Fairview: disorienting — and reorienting

(Photo of Yasmin D’Oshun by Mark Halliday)

What can I tell you about Fairview? Since Jackie Sibblies Drury’s script is about the distorting power of the white gaze and the nightmarish inescapability of white opinion —  and since I’m a white guy — I’m going to opt for not telling you much.

The play’s central characters are all members of the Frasier family. They’re Black. When we meet them, they’re preparing for Grandma Frasier’s birthday dinner and they seem to be in a kind of sitcom reality — harried mom, gormless dad, plucky teenage daughter, smart-talking aunt — but there are glitches in the matrix: the stereo acts up.

And, when culinary disaster strikes, Drury starts rolling out a series of strategies, modes of storytelling that get increasingly surreal, complex, and challenging. These layers are often funny and always immersive. Theatre bends reality and Drury finds astonishingly original ways to do the bending. Theatre is also personal. Race is personal. And Drury takes full advantage of this viscerality, too.

In my experience, Fairview is almost uniquely disorienting — and reorienting. And I’m moved by its generosity.

That’s pretty much it from me. Much of the power of Drury’s storytelling is generated by its surprises; I encourage you to discover them for yourselves. This production is sure to be one of the shows of the season, if not the show of the season.

It’s well performed and beautifully designed. Go see it.

FAIRVIEW By Jackie Sibblies Drury. Co-directed by Kwaku Okyere and Mindy Parfitt. On Friday, September 29. A Search Party production in partnership with b current Performing Arts in The Cultch’s Historic Theatre until October 8. Tickets

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Stupid Fucking Bird: inconsistent but sometimes glorious

publicity photo for Stupid Fucking Bird, The Search Party

Nathan Kay and Kerry Sandomirsky. Check the label on the wooden box. (Photo by Emily Cooper)

The Search Party’s production of Stupid Fucking Bird isn’t perfect, but it includes so many wildly successful elements that it’s worth seeing.

Aaaron Posner’s script is a riff on Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull. The timeframe is updated to the present and some of the characters are rejigged, but the basic structure — including its major plot points and emphasis on triangles of unrequited love — remains the same.

We’re on Sorn’s country estate. His sister Emma, a star actress, is visiting with her lover Trig, a famous writer. In the play’s first action, Emma’s son Con presents his experimental play, We Are Here, on a stage down by the lake. Emma interrupts the performance so dismissively that Con aborts it. So the foundational unrequited love comes in the shape of Con’s search for approval from his narcissistic mom.

But Con is also yearning for Nina, his sweetheart since childhood, and the ingenue he has cast in We Are Here. But Nina has fallen for Trig, who is captivated by her beauty. (Trig is old enough to be Nina’s father and has vastly more power, so it would be just as easy to say that he’s a predator.)

Meanwhile Mash, Sorn’s parttime cook, is in love with Con and Con’s best friend Dev is helplessly smitten with Mash.

As Sorn says, “So much feeling!”

[Read more…]

Bunny: Hop to it. (Sorry, but you really should.)

publicity photo for Bunny

Emma Slipp is a star. (Photo: Emily Cooper)

Because standing up for everything makes standing ovations meaningless, I hardly ever give them. But I was on my feet at the end of Bunny before I knew it — and I was hollering, “Brava! Brava! Brava!” I was so moved by this play and production. And I am so proud of actor Emma Slipp.

A girl-then-woman named Sorrel is at the centre of Hannah Moscovitch’s script. (Sorrel’s best friend nicknames her Bunny.) The play is about Sorrel’s sexual desire, her struggle to come to terms with a hunger that society keeps telling her is inappropriate in a woman. I’m so glad that Moscovitch is celebrating female lust — and I’ve got to say that, as a queer man, much of that struggle is immediately emotionally available. [Read more…]

The Father: a mother of a production

The characters in The Father struggle for coherence. (Photo of Jillian Fargey and Kevin McNulty by Tim Matheson)

My smart, charismatic mom, who had always feared dementia, sank deeper and deeper into it for the last six years of her life. She’s gone. And now I fear dementia. So, when I was keeping notes as I watched The Father and I thought, “Fuck! Did I get that character’s name right? Am I going to be able to follow this?” I felt panic.

I think that’s pretty much what playwright Florian Zeller intended. [Read more…]

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