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Celebrate Odyssey Theatre’s 30th birthday and see The Things We Do For Love

By Joseph Hutt on July 29, 2015

Joseph Hutt is an Ottawa-based freelance writer and editor with an interest in local literary and theater culture. He is the Associate Editor for the Ottawa Arts Review, and has just been hired as the Managing Editor of The Leveller. He currently blogs at cuppajoebooks.tumblr.com.

On July 26th, Odyssey Theatre showed us that they’re 30 years young with their production of The Things We Do for Love, assuring us that even though they’ve reached their third decade, a part of them is still that libidinous teen from yesteryear.

Odyssey-ThingsWeDoForLove-Poster-web-488x732The Things We Do for Love is a play in three parts, or more accurately a combination of three micro-plays, all with a Spanish and amorous twist. While each of these sections stand alone, they are loosely tied together through the presence of an acting and puppetry troupe who have found themselves host to the generous, yet delusional Don Quixote and his faithful companion, Sancho Panza. Their goal? To show this illustrious man the many wonderful (and insane) things people have done for love, by weaving stories of amorous pursuits, adventure, sacrifice, and a load of physical comedy to boot.

(Before I get to my actual review, there is something you need know if you have any intention of seeing and enjoying this play. If you aren’t planning to bring a lawn chair, GRAB A CUSHION! Even with the intermission, this play is long, and after two and a half hours of sitting on a stand of bleachers (made of what I can only assume to be some kind of exceptionally hard petrified wood), I’m still in the process of massaging the feeling back into my butt. Consider yourself warned.)

The performance begins with “Saving Melisendra”, which is the most novel of the three acts, as the majority of characters are represented by puppets (designed and created by Kathy MacLellan of Rag & Bone Puppet Theatre). While some of the puppetry seemed a tad rough, the actors bestowed the larger puppets with true character, nailing human gestures and postures in hilarious and delightful ways. One of my favorite parts of this section, though, has to be their use of the bard, played by Matthew Lawrence. While he may not have been strapped to a bank of speakers mounted at the front of an apocalyptic war convoy, his on-the-fly addition of guitar riffs and narration established an atmosphere that was unmatched in the play’s duration.

This was followed by “The Love of Don Perlimplin and Belisa in the Garden”, which was the most musical of the three selections and made the most extensive use of Odyssey Theater’s remarkable masks, full of bright colors and accentuated features. An entertaining tale of love and cuckoldry, I have to admit that what really caught my attention about this section was the flock of crows (played by the remaining actors) whose job it was to manipulate, observe, and comment on the scenes.

The final act was, according to post-performance chatter, was largely considered the best play of the evening. The longest of the three sections, lasting about an hour, you hardly seemed to notice the time go by (unless you were sitting on the bleachers). It was full of action, and the jokes just kept on coming. It also provided some of the most memorable performances of the evening, including Mark Huisman as Count Federico and Alan K Sapp as King “Don’t-Step-On-My-Yoga-Mat”. The charisma and chemistry of these actors really drew you into what was going on, and as a whole was able to look at itself and laugh, acknowledging itself as the comedy that it was.

Because I feel that she deserves a paragraph of her own, I need to mention that actress Karen Knox stole the entire show in this last section. As Finea, aka Celio, Knox played the cross-dressing female protagonist, full of vigor and derring-do. Quick with the masculine innuendo, she goes about winning duels, seducing women, and injecting pure chaos into the world around her in order to get what she wants. Well-written and well-acted, Knox’s performance does not disappoint.

Now, Odyssey Theater’s signature style of masked theater was something I was really looking forward to. I’ve heard amazing things about past performances and how they added so much to the atmosphere of the evening. “Don Perlimplin” provided, but only to whet my appetite. Hoping for more, I found myself disappointed by the final section, which employed these masquerade masks on sticks that, aside from an illustrious flourish, didn’t add very much to their scenes. Not to mention the actors seemed unsure of what to do with them when they weren’t being used, resulting in some surreptitious shuffling.

This aside, The Things We Do for Love made for a wonderful and highly varied evening of thespian pursuits, and despite the theme of amorous adventure, the jokes and innuendos were tasteful and subtle, so delicate constitutions shouldn’t find themselves distressed should they decide to partake.

The Things We Do for Love will be performed in Strathcona Park every day until Aug. 23 (weather permitting). It starts at 8pm and tickets can be reserved from EventBrite. The play is rated G and runs for 2.5 hours, including intermission.  Also, on Aug. 2, their matinee performance will be a benefit for Tyson’s Mission to a Million, in support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Check out odysseytheatre.ca to learn more!   


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