“Abject Object”

Over the years I have seen nearly all Shakespeare’s plays. Thankfully Stratford Festival presents one of the infrequently produced ones every year or so. This year it is Henry VIII, which we saw at the intimate Studio Theatre. A play with the largest cast list done in the smallest theatre presented a challenge for director Martha Henry, which she met with ease.

This was a preview production but most of the performances were excellent. Irene Poole as Queen Katherine was strong, her death scene was compelling – cutting the appearance of the spirit apparitions allowed the scene even greater emotional resonance. Kim Horsman as Duchess of Norfolk was great fun. Jonathan Goad as Henry was boyish, regal and made the king so appealing one almost forgives his treatment of women. The supporting players were good, Scott Wentworth as the Duke of Norfolk was particularly strong.

Thanks to the series The Tudors I was able to sort out the political web that was being spun for Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn but I’m not sure how anyone unfamiliar with the actual history would have fared with the religious & political intrigues that run though the play. But the play is also an emotional look at the disintegration of a marriage regardless of the political context.

The staging was simple, the costumes were detailed, though there were more sequins than one would have expected at that time 🙂 The ending bows were cleverly  choreographed. Highly recommended.

 

My only quibble is with an audience member, in my row, two seats to my right who felt it was perfectly fine to use his smartphone to check messages & text replies two different times, while the show was in progress. I guess I should be grateful he didn’t start a whispered conversation on it. 

 

 

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Sneak Peek – May 2019

April recap:

April unexpectedly proved to a rather retrospective month for me. In looking for the print-out of the Armstrong family tree I came across a pile of poems written way back in the late 60’s, early 70’s. I though – Easter = resurrection. I culled some out and did a very light edit as I input them. By light I mean dispensing with punctuation, start of line capitals, made spelling & typo corrections.

My fan base continues expanded slowly but surely. WordPress is up to 316, Twitter sits at 217, & Tumblr is at 224. Coal Dusters continues to grow as I get nearer the end with 96,500 words posted so far, about 37,000 words to go. The clash between the striking miners & the militia has been great fun to expand. I’ll be doing more research when I visit Cape Breton in August that’ll make the final draft even better.

The other April highlight was finally getting new glasses. It’s been several years since I’ve had my eyes checked it was about time. My vision has improved with age ( much like my sex life). This time there was no resistance to visible bifocals – I tried the non-visible but the bi-area was too small for me. I like a larger bi, for some reason. Opted for real colour for the arms – something I’ve never done before. They are a strong yellow. 

Not much coming up in May though 😦 Going to Stratford Festival to see Henry VIII – a play I’ve never seen before. I’ve also booked a tour of the Festival costume department that morning. After the costume sale last year I wanted to see more of the warehouse. Tours have to be booked in advance & are limited to 30 people. Lots of photos should result 🙂

One thing I’m not looking forward to this month is missing Capturing Fire on May31/June1. Though if lotto max coughs up before then I’ll book an emergency get away 🙂

Aim 

it doesn’t matter where I aim

I come back to earth

my arc cannot lift me 

far enough way 

to escape the greedy clutch of gravity

my aim is set beyond

the horizon

beyond belief

around the silent corners

that wait for all

no not even wait

waiting involves expectation 

of something arriving

they have no expectations

the earth is mere witness

no not even that involved

the earth doesn’t see

doesn’t feel

it remains constantly present 

regardless of what goes on around 

above

beneath its surface

no emotional investment 

in anything

anyone 

 

how sweet to be a rock

a stone 

a boulder

being what one is regardless 

of what goes on around you

even the pulverizing machine

creates no fear

no perception

safe in stoney silence

blind self-contained

even when in a pile of other stones

absorbing the same heat

or frozen 

in the same icy rain

not struggling next to one another 

for warmth 

no complaining of being too close 

 

