LA RONDE by Arthur Schnitzler, adapted by Jason Sherman based on a translation by Michael Darroch, directed by Herbert Olschok, with Stephanie Baptist, Oliver Becker, Martha Burns, Patricia Fagan, Dean Gilmour, Allan Hawco, Kyle Horton, Holly Lewis, Tony Nardi and Nancy Palk. Presented by Soulpepper and Harbourfront Centre at the Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queen's Quay West). Previews July 26, opens July 27 and runs in rep with MacHomer to August 25. $25-$43.50. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNNN
you've heard of a movable feast. This is the movable interview.I'm in the lobby of the Premiere Dance Theatre, waiting for Allan Hawco and Holly Lewis. They're two of the 10 talented actors in Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde, presented by Soulpepper in a new adaptation by Toronto playwright Jason Sherman.
The daisy-chain of a play follows a succession of two-person sexual liaisons and subtle power struggles, one character from each scene moving on to an erotic encounter with someone in the next.
Hawco shows up a few minutes late, after being caught in traffic on Queen's Quay. We're meeting at Harbourfront because he has a matinee of Present Laughter here in barely 90 minutes.
Hawco's a hot young actor in several senses. Just a year out of the National Theatre School, he's impressed viewers and critics as an innocent prince in The Triumph Of Love and -- in an abrupt turnaround -- as the cockney valet in Present Laughter. In the fall, he opens the Theatre Passe Muraille season in Daniel MacIvor's You Are Here.
At the moment, having rushed to get here, his heat is physical. Hawco spends the first five minutes of our conversation mopping the sweat from his forehead. He's carrying around a script of Richard III, a play that might be in his future.
There's too much tourist traffic in Queen's Quay Terminal, too much commotion for an interview, so when Lewis shows up -- having biked over from La Ronde rehearsals on King -- we move to the second-storey lobby of the theatre.
In La Ronde, Lewis plays a hooker involved with an athlete -- Sherman's changed the character from a soldier -- and a politician, while Hawco's student first seduces his family's maid and then the wife of a family friend, kind of a reverse Benjamin-Mrs. Robinson relationship from The Graduate.
What was shocking at the turn of the century -- the play's sex -- won't affect an audience used to Internet porn, X-rated mags and business personals.
"What's more disturbing about the play today is the nature of the relationships," offers Hawco, "how everyone achieves what they want and how they go about getting it."
"Some of the best theatre deals with two people in a room breaking each other's heart," adds Lewis, whose Toronto work includes the Dora-nominated fforward, Midnight Sun and Spring Awakening. After the Soulpepper season, she joins Canstage's production of Judith Thompson's Habitat.
"Yes, there's sex in almost every scene, but director Herbert Olschok says there's nothing more boring onstage than a naked person. He likens the feeling of the play to watching someone through a keyhole for weeks and then suddenly becoming aware that the person on the other side is looking back at you. Who's the observer? Who's the observed?"
I'm having trouble hearing. The bar is being set up, bags of ice are being delivered noisily, attendants are shouting across the lobby to each other. Hawco suggests we move elsewhere, so we decamp to the downstairs lobby.
Hawco's new to Soulpepper, Lewis is in her second year. She was to have played Juliet last summer, but an accident to her Romeo knocked the show out of the season.
"It's great for someone like me, recently out of theatre school, to be working alongside people like Diego Matamoros and Martha Burns," says Hawco. "And we can watch any rehearsals we want."
Now the downstairs lobby is getting noisy as the efficient house manager starts giving instructions to her staff about latecomers and how to handle emergencies.
Hawco has to get ready for his performance, so we wind up our conversation. Good thing, too -- there's nowhere left to go.