Guys and Doll's
Traditionally, Henrik Ibsen 's A Doll's House is an early feminist statement in which the formerly meek Nora slams the door behind her as she heads into a new world.
In the New York-based Mabou Mines version, DollHouse , New World Stage 's opening show, the focus is on an actual dollhouse and -- just as importantly -- on height distinctions between the men and women onstage.
All the male characters are under 4-foot-6, while the women tower over them. In director Lee Breuer 's production, the set is a Christmas dollhouse Nora buys for her children. Her condescending husband, Torvald, and the other men fit into it all too comfortably.
"Torvald is a straw figure for today's viewers," says Maude Mitchell , who plays Nora and co-adapted the piece with Breuer. "Within five minutes everyone just wishes she would leave him.
"We want this to be the play of a couple who are both hurt by patriarchy, whether they're master or slave. It has to stand in its own time and place as an indictment of society. If you update it, you're dealing with a different level of psychological awareness on the part of a Western audience. They'd just expect Nora and Torvald to go into couples therapy to save their marriage."
Mitchell emphasizes not just the political but the comic nature of the play.
"If you go further into comedy, you can take people further down the road into sorrow. We take our comedy seriously and spin through various performance styles.
"The result doesn't look at Ibsen in a distancing, Brechtian sense, for the actors retain a hot emotional centre. We might stylize a moment and comment on it, but the heartbeat goes on."
See Opening, page 64.
Curse cast out
Leon Saul 's Curse Of Ham grew out of a natural disaster, the 2005 flood in Guyana.
"I saw 2 feet of water outside my home and wondered what to do," says Saul, whose company, Roots International, produces the show. "A voice in my head said, 'Write a play about Noah and the curse of Ham. '"
The latter phrase refers to one of Noah's sons who, by tradition, uncovered his father's nakedness and was cursed with being black. Some have used it as the basis for racism.
In Saul's play, a 21st-century preacher claims to be the reincarnation of the Biblical Ham and must defend himself in court against charges of promoting hatred.
"The piece touches on the core of humanity itself," reasons Saul, "for after the Biblical flood, four couples -- Noah, his sons and their wives -- repopulated the earth and gave us the races who now live here."
He created the role for himself, envisioning the contemporary Ham as a black Rasta, but white actor Jeff Orchard gave such a good audition that he got the part.
"So now he's a white man who claims to have been black in a previous life. That makes the racial element less intimidating, less raw.
"And both the actors and audience can engage in a discourse on race without thinking we're attacking each other on the basis of skin colour. The play is a reflection on the human condition, on love and the souls we all have, regardless of what race we belong to."
See Opening, page 64.
Who knew that computers had their origin in two tin cans and a piece of string?
Well, that's the story according to Small Wooden Shoe, theinventive and form-breaking theatre troupe currently engaged inlooking at seven revolutions that have changed our world. ConnectThe Dots, the second in the series, ran last weekend at Tallulah'sCabaret as part of Buddies' Audience RelocationLaboratory.
Their look at the information revolution is a combination of lecture,audience survey, stand-up comedy, storytelling and physicaldemonstrations of some computer-related facts. A lot of the piece'scleverness comes from using low-tech means to describe and definehigh-tech objects.
For instance, a large tube from the balcony to the stage stood in forthe Internet, and when performer Ame Henderson wanted to sendsomething to Frank Cox O'Connell at the other end, the "message"(a Tinker-toy object) was too big to fit. So she disassembled it andsent it in small pieces, which he then put together at his end. Notsurprisingly, the received "message" had a somewhat different shape.But, then, who hasn't gotten a scrambled letter via e-mail?
From chat rooms to Lavalife, cat's-cradle string games to tap dancing,the company – including Chad Dembski, Erin Shields,director Jacob Zimmer and designer Trevor Schwellnus –riffed on our e-connected lives intelligently, comically andentertainingly.
If you've never seen the company, catch their next outing as part ofHarbourfront Centre's Hatch series on March 11, where they'll tacklethe Gutenberg Revolution.