the arc of the tossed rock

as it sings though the air

can’t throw it high enough 

hard enough 

fast enough

for it to escape the law of gravity

it falls to the earth

as we all fall to the earth

our bones may break

our expectations 

higher than a stone can be aimed

when they return unfulfilled

we aren’t crushed

but continue to practice

how to survive rough landings


Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

writing blocks broken at Loyalist

Hungry Sneak Peek – April 2019

First a recap of March 🙂 March was cold then cool, dark then sunny. Started the rewatch of Taboo. The series is as intense as I recalled, also as illogical. The image clarity of the DVD is clearer than the original broadcast so some things are more noticeable – no this plot holes but the make-up on the King& other characters doesn’t hold up at all. But Tom Hardy is a magnificent beast & the tattoo work is exceptional. His great coat pulls focus everything he walks down the street.

Also rewatching Castle Rock. Knowing what is going on from having seen the series already doesn’t detract from the mystery but does let me ignore the endless red herrings, and frequent incidents that only exist for atmosphere or for the writers to show us how clever they are. Re-listening the the Fan Critical commentaries as well.

Speaking of Fan Critical I have also been listening to their reviews of ‘event’ movies I’ll never get to see until they turn up on TV. This is a very funny, intelligent group of commentators. Their newest addition is the ‘Worst of Netflix.’ Hilarious.

As I expected with the end of google+, my WordPress hits have dropped from frequent 60+ a day – to an average of 20 a day. My followers have increased: WordPress – 312, (following 36) Tumblr: 223 (following 54). TW: 215 (following 99). The Tumblr purge hasn’t ended the site & the nudes keep coming. I’m still deleting follows from hetero porn sites.

Coal Dusters is moving along well. I’ve blogged just over 90,000 words with at least 40,000 more words to go. This is clearly a second draft & not the final draft. I realize that I have to iron out wrinkles in time. I have to makes sure I have a time line that all these events can fit into. I suspect I have to get some of my geography settled as well. I am using some imaginary places i.e. Castleton  – but also real places i.e. North Sydney, New Waterford.

Now for the sneak peek part of this post. First up is Hot Damn! It’s A Queer Slam Season 5 finale at Buddies in Badtimes Friday April 5, 7 p.m. 5 Cities! 8 Poets! But only 1 Champion. I can’t wait to see who wins the grand prize of a trip to Capturing Fire Slam, the International Queer Summit & Slam in Washington DC. I love everything about this expect the part where I can’t afford to go to Washington DC this year 😦 

The Hot Damn! feature is a dream come true! The out of this universe fantastic Nasra Adem NASRA is a queer, Muslim, Oromo creator/curator living in Amiskwaciwȃskahikan (Edmonton) on Treaty 6 territory. They were the Youth Poet Laureate of Edmonton from 2016 to 2017.

So far tickets have been booked to see Henry VIII, Nathan The Wise, & Little Shop Of Horrors at Stratford. Considering Private Lives, Othello if good seats go on sale. Tickets booked to see Sex at the Shaw Festival. Yet to book there is The Ladykillers. Oddly I’ve never wanted to any of their actual Bernard Shaw plays.

Not so distant future coming event is why I can’t afford to go to Washington DC this year: my visit to Cape Breton in August. I haven’t visited since June 2012. Plans include a visit to Fortress of Louisbourg, day trips to North Sydney, New Waterford for Duster’s & Picture Perfect research. Sydney has an unexpectedly lively lgbtq+ community now. Judging by the large number of Squirt profiles there are lots of men on the prowl too.  I guess I got the seven year itch?

