Tue 4/11-Sun 10/15
Those nice people from the North who are getting ready to create great theater are beaconing people from CLE to be their guests.
In Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, the “most beautiful little city in Canada,” flowers are about in bloom, the wineries are getting their best vintages uncorked, the quaint b&bs with their marvelous breakfasts are ready to open, and the Shaw Festival is getting ready to raise the curtain in its various venues.
The city, which is only about four hours from 216/440, is a haven for those who like to see great theater, shop, eat at the wonderful restaurants and take advantage of the very favorable exchange rate (as of 4/3/17, $1.00 U.S.=$1.26 Canadian).
Besides theater there is golf, speedboats ply the Niagara River, bikes are available for zipping up and down the path which runs along the river gorge, ship-watching at the Welland Canal is a fun side trip, and gambling and scenic viewing are available in Niagara Falls, a short drive away.
“The Shaw,” as it is dubbed by the locals, is a tribute to George Bernard Shaw and his writing contemporaries. It offers dramas, comedies and musicals.
The productions are professional quality, with many of Canada’s finest actors, directors and technical designers. It has been dubbed “one of the great repertory theaters in the English-speaking world.
This season’s offerings include:
SAINT JOAN (GB Shaw) — 5/3-10/15.The 1926 Nobel Prize winner asks, “At what point does blind faith become simply blind?”
DRACULA (Brian Stoker, as adapted by Liz Lochhead) — 7/8-10/14. The classic funny, sexy and scary Gothic tale of repressed erotic hunger asks, “What if your darkest fear was also your deepest desire?”
1837: THE FARMERS’ REVOLT (Rick Salutin and Theatre Passe Muraille) — 5/7-10/8. “When was the idea of Canada born?” When a handful of immigrant farmers who have been struggling for years to turn Upper Canada’s forests into farmland find out that government has “dished out” their land, they rose up and probably paved the way for nationhood.
ANDROCLES AND THE LION (GB Shaw) — 6/6-10/7. In ancient Rome, a group of early Christians wait to be thrown to the lions in the Colosseum. “For what cause would you be willing to die?” You may find out as you will join the Shaw Ensemble in creating an experience that will be different every time.
WILDE TALES (Oscar Wilde) — 6/8-10/7—lunchtime one-act. A series of stories for young and old which asks, “Should we always meet the world with love, even when it doesn’t deserve it?” Special note: Children ages 6-12 can sign up in advance for a pre-show one-hour workshop with the actors that helps create the magic on stage.
THE MADNESS OF GEORGE III (Alan Bennett) — 4/11-10/15. King George III may have been anointed by God, but when he starts to lose control of his speech and bodily functions it’s clear that he’s all too human. So, “If the Head of State loses his head, what happens to the State?”
DANCING AT LUGHNASA (Brian Friel) — 5/14-10/15. In the 1930s, five women try to eke out an existence in Ireland, the land where no tears are without laughter as the question is raised, “What power or passion fills us with the need to dance?”
AN OCTOROON (Branden Jacobs-Jenkins) — 7/16-10/14. Winner of the Obie Award for Best New American play is a rewrite of the 1859 Dion Boucicault play by a modern young Black man. It is full of strong language and challenging ideas and asks, “At least we don’t think like they did in the 19th century any more — do we?”
MIDDLETOWN (Will Eno) — 7/13-9/10. In the most average town in North America, a group of average people are living average lives of quiet desperation and are forced to deal with the question, “When did we lose the ability to make real human connections?”
1979 (Michael Healey) — 10/1-10/14. One of Canada’s most celebrated playwrights takes on one of its least celebrated leaders, Prime Minister Joe Clark, asking, “Fight fair and go home, or fight directly and win?”
It’s a good idea to make theater and lodging reservations early, especially on weekends. Our B&B home-away-from-home is the beautiful, well-placed Wellington House (wellington.house), directly across the street from the Festival Theatre, within easy walking distance of all the theaters. The breakfasts are great and furnishings lovely. I also like Two Bees B&B (1-289-868-9357), which is located near downtown. For information on other B&Bs go to niagaraonthelake/showbedandbreakfasts .
There are some wonderful restaurants. Consider The Grill on King Street (905-468-7222, 233 King Street) and Ginger (905-468-3871, 390 Mary Street). Reservations are encouraged, even during the week.
For theater information, a brochure or tickets, call 800-511-7429 or go to shawfest.com. Ask about packages that include lodging, meals and tickets. Discount tickets are available for seniors and students and under 30s. Also be aware that the festival offers day-of-the-show rush tickets.
*Don’t forget your passport as it’s the only form of identification that will be accepted for re-entry into the US.
*Because of the good rate, charge everything to your credit card as many of the stores give you dollar for dollar, while banks offer you the going rate. If you pay cash, you are losing 26 cents on every dollar you spend.
Go to the Shaw Festival! Meet the nice Canadian people and see great theater.
[Written by Roy Berko , member, Cleveland Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association ]