Another series of fine works in progress at Alumnae Theatre Company’s New Ideas Festival (NIF) Week Two program this week.
The Deepest Trench (Chloë Whitehorn, dir. by Justen Bennett) is a sharp-humoured three-hander, an “almost love story” featuring a brother (Ryan, Ryan Bainbridge), sister (Kate, Stephanie Barone) and sister’s BFF (Emma, Jen Viens) – with relationship dynamics shifting when Emma comes to live with the sibs. The witty repartee includes some fun current event and pop culture references (the new Pope, the Bugs Bunny Abominable Snowman episode and Buffy ep. 4.04), as well as some very sweet in-jokes between Ryan and Emma. Ryan’s sweet, sensitive nature appears at first to be in direct contrast to the women’s brasher, aggressive approach to life – but things can change when times get rough and life-changing situations are at hand. Lovely use of storytelling. Excellent ensemble. Interested to see where this goes.
Two Actresses (R.J. Downe, dir. by Pamela Redfern) is a charming, fun satire of two community theatre divas and their visit to the E.R., which interrupts their dress rehearsal. Margo (Anne Harper) and Susan (Jane Reynolds) clearly dislike each other. A lot. And it turns out that, over their decades-long frenemy relationship, they’ve wanted more than the same parts. Nice work from Harper and Reynolds. Would love to see Margo and Susan interact over the course of their history together.
Over the Edge (Catherine Frid, dir. by Pomme J-Corvellec) is a timely one-hander, given that the World Figure Skating Championships are on this week (in London, Ontario). The play is a moving, intense and thought-provoking look at the inner and outer workings of a young competitive Singles skater, Janet (Caroline Toal), as she faces an extremely difficult decision. Nice work from Toal, who gives a lovely combination of passion, determination and desperation to the young athlete. Would love to see this done with multi-media, with skating footage, music and medical imaging.
Pieces of Penelope (Gina Femia, dir. by Janet Kish) takes us across time, space and realities as we visit the parallel worlds of mythic Penelope (Caitlin Robson) and present-day Penny (Kristen Zaza) as they both await their husbands’ return from war. Storytelling and magic realism are put to extremely effective use in this touching, dramatic and sexy play. Rounding out the excellent all-female ensemble are Sarah McCully as Penny’s friend Sarra, and Jessica Quartel, playing multiple roles – Melantho (Penelope’s friend & servant), Odysseus and Penny’s husband Owen. Watching this version of the Penelope story, I could not help but think of Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad – only in this case it’s a myth meets modern world take on the tale. Looking forward to seeing the evolution of this piece.
The Week Two reading Lullaby for the Abandoned (Rain Chan, dir. by Brenda Darling) is up and running as I post this. I was unable to attend today’s reading, but will check in on the Alumnae blog to see if they posted on it later this week. The Week Two program continues with two performances today and closes tomorrow afternoon.
The NIF Week Three program and reading – the final of the 2013 festival – go up next week (March 20-24).
What have you seen at NIF? Any favourites?