Hungry Plants

more or less

all or nothing

how much is little enough

what constitutes over load

enough is a feast 

but we all want more

give em an inch

they‘ll want sex

quantity or quality

a little of the good stuff

or all you can eat

in for a pound

staggering from the corner 

for another go

another kick at the can

another bite at the hands 

that don’t feed enough

 

when things are overflowing

too much is left behind 

not every bit gets eaten

all those tiny crumbs

don’t miss one

good to the last drop to the canvas

slug fest of who gets

the bigger piece of pie

who gets left high without a dish to dry 

without a mouth to feed

getting is better that giving

don’t let anyone tell you otherwise

become the gracious receiver of gifts

so that others 

can indulge their need for generosity 

superiority

while you relax into gluttony

thank you thank you

don’t be shy or ashamed

anything you offer is fine by me

don’t stop giving

I want it all 

both my hands helping you 

by rifling through your wallet 

while you look the other way 

I know you’d be dismayed if I didn’t

you don’t want all that stuff

as much as I do

 

feed me Seymour feed me now

we’re all hungry plants

duking it out for the purse

raging shrill hogs

barely able to stand on two legs

in the lunge for greased joys

gimme gimme gimme 

more than my share is all I want

don’t get parsimonious on me now

after all it’s for the good of your soul

for the good of the world

more for me

means less for the people 

you really want to punish

 

you know I’ll always be thankful

even when I go behind your back

to the people you deprive

for more

I’ll take it from all givers

I’ll never let pride get in the way 

of getting more than I deserve

of getting more than you can spare

everything not nothing

biggest piece is always mine

so give now

be generous

or

live with your selfish regrets 

because that’s all you get 

to take to the grave

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6


http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday 2019


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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Paradise Staged

Before seeing the Festival production of Paradise Lost we stopped into the costume warehouse sale to see what was on sale but more to see what was stored there. It was day 2 of the sale & all the ‘good’ stuff had been sold in the first few hours of day 1. I did buy a shirt though just to say I have a piece of Festival history. 

There were plenty of fun cloaks, sequinned dresses & few props. I found out that there are regular tours of the warehouse so one will be planned for next season. I did get some fun photos though which was my real reason for going there.

Paradise Lost was excellent. I wasn’t sure how the endless, blank verse poem would be staged. Doing spoken word frequently I know the struggle there can be in lifting words of the page. Adapter Erin Shields, director Jackie Maxwell & Lucy Peacock (as Satan) did an amazing job at making the text engaging & often much funnier than I’m sure John Milton intended it to be.

Centre stage at the Studio Theatre is a pile of shirts (going from dark at the bottom to white at the top) reaching to the ceiling, around it are hung black shirts. Lights out & we hear the dark shirts drop to the stage: the fallen angels. As Satan Lucy Peacock commands the stage whenever she appears. The interaction between the ‘good’ host of angels reflects their pecking order.

The supporting cast was all good. I particularly liked Sarah Dodd as as sort of east coast slutty Sin & as Zephon, who was eager to perform as Satan in the play-within-a-play. Perhaps because he was mainly naked I did enjoy Qasim Khan as Adam. His comic timing was excellent. Both he & Amelia Sargisson, as Eve, played the naivety of their characters to perfection. 

The play-within-a-play mystery play telling of the war that lead to fall was hilarious & ti was clear the supporting cast was having great fun with it. The rhyming couples were a nice sonic break from the blank verse too. This is a brilliant piece of theatre that rivalled Coriolanus for theatricality without relying on tech-magic to do so.

The other shows I saw this season:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f 

Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31K 

The King and I: “The King and My Memories” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31Y

Julius Caesar: “Honourable Women” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-33T

The Hound of the Baskervilles: “Entertainment Afoot”  https://wp.me/p1RtxU-34I

The Tempest: “Brave Spirits Indeed” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-35S

Grand Hotel https://wp.me/p1RtxU-37e

Rocky Horror: “I Feel Sexy” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-38u

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Stratford Costume Warehouse pics:

http://topoet.tumblr.com/post/179316578048/ 

http://topoet.tumblr.com/post/179385874798/

http://topoet.tumblr.com/post/179469551438/

 

I Feel Sexy

I’ve seen Rocky Horror a few times now – both on stage & of course the movie. I remember a photo of Tim Curry in Time magazine, when the film was being made. He was in the classic corset costume & I was amazed & aroused. I’ve never been fan of lingerie on a man except for this one. Panty Papi isn’t for me. 

