Gonna try and get this one done old school, stayin’ up late and powering it out before I pass out and have to go to work in the morning. Mostly because I have to head out to the Ottawa Theatre Challenge tomorrow night and I don’t wanna drag my laptop along with me to work (it’s HEAVY!! *pout*). We’ll see how successful I am…I’ve been wimping out and leaving my reviews to the next day for a while now. But I feel inspired.
Is my inspiration partially on account of tonight’s show was the latest from the graduating class of theatre gangsters from the Ottawa Theatre School? And the fact that as of today, I’m a registered student in the 2013/2014 1st year class (OH yeah, I done paid my deposit up LIKE A BOSS this morning)? Or is it because Nick Fournier, the sole male specimen in said class, is gonna be one of my most excellent co-stars in our upcoming Fringe show this summer? And can I convince ANYone out there that I’m even remotely unbiased or professional or critical or whatever?
Ah, who fuckin’ cares, when did I ever let my obvious cheerleader tendencies stop me? I clearly love me some OTS, and I was out at the Gladstone theatre tonight to check out the second show from the graduating class this year, the world premiere of Lawrence Aronovitch’s FALSE ASSUMPTIONS. A bit of a co-pro with Plosive Productions, a collaboration that got them not only the lovely Gladstone theatre for the week but the terribly talented Teri Loretto-Valentik in the director’s chair, FA tells the tale of the life and trials of legendary scientist Marie Curie. Played by Hannah Gibson-Fraser in a demanding and nearly perfect performance, Marie’s story is overseen by a rather unlikely group, a trio of fellow female scientists, all criminally underrated in their time as Curie was (and a trend that is by no means dead today, in case anyone was questioning this plays relevance). Investigating and observing Marie’s story from an unidentified, otherworldly plane are Hypatia of Alexandria (Karina Milech), Countess Ada Lovelace (Alexis Scott) and Rosalind Franklin (Holly Griffith), who make for a rather wonderful group of narrators indeed. They guide us through Curie’s life, from her humble beginnings in Poland with sister Zosia (Tiffani Kenny) to her fateful meeting in Paris with future husband and scientific collaborator Pierre (Nick Fournier), who would help her to sift through a few metric tons of Pitchblende and discover Radium, which would turn out to be both a blessing and a terrible curse. Even as Marie is watched over by her trio of non-temporal peers, she’s hunted and haunted by the mysterious Grace (Alison Rainer) and her gaggle of ‘Radium Girls’, seeking some hard answers of their own for Marie’s discoveries.
ASSUMPTIONS is a very smart and important play…I heard one woman in the lobby after the show rather adamantly insisting it should be required viewing, and I’m not sure she’s wrong. Not that I didn’t have an issue or two with the mechanics of the work itself, but on the whole it’s a bloody impressive piece. Marie and her ghostly chorus are onstage for pretty much the 2-hour duration of the play, in a very dense script from Aronovitch, and they acquit themselves wonderfully. As mentioned, Hannah Gibson-Fraser is just fantastic as Marie Curie, selling the great lady’s almost obsessive discipline along with her more relatable human frailties. And as her great love Pierre, my man Nick Fournier is a smashing leading man and enjoys some amazing chemistry in his scenes with Hannah. As for our chorus (not really, but it’s what I like to call them), our three ghostly guides are what take this play from a dry bio into something really special. The clashes and alliances between them are wonderful to watch…Karina Milech’s majestic Hypatia jibes beautifully with Alexis’ romantically-minded Ada Lovelace, and both of them have marvellous back and forth with Holly Griffith’s Spock-esque Rosalind, who may hold the ultimate secret of the play in her hands. And a special shoutout to final cast members Alyssa Gosselin as a dedicatedly persuasive American Journalist, and Dilys Ayafor, who appears as not one but two separate male suitors of Marie’s. She be SMOOTH, and that’s the truth.
I could go on, like about how impressive is it that the gang got Attila Clemman’s sweet-cool set in place in the astonishingly little time they had, or the great job they all did, some with multiple roles. But why bother? I’ve already admitted my bias, and all I can tell you is I had a great damn time and hope you follow my example and head out to FALSE ASSUMPTIONS in its world premiere run this week only at the Gladstone! Funny, insightful and overdue…check it out. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)