Life, death, sacrifice & information (& sandworms!) in NIF Week 2 program

nif 2015Alumnae Theatre Company opened the Week 2 program of its annual New Ideas Festival (NIF) up in its studio space on Wednesday. I caught it last night – here’s the scoop:

(En)Lightning (by Catherine Frid, directed by Sandra Burley). Greek mythology meets modern-day whistle-blowing in this re-imagining of the Prometheus tale. Nice work all around from the cast: Josh Morris as the lascivious, corrupt corporate boss Zeus (with shades of a character that Torontonians will recognize from recent municipal politics); Maureen Murray as the sharp and inquisitive journalist Leda; Kate Maguire as the spunky, irrepressible go-to gal Artemis; and Joshua Clayton as the wily and ethical tech/data virtuoso Prometheus.

Canis familiaris (by Carolyn Bennett, directed by Brenda Darling). An unusual condolence visit at a grieving co-worker’s home (Patricia Hawk as Christina; Kevin McLellan as her husband Albert) becomes darkly funny and sadly disturbing – and surprisingly thought-provoking – for a new young couple (Julie Cohn, as Zena; Kwaku Adu-Poku as Phil). Some people define ‘family’ in a broader way. Some people have really wacky final wishes – for themselves and those they love. When does the line of appropriate and sane get crossed? The cast does a nice job with the complex combination of bizarre comedy and heartfelt realism: Hawk’s motherly Christine is dealing with more than just bereavement issues; McLellan’s Albert the neglected and frustrated, but supportive – and enabling – husband; Cohn’s Zena is sweet and compassionate, and also extremely sensitive around death; and Adu-Poku’s Phil is a good sport, and a direct, honest guy grappling with commitment issues.

Sandworms! (by D.J. Sylvis, directed by Stacey Halloran). In a post-apocalyptic world in a future not so far away, a man and woman struggling to stay alive must come up with a plan to leave the relatively safe confines of their home to find food. Oh – and avoid the killer sandworms that have infested the city. A very short, darkly comic and intense two-hander, with really nice work from Michael Barkey (Marc) and Julie Tesolin (Carrie), who do a great job of balancing the life and death scenario with the comforting balm of humour and great comic timing. Loads of fun sci-fi references to Dune and Tremors. “Running isn’t a plan! Running is what you do, once a plan fails!” I hate sandworms.

You Can Ask Me How I’m Doing (by Norman Yeung, directed by Meg Moran). If you died today, what would you miss or regret? This is the question put to the audience in preparation for this multimedia, interactive look at the darker side of the complex web of teen relationships and social/online media interaction, where private becomes public and public reaction becomes personal. Audiences will be all too familiar with the issues presented here – from the tragic headlines of online sexual harassment, in-person and online bullying, and teen suicide. The audience follows Eunice, an extremely intelligent student with a bright academic future ahead of her, as she stands up to a popular boy in her class, calling him out on his bad behaviour – and dealing with the attention and notoriety that fall out as a result. The play incorporates projection, text messaging and partial half mask into the storytelling, and the ensemble does an incredible job with presenting these pervasive and troubling issues. The use of the partial half masks (half masks with only one eye covered) is particularly effective, as it allows most characters to reveal only a portion of themselves, including Eunice’s parents and younger brother, while Eunice is the only one not wearing a mask – revealing herself fully and putting her in a more vulnerable position. The ensemble includes Janice Yang, Melissa Chetty, Roselyn Kelada-Sedra, Kelly Seo, Tom Beattie, Oscar Moreno and Timothy Ng – with especially strong work from Yang as Eunice, Moreno as her supportive but scared BFF, and Ng as the school golden boy who harasses her. This play would be a really good tool for bringing up these issues with senior high school and college/university students.

Alumnae Theatre’s NIF Week 2 is all about life, death, sacrifice and information. And sandworms!

The Week 2 program also includes a one-time only reading of Buy My House (by Natalie Frijia, directed by Emily Nixon) at noon on March 21, with a talkback afterwards.

The NIF Week 2 program continues in the Alumnae Studio until March 22, including matinées on March 21 and 22 (please note the 2:30 curtain time), and a talkback following the March 21 matinée.

See here for more details on the Week 2 lineup; you can also go online to purchase tickets in advance  – recommended, as this is a popular festival. In the meantime, check out the NIF Week 2 trailer:


Published by life with more cowbell

Multidisciplinary storyteller. Out & proud. Torontonian. Likes playing with words. A lot.

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