Last week I got to sit on a bit of a ‘media call’ for an upcoming show in town, which I was all over because a) I was invited, which always makes me feel special, and b), it was a co-production by maybe my two fav’rit theatre companies in this burg, Evolution Theatre and Mi Casa Theatre. That’s got World’s Finest written all over it right there it does, so I was pretty stoked to check this one out. Now, due to failings well within my control, I didn’t manage to get out to see this show in its first week, and believe me, no one’s sorrier than I on that note. But last night, appetite well whetted, I finally managed to make it in to what should, if there’s any justice, go down as one of the coolest theatrical productions of 2013.
Set in the always sweet Ottawa Dance Directive Studio in Arts Court (home to Evolution’s absolutely amazing LITTLE MARTYRS a ways back), this latest production was Jill Connell’s HROSES: AN AFFRONT TO REASON, directed by Emily Pearlman and starring Katie Swift and Nick DiGaetano. Katie’n’Nick had previously appeared onstage together in the NAC/GCTC co-pro of VIMY, as well as ST.CARMEN OF THE MAIN, and it was dandy seeing them back in action, this time in an impressively mindbending show set in ‘Quantum Time’, so I knew going in there was no way I’d be able to resist it. It’s a dense script packed with beautiful language and layers upon layers of information that might take a repeat viewing or two to properly sort through, and that would NOT be a hardship thanks to a pair of knockout performances from our two leads. Katie Swift is Lily (or possibly Susan), a paper farmer who wanders out into ‘No-Man’s Land’ one day and finds a solitary Hrose (pronounced Horse, fear not). Soon, she is discovered by the eerily similarly named Ellery (Nick DiGaetano, who also created the Hrose, the unofficial third member of the cast), who works in the nearby sugar mines. They soon do what happens when Boys meets Girls in a play, but that’s just the surface. There’s also the moths to contend with, land disputes, shifting memories, the clash of industrialism and agrarianism, firing squads, and the very real possibility that it’s all to late before it even begins. Katie and Nick do an incredible job, melding the wordy and eloquent script with very physical performances that never falter. It’s a helluva sight to see.
Evolution Theatre’s mandate to put on challenging work continues unabated with HROSES, but gets a wonderfully surreal spin thanks to director Emily Pearlman, setting the whole thing in the round and maintaining an electric air throughout. The design work is absolutely fantastic too…Pierre Ducharme on lights continues to impress, and this is some of sound designer AL Connors’ best work yet, which is saying something. And while I’m still a little uncertain about the specific whats and hows of the storyline itself, and you might be too unless you’re smarter than me (note: this is very, very likely) it’s a beautiful journey nonetheless, and one that I’d gladly take again. Emily, Nick, Katie and the entire Evolution/Mi Casa superteam have created something really special here, and you’re kind of a silly billy if you don’t run on over to Arts Court and see this one while you have the chance. A Hrose this magical won’t stay put for long. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)