Sunday, October 1, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

Six is an unbelievably enthusiastic and colourful rock concert that engages the audience before it even starts and keeps them excited until the final standing ovation. The six of the title are a reincarnation of the wives of King Henry VIII but this is no BBC costume, mini-series. The six wives are reborn in Toronto (and many other cities around the world) and they want to tell us their story and to judge who had the worst luck with the king.

They are reincarnated as pop stars and they tell us their stories through rousing songs, vigorous dancing and well-placed humour. It is a show that holds the enthusiasm and involvement of the audience without letup. There are quieter moments in the singing and dancing but that is only to let the people in the audience catch their breath.

Time to recharge your memory battery about Henry’s wives as recreated for us by Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow.

In the first number of the musical, “Ex-Wives” the SIX introduce themselves and tell us  their fate. We start with the first one, Catherine of Aragon (Jaz Robinson). Her fate: DIVORCED. She was married to Henry’s brother at age 15 but he died before anything happened. After some serious persuasion, the Pope allowed Henry to marry her (good) but would not allow him to divorce her (bad). Jaz is a statuesque woman with some marvelous high notes and wonderful dancing.

The cast of the Toronto Production of SIX. (L-R) Maggie Lacasse, 
Elysia Cruz, Jaz Robinson, Julia Pulo, Krystal Hernández, 
Lauren Mariasoosay. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus.

The petite Julia Pulo plays Wife Numero 2 and you know that is Anne Boleyn. Beautiful, smart, a sexual magnet, Henry could not resist her and split with Rome over her. She gave him a child, alas a girl who did well as Queen Elizabeth I but Anne’s fate: BEHEADED. When the other five complain about their fate, Anne reminds them that she was BEHEADED and gets a laugh. Pulo is a crackerjack of energy.

Maggie Lacasse plays the beautiful and dignified Jane Seymour, wife Numero 3. Lacasse  has some splendid vocal flourishes and as Jane Seymour gave Henry the much-desired son but died after giving birth to him. He became the hapless King Edward IV. A tragic end that was not brought about by Henry, for a change.

Wife Numero 4 is Anna of  Cleves (Krystal Hernandez). Marrying her seemed like a good idea and Henry ordered a painting of her to see the merchandise before ordering it, if I may put it crudely. In the painting she looked good; in real life she did not. He did not touch her and after six months of marriage she was given enough money and property to live well in England and not see Henry again. Her fate: DIVORCED, of course.

Wife Numero 5 was Katherine Howard (Elysia Cruz). She married the disgusting porker Henry in July 1540 at the age of 17 and was executed in February of 1542 at age 19. She accomplished a lot in her life but most of it involved being pursued by randy men and her lust being more powerful than her reason. No surprise: she was BEHEADED.

Wife Numero 6 was the Honourable Catherine Parr (Lauren Mariasoosay) who looked after Henry in his declining years and she survived him.

The cast of the Toronto Production of SIX. (L-R) Krystal Hernández, 
Julia Pulo, Jaz Robinson (centre), Maggie Lacasse, Lauren Mariasoosay \
and Elysia Cruz. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus.

We all agree that the ladies had it rough in their mortal lives (remember Anne Boleyn was beheaded) but (thanks to a super cast) they are doing gangbusters in their afterlife as rock stars travelling around the world and look what they have done for Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow who wrote the musical while studying at Cambridge University. They owe their success to the posthumous careers of the Six after inventing them and putting together the musical.

There are some fundamental aspects of a rock concert, in addition to involving the audience and maintaining their level of enthusiasm,  and they are the musicians, the lighting and the volume levels. Elizabeth Baird on keyboard, Aretha Tillotson on bass, Kia Rose on guitars and Allyson MacIvor on drums are all introduced to us and merit enthusiastic applause. They make sure volume levels are kept up. Joe Beighton is the Music Supervisor.

The lighting and special effects are non-stop and simply dazzling. Give credit to Tim Deling for Lighting Design, Paul Gatehouse for Sound Design and Emma Baily for Scenic Design. Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage co-direct the production and Carrie-Anne Ingrouille did the choreography.

