SERIOUS by Araxi Arslanian, directed by Keira Loughran, with Arslanian, Wes Berger, Kerry Ann Doherty, Adam Joe, Brian Marler and Claire Frances Muir. Presented by Bare-Arse Productions at the Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman). Opens tonight (Thursday, September 18) and runs to September 28, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $18, Sunday pwyc. 416-531-1827.
there are times when playwright Araxi Arslanian is delighted that she's also an actor. Like now, when in her latest script, Serious, she gets to have sex with "two of the hottest dudes on a Toronto stage" - Wes Berger and Brian Marler.
The play involves five friends who are used to shooting the shit at bars, talking about sex, TV and music. Then, when one faces a trauma, their relationship changes.
Arslanian admits that all the characters - a charismatic misogynist, a 70s freak, a good-natured figure who tries to solve the world's problems, a wounded poet and a hausfrau mothering type - are aspects of herself.
A large woman with a powerful stage presence, Arslanian's more than established her credibility as an actor, in such shows as Road, Cloud Nine, Reefer Madness: The Musical! and Our Country's Good, the last of which copped her a Dora nomination.
In last month's SummerWorks, audiences saw another side of her, as writer/actor in the autobiographical Rogues Of Urfa.
By her own count, Serious is Arslanian's 24th play. She began writing in Calgary, where playwright Brad Fraser dramaturged her early works when she was in a high school writers unit at Alberta Theatre Projects. She later went to the National Theatre School and spent five years as a theatre reviewer in Edmonton.
"What I like is theatre that's rock and roll," she offers. "I'm drawn to work that's dark, dangerous and funny, pieces that have a reverence for who we are as human beings and a reference to where we are in the world.
"Serious is a play about my generation, a group whose lives are mixed up with Atari, AIDS and The A-Team."
Having stage sex with two guys fulfills another need.
"People assume that theatre is so progressive and avant-garde, but the truth is that it usually reflects societal mores. Onstage, a woman my size rarely has a romantic relationship, and if she has sex it's either fetishized or ghettoized."
Iz, the character she plays, is loud, bawdy, sharp-tongued and mercurial when a man tries to get emotionally close, but also needy and insecure.
"As a feminist writer, I find Iz a challenge to write," Arslanian admits during a rehearsal break.
"But I think at some hidden level women have an attraction to domination. I think women viewers will have a problem with the self-loathing that Iz shows in one scene, but it's an element in everyone I know."
In fact, each of the characters has secrets that the audience gets to watch, and the eavesdropping won't always be comfortable.
"Though I think some scenes are screamingly funny, you'll see people at their most vulnerable and least attractive. I'm hoping there's a sense of recognition from the audience, that none of these people is a freak.
"I don't think there's anyone who doesn't have demons that are invisible to the naked eye. In this play, those demons come out and do a little boogie."
firstname.lastname@example.org Getting Serious