TROUT STANLEY by Claudia Dey, directed by Eda Holmes, with Michelle Giroux, Melody Johnson and Gordon Rand. Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst). Previews begin January 4, opens January 8 and runs to February 6, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday and February 5 at 2 pm. $25-$34, Sunday pwyc-$20, previews $12, February 1 gala fundraiser $100, some stu/srs discounts. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNNNN
It's taken seven years, but Michelle Giroux is finally making her mainstage debut in Toronto. One of the best young talents at Stratford, Giroux went straight to the festival after graduating from the National Theatre School.
Now she"s really breaking classical theatre stereotypes. As Grace, one of the non-identical twins in Claudia Dey"s Trout Stanley, she"ll greet audiences in a short-shorts camouflage zip-up, cowboy boots and high-sculpted hair.
Grace and Sugar Ducharme live beside the town dump in a small northern BC town, content with life until the appearance of the title character (yes, he"s named after a fish), who sets up a triangle in their happy world.
"Claudia"s captured a beautiful kind of tragedy here," offers Giroux, who performed in a Rhubarb version of Dey"s earlier play, Beaver, and has known the playwright since theatre school.
"What she"s exploring is love in its purest form, but also how it can be malformed. The result is a series of funny and intense situations in which the three characters find themselves cooped up in the woods with one gun.
"The sisters live in a tacitly accepted, self-contained universe until Trout shows up and crumbles the foundation of their lives."
The giant mane and rodeo-style boots Grace sports, Giroux notes, are just the exterior armour she"s donned to face the world.
"Inside she"s vulnerable and insecure, but outside she"s the driving force behind the myth that keeps the two women isolated and interdependent. She always intends to act with love, I think, but that love is twisted in a way that keeps her sister Sugar from experiencing life.
"We have to invest in this world completely, without any kind of judgment on these twins and who they are."
Giroux says her time at Stratford was everything a developing professional artist could hope for.
"Working with performers like Martha Henry, Brian Bedford, Seana McKenna and Stephen Ouimette - people who share their own helpful hints from having already worked on the same plays and parts - is a lesson in generosity."
And does that classical experience help with Trout Stanley?
"The sense of rhythm that"s so important in classical work is just as vital in Claudia"s modern text. Part of the script is a series of brief lines that go on for pages. They force you to be in the moment, understand just what you"re feeling and thinking, and express yourself with total commitment.
"Then she gives you beautiful, long passages of poetry that are just as vital and have to be brought to life in a different manner."
And the biggest difference between working on the Stratford and Factory stages?
"The size of the cast," giggles Giroux, who returns to the festival next summer. "In Stratford you"ll often have 20 people onstage with you. Here, there are only two others, which means you have more stage time, more responsibility - and more lines."