I was working for Famous Players in Sydney, Cape Breton (not Australia) when the film was released & the opening lips mesmerized me. The plot had everything I was already into: spooky houses, crazed scientists, goth butlers, bisexuality, silly scifi plots & hilarious songs. Tim Curry was amazing too. The man could sing. His drag was not fem, a bit campy &  still remains cutting edge.

The stage productions I have seen have all been good fun but director Donna Feore’s Stratford take is the best I’ve seen. Dan Chameroy as Frank N. Furter is a powerhouse. He makes this role his own without initiating Curry at any point. Totally committed & he makes this imaginary character feel like a real person.

The show doesn’t let up for a minute from when one sits down to face the distressed velvet curtain to when that curtain reluctantly falls as the end after encores of Time Warp. The band was amazing & I love the sax playing of Ian Harper. The ensemble cast is like clockwork – they all sing & dance with energy plus it was clear that they really really loved these songs & the various bits of stage business they had to deal with.

Steve Ross as the narrator handled audience hecklers with aplomb without stepping of of character – plus his singing was excellent – too and he never got a song of his own. Sayer Roberts as Brad was great as well – it’s too easy to down play Brad as a minor player but Sayer holds his own, in undies for much of the play, & when he gets his song, Once in a While proves he can sing as well as looking good in fishnets & heels.

The women in the show are good but the sound mix resulted in them sounding like shrill Betty Boops. In fact the sound mix often made the lyrics indistinguishable to my friends who came to see the show with me. Regardless this is a dynamic production of a musical that remains edgy in its sexuality. Five out of five. It has been extended to the end of November so see it while you can.

My last show of the season will be Paradise Lost in October.

Other recent reviews:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f 

Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31K 

The King and I: “The King and My Memories” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31Y

Julius Caesar: “Honourable Women” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-33T

The Hound of the Baskervilles: “Entertainment Afoot”  https://wp.me/p1RtxU-34I

The Tempest: “Brave Spirits Indeed” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-35S

Grand Hotel https://wp.me/p1RtxU-37e 

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

http://buddiesinbadtimes.com/event/hot-damn-its-a-queer-slam-feat-janice-lee/

http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday

October 5/6/7 – Gratitude Round-Up

https://www.facebook.com/TorontoGratitudeRoundup/

October scary poetry every Wednesday & Thursday

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

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September 2018 – Sneak Peek

If anything September will be cooler than August 🙂 but no less busy on the blog front. Two musicals I’ll be reviewing: ‘Grand Hotel’ at the Shaw Festival & ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ at the Stratford Festival. After the amazing production of Baskervilles I was willing to take a chance on another Shaw show & we also had gift certificates that reduced ticket cost considerably. (Hint: Shaw or Stratford gift certificates are always welcome.)

Biggest show by far though will the launch of Hot Damn! It’s A Queer Slam! Season 5. That’s right season 5 of a show that keeps getting stronger, reaching further & pushing the envelope by creating a safe space for lgbtq+ slammers, poets & other performers. The show has had mimes, stand-up & musicians – no ventriloquists yet though 😦 Come to Buddies on September 26 & experience it for yourself 🙂

http://buddiesinbadtimes.com/event/hot-damn-its-a-queer-slam-feat-janice-lee/ 

On the blog front I’ve come to the end of Village Stories on Wednesday so I’ll be going back to the 227 Rules for Monks. Music remains ensconced on Mondays; Tuesday is Coal Dusters; fresh 227 Rules for Thursdays; Fridays will see the continuation of me discussing my literary heroes & influences.

Speaking of Dusters I’ve blogged 22 chapters for 40,323 words so far. There’s still 75,000 words to go – these haven’t been broken into chapters yet. Each new ‘chapter’ gets a through editing before it goes up & the story is getting more detailed & certainly holds my interest more than I expected it to. The instant research has been productive. Some of it has come from finding new images for the chapter post. 

