LONELY NIGHTS AND OTHER STORIES created by the company, directed by Leah Cherniak, performed by Oliver Dennis, Maggie Huculak, Martha Ross, Michael Simpson and Ker Wells. Presented by Theatre Columbus and Factory Theatre in the Factory Mainspace (125 Bathurst). Runs to July 1, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $20-$26, Sunday pwyc/$20. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNN
love hurts, but being without love, and the emptiness that accompanies being alone, aches even more. What's striking about Theatre Columbus's Lonely Nights And Other Stories is how much humour the company finds mixed into the pain of longing.The collective piece -- created by the actors and director Leah Cherniak -- follows the connected lives of nearly 20 characters who long for companionship, sex and nurturing in designer Sue Lepage's muted, smoky, rain-drenched cityscape, filled with aggressive squirrels and growling dogs.
The strength of the piece is in the characterizations, as fascinating, wonderfully rounded eccentrics exhibit their tics and tirades. As funny as much of the action is, you can't help marvelling at how quickly and effectively the tone of a scene can turn serious.
All the performers have a chance to shine. I liked Oliver Dennis's nerdy sci-fi writer, Michael Simpson's loser -- who calls up a person he had a fender bender with years before just to connect with someone -- and Maggie Huculak's prim schoolteacher and shy, waif-like vacuum cleaner saleswoman. Martha Ross generates great compassion as a sneezing mother whose daughter is beekeeping in Africa, while Ker Wells's cellphone-juggling lady's man hides a huge neurosis behind his suaveness.
But it's not all heaven. The shape of the whole is jagged and, while many of the stories are woven together by the end, that connection can feel forced. In contrast, the company's earlier piece, The Betrayal -- also with multiple stories -- had the sense of concentric circles that flowed one into another. Still, there's lots to identify with in this current assortment of weird but human figures, and lots to admire in the artists who present them.theatre reviews