Dark humour, the philosophy of love and relationships, and the use of storytelling as a theatrical device feature prominently in a funny, moving and even disturbing Week Three program – the final of this year’s New Ideas Festival (NIF) at Alumnae Theatre.
Dead French Philosophers and What We Mean When We Talk About Love (James Papoutsis, dir. by Yevgeniya Falkovich) uses split staging to great effect as the audience becomes a lecture hall of students, with philosophy professor David Black (Derek Perks) telling us that love doesn’t exist – only to then hear him confess to being in love himself. The action alternates between Black telling us his story on one side of the stage, as a man (Phil Rickaby) and woman (Nicole Wilson) play it out at a café table on the other side. Variations on the theme play out in the two-hander scenes in surprising and interesting ways. A well-acted and sharp play of ideas here – Perks is diabolically hilarious, and rounds Black out with a sense of vulnerability and frustration, as do Rickaby and Wilson. It would be intriguing to see both versions of Black in the lecture hall, one speaking to the subject of the course, and the other voicing his thoughts and telling the story – perhaps with points of view bleeding into the other.
My Friend’s Best Friend’s Boyfriend (Wesley J. Colford, dir. by Joanne Williams) starts off as a bro’s movie night for Ben (James Aaron) and Alex (Kwaku Adu-Poku) at Alex’s apartment, and becomes the story of a Boyfriend (Jared Bishop) and Girlfriend (Christina Manco), as told by Ben. Split staging was also used in this piece, with the two guys hanging out on a couch stage right as the couple interact in the Boyfriend’s kitchen stage left, illustrating what Ben has just told Alex. Concerns about the Boyfriend being abusive play out and the piece ends with Ben’s girlfriend Susan (Karen Scobie) arriving at Alex’s. There’s a thought-provoking twist here and I wondered if this would make an effective, instructive school tour on the nuances of abusive relationships. Nice ensemble cast and the two-sided staging worked very well here.
Eglinton (Anthony MacMahon, dir. by David Suszek) also uses a split stage set-up – a two-hander of an intense, life-and-death evening in the lives and relationship of Mary (Anne-Marie Krytiuk) and Charlie (Nicholas Porteous). Each tells portions of the same story from his/her point of view, and this continues when the action brings them together as Charlie arrives at a strange apartment on Eglinton to help Mary. The darker side of love, told with tenderness, brutal honesty and dark comedy. Nice work from the actors with the storytelling and internal monologues – and the dialogue between them at the end comes as a relief.
My Red Feather Boa (Flora Stohr-Danziger, dir. by Nancy Bradshaw) is a remount of a NIF 2004 production, featuring the same director and actor. A one-hander starring Whitney Ross-Barris as Celine, the boa is a character on its own, morphing into representations of an erection, water, a cat, a comforter, a loved one – and as itself in Celine’s exotic dance act. It’s a funny, sexy and touching journey of hardship, broken dreams, tragedy, love and hope as Celine pursues her dream of becoming a movie star in Toronto. In the end – lust, love and kindness are enough. Ross-Barris is a delight as Celine, and deftly shifts into multiple characters, portraying the various folks Celine encounters along the way, from a randy restaurant patron to a pinched employment agency rep. I saw the original production, and this play is just as enjoyable and moving the second time around.
The Week Three reading Everything But the Cat… (Adrianna Prosser, dir. by Steph Ouaknine) is going up as I post this. The Week Three program has three more performances, closing with a 2:30 p.m. matinée tomorrow.
What did you see at NIF this year? Any favourites?
For more bloggage on NIF Week Three, scroll down to see my reblog of Alumnae Theatre’s blog post.