Beaty (left), Seinen and Gale mix the political and personal.
HIGHWAY 63: THE FORT MAC SHOW created by the company with Layne Coleman (Architect Theatre). At Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson). To February 26. Pwyc-$30. 416-504-7529. See listing Rating: NNNN
Do whatever you can to hitch a ride to Highway 63: The Fort Mac Show, Theatre Passe Muraille's rich and entertaining return to its collective theatre roots.
Two years ago, performers Georgina Beaty, Greg Gale, Jonathan Seinen, director Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman and former TPM artistic director Layne Coleman trekked to the home of the controversial Athabasca oil sands, Fort McMurray, where they interviewed long-term residents and those lured from across the country to work in various parts of the oil industry.
The result beautifully balances politics with the personal, offering up details that can only come from solid research and an eye for dramatic and human truths.
Steve (Seinen) is an Edmonton-born reclamation scientist who rents out a room to Chad (Gale), a Newfoundland trucker. In a charming scene in a grocery store, the two meet Mary (Beaty), who works as a tour guide at the sands but wants to study dance in Toronto.
The three characters' hopes, dreams and disappointments intersect in surprising ways. Interspersed with their narrative are brief snapshots that linger in the mind: a closeted gay man looks for some connection through online personals, a French-Canadian worker spends his earnings at the casino, a woman finds satisfaction in teaching music to children.
The fresh young actors plunge wholeheartedly into their many roles, particularly Gale, whose anecdote-spewing trucker will break your heart.
Corbeil-Coleman uses every inch of theatre space - from the lonely little perch where Chad drives his truck to the audience seating area itself, where two characters talk during a sermon.
And I have to mention Steve Lucas's set and lighting, which economically evoke any number of locales. His clever manipulation of the stage's floor takes the phrase "carbon footprint" to a whole new level.