SOMETHING DRASTIC by Colleen Curran, directed by Marcia Tratt, with Debra Hale, Jane Miller, Shaun Clarke and Brian Young. Presented by MetroGnome at the Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman). Opens tonight (Thursday, January 20) and runs to February 6, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $10-$23, limited pwyc Sunday. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNNNN
Being dropped on boxing day by a boyfriend of nearly eight years isn't exactly comic material, especially when you're still devoted to him and he does it via a brief, cryptic note on the fridge.
But Colleen Curran's Something Drastic finds a way to mine the laughs as well as the changes in the life of Lenore, a Montreal restaurant worker who turns for advice and solace to her tenant Heidi, a university prof with her own guy problems.
Curran's play premieres in Toronto courtesy of MetroGnome, a theatre co-op whose name was suggested when organizers realized that Lenore collects lawn ornaments.
"We even used the gnome idea as a fundraiser for the production," says Jane Miller, who plays Lenore. "We asked 16 people - Tom Cochrane, Jaymz Bee, Scott Thompson, Gino Empry, Graham Greene and others - to decorate gnomes and then sold them on eBay.
"Some were sold to people in Florida and California, and one woman bought five that she gave as Christmas presents."
The energetic Miller, a talented singer as well as actor, seems to be having as much fun working on the show as she did helping organize the garden gnome sale.
"I love the fact that the humour in the show isn't a series of one-line cracks, but rather, grows from the characters," says the Dora-nominated Miller, who's toured her one-woman show Disco Goalie on the Fringe circuit and, most recently, delighted audiences in Shakespeare in the Rough's The Two Gentlemen Of Verona.
"Heidi needs Lenore's compassion and straightforward attitude to life, while Lenore needs the exposure to a wider world and sense of empowerment that Heidi provides.
"They see each other differently because of their filters, but each wakes up a part of the other. There may be broad strokes in the writing, but all the characters are recognizable because they're based in reality."
That's the case with the other onstage figures as well, all of them played by two actors simply called the As-Casts. They morph into various men and woman, including some sleazy guys, two members of a feminist mafia and lesbian partners who idolize Judy Garland.
Miller notes that there's a cartoony quality to the design and to some of the people we meet, which she says reinforces the piece's theatricality and the give-and-take between artists and audience.
"I believe theatre should be a hot medium, where you're constantly amazed by the changes you see onstage. When it works, it becomes a sort of communion, engaging the viewers as partners to bring the show to life."