by Lynn on December 8, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Commons, 587a College St., Toronto, Ont.

Written by Erin Courtney

Directed by Jay Turvey

Set and costumes by Christine Urquhart

Composed by Paul Sportelli

Sound by James Smith

Lights by Mikael Kangas

Cast: Julia Course

Cameron Grant

Jeff Irving

Catherine McGregor

A quirky, odd and compelling production.

Alice (Catherine McGregor) is a magnet for the insecure, the overexcited, the narcoleptic and those deemed to be troublemakers. Alice motivates her followers to find their truth and run with it. She holds seminars for those followers who want to find their way. She encourages even the most questionable people, seeing only the positive in everybody. Her office manager is John (Jeff Irving), trim in a stylish suit and tie, who always thinks of making money and growing the company, even though Alice is not that interested. John is the narcoleptic. Louise (Julia Course), oddly dressed in miss-matched clothes, applies for a temp job at Alice’s office after she had a melt-down as an art history teacher. Louise comes under Alice’s wing and soon takes over for her leading the seminars. Arthur (Cameron Grant) is a young man who used to be in Louise’s art class, quit and is now an intern in Alice’s office.

When Alice’s beliefs are shattered because of an incident, she is unhinged in life and unseated in the office by the ambitious John and the newly confident Louise. Arthur realizes that all that Alice stood for and seemingly was supported by her staff of two, is now in jeopardy. John goes after making money and Louise flips the meaning of Alice’s positive message into something more ominous.  It’s left to Arthur to continue Alice’s message in his own way.

American writer Erin Courtney has written a quirky, odd play that riffs on the burgeoning self-help business. At its core is an interesting, reasonable message: to follow your truth and find the positive in the world. It’s interesting to see how greed and fear also appear to drive people in the play and that too is compelling to watch.

The cast and creatives of Theatre Animal Company, that is producing this compelling production, are members of the Shaw festival both past and present. Their work is dandy. Jay Turvey as director and Christine Urquhart as designer have created an economical production that flows seamlessly from scene to scene.

There is a wonderfully telling bit of business in which Alice instructs both John and Louise to move their desks together so that they are facing each other, interacting, connecting in the work place. When Alice is out of the picture John takes over and separates the desks so that he is in his own separate space and Louise is in hers; they don’t interact or seem to connect. John goes on to grow the company as he sees fit and Louise, now transformed into a stylishly dressed, frighteningly confident speaker with an unsettling message.

Catherine McGregor as Alice, is calm, focused and draws everybody in. Her gaze and conviction that everybody can be their best, is almost hypnotic. The body language is poised, open and trusting. When she loses her way she is almost fetal in her position in a chair, meek and completely unhinged. Julia Course as Louise is careless in dress and attitude as a teacher out of her element and a temp in Alice’s office. She transformed into a confident, take-no-prisoners person when she ‘spiffs-up,’ dresses for success and finds she rocks as a speaker. Jeff Irving, always a tight smile as John, is driven (except when he nods off in the middle of a sentence), efficient, and a corporate animal. This is a smooth operator. Cameron Grant plays Arthur as a sweet, often lost, but eventually found, confident man who believes in Alice’s mantra. He is the one character who is able to carry on from where Alice left off.

Paul Sportelli, the gifted music director of the Shaw Festival provides the music. Besides composing for the production he also programmed Vivaldi’s “Summer” from his  “Four Seasons” as the signature music for the production. Brilliant and impish. The music is frenzied, full of heat, distraction and stuff to race the heart. Perfect for Alice the Magnet.

Last year Theatre Animal Company presented the equally compelling play Grimly Handsome. This year they invite you to join them for Alice the Magnet. Feel the pull. Give in. See it.

Theatre Animal Company presents:

Closes: Dec. 9, 2018.

Running Time: 90 minutes.



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