FRANCES, MATHILDA AND TEA/THE MYSTERIOUS SHORTS created by Anna Chatterton, Evalyn Parry and Karin Randoja, directed by Randoja, with Chatterton and Parry. Runs in rep October 20 to November 6. Rating: NNNNN
The best theatrical partnerships have a chemistry as strong as text and performance. You won't find more powerful atomic bonding than that supporting the Independent Aunties trio - Anna Chatterton, Evalyn Parry and Karin Randoja.
The troupe scored a knockout with the twisted alphabet tale Clean Irene And Dirty Maxine and went on to deliver again with the Victorian thriller Frances, Mathilda And Tea, in which two troubled sisters celebrate their dead mother's birthday.
The latter's coming back to Stage3, richer and more intense, along with a quartet of brief period works called The Mysterious Shorts.
"We're riding that fine line, exploring the balance between comedy and the darkness that's underneath," says co-creator Randoja, who directs the works.
"But the comedy must emerge truthfully, in reaction to a situation. We've learned that you can't always be funny when you try to be. Both Evalyn and Anna have that flair for taking something intense, dialing it up a notch and turning it absurd and laughable."
The four Mysterious Shorts, notes Randoja - who'll be joining the other two on the stage in a future show - are based on different styles of writing and speaking. One's set during the high-fashion 80s, another focuses on 60s comic books and a third deals with the elliptical language of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.
Chatterton and Parry clearly love working together, and audiences happily respond to their playfulness.
"Though their brains work similarly in the kind of comedy and broad characterizations they create, there are differences," Randoja explains, starting to laugh. "I see Evalyn as long, lanky and austere, while Anna's the scurrying bulldog at her heels."
How does the team work?
"I give them tasks and think of where the whole picture might be going based on the completed tasks. Then I ask them to learn something in their bodies as well as in their characters' speeches.
"We always create together. It's gotten so the creation can begin with any of us. They're good with stories, while as the outside eye I contribute a body-based score that adds to the comedy; the result is a piece that has both a textual and a physical vocabulary."
Gaining a big rep
Theatre Passe Muraille's ambitious Stage 3 kicks off with nine shows in repertory
STAGE3 A repertory series of nine plays and late-night music. Presented by Theatre Passe Muraille and Obsidian at Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson). Runs through November 27. $15-$30, Stage3 pass $80. 416-504-7529, www.passemuraille.on.ca