LAMBTON, KENT, by Andre Alexis, directed by Ross Manson, with Yanna McIntosh. Presented by Volcano at Factory Studio. Aug 5 at 12:30 pm, Aug 6 at 2 pm, Aug 7 at 12:30 and 8 pm, Aug 12 at 3:30 pm, Aug 13 at 2 pm. Rating: NNNNN
Yanna McIntosh can be excused for feeling slightly dislocated these days. By day she's been rehearsing and performing Andre Alexis's monologue Lambton, Kent, in which she plays an African anthropologist lecturing on the quaint habits of southwestern Ontarians. By night she changes tone and gender, becoming the self-involved, swaggering Petruchio in the Dream in High Park's Shrew.
How does she manage not to go schizoid in the process?
"I've discovered the personal luxury of an afternoon nap," she laughs during one of her few free moments. "It's a wonderful invention, and I make use of it every single day."
McIntosh releases theatrical energy the way most people perspire on a muggy August day. I first saw her in productions at University College in the late 80s, where her Medea lodged itself firmly in my memory.
Since then she's spent three seasons at Stratford, won a Dora award for her performance in Valley Song and was nominated for two others, most recently the title role in Belle.
She has appeared in shows as diverse as A Fertile Imagination and Jacob Two-Two Meets The Hooded Fang, and even co-written her own Fringe hit, Trace.
In Lambton, Kent -- a shortened version of a play originally produced in 1995 -- Trillium Prize winner Alexis looks at rural Ontario culture from an unexpected perspective.
A black anthropologist, Dr. Katherine M'Tubu, applies the same scientific rigour to her field studies as did white investigators to African cultures in an earlier era, and comes up with some outlandish conclusions. It's like the view from an inverted microscope.
"She begins as the impartial observer -- a really, really good scientist bent on accuracy and precision," explains McIntosh. "But she ends up as someone who's emotionally affected by what she's been exposed to, and of course that undermines the exactness of what she studies. One sign of the change is how frequently, by the end, she turns to poetry to explain herself.
"The piece is also about the experience of being a stranger. You can be an immigrant or a foreigner, on the outside looking in, even though you may feel part of a culture."
That viewpoint accounts for much of the piece's humour, which ranges from the subtle to a Monty Python-esque bizarre. M'Tubu can never be a true observer of the experience, because she affects it by being part of it. Some of her conclusions about the social and cultural practices of small-town natives are ridiculously comic.
And playing two figures in a single day?
"At first I was apprehensive about tackling both. But it's neat to have two roles that involve different skills and acting styles. Petruchio is big, broad, full of himself, while M'Tubu is sure of herself as a scientist but less so as a human being.
"She's less comfortable in her own skin, a woman aware of her shortcomings and needs."