Good People, Hard Times

Good-People-ArtworkMTC’s follow up to Kim’s Convenience is another light-hearted slice of working-class comedy. David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People tells the story of Margaret (Martha Burns), a down-and-out Bostonian who loses her menial job at the dollar store and spends the rest of the play worrying about where she’s going to get the money for next month’s rent. The scenario is familiar and it opens up a timely dialogue about the economic disparity that is reaching an all-time high in the U.S. and elsewhere. I say dialogue because the play isn’t one sided in featuring Margaret’s plight as a poor “Southie” girl who just can’t catch a break. On the other side of the proverbial tracks we have Mike (Ari Cohen), Margaret’s former high school sweetheart who has managed to get out of south Boston and make something of himself.MTC

Margaret, in her desperation, looks Mike up hoping that he might have work for her. Though he’s upfront that he has nothing to offer her, she sticks around long enough to land a couple on his chin. On the surface, she’s looking to see if deep down he’s still a Southie at heart. She ruffles his feathers and tells him he’s gone soft, but underneath all the verbal sparring there is something revealing: it’s hard for her to see that Mike is successful.

The second act of the play delves deeper into the nature of success and fairness. In Margaret’s world, she sees the outcome of success as a role of the dice. In her view, she’s worked just as hard as Mike, some might say harder, but all that hard work builds to nothing more than a barely above minimum wage job. Whereas, Mike was born with some natural abilities and had a father who pushed him in school, so while Margaret dropped out of school to raise her daughter, Mike carried on with his studies and became a doctor.

Success means different things to different people. For Margaret, Mike is a success because he got out. Though she spends a great deal of the play making fun of him for it, deep down there is a nagging part of her that wonders what could have happened if they’d never split in high school. Good People offers a lot of those “what if” questions. It confronts our notions of fairness and success, but it never preaches to us. It doesn’t offer easy answers because it knows there is no single satisfactory answer. Margaret sees Mike’s big house, fancy office and imported cheese spread and thinks that is success, but she misses the hostility between Mike and his wife (Audrey Dwyer) who clearly are in need of the counseling Mike wishes he could stop attending. Success depends so much on who is measuring it.battle

For a play that touches on some heavy subject matter, Good People is surprisingly light thanks to the sharp dialogue and fantastic chemistry between the leads and the supporting cast, all sporting convincing Boston accents and volleying around some colourful phrases. Good People runs from April 17 – May 10/2014.

Post by Josh Benoit – Photos by RMTC’s Bruce Monk 

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Josh Benoit - head shotJoshua Benoit is a freelance writer, musician with the local band, Pumas and videographer living in Winnipeg. He is passionate about food, philosophy, travel and Kurt Vonnegut. At one time he thought he wanted to be an optometrist but ultimately found more joy in words than in formulas, just as he derives more pleasure from whiskey than from soda.

His life goals are modest and include owning a dog with an aloof demeanor and a needy cat, publishing no less than eleven novels (some of them trash), and possibly raising children, though he’d settle for a weekly afterschool special in which he could impart his street-wise verbiage to the children of the world.

Joshua studied English and Film at the University of Manitoba and took his sweet time about getting his B.A. He now works for the Department of Education and is continuing his creative writing studies through the University of Toronto. To get in touch with Joshua, write to him at jedwardbenoit@gmail.com


Sarah Zaharia

Urban Barn – Peg Your Style!

As much as I love design, I’m not a designer. Fashion and interior design fascinates me but I don’t quite seem to have the touch for it. So when I recently started sharing a room with an even less design-inclined man, I knew I had to enlist some help. Urban Barn came to the rescue and I was able to take the barebones bedroom and add a slightly more feminine touch.DSC02080

Here is a before picture, there was quite a bit of brown in this room!

There is a fine balance to be found in a bedroom shared by a woman and a man. It can’t be too far on the girly side because you want both people to feel comfortable but what I was dealing with was a little far along the bachelor spectrum. Rachel from Urban Barn patiently helped me as I explained what I liked, without even knowing myself. We ended up deciding on the Blanka Bedding in a neutral grey and punching things up with pillows. Predictably, there’s been some debate between the man and me on if there are too many pillows. You can guess which side of that debate I’m on!

DSC02100DSC02092DSC02107The Dorothy Film Map was our inspiration. It’s the kind of piece I see new things on every day. Beyond the art, the bedding, the Asteria table lamp and some assorted trinkets take the room to a more sophisticated level.

