by Lynn on February 25, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Streamed live, digitally, produced by Factory Theatre, Feb. 24-March 5.

Written and performed by Augusto Bitter, Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman, Rosa Laborde and Anita Majumdar

Directed by Nina Lee Aquino

Set by Camellia Koo

Costumes by Joyce Padua

Lighting by Michelle Ramsay

Sound and composer, Mikael Bensimon

Broadcast designer and operator, Miquelon Rodriguez

Terrific in so many ways. Funny, insightful and deeply moving.

Nina Lee Aquino, the mighty Artistic Director of Factory Theatre, had an idea to engage four gifted theatre writers to create four personal pieces, about what ‘home’ means to them, that they would also perform in their homes, under the umbrella title of “Year of the Rat.” Each piece was performed and filmed in one room in each writer/performer’s home, directed by Nina Lee Aquino. The results are streamed digitally, on line until March 5.

While the most recent “Year of the Rat” was technically 2020, one can extend that ‘year’ to the time of the pandemic that kept people indoors, often against their will, sometimes not; had them thinking about who they were, who they thought they were and how that changed.

Three of the pieces are very personal, dealing with the lives of the writers, their joys, losses, regrets, despairs, uncertainty and quirky humour. One seemed a flight of fancy about a wannabe Instagram influencer, that in a way was a personal story as well. There were rats too.

Abuelita! Abuelita! (Grandma! Grandma!)

By Rosa Laborde

Rosa Laborde writes from her bedroom. It was supposed to be from the kitchen but she heard a noise and, well, the “Year of the Rat” turned out to be something like foreshadowing. Laborde writes of the joy-stress of giving birth, living in cramped quarters until she and her husband and baby move to a roomier apartment and she writes of ‘abuelita,’ her Grandmother who was from Chile, a formidable woman. Laborde writes of her parents’ breakup; living in Ottawa when she was a kid, and how much she missed her Grandmother when she (the Grandmother) went to Chile for a visit.

Laborde is an engaging performer, charming, funny and moving. She is a wonderful writer. She had to go to Chile on her Grandmother’s behalf to get some things and describes that “she had the smell of her homeland on my skin.” That is an image that is intoxicating and full of heartache. Laborde writes of being Jewish and notes a time during the war when the Canadian government’s immigration policy regarding how many Jews to admit into the country was: “None is too many.” A line that always makes me weep.  

Abuelita! Abuelita!  is a beautiful piece of writing, wonderfully performed. Nina Lee Aquino directed this with such sensitivity and wit.

Stairway to Heaven

By Augusto Bitter

Augusto Bitter is a buoyant, expressive performer who is anxious to go out for a night of karaoke if only he can find the proper shoes. He performs his piece in the tight confines of the hallway just at the bottom of the stairs that lead up to his apartment in the house he shares with friends.  He goes through the racks of shoes at the side of the hall, looking at and throwing the shoes behind him, up the stairs. There are sandals; ones with heels; boots; brogues; funky boots. None seem right. He talks of his sexual encounters in Europe; he talks of his father coming from Venezuela. He muses on home and how he feels he should move but doesn’t. Hiding under all that energetic bravura is uncertainty about what home is and where he belongs and where can he find acceptance, love, belonging. It’s a performance that makes you sit back the energy is so huge in the telling. Dandy.

Want Now.

By Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman

Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman performs her piece, Want Now, in her attic, where she goes for solace, peace and to write. She is often found and ‘captured’ by her toddler son who wants whatever he wants NOW and doesn’t stop saying “Want Now!” until he gets it. She lives in the house with her husband, son and father. She works under a lot of stress, trying to create, trying to be a good wife and mother and feeling she is failing. Corbeil-Coleman feels she is “a bad actor in my life.” She feels her heart is racing all the time. She tells her stories at break-neck speed to such an extent that one wants her to slow down. The point is, she is talking as fast as her heart is racing. It’s a wonderful bit of direction from Nina Lee Aquino.

Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman has had a lot of sadness to contend with. When she was 15, she lost her mother, writer Carol Corbeil to cancer. Corbeil-Coleman coped by writing about the experience, (Scratch)  starting her on her career as a writer. Writer Linda Griffiths became Corbeil-Coleman’s surrogate mother/confidante. The bond was strong until Griffiths died of cancer when Corbeil-Coleman was 29. In a sense, she lost her mother twice.  Life experiences have deepened Corbeil-Coleman’s perceptions of the world, herself and her place in that world. Her performance is witty, quirky, self-deprecating and totally engaging. I loved being breathless through this moving memoir.   

Candice the Cosmic Snitch

By Anita Majumdar

Candice is in her bathroom. She wears a bad red wig, bright red lipstick and a sweatshirt that says “Positive Energy.” She talks in the lingo of the Instagram influencer, wanting to be important and ‘liked.’ She references: being a ‘hop on-hop off bus guide, ‘the prophet Joe Rogan (!), the men who disappoint her, living in St. Catharines and the many and various texts she receives while she’s talking to us. They appear on our screens as well as hers. For Candice it’s all a pose when she finally takes off her wig revealing her own dark hair. She knows she is trying to be someone she is not.

Anita Majumdar has created an intriguing character in Candice, with her own language that echoes the stuff of the internet. On the one hand Candice is superficial but then there is depth to her despair at the disappointment she has felt in that fast-paced-click-if-you-like-me world.   

Year of the Rat is terrific in so many ways. And the fact that the evening started exactly when it said it would at 7:30 pm was so heartening for the future when we return in person.

Produced by Factory Theatre.

Plays on line, until: March 5, 2022.

Running Time: 90 minutes.

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.