by Lynn on October 20, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, produced by the Bremen Collective, playing until Oct. 29.

Written and directed by Gregory Prest

Composer, Tatjana Cornij

Lighting by Logan Raju Cracknell

Costumes by Nancy Anne Perrin

Cast: Tatjana Cornij

Oliver Dennis

Simon Gagnon

Farhang Ghajar

Deborah Grover

Veronica Hortiguela

Nancy Palk

William Webster

A rural folk tragedy with humour, given a beautiful, stylish, sensitive production.

After forty-five years of hard work and dedication, Frau Esel, (Nancy Palk) the longest serving housekeeper of Völksenhaus, has been replaced. Inspired by the darkly comic stories of the Grimm brothers, Bremen Town is about the painful truth of outliving our use.

When Frau Esel is fired, she is livid at the harsh way she is treated by her employer and his new wife. Frau Esel packs up and leaves to go to Bremen to live with her son, who she has not seen for years (45?), and who lives in Bremen and plays the clarinet in the local orchestra. There is no train so she begins to walk. She meets an itinerant magician named Herr Hund, (Oliver Dennis) down on his luck—he owes money to people and can’t make any money appear out of thin air. Frau Esel pays him to be her guide to Bremen Town as they walk and walk and walk.

As negative and critical as Frau Esel is, that’s as irreverent, optimistic and light-hearted Herr Hund is. They pick up others on the way—Frau Esel wants to be on her way, Herr Hund is compassionate and they pick up: Herr Katze (William Webster) who is looking for the town where he grew up; they pick up Frau Henne (Deborah Grover) about to be sold at market by her ungrateful children. They meet a dancing bear, people flying kites, a wise accordionist, birds that land on your shoulder giving comfort.

In Bremen Town playwright Gregory Prest writes about old age with compassion, wisdom and humour. The kindness of Herr Hund juxtaposed with Frau Esel’s abrasive anger makes one wonder when she will be affected by his lovely example. Gregory Prest’s language and turns of phrases are quirky, playful, heartfelt and wise. His direction is imaginative with creative images. The magical bird that appears in the air, its wings flapping gracefully, melts the heart. Having Tatjana Cornij compose the music and play it to underline the mood of the piece is a brilliant stroke. That Cornij also offers narration and graceful commentary adds to the luster of the piece.

As Frau Esel, Nancy Palk is fiercely rigid in her anger, but gradually softens. It’s a masterful, accomplished and very funny performance, although Frau Esel does not intend to be funny. Oliver Dennis as the kind-hearted, generous Herr Hund offers a perfect foil to the dour Frau Esel. The rest of the cast are terrific.

Bremen Town is an accomplished, polished gem of a show.   

The Bremen Collective Presents:

Playing until Oct. 29, 2023.

Running time 90 minutes (no intermission)

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