elisa's skin by Carole Fréchette, English version by John Murrell, directed by Jackie Maxwell, with Tanja Jacobs and Patrick Galligan. Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman). Runs to November 18, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $20-$25, stu/srs $16-$20 (except Saturday eve), Sunday pwyc-$15. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNNN
carole fréchette's elisa's skin starts with a simple premise, but soon emerges as a complex and wholly satisfying look at loneliness, aging and the power of live storytelling.Sitting alone in a Brussels cafe, Elisa (Tanja Jacobs) quickly recounts a romantic story, stops bizarrely to ask how she looks, then continues with a series of other tales. As directed by Jackie Maxwell in John Murrell's fine English version, the play surprises, teasing us with images and memories and gradually letting us peek into Elisa's world of fears and longings.
Though Patrick Galligan is suitably slick and enigmatic in a small role, the play is essentially a monologue, and Jacobs is thrilling. Her large eyes play perfectly on audience sympathy, her diction feels like a second character and her ability to hold us with a story -- a key part of the play -- is superb.
Despite a false note in Ken Garnhum's pop-art-inspired set, the show succeeds in forcing us to examine our own lives for traces of passion. There's also a metaphor, I think, about the power of live theatre.
If a tale's details are good enough, Elisa says, we'll shudder. We shudder.