BENEVOLENCE written and directed by Morris Panych, with Colin Heath, Stephen Ouimette, Tom Rooney, Jennifer Wigmore and Gina Wilkinson. Tarragon (30 Bridgman). Previews begin Tuesday (September 18), opens September 26 and runs to October 27, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday (except September 22) 2:30 pm. $32-$38, stu $20-$32, Sunday pwyc-$17, previews $19. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNNNN
Actor Jennifer Wigmore's been busy artistically in the past nine years - but not on the stage. She has lots of TV credits and a new career as a painter.
But theatre's a love she can't leave behind, and she's getting ready for a return to the boards in Morris Panych's Benevolence, the Tarragon season opener.
"Acting onstage is about being connected in the present moment and following an instinct that comes from the gut, not the head," says the performer.
"And I know that it's like getting back on a bicycle," she smiles. "Maybe I've not ridden this particular style of bike in a while, and maybe it's a new model, one where I don't know where all the gears are, but it's still a bike."
In Benevolence, Wigmore plays Audrey, the girlfriend of Oswald Eichersen, a shoe salesman whose impulse to give money to Lomy, a homeless man, comes back to kick him in the ass.
Lomy invades Eichersen's life, convinced that his benefactor could improve his lot. He even tinkers with Audrey and Eichersen's relationship.
"Audrey's a commercial real estate person, ambitious and driven. She lives in a tightly compact world; she believes in certain truths that don't always bear relation to other people's reality."
On top of that, her relationship with Eichersen isn't one between peers.
"More intelligent and successful than he is, she likes being slightly ahead of her partner. But since he's met Lomy, Eichersen's changing the rules of their relationship, which confuses Audrey."
Wigmore sees Audrey as a contrast to Lomy, the source of the play's action.
"Lomy lives in the present and wants to forget his sketchy past. All he cares about is getting money from someone for today's lunch.
"Audrey, on the other hand, is working on the next deal and then the one after that, and she knows what she's having for dinner tonight," Wigmore laughs, "and probably for breakfast tomorrow."
A talented painter as well as an actor, Wigmore has devoted herself to visual art for the past several years. She has four exhibits opening between now and the spring, including one at the Hang Man Gallery during the run of Benevolence.
Do the two art forms feed each other?
"In fact they do. Just as in performing, when you paint you have to be in the moment, you have to be honest. You live in the brush strokes and experience the energy of your body through the brush as an actor does through words.
"The difference is at the end. A painter gets to witness how people react to a completed work. As an actor, I never get to see my work from the outside and never finish working on it."
Additional Interview Audio Clips
On Morris Panych's Characters