Hey all! New Ideas got off to a great start last night – despite the grim weather – and opened to a packed house up in the studio. Four plays up this week, ranging from quiet two-hander drama to ensemble comedy to otherworldly historical narrative.
Where Do You Get Off? (by M.P. Fedunkiw, directed by Lynda Yearwood) first appeared in Write Now as one of the collection of plays set on the TTC. Actors Pat Hawk (who was in two NIF shows last year) and Rhonda McEwen are two strangers on the westbound Queen streetcar, and get into a serious discussion about life and death as McEwan’s character travels to St. Joseph Health Centre. A nice, quiet and thoughtful piece featuring two fine actors and an actual streetcar stop announcement soundtrack.
Frances and Marybeth (Act I) (by Neale Kimmel, directed by Heather Keith) features single sisters, played by Carolyn Hall (who appeared in Alum’s Pride and Prejudice) and Meaghen Quinn (from Driftwood Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night last summer) and an impromptu in-house date night, interrupted by an unwanted guest. Also features actors Peter Jensen and Nicholas Sgouros. This was Act I of what promises to be a big fun piece. Hall (as a single mom – though it’s up for debate as to whether the unseen Kevin is a pet or a child) and Quinn (recently broken up with her cheating fiance) are a great match as sisters, believable in the relationship and very funny in a natural way. Jensen is hilariously ardent as the uninvited guest and we only get a glimpse of Sgouros, who plays the newly single sister’s date. At the end of the Act, it’s pretty much a state of mayhem – and I look forward to seeing what happens next.
Missed Connections (by Brianne Hogan, directed by Adam Crisman) is a multi-media piece about two people (played by Branden Brackenbury and Blair Kay) who notice each other on the subway, but don’t speak, and later connect via Craigslist and enter into a relationship that includes connecting via various social networking media. The audience sees the relationship unfold throughout the scenes that follow – with the action accompanied by rear-screen projection of their Craigslist and Facebook activities, online video conversation and still photographs. Nicely written and acted – and a good balance of comedy/drama. Interesting look at relationships in the age of social media, begging the question: How has the use of social media impacted on intimacy?
Dance Macabre (Niall O’Reilly, directed by Sandra Burley) is set in 1939 at the Sunnyside Amusement Park and Palais Royale – and presents its characters and their interwoven stories through a series of scenes and monologue narrative. The characters move with each other throughout the space in a dance – both literal and figurative – as the mysterious fortune-teller (Clare Blackwood) watches all unfold. The ensemble cast also features Cecilia Aponte-de-Hanna, Andrew Gaboury, A.J. Jaywar, Naomi Priddle-Hunter and Meagan Tuck, all regulars at the Palais – society dames and gigolo/dancers. The play offers an otherworldly/historical glimpse a time and place where characters of varying degrees of social privilege find escape and intrigue in a fantasy world of amusement, dance and the occult.
Shouts to the reading committee, and production, design and technical teams for putting this festival together and keeping it running – and to the box office gang, headed by Front of House Manager Margaret Spence last night, bartender Joan Burrows, and Food Goddess Sandy Schneider and pal Bev Atkinson for the amazing spread at the reception that followed.
NIF artistic co-producers Brenda Darling and Pat McCarthy have dedicated this year’s festival to Alumnae friend and colleague Lindsay Empringham, who passed this winter. Lindsay participated in NIF over the years as a writer, producer and actor – not to mention audience member, and was one of the “ladies who lunch” gang who came out to the Saturday noon readings and lunched together in the lower lobby before the matinée. There’s a lovely photo memorial in the lower lobby – take a look next time you’re down there.
I’ll be back at NIF on Saturday for the Week One noon reading: Mythmaking.
Till then, get out and see this marvelous program of short plays: www.alumnaetheatre.com