by Lynn on May 14, 2014

in The Passionate Playgoer

Three World Premieres

BMO Incubator Space, The Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. W, Toronto, Ont.

Background: Three companies devoted to physical theatre, were given an opportunity to develop their shows with the support and encouragement of Why Not Theatre, and Theatre Smith Gilmour at The Theatre Centre.

All three shows were intriguing in their own way.

Ralph and Lina

Written by Michelle Smith, Dan Watson and Christina Serra. Performed by Dan Watson and Christina Serra. Directed by Michele Smith Gilmour.

Produced by Ahuri Theatre.

The Story. This is a true story based on the life of Christine Serra’s grandparents, Raphaele and Carolina. They met in their native Italy; fell in love and planned to marry. But then the war broke out and Raphaele went to war. He was captured unbeknownst to Carolina and for years she didn’t know where he was. It’s a harrowing story full of sweetness, humour and bravery.

The Production. A dress hangs down from the flies. A shirt is on a hanger suspended over there. Raphaele and Lina are two old marrieds who bicker over who gets the newspaper and why do they always have to have eggs for breakfast. They scurry around puttering, but then he puts her on his shoulders, positions her under the dress whereupon she slips up, into it. And then he puts her down. He goes to put on his shirt and she helps him with a sleeve and they both get tangled up in a tango of tangle.

Then the story flashes back to when these two met, fell in love and their lives together began. The movement is exuberant and graceful; the acting is quite wonderful too. His efforts not to worry her when he’s in terrifying situations in war are both moving and compelling. Their happiness (I’m not giving anything away) is hard won and true. She is more pragmatic but still has her moments of whimsy. Michele Smith Gilmour adds her directorial flair to the whole mix. Joyous.

Business as Usual

Created and performed by Viktor Lukawski, Adam Paolozza and Nicholas Di Gaetano. Directed by Viktor Lukawski.

Produced by ZOU Theatre Company.

The Story. In his director’s program note, Viktor Lukawski says that the inspiration for Business as Usual came from Albert Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus”—about men doing the same job ‘and his fate is no less absurd’. Referencing Camus should tell you how serious and deeply thought this brooding and even funny show is. They also explored ‘the death drive’ of the corporate world, that men were literally killing themselves because of the pressure to succeed. But then a new reference point appeared–the many suicides in the financial sector. Suddenly what the three creators has imagined was now coming true.

The corporate world. Men in suits and ties working frantically, making angry calls, arguing with colleagues, being overwhelmed with work and then quietly climbing out the office window, on to the ledge and finally jumping off. The other workers are upset at the passing (jumping?) of their friend. But then they vie for the jumper’s job or office. Or they are bullied by a boss who has them working overtime and the lengths they will go to appease him. There are shades of Hitchcock, Lynch, Polanski and the Coen Brothers in this dark piece. The vignettes cover every kind of office situation; the manoeuvrings; the power tripping; the games playing.

The Production. There are three moveable set pieces each with a window and blinds that cover them. The blinds are manipulated up and down with efficiency, sometimes to reveal the frantic world on the inside, or to allow a man to escape to the ledge and then jump. Two men each called Johnson sit at desks facing each other. The bully, insensitive boss pits one against the other to see who will beat whom for a better job. They are colleagues but also in competition with each other. It’s interesting to see how low each will sink to please the boss.

The scenes are short, efficient and powerful in conveying their message. The three performers are all gifted in physical theatre and are also accomplished in acting with the written word. The ever present windows raise our awareness of what is going on in those offices and how frightening it is when the men leave those offices, usually by the window. Inventive and sobering.

Death Married My Daughter

Written by Michele Smith, Dean Gilmour, Danya Buonastella and Nina Gilmour. Directed by Michele Smith and Dean Gilmour. Performed by Danya Buonastella and Nina Gilmour.

Produced by Play It Again Productions.

The Story. Desdemona and Ophelia come back from the dead after all these years looking for ‘closure’, perhaps a kind of justice. They blame men for their deaths: Othello for Desdemona’s death, and Hamlet in a way for Ophelia’s death, when he shunned her and told her he never loved her. As the directors’ program note says that the two women have been ‘resurrected by their desire to expose the ‘abusers’ and ‘murderers’, they would revel in denouncing “Man”, they would destroy, with delight, the established values of a Man’s society….described as a biting Bouffon-inspired satire that puts “Man” and his cheerleaders on trial.” Bouffon is a type of physical type of farceur involving mimicry.

The Performance. Both Desdemona and Ophelia slither out onto the stage, marvelling in an exaggerated voice that they are at last on a real theatre stage and they are excited to be there. They are both a fright. Exaggerated make-up—frizzed hair to out here, white face. They play each other’s death scenes and recite the words of the men who abused them. They also denounce a world in which men have been the aggressors and perpetrators of much wrong in the world.

The two women then give birth—a vivid image of the two women from the back, grunting and groaning, legs spread, and then a ‘baby’ drops to the floor. They cradle their babies. They stroke them. Then with long tongs each woman grips each baby length wise and turns them slowly, as if on a rotisserie. They rip the baby apart, tear the head off and stick it onto a long spike—perhaps part of the tongs.

Then they revert back to the slithering Desdemona and Ophelia, and slide across the stage again, towards a light off-stage. Certainly vivid performances from Danya Buonastella and Nina Gilmour.

Comment. I’ve seen Death Married My Daughter twice, and I must confess I am mystified as to what the theme is. I did read the program note. The intension is certainly serious, it’s the execution that leaves me puzzled. It seems too simple to use Desdemona and Ophelia as the ones seeking revenge on “Man’ and the “abusers” and “murderers” since in their two cases it’s not cut and dried.

And it’s the women who gave birth here, and then destroyed those babies with glee and relish, in the most horrific way, not men. I’m glad I saw it again. It’s just that it still left me puzzled about its point.

Opened: April 17, 2014
Closed: May 18, 2014
Cast: varies according to the show.
Running Time: Generally an hour, with two 15 minute intermissions.

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