I was tired. Holy Hell, was I tired yesterday. And I didn’t even work!
Well, that’s maybe not true…I didn’t GO to work, not my usual 9 to 4 crushing grind of a day job. Instead, this Saturday I headed somewhere else for, well…an acting gig. Yes, I said it…a film shoot, no less, and my first ever. And I don’t wanna say too much, because I’m sure there will be a post about all this (and this isn’t that post), but man, it was cool, it was fun…it was also hot, it got kinda long, and by the time I shlepped home at 5:30 or so, I was more beat than if I’d been slavin’ over a hot stove for ten hours. I ate some leftover Shepherd’s Pie and sacked out on the couch, Winston the Cat stretching himself out on my contented belly. I really, REALLY did not feel like going anywhere else that night.
But I had tickets! At the NAC no less…dammit, I HAD to drag myself out of the homestead, despite my body’s urgings. I think I nodded off a couple times on the bus ride downtown, praying that the show I was off to see was both exciting, and (oh, please, PLEASE….) short. When I arrived at the Hallowed halls just off Elgin, Iwas a little distressed to see that the show in question was TWO HOURS long…with no intermission?? What were they trying to do to me? And what was the show about…?
…a midlife crisis brought on by exposure to the works of Anton Chekhov? Jesus Christ, are you TRYING to put me to sleep, NAC?? I’ll be snoring before the first hour’s up! I was nervous, kids, I won’t deny it. Happily, by about the five minute mark of AND SLOWLY BEAUTY… , I was wide awake.
The play from Quebecois writer and director Michel Nadeau (translated here by Maureen Labonte, and directed by Micheal Shamata, who did last season’s YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING) deals with a shlubby everyman, played winningly by Dennis Fitzgerald, who is stuck in a grind. His job is wearing him and everyone else in the office down, his family ignores him, and outside of a few fleeting moments in his day, he seems to have little hope for the future. Until he wins tickets in a raffle to a local production of Chekhov’s THREE SISTERS, and everything changes.
Fitzgerald is the only real constant in the show, along with the asymmetrical, multipurpose set that is a thing of absolute beauty. The other players (Mary-Colin Chisholm, Caroline Gillis, Christian Murray, Thomas Olajide and Celine Stubel) transform themselves into the cast of thousands (or, well…dozens, at least, surely) who inhabit our hero’s world, from his family to workmates, to the irregulars at a local coffeeshop he comes to frequent and even the players in the play-within-the-play. All of the story proceeds in a lyrical, flowing fashion, fuelled by positively gorgeous tunes from composer Brooke Maxwell (I would LOVE a soundtrack album to this show, seriously), and…you know what? I’m flabbergasted that no one in the program is listed as ‘choreographer’, because even though there’s technically no dancing..? The whole piece IS a dance, swirling, spinning, and just joyously connecting (or not) each player with the other in a pretty damn mesmerizing two hours. And for someone like me, the central theme of the transformative power of theatre is such a truth that to see it played out like this on stage was nothing less than a gift.
AND SLOWLY BEAUTY… is a rousing homerun of a play (although I’m not sure the 8 year old girl sitting next to me was QUITE as inspired by it as the rest of us were), and I’m not sure anything less than what it delivered could have kept me awake that evening (as it was, I was out as soon as I got in the door). The NAC is on a good pace so far this season…heres hopig next month’s mjusical keeps the party going! I’ll definitely be there…transformative power of theatre, after all. I’m a sucker for that stuff. Peace, love and soul, Ottawa,
The Visitor (and Winston)
PS: If you dig this play, you should totally go check out its inspiration, THREE SISTERS, when the Ottawa U Drama Guild puts it up at Academic Hall in December from the 6th thru 10th.