THE BOX SOCIAL adapted by Nicole St. Martin from James Reaney (Preface Theatre). To November 1. $10-$16. 647-654-8995. See Continuing.
Sylvia (Sarena Parmar) is carefully preparing her entry for a rural Ontario box social (circa 1940), but it's unclear what all the fuss is about. In fact, this movement-heavy piece, which wraps up in under 45 minutes, doesn't present its raison d'être - the plot's dramatic linchpin - until the very end.
While there's nothing wrong with holding off dramatic reveals, Nicole St. Martin, who adapted the show from Canadian poet James Reaney's short story, doesn't weave an interesting enough yarn to justify the wait. The show ends up being a boring trudge through small-town clichés that gives no hint of where the action is heading.
Plot points like Sylvia's by-the-numbers teenage relationship are watered down and obfuscated by spare, overly arty prose. The words are incessantly echoed by three ghostly Furies that only Sylvia can see but that never seem to provide enough information to make the plot compelling.
Additionally, a wooden performance by Joel Sturrock as Sylvia's letter-wearing high school sweetheart comes off as a lurching stereotype, while cutesy projected animations prove unnecessary.
The one interesting aspect of the show is the use of multiple fabric-covered boxes in the set. Slits in the fabric allow actors to slip through them as though passing through a solid surface, and these are used to create an array of novel effects.
This production marks Preface Theatre's third workshop of this show in as many years, but director Michael Bradley still needs to make this potentially creepy Canadian chestnut engaging from the get-go.