Confession: I work just down the street from the Avalon Studio and I haven’t managed to make it there for a visit for months since they opened…the newest theatre space in Ottawa and I hadn’t even inaugurated it yet! Shameful, oh how I know, people, but I was just waiting for the right moment is all! And the right moment, of course, is when a brand new play premieres featuring my l’il buddy Rebecca in the cast. And that finally happened this past weekend with the debut of Incite:lab’s production of Tim Ginley’s SO2SPEAK. Taking my long-delayed cue, I hustled down to the Glebe in the first proper snow of the season (even danced a bit outside with Miss Victoria) before finally discovering just what it was that Chris’n’John had done with this long-neglected space over the Home Hardware. And it was something wunnerful indeed, with the showspace itself headily reminiscent of some bohemian NY loft, towering forever overhead and bordered with sweet walkways. It felt like a fantastic place to spend an evening, and that’s no lie.
The show, directed by Stewart Matthews, is a devious bit of theatre-within-theatre, taking place at the pre-opening tech rehearsal of a brand new play in what appears to be a pretty gosh darn totalitarian state. Our two heroes (or at least, protagonists) are Smith (Mitchel Rose) and Jones (William Beddoe), a pair of actors cast as Hubble and Hal, respectively, in a new comedy by an up and coming playwright. But they’re way behind on rehearsal time, stage manager Clemow (Caitlin Corbett) doesn’t always seem to be on their side, and that damn party censor (Rebecca Laviolette) keeps cramping their style. But Jones at least seem convinced that the show will eventually go on…until Smith discovers the body, the others vanish, and everything turns to paranoia and shit.
Beddoe and Rose have the bulk of the onstage work to do in this show, a wordy but darkly clever bit of fun from Ginley, and directed with Hitchcockian glee by Matthews, making full use of the towering, vertigo-inducing space available. And the leading lads are smashing in their roles as well as their suits, playing one might say adorably off one another as their situation goes from bad to ridiculous to even worse. Mitchel Rose’s Ottawa Theatre School movement skills (alma mater plug!) get put to good use more than once here, and both he and Beddoe prove to be joyously funny in the face of hopeless adversity, bring the comedy to match the dark around them. Props also to the supporting cast of Corbett, Laviolette and Jeremy Piamonte who bring solid work (and loud warnings) to the proceedings. A little bit of sweet lighting from the always reliable David Magladry seals the deal, and puts the bow on a particularly cool evening of theatre inside a seriously cool space that you need to check out. It sounds like Incite:lab has some interesting times planned ahead in partnership with the Avalon, so get in on the ground floor and say you were here when it all started. You’ll probably be pleased you did. The show runs again on the 15th and 16th (Friday and Saturday) at 8pm, and Sunday the 17th at 2. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)