Authors > Alan Hustak
By Alan Hustak on February 7, 2017
Nicola Cavendish tears up the stage as Maude Gutman, the coarse, vulgar but far from stupid trailer park tootsie in Stephen Sach’s two-hander, Bakersfield Mist at the Centaur until February 26. The thought-provoking play spins on a simple premise: Maude has paid $3.00 for a large discarded canvas at a garage sale which may or may not be a Jackson Pollock drip painting worth millions.
Noises Off, Michael Frayn’s acclaimed sex farce at the Segal until Feb 19th, isn’t the easiest of plays to pull off. It’s actually a play-with-in-a-play.
By Alan Hustak on November 12, 2016
"You don’t know me from the wind/you never will, you never did,” Leonard Cohen wrote on the title track of his album, The Future, But that hasn’t stopped people who love his words and his mordant sense of humour from mourning the, poet, author and prince of mordant melancholy who died Monday Nov. 7 at the age of 82, three weeks after the release of his final album, You Want it Darker. His death was not made public until after the U.S. election was over.
Variously praised as “ the finest songwriter in America;” “the Lord Byron of rock'n'roll” , and as a mystic: "one of a tiny visionary company, the handful of rock or blues or folk singers who attempt to sort out the sense of the world with which they started."
By Alan Hustak on October 7, 2016
Constellations, the Centaur’s season opener running until October 30th is an existential exercise that is almost as inaccessible as the theatre on St. Francois Xavier itself these days. The narrow street in front of the Centaur, like almost every other street in the city, has been ripped up. You have to make your way around barricades across planks and around heavy machinery to get through the front doors of the playhouse.
But the effort is worth it.
By Alan Hustak on April 23, 2016
Last Night at the Gayety, George Bowser and Rick Blue’s rousing musical at the Centaur is a full- throttled if somewhat aimless exercise in nostalgia about how television put an end to Vaudeville in the 1950s.
Through the “magic of dramatic license” the plot centres on burlesque queen Lily St. Cyr’s now legendary appearance at the Gayety playhouse and the attempts by the city’s morality squad, led by crime busting lawyer Pacifique “Pax” Plante, (Daniel Brochu) and the Roman Catholic church to rid Montreal of widespread vice and corruption. Inspired by William Weintraub’s classic, City Unique, the show is a return to the days when Montreal “came by its dishonesty honestly.” It is told in flashback, narrated by Tommy, (Trayne McCarthy) the Gayety’s master of ceremonies.
By Alan Hustak on March 7, 2016
If you ever wonder about some of the people you share public transit with Bus Stops at the Centaur until March 27 is a smart and energetic excursion into our deepest fears and sometimes prejudices.
Originally staged in French as Lignedebus, Marilyn Perreault’s innovative multidisciplinary drama is a ride like no other. The versatile and bilingual cast is identical to the one Theatre I.N.K. mounted two years ago. The play, translated by Nadine Desrochers, has nothing to do with the chirpy Hollies tune, The Bus Stop song. On stage as you take your seats is the charred shell of a Montreal transit bus, a grim set designed by Patrice Charbibbeau-Brunelle.
By Alan Hustak on February 22, 2016
Dr, Victor Goldbloom, a pediatrician, prominent leader in the community, the first Jew to be named a Quebec Cabinet Minister and a former federal Commissioner of Official Languages, died in Montreal last week at the age of 92. He was also invested by Pope Benedict XIV as a knight in the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Sylvester Pope and Martyr, one of the few Jews worldwide to be so honoured by the Vatican for his efforts to promote Catholic-Jewish dialogue for a period of almost six decades.His interest in resolving the misunderstanding between Christians and Jews began in the 1950’s when he was invited by Jesuits to be part of a dialogue at Loyola College.
By Alan Hustak on November 8, 2015
As Canada moves toward legalized assisted suicide starting in February, Quebec will jump the gun and become the first province to permit doctors to euthanize patients beginning next month.