The only thing I cannot figure out is how they managed to get the audience pumped up with enthusiasm BEFORE anything happened on the stage and kept it up until the final eruption of approval and a standing ovation.  
SIX The Musical by Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow continues until February 11, 2024, at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King St. W. Toronto, Ont.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press

Wednesday, September 27, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas 

Jane Jacobs, the great guru of city planning, hated Toronto’s Gardner Expressway with passion. For those who have not spent hours parked on it, it is an elevated road that separates the city from its waterfront and one of its biggest assets – the waterfront not the Gardiner. Her concern was unnecessary because Toronto managed to wreck its waterfront almost completely with or without the expressway.  

The Master Plan is a play by Michael Healy based on Sideways: The City that Google Couldn’t Buy by Globe and Mail reporter Josh O’Kane about the attempts and colossal failure of trying to construct something on the waterfront. The play is dramatic, funny and an amazing theatrical experience featuring some stunning performances. It is also an outstanding dramatization of the frightful attempt by an American consortium to “buy” a twelve-acre lot east of Yonge Street and south of the Gardiner in Toronto to develop the waterfront.

Seven actors represent an array of characters and organizations who attempt to develop a “master plan” for the improvement of the east part of the lake shore with mind-boggling ideas and mind-numbing negotiations.

l-r: Philippa Domville, Ben Carlson, Mike Shara, 
Christopher Allen, Tara Nicodemo. Photo: Dahlia Katz

The organizations involved are Google, a company we are told, with a capitalization of $700 billion compared to Canada’s budget of $300 billion. Through its subsidiary Sidewalk, it wants to “buy” ostensibly twelve acres but in effect the city of Toronto (I am not kidding), again, with some mind-boggling plans that will bring about $6 billion in profits for it. That is just a conservative figure. Google or Sidewalk is represented by Dan Doctoroff, the CEO of Sidewalk.

Mike Shara gives a stunning performance in a highly demanding role and plays several other parts as well. Doctoroff is loud, aggressive, highly intelligent, manipulative and ruthless. He wields power or wants to wield power to get the contract or “the master plan” signed and is willing to manipulate power brokers to get the highly lucrative piece of paper. He is prepared to misrepresent everything but he is no common liar. He is subtle, bullying and frequently convincing. Shara’s performance is a powerhouse example of superb acting.

Waterfront Toronto is the agency assigned to develop the waterfront and its CEO Will Fleissig is no fool even though he admits to not being good with the details. Ben Carlson stands up to Doctoroff but the latter has superior vocal cords and bullying tactics. Carlson gives an outstanding performance and is almost tragic in his realization that all efforts to write a master plan are futile and unworkable for many reasons. Fleissig is no match for Doctoroff and he is unable to focus on important details and wastes time on trivial matters. He shows strength on occasion but lapses into wishy-washiness. He is the perfect target for Doctoroff.

In addition to Will Fleissig, Waterfront Toronto is represented by Helen Burstyn (Yanna McIntosh), Kristina Verner (Tara Nicodemo), Vice President and Meg Davis (Philippa Domville) its Chief Development Officer. They are the professionals on the side of the city that must confront the American greed and mendacity machine.

Mike Shara centre; Tara Nicodemo and Ben Carlson 
on the left, Philippa Domville (standing) and 
Christopher Allen sitting on left. Photo: Dahlia Katz

Toronto is looking for a development plan that will provide a digital layer and will be sustainable and affordable, whatever that means. Doctoroff’s plan provides among the jargon a plan to level the sidewalk and the street and keep cars away from pedestrians by s system of lighting. Again, whatever that means.

The play has some twenty VIPs make appearances from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Kathleen Wynne, Doug Ford, city politicians and others. Mayor John Tory attempts to speak French with hilarious results and Carlson as Fire Chief Matthew Pegg is a comic bumbler. Peter Fernandez plays Tree, a Norwegian maple, that is a character and a commentator, sort of Chorus, who gives background information and makes observations. Tree is informative and very funny.

At first blush, a play about the development of Toronto’s waterfront seems an unlikely subject. I suspect that few people know much about and even fewer can recall events around it that occurred years ago. But Healy knows how to jazz up the subject and Director Chris Abraham dresses it with such consummate theatricality that it keeps our attention rivetted and the huge laughs coming. Yes, it is a very funny play.  