If you want to win a $250 gift card, check out this contest Urban Barn is running called Peg Your Style Sarah ZahariaPick out your favorite design and you could win.

Whether you’re in a restaurant wondering what wine to order, or at home ruminating on redecorating, it is always best to ask an expert. The new Urban Barn store on Kenaston lays out all the options for you, and the staff are ready to help. Come ready to be inspired!

Post by Sarah Zaharia

 


Sarah Zaharia

A Cup of San Francisco

DSC02019I didn’t leave my heart in San Francisco, I left my coffee.

For me, San Francisco is one of those American cities that bucks the stereotypes. Far from Midwest attitudes or the Southern conservative mores that are so much of the way we think about Americans, California teems with innovation and big thinkers.

It is in the Nappa Valley Chardonnay that overthrew the French in the ‘70s, the poetry and rebellious spirit that still lives in the City Lights bookstore or the Silicon Valley that is home to some of the brightest minds in technology. There is a feeling of free spirit in California. And its heart is in San Francisco.

A beautifully multicultural city, San Francisco is a great place to get adventurous with what you eat. It’s there I’ve had some of the best Dim Sum I’ve ever tasted without understanding what was in the majority of it. Also in San Francisco, I had a three-course meal of soufflé at Café Jacqueline in North Beach that will never be topped. If you can dream it, you can eat it in San Francisco.

But what do the locals like?  Where do they eat and drink? I discovered a perfect little gem of a coffee DSC02066shop that always has a line up, often right out the door. Regardless of the wait, Blue Bottle Coffee at 66 Mint Plaza is always worth it.

Taking their cues from both history and innovation, there is a five light siphon bar coffee maker that makes an exceptionally light, tea-like cup of coffee. You need to wait awhile for it to brew but it’s so fascinating to watch you won’t even notice the time.

Blue Bottle’s mastermind and founder James Freeman says, “I will only sell coffee less than 48 hours out of the roaster to my customers, so they may enjoy coffee at its peak of flavor. I will only use the finest, most delicious and responsibly sourced beans.”

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As a result, a coffee here is no joke. Everything from the design of the space to the merchandise has been carefully curated to provide the best possible experience. With an expansion into New York and a lease signed in Japan, you’ll soon be able to find Blue Bottle around the world.

Yet Blue Bottle is more than just great coffee. Their weekend brunch service (8am to 2pm) is truly decadent. As a sucker for eggs benedict, I had a heated internal debate between the Blue Bottle Benedict and the Belgian-style waffle. Of course, I went with both.

DSC02047Set your spirit free next time you visit San Francisco. Hang off a streetcar, race down hills on a bike, eat something exotic. But always start your day off with a stellar cup of coffee.

 

 

 

Post by Sarah Zaharia 


Sarah Zaharia

Opera For The People – Win Tickets!

boheme-posterManitoba Opera’s production of Puccini’s masterpiece La Bohème is a gorgeous spectacle. Once again, Manitoba Opera has wowed me with the immaculate detail and the enormous scope in the production design. The opera is set in 1830’s Paris and has a plot so simple to follow that by the final act, I only had to glance at the subtitle screen on occasion and could instead focus my attention on the beautiful music and scenery. La Bohème tells the tale of two dirt-poor artists and the women they fall far. Their love lives are up and down as they cope with jealousy, all the while contending with a freezing Paris winter that has them using one of Rodolfo’s plays as fuel for a fire that, due to a rather thin plot, only keeps them warm for a moment.  At one point, the lovesick Rodolfo tells Mimi that he hopes winter will last forever so that they won’t have to part come spring, proof that love really does make people spout madness.

La Bohème is a story for the people. It isn’t a story about kings or gods; it is a story about the everyman/woman. The characters are relatable and playful -as evidenced in a scene involving a swordfight with two loaves of bread that ends in a food fight- and their problems are problems we’ve all faced: paying the bills, coping with illness, falling in and out of love. While it is ultimately a tragic tale, the lighthearted musician, Schaunard and philosopher, Colline join the lovelorn Rodolfo and Marcello and help keep the story from sinking into a quagmire of sappy sentimentality. How could you not like a group of friends whose motto equates to the modern day equivalent of pre-gaming: We drink at home, but dine out.

