Lost music dreams & turbulent family reunion in Rare Day Projects’ bittersweet, poignant, funny A Very Different Place

Clockwise, from top left: Jeanette Dagger, Rosemary Doyle & Alexzander McLarry. Photo by Deborah Ann Frankel.


You can’t go home again, but maybe you can meet where you are. Rare Day Projects presents Carol Libman’s drama about lost dreams and family reunion, A Very Different Place, directed by Robin Haggerty and opening last night at Red Sandcastle Theatre. This world premiere began as a short play in Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival, later emerging at Big Ideas and Next Stage readings before reaching its current form at Red Sandcastle.

Teri (Rosemary Doyle) left home almost 20 years ago to pursue a career as a jazz singer with a talented man she loved—and that’s not all she left behind. Her mother Marge (Jeanette Dagger) was left to raise her son Mike (Alexzander McLarry). After a chance meeting in a Calgary hospital, where Teri now works as a nurse, Mike hatches a plan for a family reunion between his mother and grandmother at their home in Toronto—a plan that gets fast-tracked when Marge falls and breaks her hip. He needs to get back to work on an oil rig out west in a few days, and Marge—despite protestations to the contrary—needs assistance at home while she recovers and gets physiotherapy. Enter Teri, and the mother/daughter battle begins!

Old wounds, misunderstandings, resentments and suspicions emerge as Teri and Marge struggle through past and current conflicts—and try to make peace for Mike’s sake. Mike finds himself in the middle of the fray, playing peacemaker when all he wanted was to get his family back together. And Teri’s desperately trying to stay sober through the stress of this homecoming; attending AA meetings, where she addresses us as fellow Friends of Bill.

Nicely staged, with a turbulent musical prologue and snippets of classical piano favourites featured throughout (expertly played by Dagger) and a touching mother/daughter duet on “Summertime” (with Doyle shining on the vocals), A Very Different Place is bookended with music and moments of Teri’s AA sharing.

Lovely work from the cast in this touching, often sharply funny, three-hander—featuring some especially moving two-hander scenes between mother and daughter, and mother and son. Dagger’s Marge is a tough but amiable old gal with a decided stubborn, independent streak and an unbreakable determination to do what’s best, even if it costs her. Doyle’s Teri is a troubled adult child struggling to reconcile past and future choices, wobbling on the edge of petulant teen in the face of family conflict. Equally firm in her pursuit of independence—she comes by it honestly—like Marge, who once dreamed of being a concert pianist, Teri feels the sting of lost music career dreams and the necessity of setting herself on a new path in order to survive. McLarry does a great job as the glue trying to hold this family together as Mike navigates his own internal conflicts; like Marge and Teri, his life took an unexpected turn when he was forced to go west to find work. Setting up this family reunion as much for himself as for his grandmother and mother, Mike finds himself playing adult/referee when, deep down, he wants to feel a kid’s experience of love and family.

With shouts to SM/Technical Director Deborah Ann Frankel for juggling multiple tasks in the booth.

A Very Different Place continues at Red Sandcastle until May 13, with evening performances at 8 pm May 8 to 12; and matinees at 2 pm on May 10, 12 and 13. Tickets available at the door, by calling the Box Office at 416-845-9411 or going online.


Alumnae Theatre’s Big Ideas 2013 coming May 8 – 12

Alumnae Theatre Company’s annual Big Ideas festival of works in progress – organized and programmed by the company’s New Play Development (NPD) group – is coming up, running May 8 – 12 up in the studio. Big Ideas features readings of full-length plays, as well as scenes from plays, and this year’s line-up includes:

I AM MARGUERITE by Shirley Barrie, directed by Molly Thom

FORGIVENESS by Mairy Beam, directed by Victoria Shepherd

YOU HAVE TO EARN IT by Ramona Baillie, directed by Jane Carnwath

IN A TIME OF WAR by Anne MacMillan, directed by Marianne Fedunkiw

BROCKFEST by Joan Burrows, directed by Maria Popoff

WAITING FOR KATRINA by Donna Langevin, directed by Pat McCarthy

THE YEAR MY FATHER BECAME A SAINT by Linda McCready, directed by Brenda Darling

Admission is free. For more info, including synopses, times and dates (each play gets one reading), please visit the Alumnae Theatre NPD page.

p.s. – I’ll be performing in the reading of Forgiveness on Thursday, May 9 at 8 p.m. Rehearsals start tonight, and I’m looking forward to working with director Victoria Shepherd again (we worked on Celebrity together in New Ideas 2004 – written by Tina McCulloch, who is also in the cast of Forgiveness), as well as a great cast, all of whom I know (and previously worked with all but one) – and all the women in this cast were also in Alumnae’s production of Lady Windermere’s Fan in 2007.

Family, faith & acceptance @ Alumnae Theatre’s Big Ideas Festival of readings

A great evening of theatre in process up in the Alumnae Theatre studio space last night with a Big Ideas reading of Francine Dick’s play Preparing For Passover, directed/dramaturged by Kerri MacDonald.

