Another exceptionally strong program of short plays at Alumnae Theatre Company’s New Ideas Festival (NIF) this week – Week Three, the final week of the fest.
Here’s what’s on the menu for Week Three:
Polish Your Pole, performed by Brenda Somers, is a hilariously funny, innuendo-filled pre-show piece in the upper lobby, featuring – you guessed it – what remains of the Firehall No. 4 fire pole across from the box office. Somers is brilliant in this very short piece, an added big fun element of the fest with one final performance tonight at 7:30 p.m. Always thought that pole was going underutilized. And it now has a name.
Airport Tale, by Carol Libman and directed by Carys Lewis, has a travelling senior citizen getting some life advice from an unlikely source when she’s detained at the airport. Jane Carnwath is a delight as the feisty, no nonsense Evalina Appelgee, and Andy Perun is sweet as the affable, flummoxed young airport bureaucrat Roger.
Would You Do It Again?, by Rebecca Grace and directed by Sandra Banman, is a futuristic peek at options for dealing with broken marriages as Hank and Wanda take some extreme measures to save theirs via an artificial intelligence unit named Chip. The Controller fills us in on the eternal sunshine of the forgetful mind as the play unfolds. Nice work by a very strong ensemble cast: Tim McConnell gives workaholic lawyer Hank some nice complex layers of tenderness and romance; and Sara Price does a lovely job of navigating Wanda’s inner conflict and sense of loss. Patrick Murray is deliciously campy and arrogant as the Controller, and Youness Tahiri is charmingly cocky and handsome as the Hank-infused Chip. What do you purge, and what do you keep or alter?
Simprov, by Laurence Klavan and directed by Stephanie Williams, finds Marjorie searching for escape in an artificial reality, which she may direct for a limited time and at significant financial cost. Dana Thody brings a great sense of desperate, energized purpose to Marjorie; and Buddy Black gives her boyfriend Alan a complex combination of pain, anger and drive to save her. Loriel Medynski and director Williams, who stepped in as a replacement actor, were marvelous as the two artificial reality actors – spunky, funny and sexy. How far will we go to escape our own lives?
Pit Sublime, by Alexandra Watt Simpson and directed by Pamela Redfern, is a grown-up fairy tale of withdrawal and denial, and put me in mind of the Paper Bag Princess through the looking glass. Charlotte is the Queen of vermin, barricaded in her world of trash, rhymes and personal baggage. Storming the battlements is Felix, a fierce young friend who must fight to break through Charlotte’s barriers. Rebecca Liddiard’s Charlotte is a remarkable, whirling ball of energy, engaging and drawing us in, even as she tries to push us away. (My pal Kerri MacDonald took on the role of her secretary at one point after she requested a volunteer from the audience.) And Andrew Gaunce’s Felix is wonderfully nerdy, loyal and relentless in his cause to save his friend from herself. Both handle the language with mercurial skill. Extremely entertaining, touching – and even educational – this play would also work very well with a young adult audience.
Perception, alternate and artificial realities, memories buried and secrets masked – the NIF Week Three program continues until tomorrow (Mar 30), with two performances today and one tomorrow.
In the meantime, the Week Three reading of Rotating Thunderstorm, by Taylor Marie Graham and directed by Jill Harper, goes up at noon today.
Reservations are strongly recommended as this is a popular festival. Call 416-364-4170 or visit the Tickets page on the Alumnae website.