There’ll be no change in the photo rota thought Monday will lean more towards cars as the month progresses. Wednesdays will remain blue; Friday has lots of doors yet for me to open. I’ve started daily photo sets at Tumblr to work through my photo library. That has been fun, I love writing captions 🙂

Stats: I’ve hit 270 WordPress followers – so 280 by the end of the year isn’t out of the questions; Tumblr I’m at 200; at Twitter I have 212 followers: the bulk of the twitter seem to be entrepreneurs who have the secret to publishing success: needless to say I never follow them back. I follow 93 ‘people’ on Twitter but many of them are on mute anyway 🙂 

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Congratulations


On the 100th episode of the Disability After Dark podcast Andrew Gurza talks at length with Amin Lakhani (https://datingcoachonwheels.com). What starts out as an interview quickly becomes revealing, explicit conversation – the sort of stuff guys never talk about or if they do they are too drunk to keep secrets. It ranges from masculinity to how their declining manual dexterity has changed their masterbation techniques. This is not a podcast for the prudish.

I have been listening to Andrew’s podcast from some years now, starting with his previous ‘brand’ to his rebranding as Disability After Dark. No being disabled myself he has given me a sensitivity & insight to the process of marginalization. I recently saw The Tempest at Stratford. One of the characters Caliban is facial disfigured, plus has a sort of humpback & when he shows a sexual interest in Miranda he is demonized for daring to think she might find him attractive. 

In previous viewing of this play, by various directors & performers, I never saw as a ‘problem’ This viewing was different thanks to Andrew pointing out often otherly-abled are either to be pitied in entertainment or are villains. Often their sexuality is considered a sickness rather than a natural part of being human.

Anyway, like the podcast, I digress. Their conversation was expansive, honest & revealing. I related to much of their struggles with emotional connecting vs monogamy. I am in the non-monogamy camp – more akin to polyamory for me. Letting go of the idealization that one finds a life partner, a soul mate has freed me to enjoy the men I am with as men not as some sort of fulfillment of a cultural imperative.

Congratulations on turning 100. Andrew for epsisode 111 I suggest a live podcast 🙂

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“Brave Spirits Indeed”

I have seen several productions of The Tempest – some at Stratford, some on TV, at least one Shakespeare in the Park, plus a few film adaptations. The last one I saw starred Christopher Plumber at the Festival. So the play holds little surprise – the pleasure is in the telling.

My favorite Shakespeare character is in this play. Caliban, the true outsider. A creature with human foibles but abused and/or found repulsive by all humans. I’ve frequently found Ariel irritating as opposed to delightful.

Over all this is a solid production with some wonderful over-the-top moments in Act 2. Martha Henry is a fine Prospero – though I would have liked a bit more bitterness, as opposed to the simmering anger but it is good to see her take on the character. There is real chemistry between Mamie Zwettler and André Sills as the young lovers Miranda and Sebastian. 

André Morin as Ariel give a good performance – perhaps the tree bark costume grounded him as one of the earth spirits. An apt costume for a spirit freed from a tree. Michael Blake as Caliban, costumed with barnacles, clearly a sea spirit, is strong but comes across more pissed off than vengeful. As with Prospero I would have liked less amiability – they are too likable 🙂 

The rest of the cast gives nicely detailed performances & as always the reliable stalwarts Stephen Ouimette & Tom McCamus are fun as Trinculo & Stephano – there is always bring great comic chemistry between the two of them.

The colonizing subtext of the play has become more troubling over time – much like Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn it is becoming more politically charged & I wonder how soon it’ll be before The Tempest gets banned. But that’s another blog post. It is still a fun production & well worth seeing.

ps – Some of my focus was distracted repeatedly by a member of the audience who had no hesitation in taking out their cell phone to take pictures of the action on stage – I missed the moment of the entrance of the Harpy with the turning on of their camera screen to get some shots. When they started to do this yet again someone nearer to them leaned over to stop them. At least the photo taker didn’t start to share their pics on social media during the show. How considerate.

