Love, loss & the struggle to avoid getting beached in the poignant, funny Paradise Comics

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Sherman Tsang & Maddie Bautista in Paradise Comics – photos by producer Zach Parkhurst

 

Filament Incubator closes its #8playsin8months season with Caitie Graham’s Paradise Comics, directed by Darwin Lyons. Graham developed Paradise Comics at the Tarragon Theatre’s Young Playwrights Unit, where she now acts as Assistant Writing Instructor. I caught the opening last night at Kensington Hall (in Kensington Market at 56C Kensington Ave., Toronto).

What’s eating 13-year-old Beans (Sherman Tsang)? Is it that she didn’t get selected for science camp? The impending destruction of the planet caused by human disregard for the environment? The fact that her dad George (David Ross) has been sleeping in the car in the garage?

From the moment we enter the theatre, hearing the haunting emo soundtrack (sound by Deanna Choi) and seeing a kitchen strewn with boxes (set by Jingjia Zhang), we enter a melancholy world of disruption and chaos.

The world as Beans knows it is coming to an end. Paradise Comics, her dad’s beloved comic book store, is closing. Plus, he’s been acting weird and sad. So what if she spends more time at the shop than at school? She’s an excellent student, but she has her priorities. Her mom Janie (Sarah Naomi Campbell) has a different take on cutting school, though, and is getting on her case. And her BFF Hannah (Maddie Bautista) is being more hyper than normal, dancing as fast as she can to cheer Beans up. And what has Hannah done to their science project diorama?!

Really lovely work from the cast on this story of family, friendship, heartbreak and devastating change. Tsang brings a dark edge to the whip smart, academically serious and sharp-witted Beans; a science nerd who shares her dad’s love of comic books, she’s caught in the middle of her parents’ troubled marriage and her dad’s impending store closure. Ross is a gentle, laid back, cool dad as George; in some ways still a boy himself, having to say goodbye to his store – representing years of his life, work and passion – has set him adrift. Ross also gives a comic turn as Marvin, the affable and awkward storage company guy who arrives to cart off all the boxes; a comic book aficionado himself, he knows George and and the shop, and provides some surprising insight.

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David Ross & Sarah Naomi Campbell in Paradise Comics

Campbell’s Janie is both ferocious and a big warm hug personified; desperately trying to hold it together, she’s fierce in her fight to save her family from despair and eviction, especially in her attempts to connect with her daughter. Bautista is a quirky delight as Hannah; an outrageously positive kid, but no goody two-shoes, Hannah knows stuff. Finding her ongoing efforts to help Beans constantly shot down, she must decide if she wants to keep on trying or give up.

Beans’ mom and dad, and friend Hannah constitute the equivalent of her whale pod. And, like the whales that rally around an injured pod mate, they all need to be careful to not get beached along with it.

Love, loss and the struggle to avoid getting beached in the poignant, funny Paradise Comics.

Paradise Comics continues at Kensington Hall until Dec 3; it’s an intimate space, so you may want to book your tix in advance. If you haven’t seen a Filament Incubator production this season, what the heck are you waiting for? Get on over to Kensington Hall.

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Check out the teaser for Paradise Comics:

Passion, perception & revolution in New Ideas thoughtful Week 2 program

NIF 2016Alumnae Theatre continues its 2016 programming for its annual New Ideas Festival (NIF) of short new works with an engaging Week 2 program in the Studio space this week. Here’s what’s happening this week:

Housekeeping (by Jean Koppen, directed by Anne MacMillan). Three cleaners find something unexpected in a wealthy client’s home and their everyday routine is thrown into disarray as they debate the moral and ethical implications of their discover and what to do about it. At times darkly funny, the play highlights the stark realities of class, precarious work and distrust of a justice system that treats the rich differently from the rest of society. Really nice work from the cast: Morna Wales is tough, but fair and circumspect as Arlene, the veteran on the team; Aleksandra Maslennikova’s Jo is sharp, wary and cunningly resourceful; and Behiwot Degefu does a great job with the wide-eyed, irreverent and strong-willed rookie Sweetie.

pose ball (by Caitie Graham, directed by Emily Nixon – presented as the first part of a longer piece). When Cata (Chelsea Muirhead) wakes up with an infected wound on her thigh, foggy memories of a Friday night gradually surface – and she discovers that her boyfriend Jules (Ryota Kaneko) and bff Isa (Jenna Daley) have very different accounts of the evening. Sexy, suspenseful combination of psycho-thriller and avatar gaming, featuring some cool projection design (Adam Evenden). Outstanding work from this threesome. Daley’s Isa is a complex character of contradictions; a super responsible, introspective gamer/computer nerd, there’s an edge of obsession and self-destructiveness about her. As Cata, Muirhead is a spitfire; an energetic, rowdy and loveable brat who enjoys living on the edge for reals. And Kaneko brings the sly and edgy swagger with undertones of dangerous as drug dealer Jules.

War and Peace: A Family Story (by Krystyna Hunt, directed by Rebecca Grace). An unusual family intervention as Sam’s (Joshua Morris) daughter Alison (Veronica Baron), sister Rita (Pat Hawk) and wife Molly (Reva Nelson) conspire and execute a plan to improve his health and well-being. Dark comedy ensues with some hilarious work from the cast, with Morris as the tough as nails former military man; Baron as his peace-loving, but equally tough daughter; Hawk as his wry-witted, health-conscious sister; and Nelson as his artistic wife.

Yeats in Love (by Anne Tait, directed by Jane Carnwath). The tumultuous love affair between William Butler Yeats (Jonathan LeRose) and Maud Gonne (Nina Mason) unfolds as passion, poetry and rebellion meet amidst a nation in turmoil. The two are fierce in love as well as political debate, with some lovely moments from LeRose as the sensitive, circumspect and somewhat pragmatic poet Yeats and the Mason as the fiery, impulsive activist Gonne, who Yeats sees as a modern-day incarnation of mythological figure Kathleen Ni Houlihan. Features some beautiful sound design (Rick Jones) featuring Celtic music.

Passion, perception and revolution in engaging and thoughtful New Ideas Week 2 program.

The Week Two program continues to March 20, with talkbacks following the Saturday matinée performance. Also on Sat, Mar 19 is the noon reading: Curved (by Kristin Shepherd, directed by Rebecca Ballarin).

And there’s one more week of programming to come: Week 3 (Mar 23-27).

For ticket info, visit the website. Tickets can also be reserved by calling the box office at 416-364-4170 (press 1) or in-person one hour before show time (cash only). Advance booking strongly recommended; this is a popular festival and the Studio is an intimate space.

Check out the Week Two trailer: