ALPHONSE by Wajdi Mouawad, directed by Lynda Hill, with Alon Nashman. Presented by Theatre Direct Canada at the du Maurier Theatre Centre (231 Queen's Quay West). Runs to November 17, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2 pm. $18-$28.50, stu half price. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNN
there's no more enchanting show in town than Alphonse, Wajdi Mouawad's paean to the imagination of the child. In a touching, funny translation by Shelley Tepperman, Mouawad's multi-level story-within-a-story reminds adults of what we've left behind and beguiles youthful viewers with a winning fairy tale.The marvellous Alon Nashman plays dozens of characters, all of them concerned in some fashion with the title figure, a young boy who disappears one day on his version of a quest and discovers -- with some sadness -- the difference between knowing and believing.
Drawing all the characters vocally and physically, Nashman weaves in and out of three narratives involving Alphonse and his invisible friend and alter ego Pierre-Paul Rene, spinning story threads of magic and wonder. It's the transparency, the openness of Nashman's performance that makes the script's emotions so poignant.
He makes all his moves in, on and around Vikki Anderson's splendid set, part jungle gym and part dreamlike staircase, which neatly illustrates the childlike and non-naturalistic sides of the story. Too bad the usually reliable Michael Kruse supplies a frenetic, overdone lighting scheme that leaps around as quickly as Nashman changes characters. Nashman's a fine enough actor to make the transitions; we don't need the annoying underlining.