Sweet Phoebe by Daryl Cloran, with Gema Zamprogna and Colin Glazer. Presented by Theatrefront at the Factory Theatre Upstairs. Aug 4 at 10 pm, Aug 5 and 12 at 5 pm, Aug 6 at 1:30 pm, Aug 8 at 7 pm, Aug 11 at 9:30 pm, Aug 13 at 7:30 pm Rating: NNNNN
Theatrefront's Daryl Cloran has pole-vaulted to the forefront of the city's up-and-coming theatre artists. The young company's first Toronto piece, fforward, was nominated for several Doras last spring, including one for Cloran's direction. He followed up with the excellent one-man show I Might Be Edgar Allan Poe.
Now Cloran's staging Sweet Phoebe, a darkly comic Australian play he discovered while at the Adelaide Fringe, in which a couple's relationship disintegrates when they agree to babysit their friends' dog.
"It's a really simple script about two people in a room breaking each other's hearts," offers Cloran, who began Theatrefront during high- school days in Sarnia.
"After all the tech wizardry in fforward and the upcoming Cloud 9" -- he's directing Caryl Churchill's stylized piece for Equity Showcase next season -- "it's almost relaxing to do a play in which two people just talk honestly to each other."
The venue for the show is the top floor at Factory, usually used as a rehearsal hall and likely to be hot in the dog days of August.
"But it's perfect for this show -- a small room that we'll turn into the characters' apartment. There won't be an invisible fourth wall, but instead the actors will work close to the audience, which makes everyone more vulnerable. As the play progresses, people will get hotter and hotter, which nicely parallels the action."
The script is notable for having no punctuation, so actors have a wide latitude to interpret the couple's increasingly eccentric squabbles.
"It's a freeing experience but also an interpretive challenge. We can't assume that our first impulse is the one we'll end up with. And because the material is broken down into 21 short scenes, we can work each of them again and again, taking chances with each new reading.
"In the scenes that are pure dialogue, what one actor says clearly informs how the other responds. It's the best example of how good acting is really good listening."