An ongoing story
In The Shade
'B'egal Theatre (Saidye Bronfman)
December 2, 2005
In his work with the Gravy Bath company, and maybe more than most who write for the theatre, Anthony Kokx gives us the sense of a serialized story: his plays are pieces of a larger puzzle he's been assembling for years. Their new production In The Shade is another compelling addition, the latest chapter in the Gravy Bath story.
The focus here is on the routines and ruts of life observed through three couples with the story channelled and shaped via a center-stage narrator.
The paired relationships are quickly sketched out in a few deft strokes. All have reached a tipping point—for good, bad, or uncertain—but change is imminent, and it is here where we tune in.
Kelly Patterson's charcater Carol works with dying patients in a hospital but has no sympathy for her mate Warren (Don Anderson), who stumbles about the house in jobless and aimless self-pity.
Looking in on another couple, this time seemingly perfect for each other, Helen (Stephanie Greer) has told boyfriend André (Yann Bernaquez) that she is dying, and wants to see about finding him a new love as soon as possible.
Angela Galuppo's character Raya is stifled and frustrated by the controlling and ridiculous Jeff Peso, of whom Raya sighs, "he's a big kid ... someone who has no plans, just action." As the deluded, would-be self-help guru Peso, Chris Masson gets the juiciest part in the play. He stands ready with arms poised for combat, staring at the "fuckin' stars", waiting for divine inspiration and instruction.
The company of Gravy Bath regulars is rounded out by Toronto-based actor Shaun McComb, who brings a powerful, calm, and level-eyed presence to his role as narrator/interlocutor of the piece.
A series of doorways comprise a dark perimeter around the stage; frames where characters are frozen before their moment in the light. The actors' stylized and graceful blocking rises to a choreographic level as they proceed in and out of our focus on an object placed center-stage: an oblong box is at first a bench but by turns a bed, an altar, and a sumptuous, red-lined coffin.
From the beginning, deaths both literal and figurative haunt the drama, yet it all remains oddly hopeful—a story, really, about being alive and being conscious of being alive. A line uttered at one point encapsulates the company well: "Some people live their dreams, others live in them."
In The Shade continues to December 17 at the 'B'egal Theatre (Saidye Bronfman Center)
5170 Cote-St-Catherine Rd. (metro Cote-St-Catherine)
Tel: (514) 540-0774
On the web: Gravy Bath productions.
[photo: lisa fitzhugh]
Last Call at the Fringe
Rendez-vous for contemporary theatre
Troubling the water
Assault and dramaturgy