Monday, 17 May 2010

Where's My Money, Frankenstein?

I'm no theatre snob; I'll go see a play in someone's apartment, sitting on mismatched chairs and be just as engrossed as I would sitting in a permanent theatre house. It's the strength of the writing and the skills of the actors that make a play worth seeing in any venue. Well, last week I had the chance to see two plays that were at opposite ends of the theatre scale and both were equally refreshing and satisfying: WHERE'S MY MONEY and FRANKENSTEIN.

Written by Academy Award-winner, John Patrick Shanley (MOONSTRUCK—he also wrote DOUBT), and directed by Dora Award-winner David Perry (THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT), Where’s My Money deconstructs marital relationships while asking the question, “Do you believe in ghosts?” The dialogue is funny, ugly, and ironic, a feast for actors, and a delight for audiences.

You can read this play and enjoy the experience on your own, but it takes a strong cast to speak lines that with the wrong timing and delivery would be excruciating to hear. When actress (read secretarial temp) Celeste (Ingrid Rae Doucet) runs into old friend Natalie (Anna Jane Hardwick) in a café, the women catch up on what’s happening in their lives. When Natalie (an accountant married to a lawyer) finds out that Celeste is cheating on her boyfriend with a married man, Natalie bluntly tells Celeste, ”I don’t know any other way to put this. You’re a whore.” Tactless? Yes. But how do you take this same brutal line when Natalie admits that she, too, was a “whore”? And what will you make of Tommy, the Ghost (Christian Bellsmith), who is haunting Natalie; Natalie’s husband Henry (John Clelland) who is tired of Natalie’s demand for a joint checking account; Henry’s friend and idol, Sydney (Michael Kash) a divorce lawyer who thinks cheating is natural part of marriage, and Sydney’s wife, Marcia Marie (Mary Francis Moore) who may not agree with Sydney’s view of their marriage.

With talented cast, interesting staging and lighting, and music (including live piano playing), Where’s My Money is delightful way to spend 80 minutes. You may or may not leave believing in ghosts, but you will leave with some very memorable lines: “Monogamy is like a 40-watt bulb. It works but it’s not enough.”

Until May 30th
Pia Bouman Studio Theatre
6 Noble Street (West of Dufferin, north of Queen--past the Gladstone)
Box Office: 416-504-7529
Tix: $20
adult content

For those of you who have only seen movie versions of Frankenstein, clear your heads of what you know; for those of you who have only read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, clear your heads of your the way you pictured those words. The Frankenstein that is presented by Edmonton-based Catalyst Theatre is imaginative, gothic, poetic, and musical. Yes, I said "musical". Think Charles Addams meets Edward Gorey meets Tim Burton with music by Sondheim (okay, Sondheim light). Don’t know who those people are? IT DOESN’T MATTER. GO SEE THIS PLAY.

Writer, director, composer, Jonathon Christenson, and production designer Bretta Gerecke have birthed an adult fairy tale that echo the opening refrain of “These are strange times, full of strange signs. Bathed in black and white, swaddled in paper costumes, with paper sets, this new conceptualization of Frankenstein is a wonder, a marvel. What a fantastic way to tell Shelley’s story of a man playing God, and the grotesque, innocently dangerous creature he brings to life. Linking the past with the present are the lines “We cover our ears, we close our eyes” which demands that we think about modern society and the things it creates, sometimes thoughtlessly. What are the consequences of our own actions? Dolly the Sheep, anyone?

The multi-talented cast is a cohesive delight as the Chorus that leads us through the tale, and is just as splendid in the multiple roles they adopt in the play. I especially enjoyed the performances of Tracy Penner (left) and Nancy McAlear. Penner’s warbled vibrato, brings just the right note of delicacy to her main character of Lucy Lavenza, while McAlear, brings a humour and strength to her ill-fated character of Justine Moritz. Poor, poor Justine.

The second act begins with a bit too much exposition, but I have yet to see a play where the second act isn’t slightly weaker than the first. Still, this is where the pathos of the piece comes to life as we feel the desperate need of The Creature (George Szilagyi) to find what we all crave: friendship and love.

To be honest, I noticed that those who might have been expecting the movie version of Frankenstein, or a more traditional rendition of the story, did not stay for the second act. To that, I say, we can’t all like everything. Besides, the house was still very full for the second act. As we left the Bluma Apel theatre, my friends and I were wondering who would go and see this new version of an old story. Our conclusion: people who are curious about life and get excited when they see something new and refreshing different. That's you, isn't it?

Until May 29th
Bluma Apel Theatre
27 Front Street East (click here for directions)
Box Office: 416-368-3110
Tix: $20 and up

Frankenstein photos by JACKSON HINTON

1 comment:

gayboy65 said...

Loved both productions, thanks for the reviews and for promoting different types of theatre.

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