BLOOM by Guillermo Verdecchia, directed by Soheil Parsa (Modern Times). At Theatre Centre (1087 Queen West). To March 19. $20-$25, Sunday pwyc. See Continuing, page 86, for details. 416-504-7529. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
In a world of war-torn greyness, amid mounds of books and other detritus, an old man named Gerontion ( Andrew Scorer ) sits and broods. The appearance of an exuberant boy ( Anita Majumdar ) kick-starts memories that alternately give Gerontion pleasure and trigger thoughts he'd prefer not to recall.
If the situation sounds familiar, you know your T. S. Eliot . Inspired by Eliot's cryptic The Waste Land, playwright Guillermo Verdecchia creates a desolate world that has a chance of rebirth.
Ensconced like a figure in a Beckett play, the nearly blind Gerontion endures the menace of unseen barking dogs, ominous jets flying overhead and ever-present danger from unidentified others. But even if the young boy is unaware of doing so, he offers the chance of change. That opportunity comes through a series of stories Gerontion tells about his past, notably episodes between his military younger self and his partner, Marie, who still haunts him.
Between them, Verdecchia and director Soheil Parsa know how to modulate emotional tones beautifully, whether it's in the arid present or the richer, dreamlike past. Gerontion's dry humour and tentative parenting contrast nicely with the boy's impetuous desires and search for the truth about his own history.
Also anxious to explore present pleasures, the boy finds himself in a nervous sexual situation with the Tatterdemalion Woman ( Beatriz Pizano ), who offers a sense of hope for humankind's continuity. Their work together is one of the production's most moving episodes.
The tonal transformations are most subtle and effective in the scenes with the proud Young Gerontion ( Peter Farbridge ) and the intriguing, sensual Marie ( Stavroula Logothettis ). The flyboy becomes disillusioned with both life and love; Marie almost visibly retreats, Ophelia-like, from the closeness they shared.
But not all of the show is presented clearly. Sometimes individual scenes and visual images are stronger than the overall narrative or the occasionally dense text. Still, with the assistance of designers David Skelton (set), Andrea Lundy (lighting), Angela Thomas (costumes) and Thomas Ryder Payne (sound), Parsa is a fine conjuror of mood as tensions shift between characters in the past and present.
Bookended by a pair of burials (or are they the same one?), the ambiguous Bloom is a poetic look at a world where hope must grow in sandy soil. That hope resides, it seems, in the young, who, drenched in the rain of life, learn from the past and apply their lessons to the future.