What may not seem like an interesting subject becomes a life-and-death event as the ambitious Americans try to buy Toronto and a few city officials manage to defeat them. The site remains undeveloped but the city was not bought by Google. Don’t relish the ‘victory” or hold your breath about anything decent being done on the waterfront. Just look at it, if you can find the parts that are for public or civic enjoyment and cry for Jane Jacobs.
The Master Plan  by Michael Healy will run until October 15, 2023, at Streetcar/Crowsnest Theatre, 345 Carlaw Avenue, Toronto, Ontario.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press 

Monday, September 25, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas

Love’s Labour’s Lost, the Stratford Festival’s final offering for the current season is a terrific production directed by Peter Pasyk. Shakespeare’s verbal extravaganza is being performed at the small Studio Theatre but the company makes the best use of the limited space and the 100-minute show without a break moves briskly.

Love’s Labour’s Lost plot makes it not the easiest play to stage and make entertaining. It has language, rhyming couplets and obscure words that sometimes risks putting the most ardent Shakespeare lover in the arms of the god Hypnos. But Pasyk makes sure that there is no danger of you snoozing during the performance by giving us a fast-paced, colourful and at times exuberant production.

Oh yes, the plot. The King of Navarre (Jordan Hall) and his three lords, Berowne (Tyrone Savage, Dumaine (Chanakya Mukherjee) and Longaville (Chris Mejaki) vow to renounce the company of women (don’t even be seen talking to one), sleep only three hours a night, eat only one meal per day and no meal at all once a week. Lots of laughs in that.

Then the Princess of France (Celia Aloma), and her three attendant ladies, Rosaline (Amaka Umeh), Maria (Qianna MacGilchrist) and Katharine (Elizabeth Adams) arrive. The solemn vows taken by the aristocratic men are quickly discarded upon seeing the aristocratic, classy and beautiful ladies. To put it bluntly, vows don’t stand a chance against hormones.  Oh, yes, Boyet (Steve Ross) is the high-minded lord attending the princess. 

From left: Amaka Umeh as Rosaline, Qianna MacGilchrist as Maria, 
Elizabeth Adams as Katharine and Celia Aloma as Princess of France
 in Love's Labour's Lost. Stratford Festival 2023. Photo by David Hou.

That nonet is a good start but Shakespeare adds another nine colourful characters to amuse us. The foolish and foppish Spaniard Don Armado (Gordon S. Miller) and his servant Moth (Christo Graham), the randy gardener Jaquenetta (Hannah Wigglesworth), the other gardener Costard (Wholonti:Io Kirby) who wields a blower with obvious intent. There is also Constable Dull (Jane Spidel), the curate Nathaniel (Matthew Kabwe) and the pedantic schoolmaster Holofernes (Michael Spencer-Davis) and a couple of other minor roles for good measure. Pasyk makes sure they are funny.

That’s enough characters to amuse us and more than enough name-dropping by me. You know that the king will go for the Princess and the three lords after the three ladies. The ladies know that too and they pretend to be someone else as the men approach them with protestations of love in epistolary verses and direct contact. It is a source of embarrassment for the men and a source of amusement for us.

The braggart Armado squeals on Costard for expressing amorous intentions toward Jaquenetta whom he covets himself. Impassioned love letters are sent for delivery to Costard who, you guessed it, gives them to the wrong recipients. Enter Holofernes to read the letters, the curate with him, and you may not understand all that the pedant says but he is very funny.

The wooing has flopped ingloriously and before it is resumed let’s have a real pageant showing The Nine Worthies of the classical word. You know, people like Hercules, Hector, Alexander. Maccabeus, Pompey and the like. The scene is colourful, farcical and hilarious. 

Celia Aloma as Princess of France (centre) 
with members of the company in Love's Labour's Lost. 
Stratford Festival 2023. Photo by David Hou.

