Love in all its complex, messy, glorious forms in Love Between the Lines

Chelsea Riesz, Lisa Alves, Courtney Lamanna, Joella Crichton, Mercy Cherian & Cathy Huang—rehearsal photo courtesy of Jenna Borsato


HERstory Counts opened its second season at Red Sandcastle Theatre last night with Love Between the Lines, written and performed by the ensemble, and directed by Co-Artistic Producer/Co-Artistic Director Jennifer Neales, assisted by Ellie Posadas, with dramaturgy by Co-Artistic Producer/Co-Artistic Director Evangelia Kambites.

For those of you not familiar with HERstory Counts, it’s a company that produces true stories, performed by the creators themselves, offering a space to challenge and push past the ideals of the status quo. We feature and celebrate female-identified womyn of all backgrounds, all ages, all races, all histories, all sizes, all sexual orientations, and all abilities.”

Featuring autobiographical storytelling from six writer/performers, Love Between the Lines is an examination of love in its various forms and incarnations, each story weaving seamlessly in and out of the other. Joella Crichton’s exploration of the stages of grief following a break-up; Chelsea Riesz discovering sins of the father in her relationship dynamics; Cathy Huang’s love letter to a kindred spirit grandmother; Lisa Alves navigating identity and the complicated, close-knit ties with her mother; Courtney Lamanna connecting the dots as she recognizes and strives to break the cycle of abusive relationships; and Mindy Kaling doppelganger Mercy Cherian’s undying love for a dying, ever protective father.

Told with vulnerability, humour and courage, the storytelling is up close and personal—candidly revealing all the maddening, heartbreaking, messy struggle, comfort and elation of these relationships. Incorporating memory, personal insight and even confession, each actor plays out her truth on a bare stage; her story animated by the other actors, who deftly transform into parents, lovers, inner selves, a tarot card reader and even—most hilariously—goofy, fiercely protective street dogs in India. These stories move you to laughter, tears and even maybe your own a-ha moment. These stories resonate.

With shouts to Stage Manager Mariah Ventura, Creative/Production Assistant Robin Luckwaldt and Production Manager Jenna Borsato for their work on this production.

Love in all its complex, messy, glorious forms in Love Between the Lines.

Love Between the Lines continues at Red Sandcastle, with performances tonight, Saturday and Sunday night at 7:30pm, and a 2:30pm matinee on Sunday. Get your advance tickets online or purchase at the door half an hour before show time. Advance booking recommended; it’s an intimate space and last night’s opening was a packed house.

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New Ideas Fest opens with a very strong Week One program

Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival (NIF) turned 25 last night as it kicked off its opening night of three weeks of new, short plays in progress with its Week One program.

NIF Week One includes a remount of Shirley Barrie’s Revelation, directed by its original director and NIF co-founder Molly Thom – part of the 25th anniversary celebrations. Husband and wife John (Steven Burley) and Mary (Patricia Hawk) awaken side by side in the hereafter and become reacquainted as they await their final judgement. Charming, imaginative and funny – and featuring sound design by the late Martin Wolfman, a great friend to the theatre and Alumnae in particular – Revelation is as more about the post big freeze personal accounting of lives lived than it is about the Big Guy’s take on things.

Still Waters (Suzanne Gauthier, directed by Stacy Halloran) is also a sweet, fun husband/wife two-hander. After downsizing from their quiet Leaside home to a condo in downtown Toronto, Frank (John Illingworth) has set up a sleep aid contraption for his wife Monica (Sandra Burley) – with the unfortunate result that it’s having the opposite effect for which it was intended. The  parts (purchased at the classic “Dad store” Canadian Tire) and running water sound are driving Monica nuts! A comic, touching slice of an older couple’s life.

Say the Words (Tina McCulloch, directed by Kimberley Radmacher) is a beautifully written and acted monologue of a young woman’s (Em, played by Alexandra Manea) reflections on love and loss. Words spoken and unspoken are recalled, and interpretations considered as Em remembers the relationship and considers how she could have responded in a way that reflected how she really felt. Speaking to a former female lover, now dead, the actor can be cast as a man or a woman – and the piece has room to evolve in terms of length and staging.

Stalled (Eugenie Carabatsos, directed by NIF co-founder Kerri MacDonald) takes us on a journey of memory as Maggie (Julie Cohn) takes her beloved car to be junked. As she recalls various moments from her life related to the car (also a character in the play), we meet her family (Dad – Rob Candy and sister Katie – Jillian Welsh), friends and ex-boyfriends (Johnnie – Richard Niu and Doug – Alex Sims), and a friendly stranger (Mark – Andrew T. Gaunce) as this drive down memory lane becomes an assessment of her life. Great ensemble work and really fun, creative staging of the car – which you really need to see for yourself.

A very strong week of work all around, NIF’s Week One program runs until Sunday, March 10 and includes a one-time reading of Jamie Johnson’s Falling, directed by Ed Rosing, on Saturday, March 9 at noon. There will be talkbacks after all the NIF readings and Saturday matinées.

NIF continues with its Week Two program next week (March 13-17).