Written by Morris Panych
Produced and Directed by Carolyn Wilson
Staged Managed by Christy Chase and Kathy Ennis
Set Design by Carolyn Wilson and Painting Design by Melanie Baker
Lighting Design by Phil Ireland
Sound Design by Margo Rodgers
Costumes and Make up by Tracy Rankin and Hairstyling by Maureen Howard
Staged by the Durham Shoestring Performers at Oshawa’s Arts Resource Centre (behind Oshawa City Hall) 45 Queen Street, Oshawa
Mr. Panych’s play is a rather quirky and, sometimes, oddball absurdist comedy. With hints of sadness mixed in, he reminds us that even oddballs have human frailties.
The Story (taken from canadiantheatre.com and the DSP release)
Set in a Steveston Cannery on the West Coast, ‘Girl in the Goldfish Bowl’ focuses on the home of a dysfunctional family which the mother continually threatens to leave. The point of view is that of Iris who is ready to make some sense of what she remembers as the end of her childhood, by remembering her ten-year-old self. In 1962 she was sure the death and subsequent flushing of her beloved goldfish brought Russian nuclear warheads to Cuba, caused her mother’s desire to escape an airless marriage, and delivered a promising mysterious stranger to their door all on the same day. Harnessing all the hope and wit in her craft 10-year-old imagination, Iris is determined to manoeuvre her spinning world back from the brink of heartbreak.
The Opening Night Production
Carolyn Wilson and Melanie Baker’s respective work in set and painting design are the first indication we have entered a surrealistic realm within the intimate Arts Resource Centre. An azure blue wavy colour painted on the flats reminds us of calm yet rough waters the audience is about to embark on with the characters.
Kudos in finding two vintage 60s set pieces of the radio and the wooden oak drafting table to take us back to times gone by.
Margo Rodgers must have enjoyed the coordination and design of the various soundscapes. Selected 60s newscasts in hearing CBS’ Walter Cronkite speak of Russian warships headed to Cuba were a stark reminder of the fear that citizens would have felt at the time. Some of the 60s music brought a smile to my face.
The ladies’ hairstyling evoked vivid memories of the 60s for me courtesy of Maureen Howard’s assistance. Tracy Rankin found some vintage 60s clothing that worked well in establishing character. Phil Ireland’s lighting design is smooth, fluid and enhanced the various moods in progression from scene to scene.
Morris Panych has crafted carefully many dramatic elements in ‘Girl in a Goldfish Bowl’. Part memory play, part tragi-comedy with a bit of absurdist humour, sadness and angst all thrown in make this one challenging to stage as so much happens so quickly. The challenge for any cast, director and production team is to ensure one dramatic element does not overshadow another, but that they complement each other. I’m sure a great deal of discussion and work occurred during the rehearsal period to ensure this balance was achieved.
And these dramatic elements are balanced evenly here thanks to director Carolyn Wilson and her solid cast. In his plays, Panych creates oddball characters (‘7 Stories’ is only one example) but, for some reason, we feel an emotional connection to them. In ‘Girl in the Goldfish Bowl’ this five-member cast makes us feel a similar array of emotions.
As Iris, Amber Dawn Vibert moves from the adult to the young daughter in a captivating manner. Her high spirited, childlike energy, interspersed in an opening ‘to die for’ actor monologue, enchanted me completely. Ms. Vibert’s exuberance as she jumps up and down on furniture pieces, rolls or crawls around on the floor is highly impressive (and I’m sure exhausting for her after the play is over). She has captured Iris’s precociousness and ingenuity with childlike appeal.
Jennie Archambault, as Iris’s mother Sylvia, has nicely captured in her performance a forlorn sense of what could have been in her loveless marriage to a man for whom she feels nothing. Mrs. Archambault emotional level builds to a conclusion that left me shocked. David Ross as Owen, Sylvia’s father, sadly finds comfort at his drafting table and dreaming one day of taking his wife to Paris. Mr. Ross has soundly captured that Owen is tired and fed up with his family life at home. He’s not happy, but he’s not sad. Pay close attention to how Ross uses his body language and shoulders to heighten his emotional intensity.
Natasha Noble, as the border Miss Rose (and godmother to Iris), is testy, irritable and critical of all that is going on around her in the house. According to Iris, Miss Rose smells like halibut given the fact she works in a cannery every day. The only happiness Miss Rose has is either going to the Legion, drinking and making out with all the veterans or putting the moves on Owen or the arrival of a strange man, Mr. Lawrence, at the house. Ms. Noble captures credibly the bravado of Miss Rose on the outside and the hurting on the inside with believable flair.
Paul Love’s work as Mr. Lawrence, the stranger whom Iris believes is the reincarnation of her dead goldfish, is profoundly impressive. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but Mr. Love takes several risks in his performance and they pay off tremendously as a very important lesson is learned through Mr. Lawrence - not everyone who is peculiar is insane especially if he is able, hopefully, to bring a family back together.
The Durham Shoestring Performers are well known to present edgy, dramatic material that will always challenge audiences and actors to discuss and to think. This DSP production of ‘Girl in the Goldfish Bowl’ does just that. The play presents us with characters who are ‘charmingly odd’. It is in meeting them that we see how their human frailties are not so different from our own.
Cast (In alphabetical order): Jennie Archambault, Paul Love, Natasha Noble, David Ross, Amber Dawn Vibert
Opened: March 23, 2018 at 8 pm.
Other performance dates: March 24, March 28, 29, 30 at 8 pm.
Closing: March 31, 2018 at 8 pm.
Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission
Tickets may be purchased at the door at 7:30 pm before each performance or visit www.durhamshoestring.org for further information, Facebook: Durham Shoestring Performers