By Joe Szek
Author Tom Stoppard had once written, “Every exit is an entry somewhere else.” The Durham Shoestring Performers have taken this statement to open Season 44 with In (Roles We) Play where eight actors exit and enter in eleven short Canadian plays which, according to Director Andra Kelly’s vision for the evening, sets the theme that ‘each man and woman, in his/her time, will play many parts in life” while exiting and entering many scenes in their own lives.
I believe the one act/short play continues to be an important genre for the writer and the performer to hone skill sets within live theatre. In 1994, 1997 and 2000 The D.S.P.’s Artistic Director Carolyn Wilson, along with other directors and performers, presented an evening of one acts entitled To the Point. I was fortunate where I had the opportunity to develop my skills as a director in 1997 and 2000 and learned a great deal about the fine art of making words come alive from the page to the stage. Many of the participants from these evenings are still involved in the community theatre scene today.
An evening of one acts is a challenging task as we watch multiple story lines with actors who crisscross, weave and segue as different characters from one moment to the next. Some audience members might not care for this presentation format but, judging from this opening night crowd reception, most of this intimate audience thoroughly enjoyed the work of this company of eight performers who make us pay close attention to the stories presented, some a little more detailed than others.
Live performances cannot succeed and be enjoyed without the collaborative efforts of a dedicated production team. Led by Producer Carolyn Wilson and Stage Manager Sharon Lochan and their behind the scenes crew, the performance pace moves briskly along as the actors assist in moving set pieces from one scene to the next. Stephen Gregory’s projection of images and John Lunman’s lighting operation help establish effectively the eleven locales for us quickly. Pay close attention to the projections of ‘Firing Francine’ while watching the story unfold at the end as the two combined add to the ensuing hilarity.
Phil Ireland and Rob Black’s lighting design assisted by John Lunman’s operation clearly focuses each individual story moment. Carolyn Wilson and Margo Rodgers’ Sound Design assisted by Elius Caruso’s operation is also key to helping establish and enhancing the mood and moment.
What truly makes this evening an enjoyable one is Ms. Kelly’s selection of some fresh faces to tell these stories. Veterans Gillian Woodhouse, Patti Wilson, Tim Westhead and Sherri Pereira have all appeared on the DSP stage and on other stages around Durham Region. Samantha Hubbs, Mark Canlas, Sonya Jones and Jesse Korneiew are welcome newcomers to DSP and I hope they return to perform here again soon. Space does not allow me to comment on each short play, so I will focus on some highlights.
Samantha Hubbs and Jesse Korneiew are believably moving in their monologue presentations of ‘Pink’ and ‘Fade to Black’ respectively. Ms. Hubbs genuinely captures the vulnerability of Lucy, a ten-year-old girl, and her surprising reaction after her nanny is murdered during a protest in 1970s South Africa. Mr. Korneiew, meanwhile, captures the initial annoyance of a man which, through his own stupid driving error, costs him his own life. His initial annoyance turns to anger and fear when he realizes that no one is ever in control of his or her own life and that someone might be able to fade us to black at any time.
‘Steps’ is a very odd short play which still puzzles me, but performers Mark Canlas, Tim Westhead, Sonya Jones, Patti Wilson and Sheri Pereira are highly engaging in their slow tango dance movement (thanks to Movement Director Jenni Ferguson) in sharing their story. We want to watch because these five actors are clearly working as a true ensemble of players who are listening to each other while moving. ‘Accidental Death of a Salesman’ is a hoot especially for those who have studied Arthur Miller’s classic play ‘Death of a Salesman’. At least Messrs. Korneiew and Westhead can say they have played two iconic roles of theatre in that of the playwright and of Willy Loman. Sheri Pereira and Samantha Hubbs as the two sassy waitresses offer great fun as they interrupt the conversation between the two men.
Two presentations experienced some hiccups during the opening night performances. ‘Telemarketing: The Musical’ posed some problems vocally and in musical pacing for Mr. Canlas and Ms. Hubbs. Although Ms. Pereira and Ms. Jones are intriguing in ‘It’s all make believe, isn’t it’, I didn’t feel a strong indirect connection to the subject matter of Marilyn Monroe.
As John and Jenna in ‘Audience’, Mr. Korneiew and Ms. Woodhouse carry on a very odd conversation through a camera mounted on a selfie stick where their images are projected on the front wall. Much like ‘Steps’, ‘Audience’ also puzzled me for its conversation, but again these two performers are appealing to us as we are curious to see where their conversation will take them.
Pay a visit to In (Roles We) Play for a most entertaining evening. It continues performances at Oshawa’s Arts Resource Centre (45 Queen Street behind Oshawa City Hall) November 4, 8, 9, 10 and 11 at 8 pm. Tickets may be purchased at the door before each performance. Visit their website for further information.