That is a straightforward summary of the plot but there is a difference here. That difference is Director Pasyk who is imaginative and inventive and does not allow a single scene to steer away from the major focus: humour. The performances by the cast are stellar. Starting with the King and his lords and the Princess and her ladies, they maneuver through their couplets and iambic pentameters with aplomb. The minor characters like Holofernes and Nathaniel carry on their pedantic dialogue and we enjoy the sound of what they are saying even if we don’t understand everything.

The costumes by Sim Suzer are modern with considerable leeway for colourful garb in the attire of The Worthies. But the ladies and gentlemen all sport clothes that bespeak class, taste and money.

But what make the production superior in addition to the superb cast is Director Pasyk. He stick-handles everything with assurance and mastery and is able to take us through a highly entertaining 100 minutes with no interval.  
Love’s Labour’s Lost  by William Shakespeare opened on September 9 and will run in repertory until October 1, 2023, at the Studio Theatre, Stratford, Ontario.

Saturday, September 16, 2023


 Reviewed by James Karas

Wedding Band is an outstanding play by Alice Childress that receives a fabulous production at the Stratford Festival. The play whose full title is Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story in Black and White was first produced in 1966 and the Stratford Festival deserves a salute for its choice and a standing standing ovation for the quality of the production.

As the title indicates the play is about a love story between a white man and a black woman in South Carolina in 1918 during World War I. Julia (Antonette Rudder) and Herman (Cyrus Lane) are deeply in love. They come from different sides of the tracks and the colour barrier but they have much in common including a deep love that has lasted 10 years. They want to get married but the miscegenation laws of South Carolina do not allow it.

Childress emphasizes the depth of their commitment by portraying Herman as a rebel and perhaps a misfit. He comes from a well-off (and savagely racist) family that had great dreams for its only son. Instead, he became a baker and borrowed money from his mother to purchase a bakery. That is where he met Julia, a customer of the bakery, and they are secretly husband and wife in all but the eye of the law. Lane gives a superb performance as a man of strength and commitment amid opposing forces in his life.

Herman gives her a wedding band on a string and brings a wedding cake to her house to celebrate their 10th anniversary.

From left: Ijeoma Emesowum, Liza Huget, Joella Crichton 
and Antonette Rudder with members of the company in Wedding Band. 
Stratford Festival 2023. Photo by David Hou

Julia has moved into the backyard of a house in a black enclave in order to escape notice and recrimination. The enclave consists of three houses and its residents are the social milieu of the play that Childress presents and director Same White carefully and beautifully recreates. They are the downtrodden of America with religious faith, hopes and distrust, even hatred of the whites who had them as slaves within recent memory.

Antonette Ruddy gives an unforgettable performance as a strong woman in love and as the victim of hideous racism. The climax of the play is the confrontation between Julia and Herman’s mother (Lucy Peacock) and his sister Annabelle (Maev Beaty). Julia displays courage, dignity and strength in her position as a woman in love. Lucy Peacock, as the mother, gives a powerful performance as she seethes with hatred and contempt. She would rather see her son dead than involved with a black woman. The apogee comes when the mother asks Julia “who are you” and she replies, “your daughter-in-law, bitch.”

Maev Beaty plays Annabelle the old maid sister, as she would have been called then, of Herman  because she had to stay and look after her mother and did not marry. Anabelle is just as racist as her mother but she has grains of decency and understanding. Beaty strikes that balance marvelously.

Julia’s neighbours Matte (Ijeoma Emesowum), and Lula (Joella Crichton) and her son Nelson (Micah Woods) with the owner of the house Fanny (Liza Huget) form a neighborhood with some religious fervour, social cohesion and dislike and mistrust of whites.

Antonette Rudder as Julia Augustine and Cyrus Lane as 
Herman in Wedding Band. Stratford Festival 2023. Photo by Bre'Ann White.

The set by Richard H. Morris Jr. consists of a view of a well-appointed bedroom that forms the central image of the play and is a symbol of the love of Julia and Herman. There are doors on each side of the bedroom leading into the house of Matte and Lula. The rest of the large playing area has a table and a few chairs forming the backyard or the common area of the neighbours. Superb work by Morris.

The costumes by Sarah Uwadiae represent clothes worn around World War I in the American south and they are appropriate.

