The latest offering from Crow’s Theatre is a production of George F. Walker’s Orphans for the Czar. This quirky comedy, which takes place on the cusp of the Russian Revolution, is an emotionally charged delight. Directed by Tanja Jacobs, this is definitely one you don’t want to miss!
This was my first time seeing a show at Crow’s Theatre and I absolutely adore their space there. The set was so functional, the actors were able to make use of the entire space and manipulate several pieces to give us a firm sense of place. I enjoyed how the chaos outside was mirrored by the number of books littering the floor of the stage. The contrast in the costumes between the “peasants” and those who live in the city was very stark, but again firmly cemented the reality of the situation.
The cast of this play is small but ever so mighty, featuring Eric Peterson, Christopher Allen, Shayla Brown, Kyle Gatehouse, Paolo Santalucia, Patrick McManus, Michelle Mohammed and Shauna Thompson. Eric Peterson is phenomenal; his comedic timing and ability to change characters on a dime was an absolute joy and honour to watch. Patrick McManus was also a stand-out performance. Every line was delivered so deftly, and we knew immediately the kind of slimy, self-preserving bureaucrat. Also, his aside about Russian novels has this Literature Major in stitches! Paolo Santalucia was fabulous as Vasley; watching his thoughts swim around in his head and then essentially immediately out of his mouth was hysterical. You couldn’t help but feel for him and the crazy predicaments he ends up in. I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to Shayla Brown. She was fabulous and I really enjoyed seeing Rayisha played by a blind person. That level of representation should be the norm, not the exception. Truly, the entire cast was incredible; the moment the show was over all I could think was “WOW!”
I was also very excited to take in Crowsnest Corner during my visit. Every Thursday through Saturday until April 17th there is live music in the lobby of the theatre before every show! I had the pleasure of hearing the Chris Banks Trio and it was just a delight. It’s such a perfect way to relax and unwind before the show and keep the night going a little longer afterwards.
One of the ideas that I took away from this play was how education and knowledge can be weaponized. Listening to Makarov talk about who is supposed to know how much and how desperately the empire was trying to limit the learning of the peasants. What’s fascinating is that we know that it doesn’t work out, we know that the people of Russia rise up because they are led by the educated few. But it really made me realize how easy it is for the same thing to occur today, how misinformation gets spread so easily, essentially being weaponized just like they were trying to do in tzarist Russia.
This play takes on a whole new relevance considering the state of the world right now. I was so thankful to hear that Crow’s Theatre is helping to raise money for helping orphans and the veterans affected by the current situation in Ukraine.
Orphans for the Czar has just been extended until April 24th! You simply MUST see this fabulous World Premiere from one of Canada’s most prolific playwrights. You can purchase tickets at Streetcar Crowsnest (crowstheatre.com)