Miriam Fernandes and Stewart Arnott take flight in The Biographer.
THE BIOGRAPHER by Daniel Karasik (Tango Co.). At Videofag (187 Augusta). Runs to May 19. $15-$23. secureaseat.com. See listings. Rating: NNN
Can we remake our lives, shaping the past to make a happier present?
That's the question Daniel Karasik asks in his lyrical script The Biographer, a suggestive work that leaves questions unanswered but lingers in the mind.
On a deserted beach, the former site of a successful carnival, Franz (Earl Pastko) looks for the daughter he hasn't seen since she was a youngster. Recently released from jail, he meets a series of enigmatic characters, including a cello-playing clown, the title figure and a strongman (all played by Stewart Arnott) and Delilah (Miriam Fernandes), a carnival worker who resembles Franz's daughter and was her good friend.
They all keep him from discovering too much about his missing child but also encourage his interest - especially Delilah, who establishes a sensual bond with the older man.
Director Alan Dilworth, who recently guided the cold sexuality of Soulpepper's La Ronde, here works in the intimate space of Videofag to stage a nuanced look at love. Sometimes, in fact, the audience is too close to the actors. More physical distance from the action, which is staged with the audience on either side of Jung-Hye Kim's platform set, lit by André du Toit, would allow for the relationships to resonate more subtly.
Though Pastko's Franz is a stiff, blustery, prosaic figure until he meets the enigmatic biographer, the actor later reveals a more sensitive man who takes responsibility for his actions. Fernandes makes Delilah, the least detailed of the roles, a sometimes tempestuous character, more in control than her fragile physical presence intimates.
Arnott carefully delineates a trio of men, from the sad, knowing cellist with a touch of Beckett in his look and speech to the philosophical, urbane biographer and finally the straight-talking strongman, who knew Franz in earlier years.
While each has his own personality, Arnott hints that they are versions of one another, a trickster figure who draws Franz on to self-knowledge.
Even if not all its emotional moments register strongly, Karasik's soft-toned, admirable writing has a touch of Fellini in its depiction of a sideshow world that replicates the human condition, one where not all the action happens at centre stage.