Review: INGE(NEW)

by Lynn on May 30, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Red Sandcastle Theatre 922 Queen St. E., Toronto, Ont. Plays until June 4, 2023.

Book, additional lyrics by Evan Tsitsias

Music by Rosalind Mills

Lyrics by Alexis Diamond

Additional music/lyrics by Julia Appleton

Directed by Evan Tsitsias

Music supervisor/music director, Kieren MacMillan

Choreographer, Jen Cohen

Set/costumes by Irene Ly

Lighting by Rachel Shaen

Cast: Mairi Babb

Cory O’Brien

Elora Joy Sarmiento

Astrid Van Wieren

As an old tv show once began, “There are 8 million stories in the naked city.” Seemingly putting them all in a musical is not a good idea.

Writer/director Evan Tsitsias has said in his programme note to INGE(NEW) that he hates rules that restrict us. He tries to break them whenever he can. He hates the slots that we are put in, that define us, or others define us etc. All good. His intention, it would seem is that the musical  INGE(NEW) is trying to break that form of deciding who should play what and that a new model might be in order. This is a good germ of an idea for a play/musical. INGE(NEW) misses in achieving it, good intentions and programme note notwithstanding.

Bridget (Mairi Babb) is about to turn 40-years-old. She is auditioning for a musical, as the ingenue. It’s a part (the ingenue) she has played often. She’s good at it. Of course, she should continue auditioning for such parts. But she can’t find anyone to talk to about issues. When she’s about to begin singing she stops and asks a question. “Is anybody out there?” Silence. She tries again to begin singing the audition song and can’t. And again, and can’t. The attempts to sing and the questions, lead one to believe that perhaps she can’t sing. She’s lost the ability. Something.

Joy (Elora Joy Sarmiento) enters, also ready to audition. Bridget thinks she’s there to be a reader or a scene partner. In fact, Joy is also reading for the ingenue part. There are smarmy, cutting comments from both to the other. Joy’s youth emphasizes that perhaps Bridget is not the ingenue type any more.

Gertrude arrives. She’s older, flamboyant, effervescent and larger than life. She’s auditioning for the part of the mother, a part she has perfected. Bridget reminds Gertrude that in the past she played Gertrude’s daughter. Does Gertrude believe Bridget is now auditioning for the ‘mother’ part? Can Gertrude believe that Bridget is auditioning for the ingenue? It’s all a game of not showing your hand or vulnerabilities.

Then Max arrives to audition for the macho man part. Matters get tricky. Bridget and Max used to be married. Max is now living with Joy. She thinks he’s much younger than what he really is—in his early 40s.

We then go into the real lives of the characters. Bridget is getting older and has to face it, but she’s not ready to accept she should audition for the mother roles. Joy may be pregnant (the character she’s auditioning for is pregnant). Gertrude, for all her good humour, is soul searching her place as well. Then the lines between the characters and their real lives start to blur, blend and cross.

All the while Bridget tries to find the director or someone to talk question. There are only sound effects of crackling electricity as if perhaps they are all held captive there in some place of restricted limbo. Then the sound of a voice in the void is heard. It’s the writer. The actors complain about the parts. The writer says he will change some of it, but there is still the issue of age and types of parts (ingenue, mother etc.).

Bridget sings about wanting to break out of the rut, of not being slotted in one part or another, that there has to be a new model.

This is all very well and good, but INGE(NEW) doesn’t offer the new model or the solution. Bridget instantly has a change of heart and now realizes she can’t play ingenues anymore and will embrace the older parts because they have the best lines and are funny. This is a revelation that needs more development.  It comes from nowhere that is not supported.

Evan Tsitsias’ book has many interesting ideas tries to explore; ageism, formulaic departments of parts; personal vs. professional life; children or not; marriage or not; rut in a career. But the 90 minute piece feels lumbered with all these issues when a more streamlined show would better serve a few of the more important issues. Editing is in order. A list of songs would be helpful for context. The first song is deliberately simplistic while the others try to be more sophisticated and knowing. And with so many people writing lyrics cohesion is problematic.

The cast lead by Mairi Babb is terrific. Ms Babb came into the production eight days after another cast member had to leave for personal reasons. Ms Babb does Herculean work. She is a fine actor who illuminates all the insecurities of an actor getting older than ingenue parts, and conveys the worry of what that means. And she sings beautifully

Elora Joy Sarmiento as Joy is sweet, winning, and can hold her own in the hard world of theatre. She too sings beautifully and conveys the optimism and pluck of Joy. Cory O’Brien as Max is the quintessential dashing male lead. They never seem to have an aging problem while women are too often slotted into ‘types.’

Astrid Van Wieren as Gertrude is bold and brassy and pulls off the larger than life mother of all mothers, with panache.

As I’ve said, there are good ideas here to explore. Another try, edit is in order.

Theatre Myth Collective presents:

Plays until June 4, 2023

Running Time: 90 minutes (no intermission)

Stuff that might be helpful:

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