There's little cheer in playwright Edward Bond's vision of the future, Have I None. Set in a dystopic society where memory and family have been forbidden, it focuses on a couple who have to deal with the appearance of the woman's brother at their door.
"The play has the feel of a post-apocalyptic nightmare," says Martin Julien, who plays Jams, the male partner. "All human markers have been destroyed for the sake of preserving the remnants of society.
"And Jams, a paramilitary officer, has totally bought into this system. Order, control and discipline are paramount to him."
Presented by April Productions, and also featuring Dragana Varagic and Dusan Dukic, the show gets an unusual environmental staging on a lower deck of Captain John's Harbour Boat at the foot of Yonge Street.
"The space is grimy and atmospheric, intentionally oppressive," says Julien, whose play The Unanswered Question just ran at the National Arts Centre. He's acting in his next piece, Home Free, at SummerWorks.
"The characters and audience share the same claustrophobia and sensual experience of the venue. If we're successful, the production will linger viscerally with viewers."
Cutting-edge playwright Daniel MacIvor's known for his in-your-face solo shows. But he wrote Marion Bridge, about a trio of sisters in a small Nova Scotia town, because he knew his mother would enjoy it.
Commissioned by Emmy Alcorn, artistic director of Nova Scotia's Mulgrave Road Theatre, the show premiered in 1998 with Alcorn playing Louise, the youngest of the three sisters who gather to take care of their ill mother. Agnes, the eldest, lives in Toronto scraping together a living as an actor, while middle sister Theresa is a nun in a New Brunswick farming order.
The script, a lyrical and often funny piece about a family whose members have never quite connected, gets its professional Toronto production courtesy of the Company Theatre, with Alcorn reprising the role she originated and MacIvor directing.
"Daniel and I had done one-person shows back-to-back at Festival Antigonish, and I wanted a play by him that would appeal to our audiences ? both the rural Nova Scotia viewer and the Halifax urban theatregoer," recalls Alcorn.
Marion Bridge embraces that diverse community, says the performer.
"It's gentler than his other works, especially the one-man shows, where the intensity is between actor and viewer. Here, the drama is between the characters, and the play's comedy comes out of the truthfulness of the way the sisters interact.
"They might all have been present at important family events, but they each remember those events in different ways and have built their lives around those memories. On one level, the play is about revisiting memories and realizing that maybe they weren't true."
See Opening, theatre listings page.
In the French fashion
Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy goes to hell to get girl back.
It's your typical Greek myth, in this case Orpheus And Eurydice.
Opera Atelier presents one of the key works of 18th-century opera, Gluck's Orpheus And Eurydice, in the revised Paris version, with added music, both sung (including a bravura aria for Orpheus) and danced.
There's lots to enjoy in this production, not least Colin Ainsworth's passionate Orpheus ? his tenor is clean and sweet ? and Peggy Kriha Dye's sympathetic Eurydice. Their reunion is a sensual delight, musically and dramatically. The only other solo singer, Jennie Such's warm-voiced, seductive Amour, looks like a Cherubino who strayed in from Mozart's The Marriage Of Figaro.
Another plus is Tafelmusik's fine orchestral playing, with a nice bite, under conductor Andrew Parrott.
Director Marshall Pynkoski and choreographer Jeannette Zingg emphasize that the French version looks ahead to the Romantic era in its increased show of emotion and different style of dance. Still, it's strange to see pointe work at times, and the choreography's athleticism also seems unusual. Maybe contemporary Parisian audiences had the same surprised reaction.
The added choreography gives Zingg and her dancers more work than they've had in the past several Opera Atelier shows, which is fine. Too bad Pynkoski's kitsch ending adds unnecessary cutesiness to the production.
See Continuing, theatre listings page.