it’s her self-emancipation which is at the vanguard of today’s woman. Today, the impact of the U.S.’s 19th Amendment is less than a century old. BTW – My grandmother was an early suffragette.
Back to the performance. It’s a sure success with some fantastic acting; great direction; impeccable costuming and even the proverbial ‘show must go-on’ incident. The lead role of Eliza is superbly portrayed by Sarah Robbins. This paper has previously described her smile & twinkle (Stage Door. ’12); “a standout” -in UTM’s ‘Semi-monde’; and convincing support-interpretation in Macbeth. All the foregoing are present in her powerful Miss Doolittle. She exhibits a natural comedic sense of timing. Especially noticeable is her potency in the Act V adversarial dialogue with her antagonist – Henry Higgins. ’Slippers – Get them yourself’… you go, girl!
Higgins is played by Peter Anderson in a decidedly non-Rex Harrison renaissance. Anderson puts his own stamp on the misogynistic bent of the character by delineating the overt callousness that the Broadway version exhibited. He may not be an agreeable personage but he is sincere to his innate psyche. He comes across as certainly credible.

There are three very strong support roles. Eliza’s father Alfred is portrayed by Robert Laszcz who is also the recipient of previous O.A.R. critical accolades. His dustman, whose status character also morphs, is not only a comedic opportunity but a thespian challenge. An effective directorial bit utilizes his posture changes as an additional underline. The potential love interest- Freddy Eynsford Hill is Kevin Bryan whose South African accent is still veddy British and his facility with a haughty glance; upscale snigger; and infatuated façade seem wasted on an all-too-brief stage-time. The Pickering role is taken by Gregg Hagglund and he is one very convincing colonel. The housekeeper – Mrs. Pearce, (actress-not character) developed pneumonia so ASM Robin Sadavoy in a true theatre aphorism, has stepped into the role. Just like the Peggy Sawyer persona in ‘42nd Street’, a new star is born.

Shaw never meant Pygmalion to be a happy-ending love story. McDowell doesn’t screw with the hypothesis. Thus the audience leaves pondering what Higgins’ life will be sans a supportive counterpart; and how Eliza will survive as a dichotomy of egos and personalities. See the play; ponder the outcome. PYGMALION is at the Oakville Centre for the Arts until Nov.24t


A Review of Dracula at the Staircase Cafe Theatre


by Stephen Dietz
Based on the novel by Bram Stoker

Directed by Matthew  Moore and Amanda N. Nesbitt

A Review of the performance October 14, 2011 at Staircase Café Theatre

By Tom Mackan

A Bloody Good Show

Question not what forces came together to inspire this production of Stephen Dietz’s version of the tale of the vampire of Transylvania; it’s here and that’s it, up and running at The Staircase Café Theatre on Dundurn Street.  The 1977 Tony Award winning revival of the 1924 adaptation, with a definitive performance by Frank Langella,   has stronger credentials, is linear and sequential and lends itself to romance and humour. Dietz creates an episodic, fragmentary telling heavily depending on flashbacks and multiple scenes, and takes itself very seriously. So? Well, Directors Matthew Moore and Amanda N. Nesbitt have engaged Dietz’s very demanding structure and themes with courage and bravery, and where they haven’t overcome, they’ve left enough bodies and blood around to keep us wide awake and hugely entertained.

Much credit goes to a cast of young and vigorous actors whose median age is well under thirty. Moore and Nesbitt obviously have them wholly on side, convincing them of what worthwhile value the work has as dramatic literature, inspiring them to give tirelessly, and believe me, they worked with lively spirit and intelligence for the little more than two hours it took to tell the tale, expose its dark heart, and reveal its cautionary message.  Say what one likes about the play; one has to be delighted with the performances.

In the focal role of the scholarly expert, Van Helsing, A.J. Haygarth teeters delightfully on the brink of parody.  I’ve observed this actor with interest for a while playing with the stops. Haygarth understands his craft like few performers of his age and can skate close to the edge then pull it up smartly with amazing self-confidence. Using a convincing Germanic delivery, he achieves wisdom and experience with poise and elegance. Peter Anderson, ever gaining as a performer, finds a rich vein of melodrama in his Dracula, Transylvanian to the core, and he uses it to chilling effect. Adam Kuzick, vocally and visually powerful as the mad Renfield, takes the bait of excess readily and expertly keeps it within the framework of the character’s mercurial demands. For me, these three performances plug into and give the energy to the play. In steadier pace Farhang Ghajar, darkly handsome, is immensely effectual as the troubled Seward. James Thomas commands the unfortunate character of Jonathan Harker with his expressive eyes and strong stage presence, and as his betrothed Mina, Crystal Jonasson measures her widely ranging emotions in an admirably accomplished delivery. Alessandra Gage has the goods to deliver a superbly tragic Lucy, a role requiring considerable physical and psychological resources. Damion LeClair and Steff Bishop-Lampman waste not a scintilla of their stage time, all actor all the time, and similarly Matthew Bandura makes a small role work for the whole, a solid team player.  Finally, three sumptuous and sinuous portrayals of the “vixens”, a trio of luscious vampires played with frightening reality by Lauren Bogle, Kristi Boulton, and Laura Ellis deserved their hot ovation in their curtain call.

