More Fringe: FRANKENSTEIN(esque), Of a Blank Canvas (or the distance between the bridge and the water), Maggie Chun’s First Love and Last Wedding.

by Lynn on July 13, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

More FRINGE: Frankenstein(esque), Of A Blank Canvas (or, the distance between the bridge and the water).


Adapted for the stage by Scott Garland with the company

Based on the classic Mary Shelley novel

Directed by Nicole Wilson

Cast: Stephanie Crothers

John Daniel

Michelle Gram

Julian Murphy

Graeme Black Robinson

What is life? What is creation? What is a creature? What is art? These are some of the questions this bracing, funny, thoughtful play asks.

A man and a woman wait impatiently at a clinic/hospital. They don’t know each other. His wife is having a baby. The woman is trying to get pregnant and she has come for fertility trials. Comments about the creation of life are made: bits of one, bits from the other; DNA and an egg, DNA and a bit of sperm, combine to create life.

Later the cast of five black-clad-barefoot-whitepaint-faced performers talk about creation as well in relation to Mary Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein.” They note that Frankenstein is the name of the scientist who created the ‘monster.’ They use that incorrect word once I believe. The creation is in fact ‘the creature.’

Rather than raid cemeteries and morgues for the bits and pieces needed to create the creature, Graeme Black Robinson, the chief puppeteer of the group and created a six-foot puppet of ‘the creature’ using various kinds of malleable materials, rope and a lot of co-ordination with his other puppeteers. The face/head of the creature is a narrow but solid piece of wood with a handle at the back for easy manipulation. The arms and legs are hinged and attached to the ‘fanned’ body with ropes. The middle of the body looks like ‘an accordion’ formation. Manipulated a certain way to the accompaniment of breathing in and out, the creature looks like it’s breathing. All the puppeteers do their magic.

Graeme Black Robinson laments that he is not able to see his 10-month-old son as often as he wants because he’s so busy with work. His colleagues lament that they are not used equitably in the creation process. A man named John comes in for some pretty pointed criticism from Graeme, until he stands up to him.

The creature is majestic. Truly. The coordinated manipulation of the various arms, legs and head of the creature makes us think we are looking at a living, breathing life. The artistry of the five puppeteers is as impressive as the creature itself. Apropos of nothing, I found it fascinating that all five puppeteers had shiny auburn hair.

The idea of the difficulty to create life is an interesting one and thought that should have been developed instead of just dropped after it was introduced in the first scene. Still the connection of Mary Shelley’s creature and the puppet created by these five gifted people is a terrific idea.

Continues at the Fringe: July 13, 14, 16.

At Tarragon Extra Space

Of a Blank Canvas (or the distance between the bridge and the water)

Written by Michael Manning

Directed by Jeannette Lambermond-Morey

Sound by Parker Merlihan

Lighting by Gavin McDonald

Cast: Sarah Schmidt-McQuillan

Micaela Morley

Misha Sharivker

Character One is a frustrated artist (Sarah Schmidt-McQuillan) who tries repeatedly to draw the perfect circle in chalk. The result is not perfect in her opinion, so she rubs it out and tries again. And fails again. And tries again.

Character One (Sarah Schmidt-McQuillan) and Character Two (Micaela Morey) profess love for each other. But Character Three (Misha Sharivker) also loves Character One and the love is not returned.

Playwright Michael Manning writes about emotional and mental fragility, identity, self-worth, love, requited and unrequited, frustration and continuing on. His programme note regarding his play is a raw declaration of all the ways he is broken. Rather than a turn-off, it’s an invitation into this fragile, emotional world so see how his searching characters discover who they are and how they continue in the face of difficulty.

There is a wonderful image of two mountains (Sarah Schmidt-McQuillan and Micaela Morey) that started separately then grew close and seemed to intertwine over time and then with a thwack cracked in two. It’s an image that illuminates intense love and then separation. In another vivid image, Misha Sharivker is a twitchy, graceful pigeon, approaching people and then walking away. Sharivker carries a fanned assortment of stamped envelopes in each hand placed behind him, creating the sense of the wings of the pigeon, head twitching forward and back. The work of this cast of three, under the watchful, sensitive eye of their director Jeannette Lambermont-Morey, is inventive, brave and eye-popping creative.  I want to see their work again. And I will definitely look out for the future work of Michael Manning. Challenging, evocative stuff.

Continues at the Fringe July 13, 15, 16.

At Tarragon Theatre, Mainspace

Maggie Chun’s First Love and Last Wedding

Written by Helen Ho

Directed by Julia Eddie Pape

Set by Barbara Athanasoulas

Props and costumes by Jen Dufton and Aiyana Harvey

Lighting and sound by Helen Ho, Colin Wasik and Davide Sallese.

Cast: Katerina Hatzinakos

Isaac Kuk

Ethan Magnus

Hannah Mair

Keira Madison Mallory

Julia Rapai

Barb Scheffler

Jobina Sitoh

From the programme: “After committing to spending the rest of her life in the small town of Windser, Ont. (yes, with an E) the arrival of Maggie Chun’s (Jobina Sitoh) middle school crush on her wedding day, forces her into an abrupt awakening.”

Maggie is marrying Rob (Isaac Kuk) her pal from middle school and up; a man who needs to remind himself that ‘he’s the man’ and has the stuff for business. While Rob is marrying Maggie, and all he wants is to make her happy, Rob is very close with his best friend Jules (Katerina Hatzinakos), the wedding planner. Maggie’s crush is Charlie (Julia Rapai) and her feelings for Charlie are inflamed again when Maggie sees Charlie at the hotel.

There’s a lot of philosophizing about finding one’s own true love and how you know you’ve found them—apparently a propensity for throwing up is a good sign.  

The play is about 80 minutes long. It should be a tight 60 minutes. Another go round is in order to make this play fly rather than having it lag in a lot of dialogue that does not move the story or the play forward. Robs mother is now a ‘sister’ (in a church); please explain why. The whole final scene after the revelation in the church should be re-examined. Cut anything that does not move the play forward, and quickly move the conclusion up. The play talks about truths. It should do it a bit more efficiently.

Jobena Sitoh is a sweet and gently confident Maggie. You do want her to be happy, especially with the person with who she is meant to live for the rest of her life.

Continues at the Fringe, July 14, 15, 16. At the Factory Theatre Mainspace.

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