by Lynn on November 10, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Factory Theatre, Mainspace, Toronto, Ont. until Nov. 13.

Written by Marie Beath Badian

Directed by Nina Lee Aquino

Choreography by Andrea Mapili

Set and costumes by Jackie Chau

Lighting by Michelle Ramsay

Sound by Lyon Smith

Cast: Ericka Leobrera

Anthony Perpuse

Sweet but slight.

NOTE: This is the second part of what will be a trilogy of plays. The first play in the series was Prairie Nurse. It’s about the playwright’s mother who came from the Philippines to Saskatchewan to work as a nurse. The Waltz takes place about 20 years later.

The Story. The Waltz is about the possibility of love at first sight, and other things. It’s about a meeting and perhaps blossoming relationship between Romeo Alvarez and Bea Klassen. Romeo is the son of one of the Philippine nurses who came to work in Saskatchewan. He’s on his way from Toronto to British Columbia to go to university. He promised his mother he would stop in Saskatchewan and say hello to a man she knew years before.

Romeo wrote to the man and the man wrote back inviting Romeo to drop by on his journey to the University of British Columbia. Romeo didn’t count on being met by Bea Klassen, also of Philippine descent, who greeted him with a cross-bow. (!) Bea was prickly to be sure, suspicious and rather dangerous. Romeo had to quickly explain his reason for being there and produced the letter from his mother’s friend. Bea was still suspicious and gave Romeo hard time about why he was there, what he wanted etc.

That doesn’t sound like love at first sight. It’s the dance and hoops that Bea is making Romeo go through. It turns out that the man Romeo is there to see is a close friend of Bea’s family. She considers him almost an uncle and she comes from the city of Saskatoon to this cottage in the country to gather her thoughts.  She loves the quiet and isolation of the place and she feels at peace there. So with all Bea’s prickly, combative banter towards Romeo he replies as quickly as she challenges him. Over time she relaxes and begins to trust him. They share the same ethnic background and have similar background stories. We glean that Bea had been bullied at school and so had to develop a thick skin. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to imagine she was bullied because she was from a different ethnic background from those in Saskatoon.

Romeo’s parents argued all the time and he could hardly wait to leave Toronto and go across the country to school and be on his own.  Over the time Romeo is there with Bea, we see that both young people are dutiful to their families—after all Romeo made this great detour on his way to BC to say hello to his mother’s friend. They are proud of their Philippine background, even the few words of Tagalog that they know. The Waltzis a celebration of the Philippine culture, from the various dialects, to the food to the customs etc. Over time it’s revealed that Romeo taught dance back in Toronto, such as the waltz and he shows Bea some of his moves, not in a seductive way, but in a winning her over way. 

The Production. The Waltz deals with ‘love at first sight’ with great caution and perhaps a bit of an edge. It’s a gentle, blossoming, tender story. I found it sweet but slight. We’ve seen shows like this before: prickly person, unsettles the other person who persists in being polite, but matching the prickly banter. Eventually there is a breaking down of the barriers.

The problem I have with The Waltz is that so much of the dialogue seems clever for its own sake. It’s like watching two people spinning their wheels in an argument that is going nowhere. And then for no reason Bea changes course from being cool and challenging, to softening and being funny and agreeable. I found the change in her attitude so quick; I could not see anything in the dialogue that would lead to such a change in attitude, except that if Bea didn’t change, we’d still be there listening to both of them spinning their wheels.

I found the two actors: Erika Leobrera as Bea Klassen and Anthony Perpuse as Romeo Alvarez to be charming, personable and right into the quick timing of the back-and-forth banter.

Nina Lee Aquino directed this with efficiency, but I think she had to do a lot of theatrical stuff because of the slight script. For example, Romeo makes his first entrance from the back of the audience carrying all his luggage, duffel bag and boombox—at least 6 bags/suitcases and that boom box—he was taking to BC. Initially it’s an hilarious image in a mean way, seeing Romeo struggling with all that stuff out of the car and hauling it to the porch of the cottage. My question is WHY?  Who empties his car of the luggage he is bringing for the year to go to university, before he even meets the guy who invited him? Makes no sense.

Jackie Chau has designed a substantial set of the porch of the cottage complete with swing handing down from the top of the porch it seems. The swing is used only twice as I recall, by Bea who only sits on the swing. Why have it at all if it’s not going to be used.

Glad of the acting, but The Waltz is still a slight play and a touch frustrating.

Factory Theatre Presents:

Plays until: Nov. 13, 2022.

Running Time: 90 minutes, (no intermission)

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