by Lynn on January 12, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following two productions were broadcast Friday, January 11, 2013 on CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, 89.5 FM. THE AMOROUS ADVENTURES OF ANATOL at Tarragon Theatre Mainspace until February 10, 2013 and SOMEONE ELSE at Berkeley Street Theatre, Downstairs until February 2, 2013.

The host was Rose Palmieri

1) Good Friday Morning, it’s time for our theatre hit with Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer.

Hi Lynn. What confections do you have for us this week?

Hi Rose. Confections is right. The first is a Viennese pastry with lots of shlag entitled The Amorous Adventures of Anatol by Austrian playwright, Arthur Schnitzler who wrote it in 1893. Canada’s own Morris Panych has adapted and directed it here.

And as light and flakey as that is, I’m pairing it with the tightly drawn, tart, prickly play Someone Else written by Kristen Thomson.

They are totally different in theme and tone, but both leave us something to chew on….to carry the food metaphor on too long.

2) Ok let’s start with the pastry. Why do you call The Amorous Adventures of Anatol a pastry with shlag?

It’s a light, flakey confection. And since I’m devoted to pastry and whipping cream that’s how I envision this delicacy.

Playwright Arthur Schnitzler set this in Vienna in 1900 and adaptor-Director Morris Panych doesn’t tinker with that time frame at all.

Anatol is a rich, charming playboy who is helplessly in love with every woman he meets it seems. There are seven scenes, each centering around a different woman. The women vary in social strata, personality and type.

There is the sweet young thing who he charms but who is reticent about an affair. There is the coy, coquettish married woman who toys with him as much as he pursues her. The most flamboyant is an actress he has been flirting with and seduces only to learn the next morning that he is about to be married, in two hours, and not to her. She’s none too pleased. But she gets even and suggests a revenge that will please all women.

I call it a pastry with shlag because Anatol is so boyishly clueless but never mean, if you can believe that. He obviously has no self-control when it comes to being charmed by all these ladies, but he also can’t bear to hurt any of them, and tell them something as harsh as the truth.

Such as “there’s someone else.” Witness he and the actress the morning after and his need to dress for his wedding and to leave her there.

He is devoid of guile. I also found in their own way the women were formidable and able to take care of themselves and give back as good as he gives.

3) Do you get a sense of the play’s humour with Morris Panych’s adaptation?

I do. Certainly Morris Panych is a hugely talented playwright in his own right. With The Amorous Adventures of Anatol he respects the framework of Schnitzler and his tone and gentle humour.

Panych’s quirky sense of humour, his particular way with a phrase, only adds to the flakiness of the work. He also has flair as a director as well. Panych has an eye for the subtle, but perfect detail. First of all his frequent set designer is Ken MacDonald who has his own sense of whimsy. The set has a set of double doors up centre full of curlicues so that it looks like the outline of a lion’s face, at least to me.

On either side of those doors are two walls composed of small drawers which at once can form a door; or a bar, but mostly drawers with each being devoted to a former lover. So he puts a picture in one drawer, a letter in another. I recon there might be 200 drawers? Says it all doesn’t it?

4) Is the cast as detailed?

The cast is stellar. You start with Mike Shara as Anatol, a puffed up peacock who preens and carries on without a clue or responsibility to the ladies he charms. And he seems so witless about what he’s doing, that he never learns his lessons, that he charms the audience too.

Playing all the women is Nicole Underhay, who brings out the individuality of each woman be she a shy young thing; a flirty married woman or a sensual, huge spirit such as the actress at the end. Her characters are smart, sharp and while disappointed are resilient.

Robert Persichini plays Max, Anatol’s friend, a psychologist. He’s Anatol’s sounding board but he’s also a man who tries to make him see the light without success. Persichini does humourous wonders with silence, a look and a pair of eye glasses.

And in the part of the various waiters and servants, Adam Paolozza is fastidious and hilarious in this almost silent part.

The Amorous Advenures of Anatol is delicious Viennese pastry with whipping cream.

5) And now tell us about the tart, prickly play Someone Else.

It’s written by Kristen Thomson who also acts in the play. She wrote the very successful I, Claudia.

Someone Else is something else entirely. Hard hitting, perceptive, angry, raw at times and compelling.

It’s about Cathy, a stand-up comedienne and her doctor husband Peter. They’ve been married for 18 years and the marriage is in trouble. Neither is sure if he/she loves the other. They go to a marriage counsellor. Painful revelations come out. She thinks he’s having an affair with a teenaged patient named April. Peter denies it. Cathy rages almost all the time. Reason is not her forte.

Peter tries to be patient and understanding but he’s fed up. Then something happens with their daughter Vanessa and their relationship changes.

6) With all that rage, is it easy to watch? What is Thomson exploring here?

Theatre is sometimes difficult to watch, but that doesn’t mean we ignore it. I have loved Thomson’s work since I, Claudia and I’m intrigued by the things that interest her. With Someone Else we do know those characters who drift apart. Who are angry perhaps because they are unhappy, dissatisfied.

This is a marriage in distress with one partner being more at fault than the other. Certainly Cathy is relentless in her mis-placed fury with her husband.

He can’t talk to her about his thoughts so he talks to April, a damaged teenaged soul. They are not having an affair. I am mighty impressed with Thomson’s and unflinching view in the play.

She gives a fierce performance of a character who is angry and lost. As Peter, Tom Rooney brings his quiet grace to this man who is unhappy in his own way for his own reasons. April is a tough teen and is played beautifully by Bahia Watson—full of street smarts, but wounded. As Vanessa the daughter, Nina Taylor is all confidence, moves like a dancer and has that slight smugness of a harried kid.

There is a physically, vocally, perhaps mentally damaged character named David—who I think is unnecessary from the context of this story. David represents Peter’s past, when he was an anarchist. Peter did something that caused David to be so physically hurt. This event changed Peter into the person he is today.

The reason I feel the character is unnecessary to this story is because we have never seen Peter when he was a youth and a different person. We only see him with Cathy, April and Vanessa. I think the scene with David is jarringly out of place in the play. But David is played with astonishing clarity and precision by Damien Atkins.

It’s directed by Chris Abraham and is full of his sensitive, perceptive detail.

Someone Else shimmers with heightened emotion. There are so many scenes that are gut-wrenching. At one point Vanessa has not come home and Cathy and Peter are frantic. While Peter calls the police on his cell phone, Cathy calls a friend to find out if Vanessa is there. Added to that is that both Cathy and Peter interrupt their own calls (they are in the same room) to query each other. It’s a masterful dance of timing, frustration and anxiety.

There is a wonderful sense of danger in Someone Else from the frayed relationships; what can happen when one person believes the other is cheating or lying; and just being worn down by depression.

Someone Else is not easy, but I have rarely heard such silence from an opening night audience listening as hard as they did. It’s got bite and lots of food for thought.

Thanks Lynn. That’s Lynn Slotkin our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can read Lynn’s blog at

The Amorous Adventures of Anatol plays at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace until February 10.

Someone Else plays at the Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs until February 2.

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