When Quebec’s Bill 52 takes effect on Dec. 10, physician-assisted suicide will be deemed an acceptable health-care option which doctors may offer to certain terminally ill patients. Still to be resolved, however, is the question of whether Quebec’s law conforms to the Criminal Code of Canada, which makes it illegal “to help a person commit suicide, whether suicide ensues or not.”
By Alan Hustak on November 1, 2015
Fifty years ago this week marks a dramatic turning point in relations between Catholics and Jews.
On Oct. 2 8, 1965, Pope Paul VI issued a ground breaking Vatican II declaration, Nostra Aetate (In our Time) which ordered Catholics “to enter with prudence and charity into discussions and collaboration” with people of other religions, especially Jews . It represents an historic condemnation of anti-Semitism and paved the way for ecumenical dialogue. In particular, it rid the church liturgy of its offensive language which for centuries had dismissed Jews as “perfidious."
By Alan Hustak on September 27, 2015
The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God at the Centaur until October 18 is a riveting, highly theatrical excursion into the mysteries of life and death and the healing power of a faith community. At its core is the age old conundrum: How can a loving God allow bad things to happen to good people?
Djanet Sears, who wrote, developed and directs her own work engages us in a three hour fantasy of her making. Sears is a born story teller who has combined West African tradition with the fervor of an old time American gospel revival meeting to come up with an extravagant, vivid, and occasionally taxing, theatrical experience. The play explores the Black experience in Southern Ontario - present and future, and is rooted in the light of the past all the way back to the War of 1812, when Captain Runchy’s Company of Coloured Men fought for the British.
By Alan Hustak on June 12, 2015
Comparisons are odious. Books are not movies. Movies are not stage plays and Broadway musicals are something else altogether. The Segal Centre’s production The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, the musical, which had its run extended into July even before it opened, stands on its own as a fearless, reimagined version of Richler’s classic novel. Even Richler’s widow, Florence and eldest son, Daniel who were at the opening approved. But it is a show with limitations, not so much a musical as a play with music. You keep waiting for a signature show tune, an anthem to hum as you leave the theatre, but there isn’t one. Eight songs into the first act, a song and dance routine, Art and Commerce, encapsulates the spirit of the evening and finally kick starts the show.
By Alan Hustak on May 2, 2015
Okill Stuart was with the 14th Canadian Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, at a command post a few miles into Germany 70 years ago, when the war ended. The regiment had just swept through Holland and was on its way to Berlin when it was told to cease fire. ‘We were expecting the end, then we got the news the war was over,” recalls Stuart, “The Americans were the army of occupation, we weren’t. They pulled the Canadians out the next day and hauled us to Utrecht. There was no way we could all get back to Canada at once, so while we were waiting in Utrecht, we found a yacht club where the Germans had been relaxing a few weeks earlier, picked up cigarettes and bully beef, and we went sailing to celebrate war’s end. With a bit of bribery, we never ate better in our lives.”
By Alan Hustak on April 26, 2015
A wonderful confection of cock-eyed characters are at the heart of Marianne Ackerman’s dark hearted comedy, Triplex Nervosa that’s playing at the Centaur until May 17. Written on her kitchen table on a weekend, Ackerman’s play involves the trials and tribulations of a Mile End landlord, Tass Nazor (Holly Gauthier Frankel) who owns a heavily mortgaged triplex in Montreal’s trendy crunchy granola neighbourhood. She is in dire straights and needs to rid herself of a rather forlorn tenant, Max Fishbone (Howard Rosenstein), who has moved into his son’s apartment and won’t move out. The action begins with Tass suggesting to her rather sinister Slavic handyman Rakie Ur, (Karl Graboshas), that he take care of her problem by subjecting Max to some sort of “invisible damage.”
By Alan Hustak on April 23, 2015
Travesties, Tom Stoppard’s intellectual exercise about the literary and political co-ordinates of art and Oscar Wilde playing at the Segal Centre until May 3 Is a polished, but exhausting three hour excursion into the surreal.. Unless you are familiar with the origins of Dadaism and the cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, know something of the precious personality of James Joyce and have studied Vladimir Lenin’s revolutionary ideas, this scholarly, highbrow drawing room comedy isn’t always easily accessible.