Five adult sisters prepare their parents’ home for Passover. An Orthodox Jewish family, their adherence to their faith – and even their core spirituality – is tested in the aftermath of their brother’s recent and sudden death. He was the youngest of the family and the only son, and their mother has fallen into a deep depression and rage as a result. Each sister struggles with her own, and often glossed-over, life challenges as they try to draw their mother back into the world and her religion, which she now shuns. A surprise visitor at the end of Act One becomes a catalyst for personal revelation, and an opportunity for acceptance and forgiveness.

As I looked at the collection of female actors MacDonald had assembled for this reading, I realized I knew all these women (mostly from my previous work at Alumnae): Tara Baxendale, Esther Jaciuk, Heather Johnson, Krista Marchand, Tina McCulloch and Candi Zell. Lovely cast and direction.

From a creative stand-point, one of the big benefits of doing a public reading is not only that it provides the playwright with an opportunity to hear the play aloud, but also to witness audience reaction and get feedback on the script and characters. For the audience, it is an opportunity to engage with new works and witness the process. To this end, there was a talkback after the reading, where a few interesting points came up. The first act, largely exposition and thought by and large to be overly wordy, was still in progress and there were already plans in the works to trim it down, so the core points could come to the forefront. Also, the characters were in various stages of development, so they would be rounded out. Several folks, including at least one of the actors, thought it would be nice to see the mother at some point. On the one hand, she’s talked about so much that audience curiosity is piqued, but having a character that is essentially invisible, with a very powerful presence in the hearts and minds of the other characters, can also be a very effective element.

Nice work all around – and it’s always a treat to see new works in progress.

Big Ideas continues up in the Alumnae Studio tonight through Sunday evening. The event is free, but donations to Alumnae Theatre are welcome. Check the Alumnae New Play Development page for program details: http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/npd.html

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: Regarding yesterday’s post on the Last Temptation Acoustic Wednesday: I realized I’d neglected to include web co-ordinates for Jessica Speziale and Kat Leonard. You can find Jessica at: http://www.jessicaspeziale.com/ and be sure to look out for her upcoming gig (with her band) at The Central this Saturday night at 7 p.m., opening for Alter Kakers. You can find Kat at: http://www.katleonard.com/home.cfm

Coming up: Kat Leonard @ Last Temptation & Big Ideas @ Alumnae Theatre

Here are just a couple of things coming up this week:

Kat Leonard with Captain Jack Sparrow
Wednesday, May 2: Kat Leonard is the featured performer at Last Temptation Acoustic Wednesdays (12 Kensington Ave., Toronto) – show starts at 9 p.m. For the scoop on Kat, visit her site: http://www.katleonard.com/home.cfm

Also on Wednesday, May 2: Alumnae Theatre Company’s New Play Development (NPD) group opens Big Ideas, their annual spring readings of new plays/plays in development, up in the studio space. Big Ideas has expanded this year to run over the course of several days (May 2-6).  Here’s a quick rundown of the program – and admission is free!

8 pm Wed May 2 Ashes To Ashes by Marianne Fedunkiw
8 pm Thur May 3 Preparing For Passover by Francine Dick
8 pm Fri May 4 Burying Toni by Catherine Frid
The Cape by Ramona Baillie
Toward the Unknown Region by Ilene Cummings
2 pm Sat May 5 The Blunt Widow by Linda McCready
8 pm Sat May 5 Measure of The World by Shirley Barrie
2 pm Sun May 6 Sins of The Fathers by Carol Libman
The Masqueraders by Diane Forrest
We Are Trying by Norma Crawford
6 pm Sun May 6 Ze Adventures of M. Maurice and His Bridal Emporium
by Anne MacMillan

For full details, check out the NPD page on the Alum website: http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/npd.html

I’ll be out to see Kat at Last Temptation on Wednesday (which is also her birthday eve!) and up in the Alum studio on Thursday to see Francine Dick’s play Preparing for Passover, directed by my pal Kerri MacDonald.

Alumnae Theatre – Così final week, Big Ideas & the 2012-13 season

Hey, kids! If you’re in Toronto and haven’t been out to see Alumnae Theatre’s production of Così, you have a few more chances this week. The run continues tonight and the show closes on Saturday night (Apr 28). For info and reservations, visit here: http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/1112cosi.html

Coming up: the New Play Development (NPD) group at Alumnae have expanded Big Ideas, their annual spring presentation of readings of new plays/plays in development, to cover several days (May 2-6). For the full scoop on that, visit the NPD page: http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/npd.html

And, lastly, check out what’ s in store for Alumnae’s 2012-13 season here: http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/1213season.html

I’ll be off to see Wonder Women IV at The Central tonight – back with the scoop on that, as well as some pics from the event, tomorrow. Have a great day/evening, all!