by Lynn on June 20, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Box Theatre, 89 Niagara St. Toronto, Ont.

Written by Julian R. Munds
After Thomas Middleton and William Rowley’s The Changeling
Directed by Harrison Thomas
Set by Claire Hill
Costumes by Claire Hill and Julia Matias
Lighting by Imogen Wilson
Sound by Tallan Byram & Co.
Cast: Prince Amponsah
Tallan Byram
John Chou
Edward Heeley
Lauren Horejda
Carissa Kaye
Sebastian Marshall
Timothy Ng
Miquelon Rodriguez

Another gritty production by the sparky Desiderata Theatre Company, stylishly directed by Harrison Thomas.

The Story. Changeling; a Grand Guignol for Murderous Times by Julian R. Munds is based on the bloody play The Changeling by Thomas Middleton and William Rowleys written in the 1620s.

Beatrice Vermandero is promised in marriage to Alonzo Di Piracquo by her father. She loves another, namely, Alsemero who comes courting. So she gets one of the servants, Deflores, to kill Alonzo, thus leaving room for Alsemero. Deflores is also in love with Beatrice but she finds him physically disgusting.

This is a thriller of a story. It involves lust, revenge, murder, blackmail, sex and amoral behaviour. In the original it also involved subplots, but for the purposes of Julian R. Munds’s new play: Changeling; a Grand Guignol for Murderous Times many of the subplots are cut. Munds focuses on the murderous minds at the time and how love makes people so crazy they do drastic things like murder a rival or anyone who gets in the way.

Social status kept people separate in the context of the play. Deflores is a servant and Beatrice wouldn’t look at him twice. His looks repelled her in any case and she is always aware of her social standing. Her father wants her to marry a nobleman with money—Alonzo di Piracquo. She wants to marry a dashing man with long, wavy hair—Alsemero. But as we know, lust and love are not confined by social strata. And never underestimate cunning, ruthless people. Beatrice is one and so is Deflores.

And how prophetic is the title: Changeling A Grand Guignol for Murderous Times—Murderous Times indeed. Grand Guignol is the term that defines horror shows, whether in theatre or film.

The Production. The venue where Changeling A Grand Guignol for Murderous Times is called “The Box” because it’s like a box of a theatre. It’s on Niagara Street, in the Bathurst-Queen area. You get to it by walking down a dark laneway—don’t be put off—into a lit courtyard, up some metal stairs into a small lobby and a theatre that’s a bit bigger.

It’s directed by Harrison Thomas. This young man has imagination and smarts for days. I’ve seen a few of his previous productions and I’m always amazed at how he creates the world of the play in small places.

Several moveable screens and a large cupboard are the props (bravo to Claire Hill as always). When the screens are moved it suggests a change of location. They represent hiding places creating intrigue. They are good places behind which you can slash someone to death. A character singing music evokes Spain in the 1620s.

Harrison Thomas has a sense of economy and spareness in his productions. He does not go in for the showy pyrotechnics or the clever concept. He is just true to the text.

The acting is strong in some cases but not all. I found Edward Heeley as Beatrice’s father to be too tentative. He hesitates so often I thought he doesn’t know his lines.

As Alsemero, Sebastian Marziali has dashing flair but again, his acting is stiff occasionally.

But as Beatrice, Lauren Horejda uses allure and wily ways to get what she wants. She gets her comeuppance when she comes under the spell of Deflores played by the courtly, graceful Prince Amponsah. He wears a prosthetic device that is part chainmail and part sword. It certainly gives one pause. As played by Amponsah, De Flores talks quietly because he doesn’t have to raise his voice. He is a vengeful killer but Amponsah makes him even attractive and that’s scary.

In the dual roles of Priest/Stagehand, Tallan Byram does the haunting singing. When he’s cleaning up blood as the Stage Manager he wears a sign on his back that says, “Ignore Me” and we do.

Once again, Desiderata Theatre Company finds a rarely done play, shines a light on it and presents an intriguing production.

Comment. Desiderata Theatre Company is scrappy, tenacious and always presents compelling theatre.

Presented by the Desiderata Theatre Company

Plays to June 26, 2016.
Cast: 9; 7 men, 2 women.
Running Time: 2 hours.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.