Amitai Marmorstein, Elizabeth Saunders and Martin Julien in Stopheart.
STOPHEART by Amy Lee Lavoie (Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst). Runs to May 26, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $32-$42. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNN
Elian (Amitai Marmorstein), the central character in Amy Lee Lavoie's Stopheart, pronounces his name "eelian."
But given his outsider status in the small community of South Porcupine, Ontario, it might as well be "alien."
A mix of teen hormones, growing-up aches and quirky, dark comedy, Stopheart frequently touches the emotions as part of its humour.
Elian's the high school guy who thinks he might be gay, dreams of a different life elsewhere and realizes that no matter how hard he tries, things won't change.
Even the comfort of BFF July (Vivien Endicott-Douglas), who works with him at the local Freshie Mart, and the understanding of his unusual parents, Cricket and Goldie (Martin Julien and Elizabeth Saunders), can't improve his life, especially when he falls in love with July's just-paroled brother, Bear (Garret C. Smith), in a Romeo And Juliet balcony scene encounter.
Directed by Ron Jenkins, the Factory production catches the lyrical nature of Lavoie's writing, though the piece's various stories don't flow as smoothly in the first act as in the moving second.
Denyse Karn's set encompasses the geography of the entire town, with lighting by Kimberly Purtell and sound design - including a beating heart - by Thomas Ryder Payne.
Marmorstein gives full range to Elian's angst, passion and pain. He's a troubled teen who wants to appear blasé about the world but can't hide his desires or ignore his embarrassingly sexual parents.
Julien's Cricket reveals the concern for family beneath the rugged cowboy exterior he wears with pride, and Smith's Bear, though the least defined of the characters, manages to be both fearsome and personally troubled.
Endicott-Douglas does much of her best work with Smith; in the early scenes with Marmorstein, her words are sometimes hard to understand and she doesn't suggest the depth of feelings that July hides from Elian. By the second half of the play, much of the bitchy but caring banter between them rings true on both sides.
Best of all is Saunders, whose Goldie is the production's emotional centre. Born with a hole in her heart, Goldie spends much of her time practicing her own funeral - complete with coffin, built by Cricket - and making sure those close to her are comfortable with her passing.
Want to gauge her superb performance? Pay attention to Goldie's terrifying little medication meltdown, or listen to the way, twice during the play and at different emotional points in the story, she repeats "I love you" to Elian, each repetition providing added depth.