Another week, another premiere. Ho hum, don’t these things become positively DREARY after a spell? I do say…
…Nah, just kidding, premieres are AWESOME!!! And I got invited to one at the GCTC this week, so you better believe I snapped on my red suspenders and bowtie (fresh from RAGTIME dont’cha know), called up my best girl (the ever-adorkable ™ Nadine Thornhill), and strutted on out to the Oiving Greenboig Theatre for the premiere…WORLD premiere, even, of Richard Sanger’s WHISPERING PINES, directed by Brian Quirt. I was excited for this one since, unlike last month’s AMELIA, this one had an all hometown cast: Tracey Ferencz (from last season’s THE LIST), Paul Rainville (HEROES, among many others), and Kris Joseph (still garnering accolades for THE TURN OF THE SCREW even now). I got to preview a scene from the show at the media call last week, and promptly failed to write anything about in in the blog…but I got art!
So anyways, PREMIERE! Me and the Thornhill mads a sensational entrance, setting the fashion bar cruelly high, but someone had to do it. Did a little of that mingling thing, spotted a few of the usual suspects in the crowd, got into the premiere mood. When we entered the theatre, both of us were quite taken with Brian Smith’s elegant set, framed by columns evoking the titular pines. …Wait, did I just say ‘evoking the titular pines’? Damn. That doesn’t SOUND like something I’d say…
The show is in two acts, and takes place in two times, in two countries. We begin in East Berlin, 1987, where we meet Rabble-rousing troubadour Bruno (Rainville) and his painter/partner Renate (Ferencz). They seem madly in love, living out their lives under the thumb of the GDR, sticking a fly in the ointment of the machinery where they can, when they receive a visit from a travelling Canadian Scholar, Thomas (Kris Joesph), and everything changes. In between the rounds of passive-aggressive group drinking (note: you WILL want to drink during this show. It’s just gonna happen) and singing songs of rebellion, Thomas starts to get perhaps a little too infatuated with Renate. Which leads Bruno to a fateful decision of his own…
…and all of this leads to Canada, twenty years later, where all the characters reunite to settle what went horribly wrong all those years ago. I won’t give anything away, but there’s some intriguing premises and threads running through Sanger’s thorougly sociopolitical play, anchored by strong performances from his three leads. Rainville probably impressed me the most, breathing some real passion into willful romantic Bruno. And Tracey Ferencz carries the lion’s share of the emotional wallop of the script, and she wears it splendidly. Kris Joseph, always solid, keeps his streak going here, very convincing as the roving idealist who gets a little too close to his subject matter.
For my part, I was more taken with the first act then the second, which added a few timebending elements that , I must admit, kinda left me cold. The early scenes with the then-friends getting to know one another, even as the darker elements of the tale start weaving themselves in, kept me the most rivetted. A little of the dialogue got kinda cliched in parts..be prepared for LOTS of musing on ‘truth, love and freedom’. Ewan MacGregor’s character from MOULIN ROUGE would apparently have been right at home in this production (not necessarily a bad thing, now…that movie rocked). And some of the projected images on the back wall, which run throughout the show, don’t always seem to be doing anything but being there (although some ARE quite lovely and evocative…there I go evoking again! What is it with me today?)
So, WHISPERING PINES…I guess I have to say I didn’t love it quite as much as I wanted to, but there is still plenty I found to like in this show, which I’ll be giving a second look in a week or so when I clock my volunteer-time in (the 11th…come on by if ya like!). As for premiere night, it rounded out in fine style, with some German beer and sausage putting a delicious capper on the evening. There was also, I believe, some lederhosen involved. But that’s another story. Peace, love and soul, internet,
The Visitor (and Winston)
Thank you again – it was a fine evening from start to finish. As for being dubbed best gal by the best dressed guy in the crowd…my ego she is swelling somethin’ fierce!