SMOKE by Michael MacLean and THE TERRIBLE FALSE DECEPTION by Rafe Macpherson (JCC Productions). See Opening, page 68. Rating: NNNNN
The saying goes that where there's smoke, there's fire. And where you find Michael MacLean's Smoke, you're guaranteed theatrical fire, especially if Hume Baugh's performing the solo piece. Smoke is one of two Fringe hits being remounted to see if stage lightning can strike twice. The other is Rafe Macpherson's The Terrible False Deception, which replays the same scene from a campy costume drama from various viewpoints. Vinetta Strombergs again directs both pieces.
In the original 1997 Smoke, Baugh tore up the stage as Reg, a soot-covered man whose family secrets spill out during the hour-long tale.
"I wanted to remount it, largely to investigate sections of the play we just didn't have time to explore. It had to be cut to fit into a Fringe slot, and now we've reinserted some of the original material."
At first Baugh was "terrified" of doing a one-man show.
"I used to think, back a few years ago when there was a glut of them, why can't the author just add a door that a second person comes through so we can hear a different voice. But then a fantastic show like this comes along and you eat your words.
"Through Reg, Michael creates a whole world and embodies all the other characters in Reg's life."
In his 20-year career, Baugh's done everything from the Bard at Stratford and with Shakespeare in the Rough to image- and movement-based theatre with Theatre Rusticle and Threshold Theatre, as well as several gay theatre pieces.
The actor's good at blending boyish charm and a sense of under-the-surface danger in his characters. Reg, who finally has to deal with unresolved parental issues, is one of his most successful roles.
"He's dealing with a lack of self-worth," explains the actor, "and realizes that life is passing him by. The fire and smoke imagery that runs through the play suggests danger but also hints at a chance to connect with life rather than shrink from it.
"Fearful because of his past, Reg has to choose between life and death. What he's been living up to now is a death in life. As we learn in the play, something's happened that forces him to decide between the hermit-like existence he's been leading and leaping into the fire to embrace life."