Actor Maurice Dean Wint hasn't been on the stage much recently, but he couldn't pass up the chance to play the lead in The Real McCoy .
Andrew Moodie 's play deals with Elijah McCoy , the black Canadian inventor who revolutionized 19th-century steam travel.
"I've never gone after parts because of my cultural background," says Wint of his career, which includes film and TV roles in Cube, Rude and Traders, as well as stage work in Capture Me, Where Is Kabuki? and Titus Andronicus.
"I'm excited, though, by this little-known story about the African-Canadian community. Andrew draws McCoy with dignity and humanity. He's not from the 'hood, doesn't speak in the slang of ebonics, but the narrative about this articulate genius moves forward with the momentum of a steam engine."
Born to runaway slaves in Ontario, McCoy studied thermodynamics in Edinburgh, moved to the States and invented not only a self-lubricating cup that simplified train travel but dozens of other things, too, including a lawn-sprinkler system and the folding ironing board.
"McCoy was foiled, though, by the laws of entropy, of systems breaking down, which ironically was just what he was studying," notes Wint. "Blacks weren't seen as scientific pioneers, and even the white characters who recognize his brilliance try to convince him to stay in the background.
"But he was a man who wanted to lead by example and not make compromises. He insisted on standing up for himself and being accepted as a totality - for the colour of his skin, the thoughts that came from his mind, the concern for others that emanated from his heart.
"It's an acting challenge to be onstage almost throughout. But I had to take a crack at this fully defined, multidimensional character, as proud of his accomplishments as of his skin colour. Elijah McCoy was a man who, against all odds, tried to be the best man he could."
It's worth the hike to Parliament and Wellesley to check out The Upstairs Show , one of the more reliable new weekly comedy nights.
The Thursday night show is run by Richard Ryder and Dawn Whitwell , who alternate producing and hosting duties. The cozy space is housed on the second floor of Big Mamma's Boy (554 Parliament), which has nothing to do with Martin Lawrence in drag. It's owned by Heather MacKenzie , who previously owned the Looking Glass - another site for comedy.
The only problem with the current space is the lighting. Host Ryder mentioned the "jiffy pop light," a reference to a lamp with some tin foil over it. Surprise guest Elvira Kurt joked that the foil would be covering the resto's roast beef the following day.
In or out of direct light, Kurt was in fine form, riffing about her role as a new parent. This gave her an opportunity to satirize baby clothing, her own Hungarian mother (and now grandmother) and how she's simply recycling pet jokes and replacing the pet with the baby.
U.S. comic Maria Bamford , in town visiting her boyfriend's relatives, delivered a solid 10 minutes. Altering her squeaky, slightly nervous speaking voice to do wacky impressions (of her mother, say, or an audience member) made for terrifically angry and funny outbursts. Hope she comes back.
Other highlights included Whitwell's dry, intimate observational comedy and improv (great to see improv on a mostly stand-up bill!) by Lisa Merchant and Janet Van De Graaff .
This week's show (Thursday, February 2) includes Debra DiGiovanni , Susan Fischer , Evelyn Reese , Laurie Elliott , Roy Daye , Sabrina Jalees and three "open spots" at the end for the first three comics who sign up before 8:15 pm. See Comedy Listings for details.