TWO LETTERS written and performed by Tony Nardi (Two Letters Ink). At Artcore Gallery (55 Mill). To April 15. $10-$20. www.totix.ca, www.twoletters.ca. See Continuing, page 83. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
In two letters, Tony Nardi proves he's mad as hell and isn't going to take it any more.
The letters, delivered - or rather, performed - separately at an art gallery in the Distillery District, take on lots of hot-button issues in the arts, namely racial stereotyping in TV and film and responsibility in English-language theatre criticism and directing.
I sat through the second letter on opening day, a nearly three-hour (including a brief, somewhat awkward intermission) impassioned rant in front of an audience of about half a dozen. It's not great theatre, but Nardi's ideas and passion are gripping and deserve a wide audience.
Inspired to write after reading scathing reviews in two of the country's dailies of a production of Goldoni's The Amorous Servant, Nardi (who wasn't in that production) stands in front of a podium holding his white MacBook.
What's the rant about? A sample: Why don't professional theatre critics know about comedia dell'arte? Why do so many actors perform the classics in pseudo-British accents? Why do actors-turned-directors feel directing is a promotion?
Nardi doesn't kid himself that most Canadians give a damn about the industry. His letter arises from his love of his profession, and some of its most vivid and dramatic moments come via personal memories, including one drunken opening-night party where the cast is awaiting the show's first reviews.
A late scene in which Nardi takes on the role of the Harlequin is a bravura bit of acting.
It's a shame the piece isn't better structured. Nardi sets it up like a Dantean circle of hell, with various ghosts nudging and prodding him. It's a precious conceit that fails to pay off. Early comparisons between the theatre world, the Catholic Church and school, unfortunately, aren't carried through. And for all its occasional brilliance, the piece could stand trimming.
On the other hand, I wouldn't want a dramaturge - another target of Nardi's ire - to get his or her hands on this piece and take any of the life out of it.