Well, the hustle and the bustle of the big-time GCTC launch party was sadly over and done with. Plus I had a fun time a couple days later at the Opera Lyra MADAMA BUTTERFLY photoshoot with my killer photog pal Kathryn Reeves. It’s been a rather posh few days in theatre for me, I don’t mind saying. Which is why it was kinda nice to go a little lower key last night, with the debut of brand new company of theatre kids just looking to try something new and shake things up. Because if that’s not what it’s all about, then I happily don’t know what is.
The kids are WeArt, and the show was SANS SENSE, a collection of four separate original works from three spankin’ new writers, assembled together by killer up’n’coming director and all around good guy Fraser MacKinnon, and featuring the onstage talents of Marissa Caldwell, Will LaFrance and Joel Garrow. I’ve reviewed Caldwell and Lafrance a few times each before in these pages (Will somewhat recently for his lovely turn in Sock’n’Buskin’s LOVES LABORS LOST, and Marissa most notably vamping it up in Dead Unicorn Ink’s SPACE MYSTERY…IN OUTER SPACE!), and local improv fans will know Joel as a regular member of GRIMProv…he’s the beardy one! It was an interesting mix of creators, also including Stuart Ross, Sean Callaghan and Todd Hammond, who wrote the four short works that comprised the evening. Set up very smartly in the OddBox (aka the Ottawa Dance Directive studio in Arts Court), the show starts off with Garrow…who also acts as a sort-of narrator for the evening, in a weird way…in a beautifully absurd short called SHOOTING THE POODLE by Stuart Ross. It was a delightful slice of nuttiness, and it was pretty swell seeing the gregarious Joel Garrow act, as I’ve only seen him do improv up until this point. The story provides him ample opportunity for both comedy and storytelling…and the sunglasses gag is worth the price of admission all by itself.
Up next (via a wonderful, wonderful linking piece) was Will LaFrance in FISH by Todd Hammond. I’ve dug TheFrance’s work for a good while now, and was glad to see him back at the acting, I believe his first time onstage since getting into a heated argument with a motor vehicle last year. It’s a wonderful script he gets to work with, a touching and slightly mythical coming of age story and he does it justice with a straightforward and vulnerable performance. It’s a bit that could easily be expanded and explored further into a full-length show all by itself. Act 1 finished up with Joel Garrow and Marissa Caldwell waiting for a train together in THE ENGAGEMENT by Stuart Ross again, a sweet little shorty about communication and connection. It was a trifle light, but well done and a nice aperitif for what was to come.
The second act was taken up with one longer piece (about 45 minutes, I think), Sean Callaghan’s NO. PLEASE – and it was a doozy. Featuring the whole group together at last and exploring sex, death, violence, and other great conversation starters, it appears to be set in an alternate, dystopian reality of rampant authoritarianism and seriously degraded interpersonal dynamics. Everyone gets a chance to shine in this one, with moments flinging from joyously absurd to painfully dark. I may never be able to listen to HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY the same way again, thanks very much. Some cool directorial touches in this one especially, a few gorgeously awkward pauses, which is fantastic…a production like this is the perfect place to push the envelope a bit and play with how to get the story across. And the kids came out to play. Especially nice to finally see Marissa Caldwell have some moments to sink her teeth into, playing an officer’s wife struggling with the society around her.
SANS SENSE is a fun, borderline experimental night…performances are solid across the board, a few wobbles once or twice on the bigger monologues but always quickly recovered. Some stories are more fully fleshed than others, but all entertain, and there’s enough variety to please multiple sensibilities (although there’s a fairly dark undercurrent to the whole affair, so thumbs up, you dig?). All in all I had a really good evening seeing a lot of cool new theatre from people who clearly love what they’re up to. And I’m looking forward to seeing what the WeArt crowd comes up with next. Check it out if you can the next couple of nights at Arts Court! Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)