TERMINUS by Mark O'Rowe, directed by Mitchell Cushman, with Maev Beaty, Ava Jane Markus and Adam Wilson. Presented by Mirvish and Outside the March at the Royal Alexandra Theatre (260 King West). In previews, opens Friday (November 23) and runs to December 9, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, Sunday 7 pm (except November 25), matinees Saturday-Sunday 2 pm. $69, same-day rush $29. 416-872-1212. See listing.
Most people behind indie theatre festival hits hope for a remount at a slightly larger venue. The folks involved in SummerWorks' Terminus have achieved that - and then some.
Three months after selling out their handful of performances at SummerWorks, actors Ava Jane Markus and Adam Wilson are preparing to step onto one of the most prestigious stages in the country, that of the Royal Alexandra Theatre, as part of a new Mirvish theatre series.
"I was happy with the SummerWorks experience and felt like we had spent our time well," says Wilson, sitting in a boardroom at the Mirvish offices.
"You always hope something will come of it, but this was a little beyond the scope of my ambition."
Markus, for her part, says the experience is nerve-racking but exhilarating.
"I think a different level of expectation comes in. There's hype, and more people will be seeing it. But we're determined to meet those expectations."
It was Markus who discovered Mark O'Rowe's play about a trio of lost Dublin souls (the other actor is played by the fine Maev Beaty). She saw the world premiere production at Dublin's Abbey Theatre, and passed it along to her University of Alberta theatre department pal Mitchell Cushman, who later directed her in a terrific staging of Mr. Marmalade.
Cushman came up with the concept of seating the audience on the stage with the actors between them and the traditional seating area.
"It was clear that the piece wanted to be done that way," says Markus. "There was something about an empty theatre in the background that resonated with the stories."
The three characters weave around the set and deliver a series of linked monologues, but having an "empty" theatre behind them makes you think about all the other tales that have played out in the space.
"There's such a legacy to the Royal Alex," says Wilson, who years ago worked as a front-of-house employee there. "You think about how many people have passed through here over the 100 years."
The script itself presents many challenges, not the least of which is the fact that it's written entirely in rhyme.
"I remember reading it initially and thinking there was no room to mess things up," laughs Wilson, who just wrapped filming on the new TV comedy series 24 Hour Rental. "But it actually helped with remembering it. You have a handle on at least the sonic properties of your next line. There's got to be a specific sort of vowel-consonant combo."
Not that the actors are asked to recite the text as an extended poem or song. Wilson says Cushman wanted the lines to take on a more conversational, realistic tone.
"I hope you're only occasionally aware of the rhyme, and mostly you're just aware of what's just being said."
Rhyme can also indicate changes in tempo and rhythm.
"Sometimes you can get the gentle lilt of a passage," says Markus, "and other times it's one rhyme after another for a paragraph, and there's this effect of falling forward."
"Yes," says Wilson. "That's really a gift. O'Rowe's built this velocity into the script where he shows you how something has to be said."