The Drudgery, aka my day job, is going full-out nuts at the moment. I’m working every day this week, and every day NEXT week, and it’s starting to become an issue when to find the time to even see any shows, much less write about them (I expect to have my FRESH MEAT festival post up sometime before the NEXT festival, if I’m lucky). Happily, I’m still in a position where I can weasel a few choice moments of free time out of the week, and that’s how I was able to secure Friday night off for a much-needed visit to Preston and Gladstone.
After a nice bit of nosh from some old kitchen-mates of mine at the new 2-6-Ate joint on Preston (make sure you save room for the deep fried PBJ dessert, I kid you not), it was right around the corner for premiere night at the Gladstone Theatre. After last month’s delightful STONES IN HIS POCKETS, it was Plosive Production’s turn to kick off their part of the season, with Daniel MacIvor’s HOW IT WORKS. I was extra-excited for this one, not just because it was a play by Canada’s sweetheart Danny Mac, but because I’d actually READ this one! It made me feel like a real theatre-guy, lemme tell ya. And it was a good one, too. I didn’t even mind that I was unable once again to get a date, even WITH a free extra ticket (I minded a little bit), I felt I was in for a fun night. And from the first glimpse of the trippy, rule-breaking set design (courtesy of director Stewart Matthews his own self), I knew I was right.
The Halifax-based story follows four central characters: Al, a likeable everyman and cop played by David Whitely, trying to raise his troubled teenage daughter Brooke, played by Hannah Kaya. Both try and maintain civil relations with his ex-wife Donna (Genevieve Sirois), when into the picture comes Christine (Michelle LeBlanc), a thickly-accented free thinker who meets up with Al on a blind date. She soon weaves her way around the lives of the other three protagonists, and sees something in Brooke’s rebellious streak that she can’t turn away from. And since, in Christine’s view, the best way to deal with pain is to turn it into a story, she sets about to do just that. First, tho, she has to find out just what Brooke’s story really IS…
I’m happy to say I fucking adored HOW IT WORKS, from the slip-sliding moveable sets to the sweet soundtrack, but much more for Danny Mac’s great script, Stewart Matthews’ mighty fine direction, and great performances all ’round. Michelle LeBlanc, who has never once failed to impress me since I first saw her in SATANIC PANIC at the Ottawa Fringe, is a rockstar as sweet’n’tough Christine, the backbone of the whole show and an utter joy to listen to. Her late-show monologue..? Forget about it. I’m gonna try and catch this show again just for that (that, and for the ‘Girl in the Fly Mask’ bit…classic). Dave Whiteley is solid once again as Al, especially in his scenes with Brooke. And Hannah Kaya, holy Hell, where did this kid COME from?? Serious talent from the little one, folks, keep your eyes on her. Genevieve Sirois is no less impressive as Donna, a character you almost assume you’re not going to like, but this play has no room for evil-ex stereotypes, and she makes Donna real, vulnerable and almost painfully human. A great performance.
It’s a terrific show, and the second Gladstone show in as many months that I’d really love to see again. It wades boldly into some traditionally dangerous territory, not the least of which is avant-garde theatre. It DOES get a bit more edgy than that, and I won’t go into spoilerific detail, but there are few places where Daniel MacIvor fears to tread. Luckily for us, the Gladstone gang is happy to walk right alongside. Peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)
PS: The Sunday October 7th show has been cancelled, as actor Genevieve Sirois is putting the finishing moves on a bout of Laryngitis (which she battled through bravely on opening night). But they’ll be up and running next week! Getcher tickets now!