Review: ALPHONSE

by Lynn on August 21, 2020

in The Passionate Playgoer

Written by Wajdi Mouawad

Directed by Alon Nashman

Translated by: Shelley Tepperman

Sound by: Verne Good

Set and Costume by: Lindsay Ann Black

Cast: Kaleb Alexander or Alon Nashman

Alphonse is a perfect play for these times of isolation and uncertainty. The imaginative direction of the production by Alon Nashman and the multi-layered, vibrant performance by Kaleb Alexander are pure joy giving the audience a wonderful opportunity to applaud.

The Story. The play is about Alphonse, a lost boy wandering a road who spins a series of stories, all while various people are looking for him. There are worried parents and siblings; school friends who are concerned; a cop who looks for him and Pierre-Paul René, Alphonse’s fragile, loyal, (imaginary) friend. Each character has a story and a connection to Alphonse and eventually to each other.

The Production. I saw this in Memorial Park, 22 Little Ave. just off Lawrence Ave. W. The ‘boxoffice” staff was welcoming and very helpful in setting up a chair for me. A few chairs are provided. You can bring your own blanket and sit on the ground or bring a chair. I brought a blanket but the chair was better. Each section of the ‘audience’ area is set off with properly distanced circles into which the audience sits. We all seemed eager for live theatre (although truth be told, I saw a live show that afternoon as part of SummerWorks—still a thrill).

The performance takes place on a stage with an overhang. There is a table with a green drop cloth in the centre of it.  Kaleb Alexander, who plays Alphonse, saunters up to the stage to begin. He’s microphoned so not one precious word is lost. He plays more than 20 characters including: the fit adult Alphonse remembering that time when he got lost on his way home; the diminutive, young Alphonse who keeps walking home and not knowing or worried that he’s lost; his worried mother and his not so worried father; his school friends including a young girl who is his girlfriend; the almost waif-like Pierre-Paul René, the strapping, deep-voiced, caring police officer who goes out looking for Alphonse; the cab driver who takes him home and so many others.

Kaleb Alexander segues from character to character with an elegant ease. Each character has a physicality that precisely defines who that person is, complete with maleable voice fluctuations and accents. With just a variation in his voice and a subtle change in physical stature Alexander goes from being a strapping, fit man, to a fragile imaginary friend, to a fraught mother, to a imposing police officer. This is a wonderful, vivid performance that is agile, nimble, funny and sometimes even heart-breaking. It’s a perfect example of the kind of theatre work we have missed for so long.

The production is directed with winking-imagination by Alon Nashman, who knows a thing or two about this play. He’s played Alphonse across the globe for about 20 years. Now he is directing it (and playing Alphonse as well at some performances). The space is well used. Kaleb Alexander climbs on the table to suggest travel, hovers under the green drop cloth as if in a cave. There is a piece of business involving a vacuum cleaner that is pure joy. And it rains in one scene—popcorn!

Playwright Wajdi Mouawad has created a play that is a journey of discovery, a playful adventure for children and a deeper exploration of life, the world and the universe for adults. It asks simple but challenging questions: where are you going? Why do I exist? His play is full of wild adventure, dazzling imagination, joyful revelations and community. Exactly what theatre is.

Comment. I loved the open-hearted aspect of this production and everything surrounding it. Alon Nashman is the artistic director of Theaturtle. He says that he so missed creating theatre that he couldn’t stand not doing it any long so he engaged Kaleb Alexander to play Alphonse and collaborated with Shakespeare in Action to produce it. Bless them all.

Co-presented by Theaturtle and Shakespeare in Action.

DATES: August 20-23 at Memorial Park (22 Little Ave.)

               August 27-30 at Dufferin Grove Park (875 Dufferin). 

For details please go to: theaturtle.com.

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2 Audible review is subscription Worth it? September 19, 2020 at 12:33 am

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