by Lynn on October 27, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Factory Theatre Mainspace, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Claudia Dey

Directed by Mumbi Tindeybwa Otu

Set and costumes by Shannon Lea Doyle

Lighting by Raha Javanfar

Sound by David Mesiha

Cast: Shakura Dickson

Natasha Mumba

Stephen Jackman-Torkoff

NOTE: What an interesting juxtaposition seeing Claudia Dey’s wildly inventive 2005 play Trout Stanley the day after seeing Eugène Ionesco’s 70 year old absurdist play The Bald Soprano.

Ionesco was writing about the banality of a repetitive life, the loss of conversation, stale relationships. His dialogue is still vivid and challenging today. Claudia Dey writes about a life in isolation, the closeness of twins when a triplet is missing, the effect of being an orphan and being stunned with love. Her dialogue is no less arresting and challenging too.

The Story. Sugar and Grace Ducharme are twin sisters celebrating their 30th birthday. It is bitter sweet. There was a third Ducharme sister who would have made the girls triplets, but the third baby died at birth. The Ducharme girls’ parents died 10 years before and since then Sugar has worn her mother’s track suit every single day. She has not gone out of the house in years. She occupies her time creating figurines that have a tragic countenance. Grace is the breadwinner. She works at the dump and is also a model for a billboard near town. They are devoted to each other.  Sugar is quiet and demur. Grace is boldly confident and enters a room with a rush and conviction. Sugar notes that someone always dies on their birthday so they are waiting to see who that might be. It could be the stripper-Scrabble champion who has gone missing a few days before. And then there is Trout Stanley, yes, he’s a fellah.  Trout (his parents obviously had a fishy sense of humour) is an orphan. His parents drowned in a lake and he has been trying to find it for years. He actually happened upon Sugar and Grace’s house and broke in looking for food which he found in the fridge. He then came back the next day to find Sugar about to do something he thought he should stop. They fall in love. Instantly. And then Grace comes home.

The Production.  Shannon Lea Doyle has envisioned a well-kept house for the Ducharme girls. Sugar is home and keeps the place immaculate. Her brown figurines line up along the top of the walls of the set, on tables and on shelves. Doors are not locked here so Trout simply walked through the front door in the middle of the night. He comes back the next day by the glass door on the living room side where he interrupts Sugar about to do something drastic.

Director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu has directed a production that goes like the wind in capturing the essence of Claudia Dey’s wild, absurdist play. The dialogue is both poetic and often off-the-wall-loopy. The result is a play that is both hilarious and moving.

Sugar Ducharme (Shakura Dickson) is the first to appear. She is preparing a birthday dinner for herself and Grace. Sugar plays a record to which she dances with abandon as if no one is watching, because they aren’t. Shakura Dickson imbues Sugar with a sweetness (sorry, I couldn’t resist even though I should have) and a calmness. She is not bothered by the outside world because she never ventures out. There is love and tenderness between her and Grace. For her part, Natasha Mumba as Grace doesn’t so much come into a room as much as she bursts into it. She is at the ready with a watchful stance, ready to pounce on any one who gets in her way. She wears camouflage shorts and boots over which are her work overalls. Her speech is quick, deliberate and definite. She has been in the real world and she is prepared for everything. She has urged Sugar to go out. She has urged Sugar to stop wearing their mother’s track suit.

As Trout Stanley, Stephen Jackman-Torkoff (who identifies as “they/them”) is lanky, moves like a fleet-footed dancer and yet looks like a man who has been in the wild for a long time. They have a shock of wild black hair and an unruly beard. They wear worn clothes and is barefoot. Trout has been on his own for so long yet out in public. It’s an interesting mix and Jackman-Torkoff portrays a man who is earnest, fragile and wily. Trout is a man who says he never lies. Finding Sugar and loving her is a revelation for both of them. But his presence has disrupted the emotional balance in the sisters’ lives.

Comment.  Playwright Claudia Dey has created three characters who grapple with isolation in their own way. They are also articulate in their own way. But I found listening to their various ways of expression; their odd combinations of phrases sounded the same after a while. Perhaps this is Dey commenting on how isolation not only separates people, but also joins them together. Not sure. And does it really need to be pointed out that this is the first production of the play with an all black cast also directed by a woman of colour? The cast and director are terrific in realize the humour and heart of the play. Talent is talent.

Factory Theatre presents:

Opened: Oct. 24, 2019.

Closes: Nov. 10, 2019.

Running Time: 90 minutes, approx.

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