We get a terrifically acted production directed by Sam White. She uses most of the playing area of the Tom Patterson Theatre efficiently and intelligently. The characters are spaced on the stage or placed together as necessary in proper juxtaposition. The scenes in Julia’s bedroom are sensitively directed and the whole production is a terrific example of good directing.

The end of the play has a masterly scene with Julia dressed in white raising her hands towards heaven as a bright light is beamed on her. It is apotheosis. Go see the production for more details.
Wedding Band by Alice Childress continues until October 1, 2023, at the Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford, Ontario.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press

Thursday, September 14, 2023


Reviewed James Karas 

Marie Beath Badian’s The Waltz tells us about the next generation of the two nurses that came to Saskatchewan from the Philippines in the 1960s. You may have met them five years ago at The Factory Theatre in Prairie Nurse, a play by the same author, but it does not matter if you did not. The new play takes place in 1993 in rural Saskatchewan and it is a charming comedy-romance involving two young Filipinos who meet accidentally and find out that they have a lot in common.

Romeo Alavarez (Anthony Perpuse) is a self-assured young man on his way from Toronto to British Columbia. He is the son of one of the nurses of Prairie Nurse and promised his mother to stop over in Saskatchewan and visit one of her coworkers from many years ago. Carrying his possessions and a large boombox he stops by what looks like the outline of a cottage. Instead of the man he expected, he meets a young woman who holds a loaded crossbow menacingly and is ready to shoot him.

Romeo explains very quickly who he is, what his destination is and the reason for his stopover in Saskatchewan and who he is looking for. She does not shoot him but neither is she convinced of his bona fides. Turns out that the young woman, Bea (Ericka Leobrera) is also of Filipino origins and the man that Romeo is looking for is a good friend of her family. We now have some common ground if not exactly trust.

The two actors  engage in lively conversation, sometimes probing, sometimes contentious and we gain insights into their background. Bea has had a rough time at school and goes to the cottage represented by the beams on the set for quiet contemplation and an escape from the racism she encounters in the city.

Anthony Perpuse and Ericka Leobrera. Photo: Dahlia Katz
Romeo comes from a dysfunctional family where his parents fought a great deal and he is going to the University of British Columbia to escape his life in Toronto. The person he was to visit in Saskatchewan is a friend of his mother’s friend from the past.

The play is not about dysfunctional families but about two people who discover that they have a lot in common and are proud of their ethnic background. That sets the stage for reconciliation and a dive into something more serious emotionally. The path is laid out by Romeo telling Bea that he taught dancing in Toronto and he tentatively teaches her a few steps. Now we learn what the title is about and I will not give you more details.

The Waltz is a boy-meets-girl play with a Filipino background and flavour involving perhaps tangentially the experience of different ethnic groups in Canada. Author Badian is gentle even if the dialogue between the two young people gets acerbic at times. Without it the play would not keep our interest for ninety minutes. Badian does not descend into sentimentality and the acerbity of the exchanges diminishes and we enter the “courtship” phase if we can call it that.

Ericka Leobrera and Anthony Perpuse do superb work in their roles and director Nina Lee Aquino produces excellent results with what the play offers.

Prairies Nurse had a richer plot and more humour. The Waltz is good as far as it goes but we would have preferred more meat to go with it.  
The Waltz by Maria Beath Badian, directed by Nina Lee Aquino continues until September 17, 2023 at the Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press

Tuesday, September 12, 2023



Reviewed by James Karas

We should tip our hat to the Shaw Festival for producing Edith Wharton’s The Shadow of a Doubt, a second-rate play that we may never have another opportunity of seeing. But the production of Helen Edmundson’s The Clearing deserves a standing ovation. It is a remarkable play covering the fate of Ireland in the hands of the English during the rule of the puritans under Olver Cromwell in the 1650’s and beyond. The Irish suffered murder, rape and genocide at the hands of the English conquerors whose ultimate goal was the extermination of the Irish whom they did not consider as human beings.

It is 1652 and the English under Oliver Cromwell have reconquered Ireland. The play focuses on two English families who are well-off landowners in Ireland. We know that they are conquerors and therefore they are tainted. Cromwell wants to punish all Irishmen who resisted his conquest and all Englishmen who fought for King Charles II against the Puritan forces during the civil war. Punishment can mean execution or exile from their lands to the desert-like Connaught, Ireland. 

