Wildside Festival 2023
ends on a high note
Planting an Apple Tree and Me, My Selfie and I deliver a grand finale
By Byron Toben
February 16, 2023
Centaur Theatre’s annual Wildside Festival, this year again curated by Rose Plotek, with six entrees, ended on February 11 with two of them. The first, Planting an Apple Tree, by Ukrainian playwright Yrina Harets had been running nightly from February 8, and the second, Confabulation’s Me, My Selfie and I, was a one-night wonder.
Planting an Apple Tree featured a gripping solo performance by veteran actress Clare Coulter, whose spoken words were matched by her nuanced facial expressions and hand and arm movements. I can’t vouch for her leg or feet movements, if any, as only her top half appeared, the rest buried in an earthen hole as she herself became the apple tree she sought to start an orchard with, even against the horrors of the Russian invasion (oops, sorry Mr, Putin, the “special military operation”), causing dislocation and injury to so many. A sort of “hope springs eternal in the human breast,” as Alexander Pope so famously declared.
This staging reminded me of Infinitheatre’s 1999 production of Samuel Beckett’s bleak yet comedic End Game, wherein Carolyn Guillet was speaking from within a trash can. (When that production was invited to the Cairo Festival of Absurdist Theatre in 2001, I quipped that at least she would not agitate local Egyptian extremists).
Anyway, plaudits to director Leslie Baker, whose company, The Bakery, helped mount this show.
Me, My Selfie and I featured six women, all discovered and coached by Matt Goldberg, the teacher, actor and comedian who, sort of, created the title Confabulation to describe his popular series of people describing their personal experiences, in an audience-engaging way, on a common theme.
The participants at this near-sold-out Wildside finale were: Janine Parkinson, Marion Champiux-Pellegrin, Zahraa Chorghay, Gina Granter and Francesca Esguerra. They were all enthusiastic as they described their various encounters with modern technology (not always good), especially with the craze for taking “selfies,” sometimes multitudinous amounts.
I am tempted to volunteer myself if Matt returns to travel as a theme, with my adventures in Ethiopia quite some years ago.
Confabulation’s next dates are:
March 11 – at Centre Phi on Accomplices (best friends, co-conspirators, etc.)
April 15 – back at Centaur Theatre on Blockbusters (live-action heroes, plot twists)
May (to be announced) – on The Song That Saved My Life.
Feature image: Clare Coulter in Planting an Apple Tree, by Yanick Macdonald
Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.
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