Sneak Preview Review: THE GIGLI CONCERT

by Lynn on April 3, 2014

in The Passionate Playgoer

The Gigli Concert

At the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, Ont. Written by Tom Murphy. Directed by Nancy Palk. Designed by Ken MacKenzie. Lighting by Steven Hawkins. Sound by Paul Humphrey. Starring: Stuart Hughes, Diego Matamoros, Irene Poole.

Produced by Soulpepper Theatre Company at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts.

Irish playwright Tom Murphy burst onto the theatre scene with his first play, A Whistle in the Dark. He was 25 when he wrote it. It’s a play full of anger, frustration, displacement, loneliness and intense emotion. The play is about an Irish family at odds with one of its sons who lives in England. The play is so emotionally forceful that it takes you by the throat and doesn’t let you go until the last gripping moment.

What followed after this stunning debut was play after gripping play that detailed the Irish landscape, it’s history (Famine); coming home from abroad, defeated (Conversations on a Homecoming); a woman at three stages of her life (Alice Trilogy). His beat is Ireland, its people, history, sense of loss and longing.

But in 1975 Murphy had a crisis of faith in theatre and his work it seems when one of his plays met with scathing reviews and audience opposition for it’s anti-Catholic stance. Murphy left the theatre for several years to work as a farmer. In 1983 he came back with The Gigli Concert.

It’s unlike his other plays in that it is almost existential in its sweep;  philosophical in it’s focus and intellectual in its story-telling.

A successful and mysterious businessman visits a self-styled Dynamatologist to help him with his desire to sing like the opera singer Beniamino Gigli. In six days. What follows is the man revealing his fragile state of mind; his explosive anger and his deep love of the music of Gigli. We also realize that the Dynamatologist is a charlatan.

In spite of Murphy’s beautiful use of language, the play is problematic. Talky, preachy, oddly structured. The production deals with these difficulties head on. It is directed with care and sensitivity by Nancy Palk. Her cast is terrific. When you least expect it they illuminate moments of stunning beauty and revelation.

Full review on CIUT FRIDAY MORNING 89.5 fm on Friday, April 4 between 9 am and 10 am.

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