‘Shabaret’ showcases three local veterans

Gordon Jones
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Berni Stapleton (left), Amy House and Alison Woolridge show off their performance skills and versatility in “Shabaret.”<br />— Photo courtesy of Trevor Vatcher

Enacted on a sparsely furnished stage — tree trunk, stump, wooden chest — “Shabaret!” is a miscellany of stories and episodes which, in the words of the promotional material, aspires to be “a people-loving, man-friendly, fearless examination of comedy for the middle ages of lady-wimmin.”

Lady-wimmin? I am profoundly relieved that they said it, not me.

Skits and spoofs — some satirical, some facetious — by no means constitute the star atop my theatrical Christmas tree.

But it must be admitted that Amy House, Berni Stapleton and Alison Woolridge are a formidable trio, sometimes speaking in their own personae, sometimes masquerading in a variety of character roles, sometimes enacting scenes and episodes, sometimes confiding in the audience from under a spotlight, one or two at a time, or all three together. Character changes and shifts of costume are snappy.

Sometimes reminiscent of Rising Tide’s annual Revue show, but with longer reaches and leaving Rick Boland on the sidelines, “Shabaret!” does not aspire to be high art, but at its best it is bright and bubbly, intimate and honest in probing human values and relations.

While many episodes are funny and often touching, some are overlong, overinsistent, and even frenetic.

The repeated takes on relations between a single mother who drives a school bus (Woolridge), her daughter who wants a confirmation dress (House), and the wizened uncle (Stapleton) could use some tailoring. So could the interminable scenes set in a bra store. Sometimes less is more.

A substantial and knowledgeable opening-night audience, with patrons, sponsors and many theatre folk in attendance, received the play warmly — a tribute to the performance skill and versatility of the three principals (and their director) — and an expression of the respect they receive from their peers in the theatre community.

Directed by Lois Brown, “Shabaret!” continues its run until April 21.

Curtain time is 8 p.m. With one intermission, the curtain call comes in at 10:15 or thereabouts.

There’s no show on Monday, but there are additional 2 p.m. matinees on the two Sundays of the run.

General admission is $35, and $30 for seniors, students and artists.

Organizations: Amy House

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  • Woodland - Who Is Woodland
    April 17, 2013 - 13:28

    Name typo in the following paragraph from the article. Please amend. "The repeated takes on relations between a single mother who drives a school bus (Woodland), her daughter who wants a confirmation dress (House), and the wizened uncle (Stapleton) could use some tailoring. So could the interminable scenes set in a bra store. Sometimes less is more."

    • Pam Frampton
      April 17, 2013 - 14:31

      That typo has been corrected. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • AudienceMember
    April 17, 2013 - 12:57

    I went to see this "play" last night. It was trash. Absolute trash. Resource Centre for The Arts is a misnomer. It is not a resource centre, nor is it artistic. It's schlock. Plain and simple. Amy and Berni are friends. And they brought their other friend in. How does this help the arts community? HOw does this fulfill the mandate of RCAT? Why is nobody standing up and screaming about this? It's embarrassing. How about telling a story that's current? How about moving us forward? The Tidy Package was opened years ago. Move on.

    • Dave S.
      April 17, 2013 - 15:08

      Lighten up b'ys. Sure it's only a play.

    • Neil Butler
      April 19, 2013 - 11:19

      Hi there "Audiencemember". I'm on the board for RCA. Before I respond, here's the theatre company's mandate: to provide opportunities through mentoring and production for the artistic growth of all Newfoundland and Labrador theatre artists; to offer a platform to facilitate emerging theatre artists’ work; and to produce theatre that cultivates, enriches and promotes the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador. How does this help the arts community? 20 people, mostly working artists were employed. We brought in an assistant to director Lois Brown in a mentorship role. And three women in their fifties stood on stage and told very personal stories that they have been crafting for 2 years about their lives and families. I don't understand why you ignore the numerous out of character & costume monologues & dialogues that start, end, and punctuate the show. HOw does this fulfill the mandate of RCAT? Well, we provided an opportunity through mentoring and producing for the growth of if not all, around 20 NL artists. (If you don't think those individuals grew, you'll have to take it up with them to be sure. But I actually spoke to some of the people working on the show about that. They didn't indicate that they took nothing away from working on the show.) Obviously you don't feel that the show cultivates, enriches or promotes the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador. It's three Newfoundland women with different backgrounds and experiences speaking quite frankly about working and living in Newfoundland today. And if the show were solely caricature and broad send-up, there would still be many people who would be pleased with how the show represents NL culture, as evidenced by the fact that Revue is still packing them in all over the island. But it's not just that. Again, not sure why you totally discount the number of pieces in the show that are quite obviously not going for laughs. Why is nobody standing up and screaming about this? I can't answer that. Maybe because you're alone in your opinion that the show is so bad people should stand up and scream? Why aren't you standing up and screaming about it? Putting the word play in quotes does not count. How about telling a story that's current? So, you're saying there are no elderly women living in poverty currently? That there are no women with body issues currently? That there are no underemployed single mothers balancing the responsibilities of raising a child and caring for an elderly family member at the same time currently? Oh wait, I just got it - it's the confirmation dress bit. You're right, no one gets confirmed anymore, totally inappropriate. How about moving us forward? As long as women make less thann men than average, as long as women are still more likely to be abused by men than vice versa, and as long as there are elderly people struggling with neglect, there is a reason to put stories like this on stage. You haul out Tidy Package as a disparaging reference - know how I know you never worked in the fishery? Anyways, you hated hated hated the show. Fine. But regardless of your opinion, it is emphatically a "play", and RCA is a resource center for the arts ( ask any one of the recipients of the thousands of dollars in development funding we provide if that cash was a resource for their art). Be sure to say hi next time you see me!

  • Bill
    April 15, 2013 - 09:15

    Yawn.... what a tired old act. Wasn't this boring old act beaten to death about 15 years ago? How about something a little fresher than dressing up like its 1940, sharpening up the Newfoundland accents, and talking about an age most people today cannot remember? For $35, it is much too over-priced. You can get great theatre in St. John's for much less.