Last night I caught the second performances of this year’s Week Three lineup. The evening kicked off with the funny and touching Dead French Philosophers and What We Mean When We Talk About Love by James Papoutsis, directed by Yevgeniya Falkovich. The audience became students being addressed by professor David Black (Derek Perks), who continually diverges from his lectures on French philosopher Roland Barthes to tell the class about his own problems with love, which began when his wife left him. “Love is a linguistic impossibility”, Black tells the class, and “You’re much better being ignorant about the true nature of love, because it’s depressing.” Wow – bitter much, Professor Black? David’s romantic troubles are played out by his doppelganger (Phil Rickaby) and unrequited love interest (Nicole Wilson) – a woman who is absolutely perfect for him, except she’s married to someone else. But he’s sure she will fall in love with him, if only he can find the right words… Great work from the cast, and the playing-with-alternative-scenarios was a very cool conceit. Loved the glowering eye-roll from “He” when the restaurant Muzak played “The Look of Love” and “Un-break My Heart”!
The head-scratching continued with the My Friend’s Best Friend’s Boyfriend by Wesley J. Colford, directed by Joanne Williams. What starts as a guys’-night-in with popcorn and a DVD of Spiderman 2 for Ben (James Aaron) and his friend Alex (Kwaku Adu-Poku) turns into a strange conversation when Ben fields a call from another friend that he doesn’t want to discuss. Alex finally overcomes Ben’s reluctance, but Ben doesn’t want to name names, hence the convoluted relationship conveyed in the play’s title! As Ben tells Alex the story, it’s played out by a couple on the other side of the stage, Jared Bishop as The Boyfriend, and Christina Manco as The Girlfriend. I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say it gave the audience a lot to talk about during the intermission.
When the audience re-enters the Studio after intermission for Eglinton directed by David Suszek, we see Mary (Anne-Marie Krytiuk) and Charlie (Nicholas Porteous) sitting in chairs on either side of the stage, spattered with blood. What the heck??! The story of a date gone very wrong gradually unfolds, told in separate-yet-connected monologues, beautifully played by the actors. The style is reminiscent of Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s This Lime Tree Bower – I saw its Toronto premiere back in December, in which Eglinton writer Anthony MacMahon was one of the performers.
The delightful solo show My Red Feather Boa by Flora Stohr-Danziger closes out the evening. The only play in this week’s lineup which is *not* a world premiere, it was previously a favourite in the 2004 New Ideas Festival, and is re-mounted this year in celebration of the Festival’s 25th anniversary. Original director Nancy Bradshaw and original actor Whitney Ross-Barris bring life again to the story of Celine, a teenage girl from Chicoutimi who follows her naïve movie-star dreams to the big city of Toronto, armed only with good friends and a red feather boa. Navigating mishaps as a cocktail waitress and an exotic dancer, the irrepressible Celine (she nicknames dour employment office workers Mr. Hardass and Ms. Stone-head) shakes off loss and tragedy, eventually finding her voice and “lust, love and kindness all rolled into one.” Ross-Barris’ Québecois accent was convincing, and her totally committed performance brought tears from many in the audience – I heard the sniffs! Nice use of Aimee Mann’s song “Wise Up” (which you may recognize from organ donor TV commercials).
My guess for the theme this week is violence in relationships. Or could it be storytelling?
You still have 4 more chances to catch these plays – tonight (Friday) and tomorrow at 8pm, and Saturday and Sunday at 2:30. Tickets are $15 for the whole lineup. http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/tickets.html If you choose the Saturday matinee, why not come for noon, and see the one-time staged reading of Adrianna Prosser’s Everything But The Cat…, a “not-so-one-woman-show” with projections! Tickets for the reading are PWYC, available in person only, cash payments. Both the reading and the matinee lineup will be followed by Talkback sessions with writers and directors.