*Originally posted on the Capital Critics’ website here!*

Princess Ivona: We All Suffer for Beauty

Carol Sinclair

Ekaterina Shestakova brings us to the catwalk to strut her final MFA production of Witold Gombrowicz’s Princess Ivona. Academic Hall houses this world of cut throat fashion and destruction. The direction, performances and design for this production were all fierce.

In the court of King Ignatius and Queen Margret a strange girl, Ivona, is brought in and their son Prince Philip is immediately infatuated by her bizarre behavior. Her inability to conform to their strict social expectations drives everyone who interacts with her to different intensities of insanity and violence as secrets are revealed and the court crumbles.

All the actors, coming from the University of Ottawa theatre department or the Algonquin College theatre program surprised me with their performances. They worked well together as an ensemble but were all able to shine as individuals. The royal family of Leslie Cserepy (the King), Jaclyn Martinez (the Queen) and Tony Adams (the Prince) all displayed chemistry with the text and each other. Their character arcs were clear and well performed. They all made me laugh at their respective moments but all made me cringe as they deteriorated on stage.

Princess Ivona, played by Lauriane Lehouillier was creepily enjoyable to watch with her stiff movement and stale delivery. Her unique French accent made the few lines she spoke so alluring. Driven by her piercing eyes, her judgment on the society she was forced to live in seeped into the audience and made me squirm in my seat.

The ladies and gentlemen of the court played by Simon Lalande, Ashley Rissler, Cory Thibert, Jonah Allingham, Alexandra Isenor and Lily Sutherland were the perfect fashion accessory to the leads of the production. Their stylized movement was executed with precision and they all played an imperative role in creating the frame work for the world created by Ekaterina. One last shout out to the hilarious Samuel Dietrich, who could do nothing but be in people’s way as he shuffled about cleaning as the butler Checkers. He has a long career ahead of him as the Comic Relief.

The student designers really went all out on this production. The costume and makeup design of Alex Brunjes was an asset to making the fashion world come to life in front of us. Andrew Palangio’s sound design was executed with style. It heightened everything from the fashion show to the destruction going on within the palace.

Ekaterina Shestakova pulled me into a world of high fashion and lies and I could not look away. As a thesis production she took risks with her concept but supported it with strong images that demonstrate a creative mind. This is just the beginning of what I am sure will be a flourishing career. As she continues to grow and master her craft, she is definitely one to look out for.