May is a great month for theatre in Edmonton! This past week I saw three shows and rehearsed for both of my Fringe shows. All in all and very theatre filled week!
Thursday night was Opening Night for Make Mine Love at the Citadel. It was great to finally see the show onstage. I was amazed by how they brought to life all the complicated elements of the show and made them seem like magic. There's a car chase, a train ride, and a bus crash in addition to the wonderful work with all the Hollywood film projections and all of those are a testament to the skills of the phenomenal technical department at the Citadel. they really did a wonderful job integrating the film with the stage work and it was cool to see it all come together. The cast of 10 is tremendous and they literally feel like a cast of thousands. I watched the show on Opening Night Thursday and then was back with the family for Sunday evening's performance. The boys were thrilled to see their Irrelevant show favourites, Mark Meer and Jana O'Connor onstage, and they giggled through the slapstick and silliness. I think 9 year old Gibson tuned out a bit during the romantic parts, but the almost 13 year old Oliver was engaged the whole time. I enjoyed the show both nights and a little bit more so on Sunday. Not sure why, but it just felt tighter. There's some tremendous chemistry between the leads, John Ullyatt and Rebecca Northan, and the rest of the cast (Sarah Machin Gale, James MacDonald, Lisa Norton, Alex McCooeye, Farren Timeteo, Julien Arnold, Mark Meer, and Jana O'Connor) give them a fantastic array of comic characters as a backdrop. Make Mine Love runs at the Citadel Theatre to June 1st.
Mistakes Were Made at Shadow Theatre. I had a great time! Glenn Nelson as theatre producer, Felix Artifex, gave a truly powerhouse performance in the almost 2 hour long show. Although it is a two-hander, Nelson is onstage, on the phone or talking to his fish alone for about 95% of that time. How he keeps it all straight is amazing to me. It was incredible. Never was he 'talking to the audience' - he was always present in whatever ridiculous conversation he was having. You'd think that a play where a character is on the phone for the majority of the time would be challenging to keep the audience engaged, but this was not the case. As the secretary, Esther, Erika Conway was lovely as well. She was a great counterpoint of calmness to Artifex's ever-increasing stress. I loved the script. The playwright in me was wowed by how the layers of the story were wrapped in these escalating phone calls. Felix himself is not always likable and some questions were left unanswered which might frustrate some people, but I liked the feeling at the end.
Starless by Eric Rice at Walterdale Theatre. This was this season's offering of new work at Walterdale through From Cradle to Stage wherein a submitted script is selected and developed with a dramaturge (Tracy Carroll) through the first part of the season and then produced onstage. I was a part of the production team as Master Painter. It felt a little weird to not see the show until closing, but that's the way my life has gone this month. Starless was about a homeless man, Ralph (played by Mark Anderako) and how he is treated by the world. I am still thinking about what the take away was from it. It's a poignant story about his connection to his companion Mary (Monica Maddaford) and what happens on this one particular day. Ralph is not an altogether pleasant person. I appreciated Anderako's embracing of Ralph's flaws. I think the play was trying to humanize the homeless, as we sometimes do enter a world of out-of-sight-out-of-mind when it comes to them, but I really had a hard time with the overall portrayal of the police, the church and the media. The play seemed to suggest that we, as a society, should just leave the homeless alone, and that strategies to help them were unwanted and unneeded, or that we should let them sleep wherever they want - on public and private property. Maybe it wasn't trying to provide answers... I get a little caught up in that... maybe it was just supposed to make us think more about it. But I did really dislike the way the police were portrayed. Probably because I still feel angry about that from Pig Girl. I just know that it doesn't reflect the majority of the police officers I know. Still, it was great to see a new work onstage. I am so glad that Walterdale puts resource behind the development of new work. This is a well-crafted, thought-provoking script and it is not easy for a new playwright to get their work produced and to do so with the support of dramaturgy and a theatre is a phenomenal thing.