Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival (NIF) turned 25 last night as it kicked off its opening night of three weeks of new, short plays in progress with its Week One program.
NIF Week One includes a remount of Shirley Barrie’s Revelation, directed by its original director and NIF co-founder Molly Thom – part of the 25th anniversary celebrations. Husband and wife John (Steven Burley) and Mary (Patricia Hawk) awaken side by side in the hereafter and become reacquainted as they await their final judgement. Charming, imaginative and funny – and featuring sound design by the late Martin Wolfman, a great friend to the theatre and Alumnae in particular – Revelation is as more about the post big freeze personal accounting of lives lived than it is about the Big Guy’s take on things.
Still Waters (Suzanne Gauthier, directed by Stacy Halloran) is also a sweet, fun husband/wife two-hander. After downsizing from their quiet Leaside home to a condo in downtown Toronto, Frank (John Illingworth) has set up a sleep aid contraption for his wife Monica (Sandra Burley) – with the unfortunate result that it’s having the opposite effect for which it was intended. The parts (purchased at the classic “Dad store” Canadian Tire) and running water sound are driving Monica nuts! A comic, touching slice of an older couple’s life.
Say the Words (Tina McCulloch, directed by Kimberley Radmacher) is a beautifully written and acted monologue of a young woman’s (Em, played by Alexandra Manea) reflections on love and loss. Words spoken and unspoken are recalled, and interpretations considered as Em remembers the relationship and considers how she could have responded in a way that reflected how she really felt. Speaking to a former female lover, now dead, the actor can be cast as a man or a woman – and the piece has room to evolve in terms of length and staging.
Stalled (Eugenie Carabatsos, directed by NIF co-founder Kerri MacDonald) takes us on a journey of memory as Maggie (Julie Cohn) takes her beloved car to be junked. As she recalls various moments from her life related to the car (also a character in the play), we meet her family (Dad – Rob Candy and sister Katie – Jillian Welsh), friends and ex-boyfriends (Johnnie – Richard Niu and Doug – Alex Sims), and a friendly stranger (Mark – Andrew T. Gaunce) as this drive down memory lane becomes an assessment of her life. Great ensemble work and really fun, creative staging of the car – which you really need to see for yourself.
A very strong week of work all around, NIF’s Week One program runs until Sunday, March 10 and includes a one-time reading of Jamie Johnson’s Falling, directed by Ed Rosing, on Saturday, March 9 at noon. There will be talkbacks after all the NIF readings and Saturday matinées.
NIF continues with its Week Two program next week (March 13-17).