There is much, much more going on in on in this chaotic production as well. It is overloaded with talk, much of it too clever by half, and demands a familiarity not only with Wilde’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest, but with Shakespeare, Gilbert and Sullivan and early 20th century European history.
By Alan Hustak on March 28, 2015
Not only do you have to care, but you have to care passionately about the way movies in English-speaking Canada are made to appreciate The Envelope, Vittorio Rossi’s “gibber about the Canadian film industry,” playing at the Centaur Theatre until April 19.
It’s a fascinating glimpse into the world of moviemaking but one which may leave many outside the theatre community a little bewildered. The Envelope is essentially a play about idealism, greed and artistic integrity - in Rossi’s rant, it is about “an industry that kills talent.”
By Alan Hustak on March 8, 2015
The publishing industry being what it is these days you won’t find a copy of Dave Flavell’s oral history of Griffintown, Point St. Charles and Goose Village in any Montreal bookstore. Newspapers in town have taken no notice of it. But for anyone interested in the social history of Montreal’s storied English-speaking tenement neighbourhoods, his book, Community and the Human Spirit is well worth ordering on line. Like Patricia Burns’ Shamrock and The Shield Which was published ten years ago, Flavell captures a chorus of voices to chronicle a time and place that no longer exists – not just the Irish.
By Alan Hustak on February 28, 2015
There are home invasions and then there are home invasions.
The Good Night Bird, at The Centaur until March 22 is a preposterous, heterosexual twist on James Kirkwood’s gay comedy, P.S. Your Cat Is Dead. (Yes, there is a role for a dead cat in this show too.) In Colleen Murphy’s screwball version of the Kirkwood tale a mentally unstable, filthy vagrant bent on killing himself hits the balcony of a high rise and winds up, instead, in the bedroom of an emotionally alienated married couple where he breathes new life into their sedentary relationship.
By Alan Hustak on February 7, 2015
Forever Plaid at the Segal Centre until February 22 is a happy-go-lucky musical museum piece, mounted with obvious affection and encased in clean-cut nostalgia. If the Four Aces, the Four Lads, Johnny Ray, (“The Cry Guy”), Topo Gigo, Senor Wences and Caribbean calypso rhythms mean anything to you, this local production is a faithful, full-fledged hi-fidelty hit.
Stuart Ross’ Forever Plaid made its debut off Broadway 25 years ago, and it remains a crowd pleasure with a certain generation. especially the baby boomers who grew up in an era of 45 r.p.m juke box tunes.
By Alan Hustak on December 26, 2014
Denis Delaney was a free spirit an entertained and storyteller whose vivid imagination and homespun poetry celebrated the long since vanished Irish slum neighbourhood of Griffintown. A impish character in his own right, Delaney died Sunday, a week after his 81st birthday. “He was wonderful. He was Griffintown’s leading cheerleader,” said author Patricia Burns, who profiled Delaney in her book, The Shamrock and The Sheild. “He was such a loving, giving person, whose enthusiasm for the community was infectious. He used to write such wonderful stories, but Denis being Denis, you never knew where the truth began or ended.”
By Alan Hustak on December 6, 2014
At first glance, The Book of Mormon which arrived at Place des Arts last week thanks to Evenko promotions is a send-up of a home grown, American made religion. But it is more than that. It is a refreshingly irreverent Broadway musical inspired by the gospel of South Park and at the same time it is also a subliminal meditation on faith and the awareness of the life of any lived religion. Behind the laughter it provokes is the nagging question:, what is faith and why do the faithful of any religion believe what they believe? The show addresses the hypocrisy of religious fundamentalism and lampoons the ability of people to cherry pick their beliefs. It is offensive as you might suspect.
By Alan Hustak on November 9, 2014
Social Studies, Tricia Cooper’s intriguing play at the Centaur until Nov. 30. is an ultimately sad and fragmented socio-political comedy about a young Sudanese boy who has been transplanted from war torn Africa to a comfortable suburban Winnipeg neighbourhood. Most of the laughs in the play, however, derive from cultural misunderstandings rather than genuine comic dialogue. The evening opens with a self-centered character, Jackie, (Eleanor Noble) running back home to her mother after a failed marriage, only to be told by her younger sister, Sarah (Emily Tognet) that her old room is taken.
