by Lynn on May 7, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

At various venues, Toronto. Part of the Playwright Project. From a short story by Sam Shepard, adapted and co-directed by Alex McCooeye. Co-directed by Jesse Griffiths. Starring: Jeremiah Sparks, Caitlin Stewart, James Wallis.

The eclectic, spunky Playwright Project continues its series of rotating plays to different neighbourhood venues. I saw Saving Fats tonight (Monday, May 6) at the Cameron House on Queen Street West. Tomorrow, May 7 it plays in Leslieville at the Curzon, 1192   Queen St. E.

Alex McCooeye has adapted Sam Shepard’s short story involving Hurricane Katrina, fantastic blues artist Fats Domino, a TV Reporter trying to do a good story, and the Hat Man (he wears a hat, of course) with lots of stories for anyone who will listen.

Fats Domino is rehearsing for a concert. He laments that he has to use a keyboard because his beloved piano was swept away when Katrina hit. The Hat Man regales anyone in the bar where he is drinking, with lots of stories. He knows Fats and was instrumental in trying to find him in the confusion of Katrina. The Hat Man tries to impress the Reporter when she comes into the bar for a bit of refreshment after the stress of reporting. The Reporter is a young woman trying to get the accent and folksiness right for her TV spot reporting on the hurricane.

McCooeye has captured the flavour of the southern drawl in his adaptation. We get a sense of a wild story-teller in The Hat Man; the obsessed with music, but easy-going artist that is Fats Waller; and the eager to please Reporter.

It’s efficiently directed on the tiny Cameron House by both McCooeye and Jesse Griffiths. The cast is very strong. The hugely talented Jeremiah Sparks flips his fingers over the keyboard and sings out several Fats Domino hits. For the encore the audience is asked to join in. There is a buoyancy, an easy confidence in Sparks’ singing and acting of this giant presence in American blues music. I’ve seen Sparks play Louis Armstrong elsewhere and the result was equally as strong a performance. As the Hat Man, James Wallis is formidable, brimming with the gift of gab that makes you both believe him and discount everything he’s saying. But he is very entertaining. And as the Reporter, Caitlin Stewart is both sceptical of The Hat Man’s come on lines, and eager to please her TV director to deliver.

This is more look at the multi-facetted world of Sam Shepard. Saving Fats is worth a look and so is the Playwright Project.

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