The two English families are Solomon (David Alan Anderson) and Susaneh (Sharry Flett) Winter, and Robert (Kelly Wong) and Madelaine Preston (Bahareh Yaraghi). Sir Charles Sturman (Tom Rooney) has been sent from England to mete out punishment as stated above. Solomon Winter fought for  King Charles; Robert Preston is married to an Irish woman. Both families are targets for Sturman to be deprived of their land and sent to Connaught. 

 Kelly Wong as Robert Preston and Bahareh Yaraghi as Madeleine Preston in 
The Clearing (Shaw Festival, 2023). Photo by David Cooper.

The Prestons had just had their first child. They are a loving couple with their servant Killaine (Ryann Myers) whom they consider part of their family. The men approach Sturman and attempt to get exempted from the brutal exile that is imminent. But Winter deserves to be hanged because he fought for the king, according to Sturman. Preston is married to a Catholic Irish woman who has gone to mass. They deserve to be punished. Sturman proves to be vicious and merciless and so racist against the Irish that he believes that Irish corpses have been found with tails. The Irish are devils incarnate and do not deserve to live.

Killaine is seized and shipped to the West Indies as a slave, “indentured servant” according to Sturman. The Prestons grow apart and Robert tries to save his skin by denouncing his wife. It is the ultimate betrayal and an act of absolute and unforgiveable cowardice.

The play has a Tory, the name given to Irish freedom fighters. Pierce (J.J. Gerber) despises the English. He loved Madelaine once but he considers her and all the Irish who have relations with the English as poisoned and harbours nothing but hatred for them.


Kelly Wong as Robert Preston and Tom Rooney as Sir Charles Sturman
 in The Clearing (Shaw Festival, 2023). Photo by David Cooper.

This is a gripping drama with riveting performances by an outstanding cast. Rooney as Sturman stands for cool, methodical and relentless evil. He believes that he represents God the good and the others are instruments of Satan. He tries to help Robert after humiliating him and makes him seek contrition for his marrying a Catholic. Robert denounces his wife.

Wong and Yaraghi start as a loving couple who enjoy their newborn son and the joys of youth until he turns betrayer of all that is decent and he rejects her. Outstanding performances. Anderson as Solomon and Sharry Flett as Susanah cannot comprehend the enormity of the evil facing them but they do come to terms with the inevitable.  As Protestants, they are not sent into exile and need only pay a fine. But Killaine, an Irish servant to an Englishman is arrested, driven almost insane and put on a transport ship to her certain death. Myers gives a deeply moving performance as she faces her inevitable fate.

The costumes by Asa Benally suggest Purina garb. Pierce’s costume, I assume, represents what the Tories wore.

Again, give a standing ovation for both the choice of play and the production itself.

The play is performed in the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre, a theatre-in-the-round with its attendant difficulties concerning a set. The Clearing has almost none except a table and some chairs. Fair enough but director Carmichael brings a few quirks of her own. Instead of letting the actors get off before the next scene begins, she decides to overlap the exits and entrances which struck me as unnecessary and perhaps even confusing. Aside from that she directs a taut, dramatic and moving performance that leaves you breathless and furious with the genocidal English.

A splendid night at the theatre.
The Clearing  by Helen Edmundson continues until October 2, 2023, at the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre at the Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press.

Friday, September 8, 2023


Reviewed by James Karas 

The Shaw Festival once again has earned high marks for its choice of plays. The Shadow of a Doubt is a play by Edith Wharton that was written in 1901 and never staged. In fact, it was stored with Wharton’s papers and disappeared from sight until 2016 when two academics discovered it. No one jumped for joy and rushed to produce it. The Shaw Festival has and we owe a debt of gratitude to it for letting us see Wharton’s only completed play.

Now for the reality check. The lights go on in the Royal George Theatre and we see a dark, wood panelled room and a woman looking out of a window. We hear a song and the woman stares out the window for a long time. The play finally starts but there is no rush to get on with the plot. The song will return and some heavy-duty cello playing will keep us unamused for what seemed like long stretches.

