BETHANY'S GATE by David Tomlinson, directed by Diana Kolpak and Tomlinson, with Hadrian Abbott, Wendy Akerboom, Jenn Hall, Kathleen LeRoux, Giovanni Salvia, Meagan O'Shea, Kolpak and Tomlinson. Presented by Whetstone Productions and the Gorgonetrevich Corps de Ballet Nationale at the Theatre Centre (1087 Queen West). Runs to March 28, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, late show Friday 11 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $20-$24, students $2 discount, late shows and matinees pwyc. 416-538-0988. Rating: NNN
Bethany's Gate gets the prize for the season's most eclectic mix of genres and disciplines. Is it a ballet? A clown show? A gentle parody of the arts world? Turns out it's all of the above, packaged into a breezy, amusing hour-long show over at the Theatre Centre . A few more tweakings and it could be marvellous. But the elements aren't yet blended smoothly. Great premise, so-so execution.
Writer and co-director David Tomlinson plays Nicholas Denoument, the current artistic director and danseur noble of the fictional Gorgonetrevich Corps de Ballet Nationale. The troupe has left their wartorn country (we get a pre-ballet slide show) to live in poverty in Canada, where they're mounting their rediscovered, reconstructed ballet Bethany's Gate.
This mock ballet, complete with prancing animals, nightmare sequence and unrequited love, reads like Giselle meets Snow White (one of the best part of the show is the silly program notes). What's surprising is how respectful the performers are of the movement, which adds a note of poignancy. There's no slapstick here.
Less satisfying is the clown element. Tomlinson's pretentious leader and co-director Diana Kolpak 's severe dance mistress come across vividly, but the others fail to register much apart from a moment or two. Meagan O'Shea 's prima ballerina is especially empty.
An intermission and a post-show Q&A demonstrate the considerable improv skills of the troupe, but what's lacking throughout is a richer texture to the clowns' inner and outer worlds.
Strange, since all the performers have trained in Pochinko-based clown, which stresses emotional honesty. It sounds like a lot to ask of a clown show, but I kept asking myself, what are their motivations?