Austria, Wattens: Swarovski Crystal Worlds

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Look up as you enter the Blue Hall at Swarovski Crystal World, as you never know what might be glittering above you.

 

 

Austria, Wattens: The Giant at Swarovski Crystal Worlds

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The Giant welcomes you to Swarovski Crystal Worlds in Wattens Austria, a free 20-min bus ride from Innsbruck. In 1895 Daniel Swarovski started the company and now it honors his imagination with this gorgeous attraction which is part museum, part theme park and part art installation.

Canada, Montreal: Pulitzer Prize Winning Play Glengarry Glen Ross

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It’s special when we can get to view a play which was honored with a Tony nomination and garnered a Pulitzer Prize.  Glengarry Glen Ross, now playing at the Mainline Theatre (produced by Acts to Grind Theatre), shows off David Mamet’s ability to write profound dialogue.

This story highlights the cynical, difficult, pushy life of real estate salesmen in Chicago. I was not surprised to learn that the play is also often referred to as “Death of a Fuckin’ Salesman”, because it is notorious for its use of profanity. That hardly resonates in today’s foul language world – on the other hand, today’s politically correct society would flinch at the prejudice shown against East Indians and Polish people.

Mamet’s characters are drawn down and dirty as lying, backstabbing, double-dealing tricksters willing to toss out ethical principles to justify their work. Yet they really are passionate about selling, and especially enjoy the nitty gritty details of closing a deal.  One of Mamet’s goal in writing this play was to highlight the plight of so many people who go about their lives performing regular jobs yet often having to endure indignities while doing so.

Actor Zag Dorison (Shelly Levene) does an amazing job of making you feel his nervousness and despair; we twitch and pull on our lapels right along with him. Dorison, commenting on his character, “This play will always be relevant. There will always be those who exploit others and are out
for a buck at the expense of someone’s savings and dignity. Although the character of Shelly Levene is down on his luck, he believes that
it’s just a streak that will break; he had been a shark and wants to be one again. It is interesting that in spite of this, the audience still
sympathizes with him when his whole world comes crashing down upon him.”

Michael Aronovitch (George Aaronow),  Izak Benrobi (Ricky Roma) and Jake Caceres (Dave Moss) have all been cast well for their parts, and they make their distinctive personalities apparent. Bryan Libero (John Williamson) really makes you dislike him while the company man, Olivier Ross-Parent (Blake/Baylen) is properly detestable.  Davyn Ryall (James Lingk) does well as the meek patsy trying to get his money back.

Be prepared for Mamet’s long soliliquys for each of them – with the other salesmen there mostly as an audience for their rants.  Since this is a small theatre, you too feel as though you are right next to them in the room. Be careful though because as Levene says, these guys are so manipulative, they know how to sell you something you didn’t even want.

Location: MainLine Theatre, 3997 St-Laurent, 2nd floor
Dates: Presented in English: Wed-Sat Nov 7-10, 14, 15, 16, 17, at 8pm. Sun matinees Nov 11, 18, at 2 pm
Tickets: (Prices include taxes and service charge) $22 general admission; $20 Seniors; $18 Students
Tel: 514 849-3378
e-mail: boxoffice@montrealfringe.ca
www.mainlinetheatre.ca/en/spectacles/glengarry-glen-ross
youtu.be/kQOG32GINho
NOTE: mature language. Recommended ages 14+

Austria, Vienna: Glorious Surroundings Lead to Glorious Decisions

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How can you sit and deliberate laws when you are distracted by all this fabulous art and architecture in the Rathaus (City Hall) in Vienna? To get on a tour, make sure to sign up ahead of time.

Austria, Vienna: Bumping into Beauty in the Least Expected Places

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You can take a free tour of the Rathaus (Vienna City Hall) and bump into surprisingly beautiful things like this chandelier. Make sure to sign up ahead of time.

Austria, Vienna: Fun Photo Shot in Vienna

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Some people wear hats when touring, others wear a statue of an Empress.

Austria, Vienna: Who’s Watching You in Vienna?

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Look up when you are in Vienna – glorious statues tower over you from every perch.

Canada, Montreal: “Birthmark” Play Reveals Cultural Baggage of Montreal Jewish vs Palestinian Kids

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Let’s start with the aim of the Teersi Duniya Theatre group itself, which is to highlight theater focusing on social justice. Different cultures get to take the stage, whether they be Indigenous, Palestinian, Israeli, Armenian, Rwandan, Iranian, Turkish or whatever. The theatre’s goal, as mentioned by their artistic director Rahul Varma, is that we are all one people and it takes stories of everyone else to see ourselves.  Varma says, “the only way to tell stories in a new way is to get new storytellers into the room”.

So Stephen Orlov’s story Birthmark is about families. In writing this, he was asking himself why Jews who founded Israel to end their centuries of oppression were now dispossessing another people that had lived there for centuries. Michelle Soifer, the director, says we have in this play, “two young adults filled with passion and drive…  and the chutzpah to do something about it”.

Canada as a nation is made up of many communities of people who may have been displaced by war and conflicts. Living here in Montreal we have Jewish and Palestinian cross currents. Though families  may have immigrated here and now raise their families in this safe haven, the memories of their living history or those of their parents will always shape them. The children get stuck between the two solitudes: perhaps the need to avenge their families’ past or to just ride along safely here for their future.

Though this is a story of the Israeli vs. Palestinian conflict, it raises the universal problem of parents or caregivers who live with a family member who thinks differently, or even perhaps might be mentally challenged or elderly, and the parent must learn to live with the pain of not being able to fix things (which they might have caused), or even change them.

Natalie Tannous gives a strong performance as a mother conflicted by secrets in the past and fears for her child ‘s future.  Howard Rosenstein is her gentler counterpart, with his own untold secrets and the consequences of not listening to a child. Stephen Spreekmester creates two very different characters, and does them well – one of an observant Rabbi and one of a tough RCMP officer.  Patrick Keeler  as Nelson, the Jewish child finding solace in religion, and Dalia Charafeddine as Karima secretly planning revenge for her parent’s death, give us two very realistic diametric opposites on both sides of this divide.

The simplicity of Sabrina Miller’s set design, using floor squares and wall hangings to identify rooms, walls and doorways was very effective.

We learn that words matter: why do we refer to the Israelis as extremists but the Palestinians as terrorists?

Location: Mai Centre, 3680 Jeanne-Mance
corner: Milton
Dates: Nov 3-18, 2018
Price: $17 – $25
Tel: 514-982-3386
www.m-a-i.qc.ca

 

Austria, Vienna: The Wonder of a Hapsburg Palace

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Even jaded tour guides (Martin from Trafalgar) who have been to palaces so many times still look up in awe at the wonder of it all.

Austria, Vienna: Driving in Style in Vienna

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In Vienna, you get the privilege of traveling in style – that is, 19th century Royal Hapsburg style.