HISTORY PLAY devised and directed by Jennifer Tarver, with David Jansen, Brenda Robins and Peter Van Gestel. Presented by Theatre Extasis at the Great Hall (1087 Queen West). Runs to May 17, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, Sunday 2:30 pm. $15-$18, Sunday pwyc, some discounts. 416-504-7529. Rating: NNNN
on a stage that becomes a time-
line of human life and thought, talented director Jennifer Tarver tosses out sparkling ideas of reality, change, perception and memory.
Though its characters include the philosophers Aristotle and J.W. Dunne, the piece, far from being an intellectual exercise, makes surprising emotional links using source material that brings together Aeschylus, Voltaire, Pinter and, most effectively, Albee's Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf and Wilder's Our Town. Knowledge of those two American classics helps audiences with the show's nuances.
It's a kind of theatrical debate, the rational young Aristotle (Peter Van Gestel) positing ideas of order and logic while the older, more freewheeling 20th-century thinker Dunne (David Jansen) emphasizes the subjective and associative. As Dunne morphs into the all-knowing stage manager from Our Town, we're thrown into a world where life and art illustrate theories about existence and how we perceive it.
Heady? Yes. Inventive and entertaining? That, too, in part because of Jan Komarek's simple but laser-sharp design, including a rotating clothesline of "found" objects, and the work of the three actors, among them Brenda Robins as Albee's scary Martha and a shy Emily in Our Town. And what a chilling connection Tarver makes -- that Wilder's simple, open George and Emily could become Albee's ever-battling George and Martha.stage reviews