Instantaneous Blue: The full effect isn’t instantaneous, but it gets there.

Publicity photo for Instantaneous Blue

This is heartbreaking: Patti Allan and Tom McBeath in Instantaneous Blue.
(Image by Shimon Photo)

Aaron Craven’s new script Instantaneous Blue rings with the authority of personal experience. And director David Mackay is working with extraordinary actors. The play is moving. The production works. And, not to be a nerd or anything, but there are things to be learned here about structure.

Mitch and Murray Productions, the producing company, is billing Instantaneous Blue as a semi-autobiographical story. In 2016, both of playwright Craven’s parents were diagnosed with cognitive decline: Alzheimer’s and dementia. In the play, that’s what happens to Edward, who struggles with his new responsibilities to his parents, the shock of their transformations, the demands of his acting career and status as a new dad, and the temptation to take it all out on his wife.

Throughout Act 1, there are quiet moments of truth. As Judith and Bob, Edward’s mom and dad, are getting increasingly addled and anxious, music plays and they suddenly, instinctively gravitate to one another, embrace, and dance: for a moment at least, they’re safe. Edward is auditioning for a film role and he can’t remember his fucking lines: you can feel the floor falling away beneath him. And the look on Edward’s face as he watches paramedics forcibly restrain then sedate his raging mother is pure, silent tragedy. When Edward’s wife Sara finally speaks after being endlessly put down by Edward’s knee-jerk sarcasm, it’s a gut punch: “I want to tell you everything, my love,” she says.

You couldn’t ask for better actors. Charlie Gallant (Edward) has the gift of transparency. Patti Allan fearlessly drives the out-of-control car of Judith’s mood swings. And Tom McBeath brings touching delicacy to Bob’s attempts to make everything okay. The kindness, generosity, and unadorned sense of presence that actor Olivia Hutt brings to Sara grounds the evening.

[Read more…]

Snowflake: Let it snow!

There’s a whodunnit aspect to Snowflake: Andy wonders about the significance of Natalie’s tattoo. (Photo of Natasha Burnett and Aaron Craven by Shimon Karmel)

It always amazes me when a show manages to save itself in Act 2. This production of Snowflake does that — splendidly.

In playwright Mike Bartlett’s Snowflake, the first act is a monologue delivered by a guy named Andy. As he waits in a church hall in his hometown of Oxfordshire, England on Christmas Eve, Andy has an imaginary conversation with his estranged daughter Maya, who left home suddenly after the death of her mom. Andy hasn’t heard from Maya in three years and he’s desperately hoping she’ll show up. (He believes he’s managed to leave a message for her requesting a meeting.)

But Andy spends most of Act 2 with a young woman named Natalie, who’s there to collect crockery for another event. She’s Black, Andy’s white, and one of the first questions out of Natalie’s mouth is, “So how racist are you, then?” [Read more…]

This show about race is one of the most stimulating productions of the season

Lydia R. Diamond's Smart People addresses race in America.

Jackson (Kwesi Ameyaw) and Valerie (Katrina Reynolds) negotiate a bloody first meeting in Smart People.

Mitch and Murray Productions consistently produces some of the smartest shows in town. This one is called Smart People.

Lydia R. Diamond has set her 2016 play in and around Harvard in 2007 and 2008 during the run-up to Barack Obama’s first election. It’s about race and it is appropriately complicated.

The play’s white guy, Brian White—yep—who is, interestingly, the play’s pivotal character, is a cognitive neuroscientist who lectures at Harvard. He’s up for tenure, but there’s a problem: his goal is to prove that all white people are racist and he’s getting close to doing just that. Brian is investigating the possibility of an innate predisposition to racism, and his stats on brain activity, oxygenation of the blood, and so on are adding force to his thesis. Harvard liberals liked Brian when he was a colourful iconoclast, but they’re less keen on him now that the iconoclast has an arsenal, and he’s aiming it at them. [Read more…]

Detroit: comedy of despair

Mitch and Murray Productions is presenting Detroit.

Luisa Jojic consoles a drunken Jennifer Copping in Detroit.

In Detroit, Lisa D’Amour has created a kind of comedy of despair. It’s fueled by fierce, often futile, resistance.

Ben, who has lost his job in banking, spends his days trying to build a website to sell his services to people who are scrabbling to get out of debt. When the play starts, Ben and his wife Mary, who seems to be an alcoholic in training, are entertaining their new neighbours, a younger couple named Sharon and Kenny, on their back deck. Sharon and Kenny met in rehab. [Read more…]

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