Showered with awards and critical acclaim, this darkly comic Canadian series follows the fortunes of a dysfunctional Shakespearean theatre troupe, exposing the high drama, scorching battles, and artistic miracles that happen behind the scenes.
Paul Gross (Due South) stars as washed-up actor Geoffrey Tennant, who returns to the New Burbage Theatrethe site of his acting triumph and his career-ending meltdownto assume the artistic directorship after the sudden death of his mentor, Oliver Welles. Believing that theatre is meant to provoke not anesthetize, Geoffrey takes on the suits who want to turn the festival into a theme park, a director who runs amuck with Hamlet, and his own demons, including Oliverwho returns to haunt him. Also starring Rachel McAdams (Wedding Crashers, The Notebook), Stephen Ouimette (Mentors), and Mark McKinney (Kids in the Hall).
The title of Slings and Arrows
, like many of the themes and characters in this show, comes from Shakespeares Hamlet
. It refers to "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" that the Danish prince suffers, leading him to question whether he is to be or not... you know. Its a clever title for an inspired show about--what else?--the theatre. Set in the New Burbage Theatre Festival, a fictional Canadian Provincial theatre, a jaded, burnt-out artistic director, Oliver Welles (Stephen Ouimette), dies suddenly, and is replaced by a potential genius, his visionary protégé Geoffrey Tennant (Due South
's Paul Gross). Geoffrey is legendary at the New Burbage for his awe-inspiring performance of Hamlet
there years before, and also because he went mad and now his sanity seems to be hanging by a thread. And oh, by the way, Olivers still hanging around as a ghost, but Geoffreys the only one who can see him (sound familiar?), and his impulsive reactions and out-loud arguments with Oliver--including one captured while being interviewed for a news program--besides being hilarious, convince the cast and crews hes really lost it. The show details the daily activities at the festival as they attempt to mount a new production of Hamlet (starring a movie star whos all face and no talent), and in doing so it employs a huge cast of peripheral characters, including the dysfunctional acting company (rising star Rachel McAdams has a key part), scheming board members, and a neurotic theatre staff, each with their own little subplots interweaving to make one big drama.
This first-season set of the Sundance Channel program contains only six episodes, which is too bad because the series is so excellent itll leave you wanting more. The fact that shows of this caliber are rare makes it stand out all the more. The writing is topnotch, with memorable dialogue, biting dark humor, and clever situations that continually point out how absurd real life can get. This one is a real gem, a show that demonstrates tis nobler in the mind to laugh at the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, rather than suffer them. --Daniel Vancini