You know what I haven’t done in a while, it feels like? Gawked like a ninny at all the famous people at a premiere, that’s what! I guess I sort of cooled off on all the name-dropping on the blog once I started to actually know some of these amazing folks in person, but tonight, I felt more than a bit of the old star-struckedness creeping in, and I LOVED it. Right off the bat when I walked into the Gladstone Theatre tonight, there was Smooth Tim Oberholzer at the box office, and the glamorous Jen Vallance watching the door. Then my old acting coach Brie Barker showed up, as well as Bronwyn Steinberg, Simon Bradshaw, Kelly Rigole, Alix’n’Andy, Katie Bunting, Michelle leBlanc, Alain Chauvin…it was very, very sweet. And then, right before the show started, I realized that sitting directly in front of me was (I shit you not) the Chilean Ambassador! And folks, let me tell you, he is a suave cat, and no fooling.
And just why the Hell was the Chilean ambassador sitting in front of me at the Gladstone? Well, on account of tonight was the premiere of Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman’s infamous DEATH AND THE MAIDEN, courtesy of Plosive Productions. Set in Chile after the fall of the gruesome Pinochet dictatorship, the play (which many may recall as the Sigourney Weaver-starring flick from a ways back) centers around Gerardo and Paulina (Chris Ralph and Genevieve Sirois), a content but troubled couple…Paulina is haunted by memories of being kidnapped and tortured by members of the secret police years earlier, while Gerardo is struggling to get appointed to a commission exploring the atrocities on behalf of the tenuous new democracy. Into their calm beachfront life comes Roberto (Paul Rainville), a stranger who gives Gerardo a lift home one night. His voice sounds all too familiar to Paulina, who is convinced he’s the Doctor who took charge of her brutal captivity, set to a Schubert soundtrack. A deadly game ensues to dig up the truth, at any cost.
MAIDEN is a pretty brilliantly constructed thriller, with moral high ground leaping from character to character, from scene to scene. IS The Doctor guilty? SHOULD Gerardo trust his wife? OR, is Paulina just plain out to lunch? Director Craig Walker, fresh off taking top honours at the Rideau Awards for his TWELFTH NIGHT production at the St.Lawrence Shakespeare Festival, keeps us guessing throughout. And the three solid actors assembled for this intense show make good with the material…the slow burn that builds throughout the first act explodes into some dazzlingly memorable scenes in the second half. Genevieve Sirois impresses throughout as the struggling, bitter Paulina, doing battle with the Doctor, her doubting husband AND her tortured memories all at the same time. And Chris Ralph’s idealistic Roberto reaches a wonderful crescendo during an explosive scene with Rainville’s masterful Roberto, who remains sympathetic and believable to the last, perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the whole play.
While there was a time or two I wished Ralph or Sirois would turn the volume up a notch, that may have been my own impatience talking…MAIDEN isn’t a play about quick and easy answers. Props to set/costume designer Andrea Walker…Jen Vallance pointed out something tres cool to me about the paintings used in the play that I missed…watch out for it. And David Magladry’s lighting was VERY Cool as well.
All told, a tense but fun night out from the Plosive kids, and a smashing end to their second short season at the renewed Gladstone. I can’t wait to hear what’s coming up next from them all…I heard one HORRIBLE rumour, but we’ll have to wait and see on that score. 😉 Kudos, Gladstone…and I’ll see you next season. Peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)
PS Credit where it’s due Dept. : Photo credit to the multitalented DAVID WHITELY, much thanks.