There is a plot. Kate Derwent (Katherine Gauthier) is married to John Derwent (Andre Morin) who has a daughter, Sylvia, from his marriage to the late Agnes. We are in London in 1901 and we should get the class structure straight. We are in Lord Osterleigh’s house and Agnes was his daughter. Mark them as aristocrats in the top rung of the social ladder. Kate was a nurse, therefore mark her at the bottom of the social ladder. This is critical.

Lord Osterleigh has two issues. First, he cannot get over his daughter’s death even after two years and second, he cannot accept that his ambitions son-in-law John has succumbed to marrying a woman of such low social standing.

 Katherine Gauthier as Kate Derwent  (Shaw Festival, 2023). 
Photo by David Cooper

John and Kate love each other. But a highly distressed Dr Carruthers (Damien Atkins) comes trying to blackmail Kate into giving him money or some of her jewellery. He is a man in despair who knows that Kate gave Agnes chloroform and caused or hastened Agnes’ death. Did she? Did she do it to alleviate pain and suffering when death was inevitable? Was this euthanasia or just plain murder? Keep your seatbelt on.

It will take about a year and a half and numerous side trips to reach the end of the saga. The play has a dozen characters and after Lord Osterleigh’s drawing room, we go the the Derwent’s’ house on the Thames and finally to a small room in a lodging house. The dark, badly lit panelling will remain essentially the same and with some exceptions dark clothing will be worn by almost everybody. The set and the atmosphere are almost oppressive.

Most of the characters are entitled to some amorous pursuits. Michael Man plays Captain Dullaston and with his long hair and ridiculous uniform I have no idea what he is Captain of. Dullaston, Robert Mazaret, (Richard Lam) and Clodagh (Lindsay Wu) are having affairs. John is sent to China on a diplomatic job for a year and he leaves his daughter with his father-in-law Osterleigh. Kate is left to fend for herself and the shadow of a doubt follows her. Did nurse Kate have a nefarious hand in the death of Agnes? Even John has doubts and she is in a a terrible situation of trying to maintain her pride and defending her innocence.

Aside from the songs and the dreary background cello playing, even during dialogues, there are a few other bizarre aspects. Director Peter Hinton-Davis projects the faces of some characters at the back of the stage, at times for a short while at other times for a whole scene. We see the faces of Kate, Osterleigh and the maid Wilkins (Claire Julien) for lengthy periods. Why the maid? No doubt to arouse suspense as if this were an Alfred Hitchcock movie. That like almost everything else in the play, does not work.

Katherine Gauthier as Kate Derwent and Damien Atkins as Dr. Carruthers 
(Shaw Festival, 2023). Photo by David Cooper.

Hinton-Davis lets a creaky play drag interminably and his attempts to create suspense, even interest in the play fail. There is not much he could do about the play but it felt as if he made it worse if that were possible.

The performance that I saw on August 30th had other problems. Lord Osterleigh usually played by Patrick Galligan was performed by Neil Barclay. He is listed in the program as the understudy for the role but he had not learned his lines and walked around with the script in his hand and frequently read from it. Richard Lam, Michael Man and David Adams were replacing the original cast members but they did not need to carry a copy of the script on stage. I mention this for the record and I am not suggesting that the changes had a dramatic effect on the performance.

Katherine Gauthier gave a bravura performance as Kate Derwent. Her Kate had enormous challenges. She was and wanted to succeed as a loving wife, the stepmother of her husband’s daughter, the target of a brutal extortionist and the victim of a class-ridden structure that would not accept her. That is an huge emotional range and she handled it splendidly.

Another limitation was the atrocious English accents produced by virtually the entire cast. English aristocrats speak in a distinct way and it is part of their snobbishness to do so. The actors sounded like what they are: Canadian actors making a feeble attempt at an English accent by dropping the r or trying to slide off it. It did not work.

Thank you Shaw Festival for producing Edith Wharton’s play. We may not get another chance to see it. 


The Shadow of a Doubt by Edith Wharton continues on selected dates until October 15, 2023, at the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

James Karas is the Senior Editor - Culture of The Greek Press