HEAD-SMASHED-IN BUFFALO JUMP by Brendan Gall, Chris Hanratty, Tricia Lahde, Shira Leuchter and Christopher Stanton (UnSpun Theatre). At the Young Centre (55 Mill). To December 16. $16-$20, Monday rush $10. 416-866-8666. See Continuing, page 90. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
In head-smashed-in buffalo jump, UnSpun Theatre 's revised version of their Fringe hit, four needy outsiders frantically try to connect with each other but rarely have the courage to make a real commitment.
As one of the quartet says, there are monsters in their lives, and the play deals with sorting out who's friend and who's foe. But as we see, the insecurity and uncertainty they all feel results in the choice of strange bedfellows.
Michelle's ( Tricia Lahde ) scared to leave her apartment, so she turns to her accommodating superintendent, Dennis ( Chris Hanratty ), to be her proxy in the outside world; she even renames them both to try to control her environment more strictly. They enlist Andrea ( Shira Leuchter ), a shy Meals-on-Wheels volunteer who becomes a local hero, to help them make sense of their seemingly sinister Parkdale neighbourhood.
But Michelle can't respond to Dennis's sexual desires, and Andrea has her own interests in the couple.
Acting as narrator and a focal point for the three is pawnshop owner Dusan ( Christopher Stanton ), a new Canadian who values his collection of stories more highly than the objects in his shop.
The collectively written piece, directed by co-creator Brendan Gall , is full of physical as well as textual life. Gall blends the sometimes overlapping scenes with skill, especially the transitional moments, and the energetic cast add a nicely gritty realism to their four figures.
The writing, though, doesn't always work. Though characters, notably Andrea, are fleshed out more than in the Fringe script, the relationship between Michelle and Dennis is convoluted; a cleaner, simpler storyline would be stronger. And why Andrea gets caught up in their plans needs further clarification.
Still, much of the production works, thanks to the strong visuals and spirited performances, with Stanton a standout as the disillusioned yet comic Dusan, an accordion-playing dreamer and storyteller who falls back on images of Canada to try to cover up his loneliness.