Michelle Kuzemczak and Julie Zenderoudi in Concord Floral.
It's been a really busy fall for playwright, filmmaker and director Jordan Tannahill. His company, Suburban Beast, has staged three plays over the past two months, and there are still two more projects to go before Christmas.
His latest, a workshop of Concord Floral, closed Saturday, November 10; it was part of Theatre Passe Muraille's Bring the Buzz. The show confirms Tannahill's skill at blending video and live action, as well as his understanding of what it means to be a contemporary suburban teenager.
Co-created with Erin Brubacher, Cara Spooner and a cast of 10 teen performers, Concord Floral takes place in Vaughan. The title refers to an actual abandoned greenhouse - now torn down and replaced by a housing development - that draws the characters as a place of community and a safe haven.
One of Tannahill's sources is Boccaccio's The Decameron, in which a group of young people escapes the plague by withdrawing to a country villa. The Vaughan greenhouse also holds the possibility of freedom, but the modern-day teens are a troubled group, often isolated from their parents and from each other.
The teen actors, themselves close to some of these feelings, communicate their characters' anxieties and needs; there are moments of hope but also of frustration and despair.
Tannahill's use of film is as striking here as it was in Post Eden, the first part of his Edge City trilogy; Concord Floral is its second. (Part 1, Post Eden, a SummerWorks hit a few years ago, returns in January as part of Next Stage.)
Turning a scrim between front and rear of the stage into a screen, the writer/director sometimes puts actors in front of a projected "set" and occasionally adds other characters behind the scrim, figures who appear to be part of a different reality. (Did we say that Concord Floral is, on one level, a tale of ghostly revenge?)
The multimedia is handled cleverly, its success in part due to the work of the young performers.
There's lots of talent on display in the Tarragon Theatre's free play-reading series. The presentation of six new works begins Tuesday (November 20).
Jordan Tannahill (see above) opens the series with Late Company, in which a couple serves dinner to their deceased son's tormentor and parents (November 20).
The Tarragon's playwright in residence, Rosa Laborde, offers Like Wolves, in which a 54th wedding anniversary turns out quite differently from how the celebrating couple intends (November 21).
Matthew MacKenzie's The Benefit is set at a charity ball where revelations threaten to bring a catastrophic end to a group's philanthropic endeavours (November 22).
Tracey Power, winner of the RBC Tarragon Emerging Playwrights' Competition, presents Ordinary Genius, in which a documentary filmmaker discovers some mysterious correspondence between a well-known physician and his patient (November 23).
Skin To Skin is Ines Buchli's stage adaptation of her screenplay, co-written with Marlene Rodgers, in which two daughters are drawn relentlessly into the large-scale marriage ceremony of their mother, a flamboyant matriarch (November 24).
Finally, Sands, Jo-Anne Elder's translation of a script by New Brunswick playwright Marcel-Romain Thériault, looks at a son who returns to his dying mother, who blames him for betraying the family's political cause years before (November 25).
Dinner with the folks
You get a sense of the culinary focus of Saturday Sunday Monday, the first show in this season's George Brown Theatre season, as soon as you walk into the theatre: the air is full of the smell of onions cooking.
Eduardo de Filippo's comic drama, adapted by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, centres on the well-to-do Priore family's Sunday meal. Set in 50s Naples, the first act (Saturday) begins with cooking and sets up the play's various characters and often strained relationships, not least between father, Peppino (Alexander Offord), and mother, Rosa (Gabriella Colavecchio).
He's jealous of the attention she's getting from neighbour and friend Luigi Ianiello (Michael Man); she's upset that her husband's been distant for the past four months.
When you count their three children, one's spouse, Rosa's father, Peppino's siblings and other relatives and friends, the Sunday meal is a huge family affair. It ends in a potentially tragic row, which is resolved the next day.
Director James Simon creates a fine ensemble from the George Brown graduating class and one returning grad; the production has an acting chemistry that's as necessary to the plot as the proper reduction of the ragu cooking in the first act.
It's Colavecchio who stands out in the generally strong cast, commanding everyone from the temperamental maid (Erin Eldershaw) to Rosa's talkative sister-in-law (Merritt Crews) and passive-aggressive husband. We take Rosa's side in the fight at the climax of act two, even sympathizing with her when she plays the melodramatically rejected spouse in the next.
Adding strength to the period production are traditional Neapolitan melodies, 50s Perry Como songs, striking costumes by Michael Gianfrancesco and a group dance number at the end.
Carley's car tale
Back in 1994, when award-winning playwright Dave Carley wrote Into, traffic was already a problem on local roads.
Inspired by a short story by Julio Cortazar, the play looks at a surreal traffic jam and the community that springs up as a result of the stopped cars.
Now almost two decades later, Into has added relevance in an urbanized world where the car is still too often king.
Newface Entertainment revives the Dora- and Governor General-nominated play, with Aaron Rothermund directing Timothy Eckmier, Lea Russell, Simeon Taole and Roselie Williamson.
Into opens Tuesday (November 20) at the Berkeley Street Theatre.