Passion, play & an unlikely heroine

I had the great pleasure of seeing some very talented women perform last night, this time in the east end of Toronto at Lazy Daisy’s Café, which was converted into an intimate venue for the show.

Kat Leonard opens for the premiere of Dawna J. Wightman’s one-woman show Life  As A Pomegranate, giving the audience a 15-minute sampling of some songs from her one-woman show A Depper Kind of Love (her fanatic fan opus to Johnny Depp, which ran during the Toronto Fringe Festival 2011): “Jockstrap,” “Not Us” and “Asshole.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I laugh and feel my heartstrings plucked every time I hear these songs. She moves easily through whatever space she’s performing in, dancing and drawing the audience in. And it’s such a treat to witness the reactions, especially from folks who are seeing her for the first time, including my seat mates Bonnie, Dave and Jorge – and Dave and I were the biggest laughers for both shows. Coincidentally, just before Leonard started her set, Bonnie and I had been chatting about the Dark Shadows t.v. series, which she’d recently watched on DVD, as well as the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton movie. A good, good time was had by all.

After a brief intermission, when we had another chance to sample the Lazy Daisy Café’s yummy fare, the lights went down for Life As A Pomegranate. Written and performed by Dawna J. Wightman, and directed/dramaturged by Ginette Mohr, the audience goes on a journey with the play’s heroine Rozyee (Rosy) Fudge, travelling back and forth with her through time and memory over the course of some 40 years, from the 1970s to present day.

Wightman is an excellent actor/storyteller, weaving various characters throughout Rozyee’s tale: her raspy-voiced, neurotic, chain-smoking mother; her somewhat bland but kind husband Arthur and their three children; Arthur’s snobby, sophisticated co-worker Sutton; and Rozyee’s stoner neighbour lady, as well as Rozyee herself at various ages (in an effort to rise above the ordinary dullness of day-to-day life, she revises the spelling of her name as an adult). Far from being caricatures, these are distinct, well-formed characters. Sweet, naive and adorably awkward, Rozyee dreams of being a professional actor and playwright, struggling with childhood trauma, a needy mother and later on the challenges of raising a young family in a small town (too small). Perhaps her biggest challenge is overcoming her own self-doubt, embodied in the wicked witch in the mirror, her discouraging inner voice of harsh negativity and “can’t do.”

Music and play feature prominently in this production, the beginning and ending of the play bookended by “What A Friend Have In Jesus” played on the kazoo. Wightman also incorporates other voices: soprano Judith Fiore and young singer Margot Larivière – and the effect is both haunting and lovely. The small stage is made of platforms painted in bright colours, like watercolour paintings, and Rozyee employs finger puppets to tell us the story of how she and Arthur met, wooed and married. And I’m not gonna lie to you – there was finger puppet sex. Rozyee describes her creativity as a blue ball, situated in her upper chest – near the heart – emitting creative power like an electric current out through her fingertips. Rozyee’s hair (styled by Fran at Hair Addiction) is also child-like, playful and messy. In fact, the “Pomegranate” of the play’s title is a reference to how “messy, juicy, seedy, bitter and sweet” life can be.

Life As A Pomegranate is a delight – by turns hilarious and heartbreaking. And very nicely paired with Leonard’s selections from A Depper Kind of Love as an opening act.

The very short run continues tonight and tomorrow night at Lazy Daisy’s Café (doors open at 7 p.m., showtime at 8 p.m.). Bad news is, this run is sold out. You can take your chances on cancellations, though. Lazy Daisy’s is at 1515 Gerrard St. East, just west of Coxwell – call 416-691-3401 to check on availability.

Good news is, Wightman is mounting a longer run at Essentia (2180 Queen St. East): June 29 & 30 and July 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15. Show starts at 8 p.m.  – call 416-691-3401 for tickets ($20 advance, $25 at the door).

For more info on Kat Leonard, Dawna J. Wightman and Lazy Daisy’s Café, please visit their websites:

Kat Leonard: http://www.katleonard.com/home.cfm

Dawna J. Wightman: http://www.dawnajoywightman.com/

Lazy Daisy’s Café: http://www.lazydaisyscafe.ca/

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Author: life with more cowbell

Arts/culture social bloggerfly & Elwood P. Dowd disciple. Likes playing with words. A lot. Toronto

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