By Alan Hustak on October 30, 2014
It was St. Therese of Avila who said that more tears are shed over answered prayers than there are over unanswered ones. That’s pretty much the point behind Michel Tremblay’s classic play Les Belles Soeurs, The play focuses on Quebec housewife, Germaine Lauzon who wins a million trading stamps then invites her friends and neighbours over to share her good fortune with devastating consequences.
Tremblay has seen his play done so many times and so many ways he appears to have distanced himself from the work. But he was around for the opening at the Segal Centre of the English language premiere of the musical based on the original.
By Alan Hustak on October 19, 2014
Venus in Fur, the emotionally sordid, sadomasochistic romp at the Centaur until Nov 9 is not only harrowingly funny, but it keeps us on our toes. The subject is sexual tension - sexual confusion and erotic role playing - it delves into the darkest recesses of sexual fulfillment. It helps to know that the play by David Ives is based on Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1869 novel of the same name. (He lent his name to the term masochism).
It’s a wholly theatrical play, a two hander which explores fetishes and fantasies and depends on raunchy actorly artifice.
By Alan Hustak on October 4, 2014
Corinne Sevigny, who died Friday, at the age of 90, was an indomitable character who was connected to pedigreed political families in both Canada and the United States. Her paternal grandfather, Francis Kernan was the first Roman Catholic to be elected to the United States Senate. Her maternal grandfather, Sir Charles Fitzpatrick, was a former Quebec lieutenant governor and one of Louis Riel`s defence lawyers. Raised in an atmosphere of privilege, she was a no-nonsense, powerhouse of a woman, who in the words of one friend, “is now in heaven, undoubtedly telling the angels what to do and how to do it.”
By Alan Hustak on September 10, 2014
As Mrs. Robinson, the predatory cougar in the Segal Centre’s coarse, hard-edged and erratic stage adaptation of The Graduate running until Sept. 21, Brigitte Robinson glows like tip of her smoldering, ever- present cigarette. The overall production of the 1967 cinema classic, however, has lost something in the transformation from the screen to the stage. The play has all of the substance and none of the charm of the original. It gets off to a promising start as Mrs. Robinson seduces Benjamin Braddock, the 20-year old misfit hero (Luke Humphrey.) within the first ten minutes.
By Alan Hustak on May 20, 2014
Benedict Vanier stood tall, head and shoulders above all the other the Trappist monks in his religious community at l’Abbye Val Notre Dame in St. Jean de Mantha. The regal bearing came naturally. He was the son of Canada’s devoutly catholic Governor-General Georges Vanier and his wife Pauline Archer. He lived a life of contemplation in relative obscurity as a monk and as a priest for almost seven decades. Yet at his funeral on May 17, he was remembered as a genial spiritual advisor who was both pithy and profound.
By Alan Hustak on May 3, 2014
Liliane M. Stewart, the Montreal tobacco heiress who endowed and supported several Montreal museums, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Château Ramezay the Stewart Museum on Île Sainte-Hélène, and as well as a number of hospitals died early Saturday, May 3. She was 85. She was an intensely private, sometimes difficult woman, who carried on and expanded her husband’s philanthropic works. Mrs. Stewart refused to talk about herself or answer personal questions. Once, when asked to furnish biographical material to a journalist she declined. “Me, I am me,” she said. “That’s all you need to know. I am a very private person.”
By Alan Hustak on April 2, 2014
Thank God for understanding grandmothers.
And thank our lucky stars for director Roy Surette’s solid, production of Amy Herzog’s intergenerational play, 4000 miles at the Centaur until April 20. Essentially, the play is about blood ties, about the relationship between Vera, a 91-year old non-judgmental grandmother (Clare Coulter) and her 21-year old grandson, Leo. (Nathan Barrett.)
