Review: The (Post) Mistress

by Lynn on October 25, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Berkeley Street Theatre, Upstairs, Toronto, Ont.

Book, lyrics and music by Tomson Highway
Directed by John van Burek
Set, props and costumes by Teresa Przybylski
Lighting by Michael Charbonneau
Choreography by Marie-Josée Chartier
Starring: Marcus Ali
Patricia Cano
Tomson Highway

A charming story of love, compassion and remembrance about a beloved post mistress in a small town in Ontario. She has special powers and is played beautifully by Patricia Cano, which means she sings like an angel.

The Story. Marie-Louise Painchaud is a pixie-woman who is the sprightly Post Mistress of the little town of Lovely, Ontario. She joyfully sorts the mail and puts the letters in the post boxes of the town’s folk. She has a special talent. She can hold up the letter to the light and actually see what is written there. She can tell us the ‘gossip’ and details of each of the recipients’ lives. She can tell us the ‘gossip’ and details of each of the recipients’ lives. She knows what woman is seeing what man and where he lives. She knows of heart-ache, joy, celebrations and all the secrets of the town. But she isn’t malicious. She doesn’t blackmail. She has compassion, humour and a beguiling charm.

The Production. The production is a joy for many reasons. First of all Tomson Highway’s book is charming, funny and full of grace. He also wrote the music and lyrics. Because this post office receives mail from all over the world, Highway’s music reflects that. There are songs that are reminiscent of rap, hip hop, country, folk and even jazz. They follow the various letters that Marie-Louise Painchaud is telling us about. The audience is blessed with Patricia Cano as Marie-Louise because Cano plays her with such impish glee that it’s infectious. Not only is Cano a great interpreter of Highway’s song and music, but she has the most wonderful, clear, strong belter of a voice. She is also a gifted, natural comedienne who can handle both physical and psychological humour.

Tomson Highway also plays the piano accompaniment and Marcus Ali plays a mean saxophone. While Tomson Highway sits at a grand piano stage right, he focuses always on The (Post) Mistress, always looking at her as she sings. Getting the subtlest of cues between accompanist/playwright and his star.

The (Post) Mistress is directed by John van Burek with a lot of wit and humour and illumination. He focuses on the play and the wonderful talents of Patricia Cano. There are several scenes of outrageous humour because Cano can pull that off, so Van Burek takes full advantage of that ability. The result is a terrific evening of theatre.

Some of the performances were in French and Cree with English surtitles.

These played until Oct. 23—I must confess I found the surtitles a bit small and occasionally not brightly lit.

Other performances will be in English and Cree with French surtitles and those play from Oct. 25 to Nov. 6.

Comment. The (Post) Mistress is a charming story of love, compassion and remembrance.

Presented by Théâtre Français de Toronto and Pleiades Theatre.

In French and Cree with English Surtitles.
Oct. 14, 2016.– Oct. 23, 2016.

In English and Cree with French Surtitles:
Oct. 25 – Nov. 6, 2016.

Cast: 1 woman, accompanied on the piano and bass by two men.
Running Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes approx.

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