A while back, when Silurians still ruled the Earth, I spent a year at Carleton University in what was ostensibly a ‘student’ capacity. I signed up right after graduating high school, like I was supposed to do, and took a series of random courses picked solely because they were nothing like what I’d taken in high school. I did terribly, didn’t have much fun, and never went back.
…until this week, when I decided to hike it back to my old alma mater to check out a play (could have guessed that’s what it would take to get me back…theatre seems to make school a little more palatable for me). Carleton’s long-standing Sock’n’Buskin gang were putting on Luigi Pirandello’s SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR, and I felt like stepping out. So I boarded the good old #7, already noticeably filled with younger and better looking people than myself, and headed to the sprawling campus off Bronson. I should note that it seems a lot MORE sprawling now than in my day…then again, they didn’t have cell phones in ‘my day’, if that tells you anything. I found the Uni center, stopped in for an early beer at Oliver’s, got a little misty watching the Pat Burns tribute on teevee ahead of a Toronto/Montreal hockey game, and then hit the tunnels. Ah, the tunnels! I’d almost forgotten…gotta love a university famous for its subterranean labyrinth.
I wended my way through the concrete woods below, until I found my goal…Southam Hall, and the Kailash Mital theatre. Nice place indeed…got my ticket and headed on in. Realized I didn’t know much about the company OR the play…I’ve since done a few seconds of research, and it turns out Luigi Pirandello was a Nobel prize-winning Sicilian philologist (and how many of those do you meet in a week?), who was mighty prolific in his day, an even older day than mine. I scanned the program some as I sat, entertained by a clever on-stage framing bit involving two techs trying hopelessly to assemble a set, and recognized a name…Mike Showler. Where had I seen that name before..?
The play proper began, a play ABOUT a play, as the ‘actors’ were summoned, the techs were cleared off, and an airy Brit director (Fabian Weiss) made his flamboyant entrance. They struggled to begin rehearsing., when something mighty odd occurs…six white-faced people appear out of nowhere, looking plenty odd and claiming to be charcters, you guessed it, searching for an author. They identify themselves as a family, with the Father taking the lead in what soon come to be negotiations (that’s when I recognize him…Mike Showler. ‘Dentity Crisis! Trashcan Duet!! Ahh, I’m in good hands…). An increasingly troubling scene then starts unfolding, as our family of ‘characters’ try and tell their stories, play their scenes that seem to define them, while the director and his actors want only to interpret them for the right audience. the director seems to be the one the family has chosen as their ‘author’…which may not be a good thing.
I had a lot of fun at 6 CHARACTERS…Showler was, as expected by me, grand as the enigmatic Father of this weird clan, and Weiss is great fun as the uppity director slowly losing his grip on everything that’s happening. Special shoutout to Chandrika Singh as the Stepdaughter, who has a lot of pretty rough stuff to get through in this piece, and she handles it with style. Keith Cressy and Dave Rowan, the aforementioned stage techs who occupy the stage before the show and during intermission, are lots of fun to watch and listen to, if you care to. Carly Kastner’s eternally anguished Mother figure, Emilay Asmar’s gibberish spouting cameo as Madame Pace, Geoff Burnside rocking a mean unibrow…all great to see, as well as some pretty cool-ass lighting effects in a just plain intriguing show that I think could use a little more love. Pirandello crafted some amazing theatre here, and the SnB crowd give it some nice modern day justice.
The show picks up on the 25-27th of this week, and if you got some time to spare, give’er a go. Who are you kidding, you’re not getting tickets to VIMY anyhow. Me, I’m glad I finally made it back to Carleton U, and plan to come back and see the Socks and Buskins doing their thing next time they have something on. Peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)