Grandma, as it happens is an independent left-wing idealist who cut her teeth during the McCarthy era. She’s losing her hearing, she’s frail and a bit forgetful, but still mentally tough and perceptive,..
By Alan Hustak on March 24, 2014
It takes a special cast to pull off a David Mamet play, and Paul Flicker has assembled a superlative team of actors who can indeed handle the playwright’s spare, scalding idiomatic dialogue with his directorial debut of Glen Garry Glen Ross at the Segal until March 30. The 1984 Pulitzer Prize winning work about a group of cut-throat Chicago salesmen selling worthless Florida real-estate to gullible victims is a riveting exercise in Flicker’s hands, made even more topical following the bust in the corrupt U.S. housing market six years ago.
By Alan Hustak on March 3, 2014
“The War of the Worlds, not the one from outer space happened right here,” Lillabit Bradley reminds us in David Fennario’s Motherhouse, a 90-minute monologue staged at the Centaur Theatre until March 23 to commemorate the centennial of the Great War.
Motherhouse is not so much a play as an arresting diatribe in search of one. As the protagonist, Bradley, who worked at the British Munitions Factory in Verdun when her brother went off to fight the war, Holly Gauthier-Frankel has her work cut out for her.
By Alan Hustak on February 18, 2014
Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and former Quebec premier Jean Charest paid homage last week to Claude Ryan, one of Quebec’s last great Catholic intellectuals.
Ryan, who was a champion of asymmetrical federalism, often frustrated both Mulroney and Charest with his notion that Quebec required enhanced constitutional powers to promote the equality of the French-language throughout Canada.
But that didn’t stop either of them from reminiscing about him on the 10th anniversary of his death, and warmly remembering him as a great Canadian.
By Alan Hustak on February 17, 2014
Lucinda Davis is God in the Centaur Theatre’s existential drama The Book of Bob, and she’s divine.
The premiere of Arthur Holden’s updated interpretation of the strained Old Testament parable, The Book of Job, running until March 2, is a toute de force for Davis who is an astonishing presence throughout the 90 minute show. If, as scripture insists, we are created in the image of God, Davis seizes the conceit and infuses ten different characters with her phenomenal talent.
By Alan Hustak on February 8, 2014
In director Peter Hinton’s coherent and highly entertaining adaptation of The Seagull at the Segal until Feb 19, Chekhov’s enigmatic psychodrama has been transplanted from a Russian dacha to a chalet somewhere in the Canadian wilderness. The script has been updated and is as full of contemprary references as a pop-culture magazine. It is a three-and a half –hour excursion into the tragi-comic relationships of dysfunctional family that has gathered together in the claustrophobic confines of the lakeshore cottage.
All of them are self-absorbed characters, who talk about art, philosophy and their individual struggles in an attempt to relate to one other another.
By Alan Hustak on February 1, 2014
Although Claude Ryan died ten years ago he remains a moral presence in Quebec. As a measure of his ongoing influence, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, NDP Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair and former Quebec Premier Jean Charest will take part in a seminar at the Newman Centre on Peel St. February 13 and 14 marking the 10th anniversary of Ryan’s death.
As well, the first volume of Michael Gauvreau’s two volume Ryan biography is about to be published.
By Alan Hustak on January 16, 2014
Montreal may have been bypassed for appointment of a new Roman Catholic cardinal because Jean-Claude Turcotte remains eligible to vote in the College of Cardinals even though he retired two years ago.
Gérald Cyprian Lacroix will become the ninth Cardinal Archbishop of Quebec City – and one of three Canadian cardinals - when he is formally installed as a prince of the church in Rome on Feb 22. Lacroix was given the red hat rather than Montreal Archbishop Christian Lepine, 62.
By Alan Hustak on January 16, 2014
The English Speaking Catholic Council wants the minority PQ government to scrap Bill 60 arguing that its proposed secular charter would undermine the so-called “First Freedoms” enshrined in any democratic society.In its submission to public hearings on the legislation which opened Jan 14, the ESCC says the bill is an “unnecessary and destructive” piece of legislation.
The issue has polarized Quebec.