Ghosts of 2015 Plays Past
Four enjoyable but little reviewed plays from 2015
By Byron Toben
Asleep at night, I am visited by the ghosts of these four plays from the year past, which I have seen and enjoyed, but seem to have received little reviews by others, so to correct this gap, for the record…
Below are two from the Montreal Fringe, June 2015:
2056: A Dystopian Black Comedy
Fringe guru (Westmount born and raised) Keir Cutler does not perform in this year’s Fringe, but is the author of this little gem, which smacks both of Orwell’s 1984 and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
As the producer, Cutler was savvy enough to snag Jon Laclan Stewart to direct, to great effect. Mr. Stewart also directed two other highly regarded shows at the Fringe, The Colour of Life (which won the Freestanding Room award) and Miss Katelyn’s Grade Threes Prepare For The Inevitable (which won both the Centaur award and the Playwright’s Workshop Montreal award).
Theatre buffs may also recognize Mr. Stewart as James Joyce in the recent Tom Stoppard play, Travesties, at the Segal Centre.
In 2056, two persons are assigned to live together in a tiny apartment in a decayed city. The world is ruled by The Helpers who, deciding that religion is the cause of human suffering, have eradicated it, as well as national and language differences, returning the world to the pre-Tower of Babel state of one language… English of course.
Madalyn (named for the Atheist martyr Madelyn Murray O’Hair) and Knut (named for Atheist painter Knut Andre Vikshaland) live in fear that Madalyn’s vestiges of Spanish and Knut’s of French will lead to a visit by the Helpers who must stamp out such non conformity in this not so Brave New World.
Sebastien Rajotte is superb as Knut and Humberly Gonzalez equally so as Madalyn. Stuart Fink (who ably directed the recent Fuddy Meers) and Marie-Eve Bélanger are eerily effective as the sweet-talking “helpers” in their true believer roles.
Cutler’s wit and humour shine thru this other wise dark comedy which has portents of being remounted in the not so distant and hopefully not so dismal future.
For some time, I have toyed with the idea of establishing a mini-prize for a play that deals with some social problems but does not become too preachy or polemic. Had I secured some co-backer for such an annual prize by now, this fine production from some young ladies from the University of Saskatchewan would be a finalist.
Displaced is certainly timely, although it integrates stories of the past. As if natural catastrophes (earthquakes, floods) are not enough, human beings add to the sad total of people forced to move by economics, war, politics, religion… you name it.
Katie Moore portrays Mary, driven from Ireland in the mid 1800s by the Great Hunger in Ireland (I prefer to call it Hunger rather than Famine as there was other food not affected by the potato blight, but committed to English markets so as not to interfere with international trade… sound familiar?).
Anna Mazurik portrays Sophia, the Aryan wife of a German Jew in 1943 who joined many other such wives in a demonstration on the Rosenstrasse in Berlin against the incarceration of their husbands in concentration camps.
Emma Lashram portrays Dara, an Afghan refugee from a forced child marriage in the present day.
The whole was created by Natasha Martina, who directed, and Sue Mythen, who contributed to the creative stage movement.
Wonderful mood music by Jason Cullimore lent credibility as the show blended Time and Space to the common difficulties of adapting to a new land… here, Canada.
The versatile actors doubled as Canadian officials, employers and even some sympathizers.
Two plays that had all too short runs:
I rushed to see this, as it was written by David Lindsay-Abaire who wrote the impressive Boston “southie” play Good People, at the Centaur in November 2012.
That was a brilliant naturalistic work starring Johanna Nutter whereas Fuddy is a throwback to the theatre of the absurd of the early ’60s.
Nadia Verrucci plays a stroke victim who mispronounces phrases. Elizabeth Prevost plays her insomniac daughter, married to a jovial husband, Pierre Lenoir, who may or may not be planning to kill her.
Mix this with a madcap car ride, two escaped convicts (one of whom is guided by a puppet!) and able direction by Stuart Fink and you see why this zany show has had 200 productions across the USA.
Produced in May by InFurnace productions at Calixa Lavalle.
This play was adapted from prize winning Sci-fi author Spider Robinson’s story by the irrepressible Elizabeth Cano.
Tali Brady plays a literally “wired” woman asleep in her apartment when roused by an intruder, Gordon Watts. Discussions about the meaning of existence, modern technology and life’s ironies ensue. The show was a hit at the world Sci-Fi convention in Spokane.
Produced by Black Box Productions in September at Mainline Theatre.
Top image: Sebastien Rajotte and Humberly Gonzalez in 2056: A Dystopian Black Comedy.
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.