The story of La Bohème is strong enough and the performers are talented enough that if it had been_TNK6248 staged against a black curtain it would still have been enjoyable, however, Manitoba Opera spares no expense in visually matching the quality of the music with some of the most breathtaking sets I’ve ever seen. The crowd audibly gasped with delight when the curtain rose for the second act on a set that included a café, a fifty step staircase, a market dressed in Christmas lights and waves of extras clothed in colourful costumes flying about the scene. Thankfully the plot was so easy to follow because my focus kept drifting to the background characters as they all seemed to inhabit their own world apart from the main action—kind of like looking at the rest of the picture to see what everyone else is up to after you’ve already found Waldo. Contrasting this busy scene in the Latin Quarter was the drab, crumbling apartment inhabited by the two young artists, yet even in its bleakness the set looked like a painting come to life. The entire production is a feast for the senses and should not be missed.

La Bohème plays on April 8th and 11th at the Centennial Concert Hall and we have a pair of tickets for the 11th! Leave a comment with your favourite story about love against the odds for a chance to win. Draw will happen on April 10th – Good luck :) _TNK6333

Post by Josh Benoit and photos by R. Tinker 

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Josh Benoit - head shotJoshua Benoit is a freelance writer, musician with the local band, Pumas and videographer living in Winnipeg. He is passionate about food, philosophy, travel and Kurt Vonnegut. At one time he thought he wanted to be an optometrist but ultimately found more joy in words than in formulas, just as he derives more pleasure from whiskey than from soda.

His life goals are modest and include owning a dog with an aloof demeanor and a needy cat, publishing no less than eleven novels (some of them trash), and possibly raising children, though he’d settle for a weekly afterschool special in which he could impart his street-wise verbiage to the children of the world.

Joshua studied English and Film at the University of Manitoba and took his sweet time about getting his B.A. He now works for the Department of Education and is continuing his creative writing studies through the University of Toronto. To get in touch with Joshua, write to him at jedwardbenoit@gmail.com


Sarah Zaharia

Harvest Hits a High Comedic Water-Mark

PTE_Harvest_Colour_WebsiteHarvest is the homegrown tale of two retirees wanting to sell their farm before they kick the bucket. The play takes place in rural Manitoba and features Tom Anniko as Allan and Megan McArton as Charlotte Duncanson, both of whom deliver up some of the funniest dialogue and best physical comedy you’re likely to see or hear outside of Fringe Fest. Watching Anniko and McArton blaze through an array of secondary characters that include a swindling pilot, a real estate agent and a dog (to name just a few) is, to be blunt, an absolute treat as neither of the actors bogart the jokes, knowing when to play the straight man and when to hit it out of the park. It’s a joy to watch two actors who clearly understand what it means to serve the joke over their own interests.

Prairie Theatre Exchange’s Harvest is a rather sunny play, though it does have its weightier moments, like coming to terms with old age, learning to let go, the dangers of black mold and the threat of possible bankruptcy, however, the heavier content never becomes a buzzkill thanks to the light, witty touch of Arne MacPherson’s direction and the unshakeable resilience and optimism of the Duncanson’s aw, shucks mentality in the face of adversity that allows them to remain buds, even when they have every excuse to be bummed out. It’s hard not to like a couple who can forgive the skunk who made them look like dopes and give him a second chance, who hash it out with the insurance broker who denied their claim for damages, and who never take it out on each other, remaining kind and calm, no matter how much strain they are under.

The play ends on a high note as the Duncanson’s come to terms with their turns of fortune and realize that the grass is pretty green after all. For those of us suffering from cabin fever and the uncertainty that there is such a thing as summer on the prairies, this play is a wonderful bit of escapism. Leaf your cares at home, sit back, and watch two talented actors create a world and an array of characters out of nothing but a few props and some sunglasses. No smoke and mirrors, just straight-up comedic gold. Harvest runs from April 2 – April 20.PTE

Post by Josh Benoit, photos by Bruce Monk 

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Josh Benoit - head shotJoshua Benoit is a freelance writer, musician with the local band, Pumas and videographer living in Winnipeg. He is passionate about food, philosophy, travel and Kurt Vonnegut. At one time he thought he wanted to be an optometrist but ultimately found more joy in words than in formulas, just as he derives more pleasure from whiskey than from soda.

His life goals are modest and include owning a dog with an aloof demeanor and a needy cat, publishing no less than eleven novels (some of them trash), and possibly raising children, though he’d settle for a weekly afterschool special in which he could impart his street-wise verbiage to the children of the world.

Joshua studied English and Film at the University of Manitoba and took his sweet time about getting his B.A. He now works for the Department of Education and is continuing his creative writing studies through the University of Toronto. To get in touch with Joshua, write to him at jedwardbenoit@gmail.com


Sarah Zaharia