It’s always a tradeoff…as the atom bomb of awesome that is Fringe Festival time nears, the regular, crack-addict dose of most seasonal theatre draws to a close. The Gladstone and the NAC finished up a week or so ago, and as of yesterday the Great Canadian Theatre Company hit the stage with THEIR final show of the 2012/2013 season. Yes, the last show programmed by outgoing Artistic Director Lise-Ann Johnson is here, and the question is…does she go out with a bang? Was it worth the wait? Lets dig in!
The new show is LIKE WOLVES, a world premiere from playwright Rosa LaBorde who is OMG SO PRETTY YOU GUYS!!! Ahem. I mean, she’s a pretty kick-ass writer, and has come up with something special to round out the season. The tale begins as we meet Vera (Nancy Beatty) and Sam (Peter Froelich), a lifelong couple celebrating their fiftieth anniversary. Sam has decided to surprise Vera with a trip back to the spot where they spent their honeymoon all those years ago…trouble is, that spot (formerly a run-down inn and small-scale museum) is now an antiseptic retirement home in the midst of a towering urban ‘technology cluster’. Or at least, that’s what ever-helpful employee Tom (Matthew Edison) calls the sprawl of skyscrapers all around them. Vera, however, dreams of travelling the world and isn’t exactly thrilled with Sam’s unromantic getaway choice (as, admittedly, few women would be). A series of arguments ensue, and ultimately end with poor Sam having a heart attack right then and there.
Vera and Sam’s two grown daughters soon arrive on the scene to lend support as Dad recuperates…Earthy Mia (Kimwun Perehinec) dreams of becoming a Mother, while powerful but emotionally stilted Nina (Alix Sideris) spends her life trying to solve the worlds problems by herself. It was on her travels she met Yuri(John Koensgen), a Chechen doctor with a taste for vodka and a habit of speaking the truth. The group gathers and before long, interpersonal attacks are flying fast and furious, odd new alliances are made, several pieces of furniture are hurled, and Vera’s family (not to mention her life) may never be the same. In fact, they definitely won’t.
Director Peter Pasyk makes great use of a cast to die for, centering on Nancy Beatty’s wondrous Vera, breaking out of the shell her life has put her in with almost desperate vigour. She’s a positive joy to watch, especially when sparring with the always amazing Froelich as curmudgeonly Sam. A few new-to-me players, Matthew Edison as Tom and Kimwun Perehinec as Mia are terrifically charming, their goofy filrtations getting funnier as they become more obvious. The lady Alix Sideris is positively radiant as proud Nina, boasting of her dedication to others while rolling her eyes at the troubles of those closest to her. And John Koensgen is just bloody hilarious as Yuri, rattling off thickly accented non-sequiturs that just about bring down the house.
Encased entirely within a sharp set from designer Jessica Poirier-Chang, this show makes an amazing bookend to the year, pairing nicely with the seasons premiere, SECRET MASK. Both are shows about familial woes, broken children and lost parents and the secrets they keep from one another. And both are great shows, I really should stress that. The opening night crowd was clearly feeling the love, and I don’t expect that to die off anytime soon. A mighty fine end to a damn good year of theatre…bring on next season!! Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)
PS: Shoutout to my galpals Mado (assistant director) and Jacki (apprentice stage manger), who clearly were the difference that pushed this show from good to great! And AL Connors, you can even make cellphones sound amazing on a stage. Well done, sir.