Reviews: The Cure for Everything and Trillium, A Broadway Trio Cabaret

by Lynn on October 5, 2020

in The Passionate Playgoer

Performed live in a backyard of a private home in Barrie, Ont.

Part of The Plural of She Festival offered through Talk is Free Theatre.

The Cure for Everything

Played Oct. 2, 3, 2020.

Created and performed by Maja Ardal

Directed by Mary Francis Moore

This is the continuation of Elsa’s story, begun in You Fancy Yourself. Maya Ardal has created a vibrant, wildly funny play about a precocious 15 year-old-girl who wants to rush through life’s various milestones in the face of a nuclear threat to the world.

The Cure for Everything is a splendid ending to The Plural of She Festival, a wonderful festival of plays that ‘reflect our world through the woman’s and non-binary lens. Kudos to Maja Ardal for curating such a wonderful festival, bristling with ideas and wonderful talent.

It’s 1962, Scotland, and fifteen-year-old Elsa goes through life, desperate for the most popular boy in her class to be charmed by her; to be accepted by the group of popular girls and to be the friend of the most popular girl in the school. But she has to ramp things up to warp speed when her parents hear on the radio there is a threat of a nuclear war between the Russians and the Americans over Cuba.

Elsa has a list of things to do in life: loose her virginity, become famous, have a baby etc. and goes about ticking items off the list before the world blows up. While the details are particular to Elsa in Scotland, the play has a universal appeal and resonance anywhere in the world that there are shy girls trying to fit in.

Maja Ardal is a wonderful writer, gifted in the quirky juxtaposition of words to capture the quick mind of a 15-year-old girl with a vivid imagination. Ardal enters the backyard space wearing a school uniform of a blazer, white shirt and tie, skirt, black tights and black comfortable shoes. She is eager to please and smiling. She flits effortlessly from character to character. There are the snooty members of the ‘in crowd’ to which Elsa longs to belong. There is the sharp voiced, agitated old woman who harps at her when Elsa doesn’t serve her quickly enough—Elsa works in a butcher shop on the weekend, the old woman is a customer. And there is Sheena, the coolest, most popular girl in the school; knowing, aware and sexually knowledgeable who has a terrible secret. Ardal just glides through the line revealing Sheena’s secret, leaving us just enough time to swallow hard and be heartsick.

Under Mary Francis Moore’s careful, fearless direction Ardal skillfully navigates the small space and reveals the many adventures Elsa gets up to. She gets drunk in a pub; is picked up by an older, pushy man; almost gets into trouble, and takes the audience along with her every scary step of the way.

For the purposes of time Ardal had to cut the play The Cure For Everything to just a bit longer than an hour. I saw the show in its entirety several years ago indoors in another theatre. The play is a gem and works beautifully in both the long and shorter version. It’s a look into the trials and tribulations of a teen who just wants to be liked, fit in, and accelerate growing up. We can all identify. One of the play’s many glories.

Because of safety precautions, the last play, E-Transfers (created and performed by Gabe Maharjan and Merlin Simard) had to be cancelled because one of the actors was coming in from out of province. It’s a play centering on the digital trans community of the characters. I would love to see that one, as I was glad to see all the ones I did see.


A Broadway Trio Concert.

Outdoors, on a lawn in Barrie, Ont.

About a half-hour after the end of The Cure For Everything (in one backyard) many of us went around the corner to sit on the front lawn of another private residence to listen to a wonderful concert of Broadway show tunes sung by three gifted singers.

The talented trio are: Heather McGuigan, Billy Lake and Aidan Desalaiz. Individually each is a powerful singer-song stylist. Together they are a winning combination of beautiful singing, easy banter and charm. The concert was impeccably presented and acted with flourishes of humour, good will and generosity. They offered a cross section of songs from the best of Broadway: “Me and the Sky” (Come From Away), “Mr. Cellophane” (Chicago), “Bring Him Home” (Les Misérables), “No One Is Alone” (Into the Woods) etc.  

When the pandemic closed the theatres Billy Lake was in the fourth preview of Kinky Boots for Drayton Entertainment in Cambridge and Heather McGuigan and Aidan Desalaiz were in rehearsals for Wendy and Peter Pan and Spamalot at the Stratford Festival. Through her company, “Heather’s Garden Variety”, Heather McGuigan organized the concert with her two colleagues. The good theatre-going people of Barrie did the rest.  

The concert was given on the lawn of one home with the audience urged to come (it was free to the audience!) and bring chairs, blankets, dress warmly etc. The next door neighbours put chairs along the joint driveway; neighbours across the street and beside them as well placed their chairs near the curb in order to hear better. I reckon about 50 people sat and watched. Those good theatre-going people of Barrie can teach us a thing or two about supporting our local theatre.

I heard whispering behind me. You know how I hate that. Drives me crazy. I turned sharply to get the attention of the offending noise-maker. There behind me was a toddler sprawled on the grass watching and listening, with the child’s father whispering (perhaps telling the child to be quiet? I didn’t see if it was a boy or girl). When I saw it was a toddler I lightened up. That child did not make one sound—the parent was the whisperer and it was unnecessary. A terrific, wonderful way to end a lovely, if nippy, day ‘at’ the theatre.

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