The tear-tab promotional signs read: ‘Are you a Healthy Normal?,’ ‘Brain sluts,’ and ‘Biology is a bitch.’ The world premiere of Catherine Frid’s GuineaPigging opened on Alumnae’s main stage to a good-sized crowd, buzzing with anticipation.
Director Molly Thom, assisted by Laurie Williams, ushered a very strong ensemble of actors through this Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole tale of a young woman (Chris, played by Laura Vincent, last seen in The Real Inspector Hound) in search of a cure at, of all places, a pharma company drug testing lab – & in the end finds something quite unexpected.
The excellent cast includes Arfina Abdourahime, Lional Boodlal, Chantale Groulx, Krista Marchand, Chris Reid, Tim Walker & Michael Vitorovich; Groulx, Reid & Walker also appeared in the workshop presentation, & Vitorovich did double duty as Master Carpenter. Each did a lovely job of bringing these very specifically-drawn – & different, often hilarious – characters to life, their common goal to make a buck (big bucks in the case of the lab folks) & a good life for themselves.
Holding all this together are multi-tasking uber producers PJ Hammond & Tabitha Keast, who not only got a crack design team happening, but also came out to paint the set, & assisted marketing gals Tina McCulloch & Seema Lakhani with publicity! Sound designer Angus Barlow flooded the set with industrial music at the opening, the main set itself a slick, corporate & sterile environment befitting a pharma co lab, complete with functioning fluorescent lighting (Ed Rosing designed both set & lighting, assisted by Kevin White on lights). We are briefly transported to a bright, red, glittering casino early on, & to the front door of a Cabbagetown home in the final scene. Tech Wiz Bill Scott provided the magic of moving set pieces &, difficulties with the casino sign/curtain aside, very effective at evoking locale during these brief moments away from the lab. Costume designer Jennie Grimard provided just the right look for this ragtag group of characters; & “props hounds” Razie Brownstone, Cate Frid, Sandy Schneider & Margaret Spence added the precise details to this world.
Conducting the onstage festivities from the booth is SM Stacy Halloran, assisted backstage by Sarah Greene & Naomi Priddle-Hunter. Shouts to them, & to the gang of operators, painters & behind the scenes folks.
Out front, opening night box office (Jo-anne Wurster FOH & Margaret Spence) & bar staff Catherine Spence welcomed the audience, & hooked us up with tickets & booze, & Jayne Patterson organized the very tasty opening night catering. And I don’t know what exactly was in those test tube shots, but I had three – & they were lovely!
Come on out to Alumnae & join Chris on her weird & wonderful journey. GuineaPigging runs until April 30. Reminder that the talkback matinee is tomorrow at 2 p.m.