Monday, August 06, 2018
Clevelanders invade Canada for the Shaw Festival—2018
The Shaw Festival, located in Niagara-on-the Lake, is often like being in downtown Cleveland on game day. Lots of 216/440 residents migrate North for a day, days or a week to visit “the most beautiful little city in Canada,” as Niagara-on-the Lake is often called. They purchase peaches, cherries, and nectarines, tour the wine country and attend plays at The Shaw. It also doesn't hurt that the present exchange rate is $ .77 American for the Canadian dollar. (For the non- mathematical—Americans get a little over 20-cents back for every dollar they spend. Use credit cards to get the highest exchange rate.)
The Shaw Festival is a tribute to George Bernard Shaw, his writing contemporaries, and plays that share Shaw’s provocative exploration of society and celebration of humanity.
It’s a good idea to make both theatre and lodging reservations early, especially with the B&Bs on weekends. Our home away from home is the beautiful and well-placed Wellington House (http://firstname.lastname@example.org), directly across the street from The Festival Theatre, within easy walking distance of all the theatres, where the breakfasts are great and the furnishings lovely. For information on other B&Bs go to www.niagaraonthelake.com/showbedandbreakfasts
There are some wonderful restaurants. My in-town favorites are The Grill on King Street (905-468-7222, 233 King Street) and Niagara’s Finest Thai (905-468-1224, 88 Picton Street), with Old Winery, (905-468-8900, 2228 Niagara Stone Road), a worth-while five-minute ride from downtown.
Having just returned from the Festival, I offer these capsule judgments of some of the shows:
OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR-- “Oh What a Lovely War” is not only a compelling stage production, it is a fine history lesson and one of the few real highlights of The Shaw’s 1918 season. This is a must see!
GRAND HOTEL--“Grand Hotel, the Musical” is a pleasant evening of theatre. The plot is overdrawn, unrealistic, and typical of musicals where dance, singing and melodrama reign. This is a musical, like “42nd Street” and “Anything Goes,” filled with dancing and meaningless dialogue and shtick.
THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW--“The Magician’s Nephew” is a visual wonder. Whether you buy into the story’s religious implications, or not, it’s worth attending, just to see the stage illusions in action. This is one of this year’s Shaw highlight productions!
STAGE KISS-- Most audience members should find “Stage Kiss” cute, even delightful, but as this production proves, farce is hard to do. In fact, it is the most difficult of all acting/performance forms. The performances and the results are not bad, just missing the special quality that makes Ruhl’s plays shine.
OF MARRIAGE AND MEN-- One must wonder, with all the great Shaw scripts available, why Artistic Director Tim Carroll selected this tandem of one-acts to perform. In program notes he claims that the world is in a state of distraction and needs to “reclaim our attention.” Though “Of Marriage and Men” is not a distraction, it is not great theater that will not “waste our time,” it is not the quality of script that will make us want to “switch off our phone.”
O’FLAHERTY V.C.-- As is often the case at The Shaw, the lunch time play is one of the Festival’s highlights. ”O’Flaherty V.C.” is no exception! It is a delightful and revealing lesson on his writing and the Shavian attitudes and ability to make his points with wit and satire! Hurrah!
To read the complete reviews of the shows I saw, go to: http://www.royberko.info
Other season shows are: “The Orchard (After Chekhov),” “Mythos: A Trilogy,” ”The Hound of the Baskervilles,” “A Christmas Carol,” “The Baroness and the Pig,” and “Henry V.”
For theatre information, a brochure or tickets, call 800-511-7429 or go on-line to http://www.shawfest.com. Ask about packages that include lodging, meals and tickets. Also be aware that the festival offers day-of-the-show rush tickets and senior matinee prices.
Go to the Shaw Festival! Find out what lovely hosts Canadians are and see some theater!
Don’t forget your passport as it’s the only form of identification that will be accepted for re-entry into the U.S. and figure in time to get through customs at the U.S.-Canadian border.