If there’s one thing you can say with certainty about Chamber Theatre Hintonburg…they pick fucking cool venues. Having already run shows at the legendary Elmdale AND Carleton Taverns (the latter spot where I saw their MECHANICSVILLE MONOLOGUES II and MARCEL PURSUED BY THE HOUNDS), but apparently not content to get stereotyped as ‘that tavern company’, Chamber gurus Donnie Laflamme and Lisa Zanyk scoped out an even more unique neighbourhood hotspot for their latest show, the Collected Works bookstore on Wellington. And it’s even appropriate, as the first scene of their latest production, Amy Friedman’s TONGUE AND GROOVE, takes place in a bookstore.
Starring Sweet Tarts Takeaway alum Jerome Bourgault as J.D., a rather self-obsessed authour launching his new book inspired by his life with his ex-wife Lily (Manon Dumas), who just happens to turn up at said book launch. One thing leads to another, and the flame seems to be briefly rekindled. Well, maybe not brief for J.D., who’s convinced he can’t live without his beloved Lily, while she’s less than certain she can go down that ‘bad boy’ route again. Working at a women’s centre, Lily gets wildly different relationship advice from co-workers Hannah and Ruth (Gabrielle Lazarovitz and Anna Lewis, fresh from a stint together in 9th Hour‘s AGNES OF GOD, just across the street at the GCTC), even while being tepidly wooed on the side by poetic professor Grant (Sean Kemp). Before long, Lily finds herself being tugged in several directions at once, and edging closer and closer to a well-earned ‘I’m not gonna take it anymore’ moment.
There were, I’ll admit, one or two things I didn’t dig about the script itself (like why Lily was interested in either of these duds, but perhaps I’m just turning into a cynical old bastard in my solitude…in fact, yes, yes I absolutely am), but plenty I loved about the show. The cool beans setting for one, that gave one a nice bohemian frisson even before the show started. Bourgault is pretty much perfect as overly-romantic narcissist JD, and plays well with the powerful Manon Dumas. Her performance was electric, her Lily seething with barely-restrained frustration the entire time until POW! It’s pretty cool to watch. And awesome supporting work all around…Anna Lewis and her buzz-cut damn near made me lose my shit when she delivered a stern Dworkian feminist rant right at me (perils of the front row, newbies), and Gabbie Laz’ goofily upbeat Hannah got plenty of laughs out of the opening night crowd. Chamber mainstay Matt Smith was fantastic as JD’s burnout pal Mack, and smooth Tim Oberholzer and his epic moustache nearly stole the whole show. Sean Kemp made some great hay out of stuffy Grant and his endless quoting…his faceoffs with polar opposite JD were plenty harrowing, and mixed funny and dangerous quite nicely. Director Lisa Zanyk did a pretty sweet job with a good cast, and in a crazy space.
As they WERE holding court in a bookstore, opening night kind of doubled as a dress rehearsal. I didn’t notice any great missteps…good guy Leslie Cserepy made good with his soundscape, to my ears…but I can only assume they’ve gotten even tighter since that opening day. I’ve had a silly crazy week, and that’s not even completely an excuse for being lazy..! So this writeup is much, much later than it should be. But lucky you, you still have a whole ‘nother week of both Tongues AND Grooves to enjoy over at Collected Works. And, if you want to encourage local, exciting theatre that pushes the boundaries of what we think of as places to see a show, and employs foolishly talented local actors, then maybe you should go. If that’s your thing, obviously. Peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)