More SummerWorks and outdoor theatre this past weekend, including two closing performances…
Friday night I was back at the Factory Theatre Studio for Freda & Jem’s Best of the Week (by Lois Fine, directed by Judith Thompson). I saw this on their closing night and the place was packed. Thanks to MC Thompson for giving me her extra ticket – with that sold out house, I may not have gotten in otherwise. The title characters are a married lesbian couple (Diane Flacks and Kathryn Haggis) with two teenaged kids (Nick Eddie and Sadie Rose Epstein-Fine), and we take a journey through the history of their relationship via flashback scenes amid scenes of their separation, with Jem moving out to the house next door. The “best of the week” in the play’s title is the weekly family ritual where each person shares the best thing he/she experienced that week. To the kids’ mocking chagrin, both moms always say it’s being there together as a family.
This is a family like any other – just with two moms – and the turmoil and pain of divorce takes pretty much the same course as any marriage would. It struck me as a bittersweet thing that, as society has evolved to include same-sex marriage in Canada we now not only have stories/plays about LGBT folks coming out and getting married – we now also see them splitting up. This play reminds us that, while it’s nice to see the common ground with straight folks in terms of marriage and family dynamic, there’s also the shared downside of infidelity, heartbreak and family thrown into chaos when divorce comes. An excellent cast and the added bonus of a live soundtrack supplied by Lorraine Segato, who sang and accompanied herself on electric guitar. That and an audience full of lesbians, what more could you ask for? Bonus: bumping into Alum/Cabbagetown Theatre pals Tina McCulloch, Elaine Lindo, Gloria Lambert and Bonnie Gray after the show (they were there to see Little Crickets), as well as Foundry Theatre producer Elisabeth Feltaous.
Saturday night, I was off to Withrow Park to see Driftwood Theatre’s production of Macbeth – this after stopping by the Jersey Giant to meet Steve Flett for a pint and buy a ticket for Into the Woods for this Friday. Due to delays with getting the tab and general bad luck with TTC connections, I made it to the park with just enough time to pee and grab a piece of grass before the show started. Bumped into Alum pal Tina McCulloch, who arrived shortly after I did and I sat on the ground beside her. I really need to invest in one of those folding camping chairs.
Director D. Jeremy Smith has assembled a strong group of actors for this production – and a cast of eight meant that several actors were doubling up on parts, including playing the witches, who were fully covered up – cloaked and hooded, with old gas masks covering their faces. Always interesting to see how this play is performed, particularly the two leads – in this case, Peter Van Gestel and Janick Hebert. This Macbeth and Lady Macbeth display a passion and lust for each other that is only equalled by their mutual lust for power – they want so much and what they gain through their bloody actions leaves them with a lot to lose. One of the timeless elements of this production was the casting of Madeleine Donohue as Banquo (she also played Lady M’s doctor), played as a woman and not as a man. And there is a modern edge to Andy Pogson’s Macduff, both in his manner and in his black studded leather jacket. Rounding out this fine cast are Shawn Ahmed, Justin Goodhand, Tim Machin and Lana Sugarman. Weaving the witches’ appearances throughout the action was particularly effective: the sleight of hand keep-away with the dagger during Macbeth’s dagger speech; placing the dead Banquo on the metalwork in preparation for the banquet haunting; and even during Lady M’s sleepwalking scene, with one of the witches operating her like a full-sized puppet.
It’s also always interesting to see what shape the design takes for this play. The military garb was timeless in that it borrowed from a number of times/places, yet kept that army green and grey palette throughout, and the witches’ costuming made them look less human and more monster. The only set piece was a small circular platform in the centre of the stage, encompassed by a short ruined wall of grey bricks and punctuated with a triangular metal framework – the wall and metal structure moved by various cast members at the end of each scene, evoking the passage of time, like a eerie sundial. The recorded soundtrack was a departure from Driftwood’s usual cast-generated vocal soundscape – but this made sense given the play at hand. This is not a happy play – and even Macduff’s vanquishing of Macbeth, freeing Scotland of a tyrant king, is somehow grim in the end.
Sunday was one last SummerWorks show for me – this time at the Lower Ossington Theatre – another closing performance and on the closing day of the festival: Third Floor by Jason Hall, directed by Ashlie Corcoran, and featuring actors Kristian Bruun and Kaitlyn Riordan (or “Kaitlyn Frickin’ Riordan,” as I like to call her). This is a suspenseful, and also darkly funny, look at how the casual relationship between two condo neighbours shifts when a prank on their annoying neighbour in #10 goes horribly wrong. They never see the mysterious neighbour who regularly has bags of garbage outside her door – and neither do we – and the play’s references to Hitchcock leave you wondering if there are body parts in those bags, maybe even said neighbour’s.
Excellent two-handed script and an awesome cast, with backstage assistant Lena Maripuu, who executed #10’s garbage drops. Third Floor will be getting a run in London at Trafalgar Studios between October 11 and November 5.
Whew – I need a day off after all that theatre now. Oh well, back to work.