THE WIDOWER adapted from a story by Arthur Schnitzler, conceived and directed by Michelle Ouellet, with Kate Blank, Nicholas Carella, Christina Haley, Aaron Hutchinson and Brian Sison. Presented by Ante-M Theatre at the Factory Studio. August 6 at 8 pm, August 7 and 10 at 5 pm, August 9 and 12 at 6:30 pm, August 11 at 11 pm, August 13 at 9:30 pm. Rating: NNNNN
Many young theatre artists find themselves in a catch-22. No one will hire them because they lack experience, but how can they get experience if no one will hire them? The hard-working duo behind Ante-M Theatre has found a solution.
"We're creating opportunities for young artists that they otherwise wouldn't get until they were about 40," says Nicholas Carella.
"We want to do theatre that challenges us so we never have to be in a Norm Foster play."
If Ante-M's last production was any indication, they're on the right track. For last month's Fringe, they produced Nana, an adaptation of Emile Zola's sprawling novel about the rise and fall of a Parisian courtesan, with a live band and 10 actors playing 40 roles. Directed by the company's other founding member, Michelle Ouellet, it was a richly evocative staging, visually inventive and narratively clear. The year before, they offered up Green: Or An Anthem For Young Love, a poignant look at a love triangle.
Now the company's mounting The Widower, an adaptation of an Arthur (La Ronde) Schnitzler short story about a young man (Carella) who discovers from a letter that his just-deceased wife has been unfaithful. Director Ouellet (who's also Carella's fiancée) was fascinated by the detailed descriptions of sounds in the story, so much of the production will be aural as well as physical.
"If you literally played out what happens in the story it would take maybe five minutes," explains Carella. "Man walks into room, reads letter, friend arrives. The play almost completely occurs in the widower's head, in memories, voices, sounds. For example, my character walks into a room that belonged to his wife, and the moment's heightened by the sound of a finger on a glass creating a high-pitched tone."
The entire company has helped shape the piece.
"Michelle asked us to try to physicalize things. What does anger or heartache look like? What does writing look like? Watching someone grieve is not a graceful thing."
Carella's used to the uncertainties of the creative process. A few days after our interview, he informs me that the idea of using some taped sounds - almost like a radio play - has been ditched. All sounds will come from the performers themselves. A similar thing happened with Nana. Shortly before the first performance, five parts were recast.
"We do a lot of talking about the script, a lot of table work," he explains. "The most important thing is that everyone understands what's going on. It's all about how to best communicate the story, and not just trying to do things that look cool."