From my window on it, I wondered if Dietz’s work would look and play better in more minimalist concept. To me, much of the detail provided in props and furnishings became clutter, got in the way. Actors of this caliber know how to make do, to improvise. One of the best scenes came near the end. A central device as a crypt surrounded by good actors in their light, minimal props, clever staging. Nice.

BBF’s Dracula is a team effort. Cast, crew, even front-of-house, work together to make this choice of play work, especially on a spooky, windy October night under a full moon. 


Lawyer gets his teeth into Vampire role

(originally published in the Hamilton Spectator, Oct. 1, 2015)

Peter Anderson is putting the bite on Dracula.

Fangs and all, this area lawyer is taking on the most famous vampire of them all.

Forget Robert Pattinson and Twilight, it was Count Dracula in Bram Stoker’s gothic horror novel that made vampires sexy.

The Count’s been featured in a play, a ballet, a musical and a dozen movies.

“I like the guy,” Anderson says. “He’s passionate and so am I. I don’t care for his choice of food but I have to admit he’s a pretty exciting guy.”

Anderson grew up in Hamilton, not Transylvania, and he discovered drama at McMaster University where he played Dr. Faustus in Christopher Marlowe’s dark drama.

“I’ve been bitten ever since,” he says. “Pardon the pun.”

Anderson doesn’t believe in vampires, but finds the story of Dracula intriguing.

“People like being frightened, especially if they know the blood is fake. You see Dracula with the long black cape, slicked-back hair and staring eyes and it’s mesmerizing. He’s also an erotic figure. There’s something in the sexual fear here that attracts women. I guess it’s about a powerful male figure taking control. As liberated as women are, they enjoy the fantasy of that.”

Anderson prepares for his role by locking himself in his room.

‘I spend hours trying to find the character I’m playing. I try to mentally get into his mood, his state of mind. I say the lines over and over.”

For Anderson, the most difficult thing is figuring out the man’s motivations.

“He just wants to be someone who conquers people. Also, there’s the movement I have to use to make him seductive. In a sense he hypnotizes his victims before clamping his fangs on their necks.”

Sitting across a table, Anderson looks too normal to be Dracula. That’s where the acting comes in. A civil litigation lawyer in Oakville, Anderson has acted for several local theatre groups. He’s never thought seriously about acting as a career.

“There’s too much uncertainty,” he says.

“What I do like about doing a show though is the adrenalin rush of the stage. Doing theatre satisfies my creative urges.”

With a soft smile and warm personality, Anderson defies the icy Dracula persona. He’s a family man who’s more interested in his kids than Dracula’s children of the night.

“I have two children, one 4 and one 2. They definitely are not coming to see the show. The only time they’ll see my fangs is when we dress up for Halloween.”

Gary Smith has written on theatre and dance for The Hamilton Spectator for more than 30 years.

Peter Anderson

What: Dracula

Where: Black Box Fire @ The Staircase, 27 Dundurn St. N

When: Oct. 14-15, 20-21-22 at 7.30 p.m. Matinees Oct. 15 and 22 at 2.30 p.m.



Original Novel: Bram Stoker, 1897

Genre: Gothic horror

First Hollywood Film: 1931, starring Bela Lugosi

Other Films: Dracula Francis Ford Coppola, 1992, Dracula Prince of Darkness, 1966

Sexiest Vampire: Robert Pattinson in Twilight

Famous Draculas: Christopher Lee, John Carradine, Jack Palance

Musical Versions: Dracula: A Chamber Musical - Richard Ouzounian and Marek Norman. Dracula - Frank Wildhorn and Don Black. Dracula: A Musical - Gareth Evans and Chris Orton

Ballet: Dracula Royal Winnipeg Ballet Jorden Morris and at least six other versions

Broadway Dracula: Frank Langella in 1977 production

Hamilton Place: Martin Landau, 1985

Reference Book: In Search of Dracula by Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally, 1972

Themes: Role of women in Victorian culture. Conventional sexuality. Folklore

Dracula’s Castle: May have been inspired by Slains’ Castle in Ireland, visited by Stoker

Protection: Garlic, the host and a cross

Killing A Vampire: A silver stake through the heart and cutting off the head