Q. Who or what are guinea pigs?
A. People willing to risk their health for the chance to earn big bucks by testing unauthorized drugs. For some it’s a way of life.
And that is the answer that inspired Catherine Frid, author of last year’s SummerWorks hit Homegrown, to create her bold new comedy, GuineaPigging.
Premiering as part of Alumnae Theatre’s 91st consecutive season, GuineaPigging focuses on Chris, a young woman suffering from a serious addiction and an unsatisfactory relationship, who walks into a lab looking for a cure. She finds far more than she bargained for. The science is suspect, the test cases are a polyglot bunch of weirdos eccentrics and, once the dosing starts, they begin to exhibit some bizarre side effects. This is Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole and events soon spiral completely out of control.
Catherine Frid explains the play’s inception: “I found out that guinea pigs are ‘locked down’, i.e. they have to stay in the facility in order to stay in the study. It seemed like a great setting for a play so I decided to do a drug study myself, as research, and some of the stuff I found out there ended up in GuineaPigging, such as the flawed procedures that are the foundation of medical drug testing.
It seemed like an excellent metaphor for how many people live: we hand over control of our lives to other people and institutions because we’re under-confident and overwhelmed. When we’re passive and we conform to what we’re told is normal – for example in science, relationships or gender – we undermine ourselves. And there are always side effects to doing this. Hopefully audiences will leave the play laughing and deciding for the good of their health to do things they’ve always wanted to do but haven’t yet because their dreams are ‘socially inappropriate’.”
Catherine’s partner in GuineaPigging’s two-year development is Toronto Director and Dramaturge Molly Thom, responsible for many critically acclaimed productions including The Bush-Ladies and Thirteen Hands,who explains, “At the centre of this manic action is a young woman asking: who am I? What appears to be a satiric attack on big pharma is actually a quest play. At its heart is Chris, a very real person with a real dilemma, trying to save herself and find her way out of the labyrinth.”
Laughing, Ms. Thom continues, “This is Cate Frid’s first full-length play and what a challenge she has set herself! It’s an immensely complicated and hugely ambitious undertaking with multiple plotlines, and what is so amazing is that Cate manages to keep all these balls in the air. The action spins along with irresistible momentum as black comedy turns into farce, and farce into human drama.”
Heading up the production team are Co-Producers PJ Hammond and Tabitha Keast, Assistant Director Laurie Williams, Stage Manager Stacy Halloran and Production Assistant Navneet Rai, Costume Designer Jennie Grimard, Set and Lighting Designer Ed Rosing, Props Hound Razie Brownstone, and Sound Designer Angus Barlow.
The cast is led by Laura Vincent as the central character, Chris, with fabulous and, frankly, outlandish support by Arfina Abdourahime, Lionel Boodlal, Chantale Groulx, Krista Marchand, Chris Reid, Mike Vitorovich and Tim Walker.
GuineaPigging runs April 15 – 30 on the Alumnae main stage. There will be a talkback following the matinée performance on Sunday, April 17. For more info, please visit the Alumnae Theatre website: www.alumnaetheatre.com