Autumn Smith (left) and Kate Hewlett help kick off 2009 in style.
HUMANS ANONYMOUS by Kate Hewlett, directed by Andrew Hachey (Anonymous Co-op). Factory Mainspace beginning January 8.
What if the man of your dreams turns out to be a woman?
That's the surprising discovery for Ellen, the central character in Kate Hewlett's Humans Anonymous.
She meets Smartypants17 on a non-gender-specific online dating service, and when she finally receives a signed email, the name at the bottom's Lenny. Oops - the sender was bright chatterbox Jenny, who accidentally misspelled her name.
"Ellen's never considered the possibility of being with a woman, and their meeting is disastrous," says Hewlett, who premiered Humans Anonymous in the 2006 Fringe and followed it with last year's hit The Swearing Jar.
Ellen's rejection doesn't stop Jenny from continuing to woo Ellen anonymously with the help of Ellen's gay friend and business associate Peter.
Weave in Peter's cat-loving sister, Gema (played by Hewlett), a catalyst for much of the play's resolution
, and Arden, a man Ellen finds attractive, and you have a comedy fraught with the problems of love.
"It's fascinating to explore the humour in infatuation and rejection," says Hewlett, a writer/actor whose TV work includes Stargate Atlantis and CBC's 11 Cameras. "Those situations find us at our most vulnerable and ridiculous.
"Writing about this sort of relationship is as much about what goes unsaid beneath the words as it is about the words themselves. You can have a conversation full of banter - all the play's characters enjoy word games - but you know that you're actually discussing something heavier."
The play's gone through a number of incarnations
, including a production in New York City, and has become a 75-minute one-act that explores fear as well as love.
"One of the saddest things for me is seeing people hold back because of fear of failing," notes the actor. "Every character has a number of monologues about what they're scared of doing or of having done.
"Maybe I wrote them because that kind of direct address is one of my fears," she chuckles, "both as an actor and as a person. It's like public speaking to a group you don't know, and that's a common anxiety."