Other summer reviews:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f 

Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31K 

The King and I: The King and My Memories https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31Y

Julius Caesar: Honourable Women https://wp.me/p1RtxU-33T

The Hound of the Baskervilles: Entertainment Afoot

https://wp.me/p1RtxU-34I

Honourable Women

Where to start with this so-so Stratford Festival production of Julius Caesar? This early play, not regarded as one of Shakespeare’s better pieces, isn’t improved any by the casting of women in the lead roles. I was hoping there would be some layered resonance on the current discussion about gender & representation but if there is it was under too many layers. An arrogant & ambitious ruler meets a bad end. Assassins pay the price of their actions. 

Seana McKenna does not portray Caesar as being particularly arrogant or ambitious. She handles the role well but seems merely content to give the lines a well enunciated delivery. Michelle Giroux as Mark Antony invests the character with urgency & emotional connection. She handles the slyly manipulative “lend me your ears” speech very well. Now this a character with ambitions. Also good was Jonathan Goad as Marcus Brutus. 

Director Scott Wentworth does able work with the ‘rabble’ crowd scenes so they have good energy & theatricality – I really enjoy the opening of Act 2 with the rabble scattered throughout the theatre. Slow motion battle scenes & Gregorian chant didn’t work for me. I did like the hand washing nod to McBeth though.

When men play women, cross-dressing or doing drag, they are judged by how well they pass as women, so it is fair to do the same for when women play men. Seana is the most successful on surface appearance, Michelle is okay, Irene Poole as Cassius could pass as a teenage boy not as an adult male. Other women cast as men in the production are more androgynous than masculine. 

 

I was happy to see Julius Caesar and this is a solid production. I also appreciated the casting of women in men’s roles – this sort of gender play, only reversed, was the law in Shakespeare’s time. Maybe it’s time for a really tradition production where men play all the roles. Scott Wentworth would make a brilliant Lady McBeth.

PS: No one says: “Great Caesar’s ghost.” Also, I could not get that classic Canadian comedy moment “Julie, don’t go!  Julie, don’t go!  But he wouldn’t listen!” out of my mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rR_5h8CzRcI

Other summer reviews:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f 

Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31K 

The King and I: The King and My Memories https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31Y 

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/topoet

“My rage is gone”

Thanks to director Robert Lepage the Stratford Festival’s production of Coriolanus is stunning from the first line of dialogue. The level of stage craft is constantly amazing as it supports & expands the plot. Considered one of Shakespeare’s lesser plays this re-imagining of it in modern times makes it perhaps one of his most prophetic plays. Imagine a ruler who feels offended when anyone questions his decisions.

The special effect projections (if that’s what they are called), sometimes as subtle as a curtain moving in the breeze or as dramatic as rain on a speeding car were executed with a precision I didn’t know was possible. The rain on the car, for example, was streaming across the car in the right direction & at the right speed as the car went faster. Oh yes, there was a real car on stage!

Scene transitions were smooth, the use of moving scrims, of moving sets, sliding frames had to have been done by the bank of laptop & desk top computers one saw on entering the theatre. All this tech did not detract from the emotional heart of the play but amplified its beat though news casts, talk-show, multi-view camera coverage &, of course, text & emojis.

The performances were excellent, as one would expect. Lucy Peacock as Mom stole every scene she was in; André Sills as our Hero was solid, energetic but rarely displayed the arrogance his character was credited with (or that one is used to seeing displayed by politicians); Festival stalwarts Tom McCamus, Stephen Ouimette, & Tom Rooney were sharp & clarly relished the characters they were playing. Graham Abbey as the opposing general was excellent & his closing lines “My rage is gone; And I am struck with sorrow” were emotionally delivered & resonant in a way that needed no stage craft. A must see production. 

My review of Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f 

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