Dionysus in Stony Mountain: A Review

Religion, morality, and the corruption of help thematically haunted the 2 hours plus traffic of the Rachel Browne stage last week. The stoic apparitions, brought to life by Theatre Projects Manitoba in their season-ending play Dionysus in Stony Mountain, felt both literally and figuratively possessed by the ghost of Friedrich Nietzsche, the German moral philosopher obsessed with will.

The first act, which originally premiered as a Winnipeg Fringe Festival production in 2009, features what is essentially a one-man monologue by Stony Mountain inmate James (Ross McMillan). Weeks away from parole eligibility, James has chosen to go cold turkey on his Lithium, causing him to manically memorize and recite long Nietzsche passages, much to the dismay of his therapist Dr. Heidi Prober (Sarah Constible).

Dr. Prober, a Jewish therapist that shows particularity towards Ross and his considerable intellect, worries for his mental health and, perhaps more pressingly, the flawed nature of the Canadian correctional system. But much of Prober’s concerns in the first act play considerable backdrop to James’s troublingly giddy ramblings. It is within this first act that we may bear witness to McMillan’s extensive talents, mostly grounding the dizzyingly troubled James in steady, firm roots of sincerity and powerlessness against a corrupt, flawed system. Constible’s presence is felt, though she plays mostly scenery to the electric presence of McMillan.

This first act is too dense for my taste. I felt instantly transported back to a post-secondary philosophy lecture as this is essentially what the first act is: a lecture. McMillan does strong work in humanizing Nietzsche’s verbatim script of will and religion, but ultimately his off-the-rails musings felt too much like dictated pages of a first year Philosophy textbook.

The second act pulls more focus towards Prober, as her character has moved on from her job as a psychiatrist and has found troubling new practices of her own. Visited by her upper-crust Uncle Eric (McMillan again), Prober has lost all faith in the correctional system and has practically become a recluse, as she refurbishes her shabby  new home.

This second act is a welcome addition to the original piece, and it does better work in providing realistic, interesting dialogue than the Philosophy 101-centric first act. Constible’s character has a much greater presence here, and her character’s personal struggles against her philosophically fraught work resonated deeply.

McMillan is once again a strong force as Uncle Eric, bringing a few much needed chuckles and a good deal of ethos to what would otherwise be a very one-note play. His work in both characters is sincere and detailed, making each characterization different enough to be believable and dynamic.

Although Dionysus in Stony Mountain as a total package reads as crowded and emulsified, its fragmented pieces are increasingly thoughtful and important work. Although it feels as both acts are not totally cohesive, there are strong and layered questions posed and the actors do exciting, interesting efforts in posing them.

For more information on Theatre Projects Manitoba, click here.

Top 5 Most Anticipated TV Shows of the Summer

Some TV watchers are of the opinion that the Fall/Winter TV season can’t hold a candle to the summer line-ups. I, a TV watcher who enjoys an eclectic mix of horrendous and good i.e. every Real Housewives series thrown in with some Mad Men, can appreciate both seasons for what they are: different.

That being said, the school year is when I allow my mind to fester in the terribleness that is reality tv fare, archetypal, laugh-track ridden sitcoms, and medical dramas whose contract-bound stars are hanging on by a legal clause and a prayer. It is in the spring and summer months that my television intellect rises from the ashes, shakes itself off, looks around and says ‘I can’t fucking keep up with the Kardashians right now. Give me something good.”

To kick off this exciting season in television, when the networks accidentally find promising television in an effort to fill prime-time slots, I will be counting down my five most anticipated shows of this spring/summer. Enjoy, my pets.

5) Game of Thrones – Season 2

I was initially late to this Medieval, fantastical, unicorn-ridden party; premiering in the summer of 2011, I didn’t start watching until September. Although I’m sad I missed out of the live-tweeting, there’s little in life more pleasing than having a whole season available on demand on your pvr.  But now, I’m finally caught up with the Lannisters and ready to take in the action live.

Game of Thrones comes from the family of HBO summer awesomeness. Based loosely on the A Song of Ice and Fire book series, this Medieval fantasy tells the story of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, in which four dynamic, often-attractive families are fighting to regain the Throne. Last we left off, the silver-haired, bitch boy Prince Joffrey had taken the throne, and cut off some heads in the process. Awesome. Premiering last Sunday, this season is sure to be chalk full of dragons, Dothraki orgies, and battles to the death. Can’t wait.

4) Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom

Wordy wunderkind Aaron Sorkin is HBO’s newest and brightest diamond in its hit-making, awe-inspiring TV tiara of amazing. Premiering June 24, The Newsroom will tell the story of popular news personality Will (Jeff Daniels) who anchors the fictional Atlantic Cable News. Will begins to have a bit of a PR nightmare, sharing too much with the public and slowly losing control of his squeaky-clean news boy persona. With the exciting supporting cast of Emily Mortimer as producer Mackenzie McHale, Alison Pill as news staffer Maggie, Olivia Munn as Sloan, and Broadway angster Jon Gallagher Jr. as Jim, this is sure to be must-see.

3) The Real Housewives of Vancouver

Ok, ok, ok. You can’t completely turn your back on reality TV for the summer. Don’t be ridiculous. This Canadian version of the popular US Bravo dynasty of weaves just premiered last Wednesday and let me tell you, it was awesome. More interchangeable blondes, sweeping shots of Vancouver, and bizarre Gay sidekicks than you can count on one hand. Get excited, Canada. We’ve finally joined the United States in the ranks of TV terribleness.

2) Judd Apatow’s Girls

I know the HBO is getting a little one-note, but Breaking Bad depresses me too much and there’s just so much good potential here to be ignored.

From Lena Dunham, the mind-blowingly amazing writer of Tiny Furniture, we get a sitcom about wait, what? Girls? Like actually girls as the stars? Like girls who don’t look like models, girls who work and live in New York, go on terrible dates, and have awkward encounters with their lady doctors? Omg. Omg. Excitement overload.

Produced by the ruler of Columbia comedy, Judd Apatow, this looks really promising in that it looks really, cringe-inducingly real. From the limited info available online, I can gather that Girls follows a group of 20-somethings in New York. No, not those twenty-somethings that live in a loft apartment painted pastels, who wear designer clothes while supporting themselves on a barista’s salary. No, not them. These are the chicks who graduated from liberal arts colleges, work terrible office jobs to support their lives with 3 roommates in a crappy, sixth-floor, studio walk-up. They’re also funny, candid, somewhat sad, and somewhat happy: a dynamite combination. Premiering April 15, I cannot freaking wait.

1) AMC’s Mad Men

I know, how predictable. But this show was gone for two years. TWO YEARS! That’s like a century in TV Land. Anyway, it premiered two weeks ago. It’s really effing good. Blah blah blah. So obvious, I know.

However, I just can’t say enough about Matthew Weiner’s 60’s period drama and its steam-heat, slow bubbling build of climactic subtlety. This season, race tensions, corporate betrayal, and generation divides seems to be on the menu. Also, there’s now a fourth actor to play Bobby. Wow, that January Jones must be one tough ice sculpture to work with.

What are some of the shows you’re most excited to watch this season? Share it all in the comments section.