Even if you're not partial to the O.T.T. acting style of farcical comedies, it's hard to remain serious during Canadian Stage's production of THE GAME OF LOVE AND CHANCE.
Just ask the woman who sat next to me.
Based on the acting style of Commedia dell'arte (an Italian performance style from a few hundred years ago), the actors now, like then, perform in a highly-physical, almost clown-like style that allows them to personify the stock-traits of their characters in a truthful, albeit, outrageous manner.
And even now, hundreds of years after these characters were initially created, we can still recognize in ourselves the ridiculous stereotypes they portray, which is why farces continue to be hilarious.
Mistaken identities and trickery run amuck as two wealthy and betrothed individuals attempt to determine if their future spouse is a person of worth, and thus deserving of their respective affections.
Cut to hilarity ensuing.
But in staying true to the Commedia style, the stars of the show are not, in fact, the gorgeous and wealthy upper class, but, instead, are the crass, inane servants who attend them.
In this case, Arlequino (Gil Garrett) and Lisette (Gemma James-Smith) perform their roles with such exaggerated gusto, it's impossible not to giggle. I mean this. The woman beside me who seemed to define 'stoic', finally caved and burst into guffaws at Lisette's sexual innuendos and Arlequino's insane entrance. From what I gleaned from my minimal but significant interactions with her, she seemed like a real tough nut to crack.
There were a few directorial elements I didn't understand (the scene changes for one and the need for the character of Mario to be always eating candy), and, occasionally there was a too-often repeated comic element that lost it's humour, but overall the charm of the four leads had me at their over-the-top 'hellos', and so my confusion was forgiven and forgotten.
Add into the mix a beautiful and stylized set, some spot-on, if=sometimes-too-much-choreography, and a lovely lighting design, and you've got yourself a fabulously frothy night out at the theatre.
In a world where the layman wants only sheer entertainment from it's theatre, THE GAME OF LOVE AND CHANCE is a good alternative to regurgitated song lyrics. It'll entertain you, make you laugh, and have you leaving the theatre feeling a bit lighter than when you entered.
Not bad for a play written in 1730 and doesn't include any lyrics from ABBA.
THE GAME OF LOVE AND CHANCE is on now until May 12 at the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front St. E.).
For tix click here or call: 416-368-3110.
Stephen Guy-McGrath. Photo: Daniel Alexander
After removing my shoes and stepping on the carpeted stage at Young People's Theatre, I was immediately taken with the very tiny and very cool set design by Michael Gianfrancesco. You can see some of it in the picture on the lef; my crude description of it is this: a circular garden/dirt mound that's connected to "the sky" above it (ie. a circular hole above the garden where set pieces would drop down on wires as needed.) I'm really not doing it justice; it was creative, unique and served the fun, but fundamentally flawed play, of JACK & THE GIANT BEANSTALK extremely well. I say the production was flawed because there were some staging elements that didn't fully make sense and, while I'm aware that I was an adult watching a children's play, I still couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to support some of the action/staging that happened.
But while I found this disbelief frustrating as an adult, it was quite clear that the kids watching the show, ages approximately 4-6, didn't give a hoot about it. They were having a blast.
The effectiveness of the highly-interactive play of JACK & THE GIANT BEANSTALK rests not only on the imaginative set-design, but also on the shoulders of the two performers, Stephen Guy-McGrath and Dale Yim, with the majority of the responsibility on the shoulders of the former.
Let me tell you, Guy-McGrath ROSE to the occassion. He played four different characters with equal enthusiasm, energy and sweat (he's VERY energetic)), with my favourite being Squim, the Southern-accented female worm who lives in the earth and engages the entire audience, including the reluctant to-look-silly-adults, in a conga line. When's the last time I conga'd at the theatre? Answer: Never.
I cannot stress enough how much fun the kids were having. They loved shouting out answers when asked (and when not asked!), they dove right into the actions that went along with the story and they found almost everything hilarious.
Although age inevitabley removes the rose-tinted glasses we wear when we're young, there is something to be said about the fuzzy feelings an adult can have while witnessing children wear the same glasses. Their awe and amazement at what they're seeing is infectous and in no time, I found my own appreciation for silliness increase and I was laughing along with the 4 year-olds.
Awkward staging not not, it was silly fun, and I'll take it.
JACK & THE GIANT BEANSTALK is on until April 21 at the Young People's Theatre (165 Front St. E.).
For tickets click here or call: 416-862-2222.
Although I repeatedly lectured myself to be openminded, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to like Angelwalk Theatre's production of I LOVE YOU BECAUSE.
I didn't think it would be a bad production, quite the contrary actually; however I associate any show (be it theatrical, TV or film) that deals with romantic relationships, to be improbable, sugary goo that is geared more towards women (because only through true love will we find happiness and self-realization!) in a dumbed-down fantasy that not only sets up unrealistic expectations of relationships, but is seriously offensive to both my intellect and wit. I also find it difficult to set this bias aside.
I tried REALLY hard before I LOVE YOU BECAUSE's opening night, but wasn't sure how successful I had been.
When the show started I actually felt my insides brace for the unintelligent cheese that I'd love for musical theatre to banish .... but the cheese never came.
Ok, yes it did. The opening number is dripping with musical theatre corny-ness - but it seemed like
I LOVE YOU BECUASE got that out of their system in the opening number (and further eradicated it in a few lines of dialogue during the first act) and continued on to create a show that was heartfelt and sincere in it's approach to the idea of contemporary romantic relationships. And I found myself laughing, and enjoying (gasp!) in spite of my strict bias.
I LOVE YOU BECAUSE, while not totally modern in it's stories of romance, (where was the gay romance? One of the supporting NYC man/woman characters could easily have been gay), put in a great effort to showcase the fears and anxieties that come along with delving into a new relationship from the perspective of both genders. I saw women with their own careers and ideas who weren't willing to sacrifice themselves to find "Mr. Right", and who viewed sex as something that wasn't an emotional precurser to marriage, but something they could participate in just for the sake of it, and didn't have to feel bad about afterwards because it doesn't make them a slut.
I saw men who weren't some real-life impersonation of a Disney Prince Charming, nor a douchebag frat boy-turned- nice-guy-dreamboat, but who were flawed with hilarious crassness and uptight personalities, and who were, refreshingly, just as vulnerable as the women.
The performances were funny, endearing and I found myself rooting for each ot them not only despite their flaws, but because of them.
This is a sweet, funny, often insightful show that has creative direction and choreography and a talented cast. It's worth the trek to North York.
I LOVE YOU BECAUSE is on now until April 15 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, Studio Theatre (5040 Yonge St.). For tix click here or call: 1-855-985-5000.