Saturday, January 27, 2007

Revisited review from Colin Thomas

I saw Revisited by 2B Theatre tonight as the first of Intrepid Theatre's series of touring shows. After reading Colin Thomas's Georgia Straight review, I felt he'd said what I was going to say, so here's his review. My only comment: So much theatricality, so little drama.

By Colin Thomas
Publish Date: January 25, 2007
Created by Christian Barry, Steven McCarthy, and Michelle Monteith. A 2b theatre company production. At Performance Works on Friday, January 19, as part of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. No remaining performances
I dream of the village where I lived until I was six, and every time I do it’s like rediscovering my innocence. Similarly, Revisited, from Halifax’s 2b theatre company, evokes intense nostalgia by imagining rural life years ago. It’s lovely, but as moved as I was by this production, I’m suspicious of it. I know my nightly homecomings are about a child’s view; the play attempts to re-create a more grown-up perspective on an idyllic reality that I doubt ever existed.
Still, for a harried urbanite living in a world on the brink of environmental collapse, it’s a treat to enter a fictional space in which larks sing and the children who gaze up at the stars imagine other people doing so thousands of years in the future.
And the theatrical experience the company creates is as warm as a mother’s hand. Twenty-seven audience members sit around a large wooden table, the air lit as if by the first rays of dawn. Surely, most of us city dwellers crave community. This production splendidly realizes the theatre’s potential for providing that kind of collective intimacy.
The simplicity of the show’s theatrical vocabulary is stunning. There are only two actors. Steven McCarthy plays a young man named Tom as well as several other characters. Michelle Monteith plays the woman who becomes Tom’s love. When McCarthy enters as the narrator, he takes a handful of dirt from a small sack and then, sprinkling a line of it on the table, says, “Here’s Main Street.” Another line becomes the railroad. A pile of dirt is the graveyard. Director Christian Barry’s lighting design, which is gorgeous throughout, provides tiny squares of illumination when specific houses are mentioned. Richard Feren’s masterful sound design all comes through an old-fashioned radio.
You couldn’t ask for better actors, either. Both performances are as simple and gorgeously ordinary as ponds. Monteith inhabits intense emotion without for a moment looking false.
The first two sections, which show us the village and Tom’s romance, work beautifully. The third passage, which deals with death, is less successful. In Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, which this play closely resembles, the dead harshly criticize the inattentiveness of the living. Here, the perspective of the dead is defined less well and the play feels philosophically underage as a result. Perhaps it’s the absence of existential brutality that makes me wary of all of this beauty.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Constructing Marion Bridge
by Jessica Smith

Victoria has a lively theatre scene with many small, talented companies vying for venues, rehearsal space and audience attention, but relationships among the people involved are more co-operative than competitive.

One theatre company with a focus on creating a community for actors is the Workshop Actors of Victoria Ensemble (WAVE), made up of three local acting teachers: Monica Prendergast, Gina McIntosh and Kate Rubin. Their new show, Marion Bridge, is acted and directed by all three women and is showing at the Metro Studio Theatre until Jan. 14.

“There are a number of small companies in Victoria doing wonderful things, so the focus of WAVE is really on actor development,” said Prendergast.

The play “is a finished production as much as we can do for the three of us. We really are still working. We feel like there’s lots more to go,” said Prendergast. “Our productions are not intended to be full productions—we really are more focused on the process.”

The workshop quality of the play is evident in the minimal sets and lighting—technical decisions that Prendergast said are intended to highlight the actors. Prendergast believes that when full sets and lighting are added to a performance, “the acting stops” and becomes repetition.

One aspect of the acting that still feels like it’s being workshopped is the accents. The play is set in rural Nova Scotia, and the level of Maritime accent for the characters, who are sisters, is uneven.

“We didn’t want to push the East Coast accent too hard, because it’s actually very easy with the Maritime accent to slip into sounding Irish. We’re not East Coasters, and it’s a very challenging thing to nail that particular dialect,” explained Prendergast.

While three different voices for three distinct characters makes sense, and each woman has built an identity for her character, the deliveries are so different that it’s difficult believe they’re siblings.

The plot concerns the relationships between the sisters when they return to their childhood home because their mother is dying. Prendergast is playing a nun, Theresa, who lives on a farm and loves working the earth but is having a crisis of faith. One of the most powerful moments in the play is a breakdown she has in front of her sister Agnes (Kate Rubin) about her inability to see God in all the tragedy in the world and her inability to fix the problems.

Prendergast grew up Catholic but left the church soon after she graduated from high school. She said there were frequent conversations during rehearsals “about how difficult it is to keep your faith when the world is so screwed up.”

Agnes is a broke alcoholic actress who moves to Toronto struggling with a teenage trauma that is revealed midway through the play. She begins as the most sympathetic character in the play, but as it progresses and the other characters develop, Agnes becomes an urban audience’s window into life in the small Maritime town.

Gina McIntosh plays Louise, the youngest sister, who never left home and who has always been “a little strange.” McIntosh’s performance is the strongest of the three. She uses the heaviest accent, and for those who are used to seeing her as Flora, the former host of Atomic Vaudeville, the change is amazing. She is able to take a withdrawn character and turn her into the heart and soul of the play.

Watching actors work on their trade without the distraction of complicated lights and sets is a rewarding experience, and each of these actors have enough talent to keep an audience interested through two acts.

JANUARY 10, 2007



By —John Threlfall Jan 10 2007

Be sure to take a trip to Marion Bridge

Three things about WAVE Theatre’s current production of Marion Bridge that had me looking forward to it before I even set foot into the increasingly swanky Metro Studio: it was written by Governor General Literary Award-winning playwright Daniel MacIvor, it’s an unapologetically Canadian piece, and it features three strong local actors. (And if I needed a fourth reason, there’s always Metro’s cushy new seats, which are deserving of a short review themselves—comfy, lots of leg room, great back support!) That said, was I disappointed in my expectations? Not in the slightest. While the pacing does lag a bit at times, Marion Bridge remains a compelling and strongly acted piece well worth a visit.

As outwardly different (and inwardly similar) as most siblings are, the MacKeigan sisters—Agnes (Kate Rubin), Theresa (Monica Prendergast) and Louise (Gina McIntosh)—find themselves once again gathered in their family home in Sydney, Nova Scotia, brought together by the imminent death of their mother. Each has carved out her own path in life—Agnes, by living the partying life in Toronto; Theresa, by becoming a nun who works on a farm; and Louise, by never leaving home or changing much at all. Still, despite their apparently different lifestyles, each of the sisters has found a way to hide from the “real” world through booze, god and television, respectively. But it isn’t until they find themselves together again that their private and public worlds—to say nothing of their own secrets and lies—begin to be revealed.

While MacIvor is known for his often experimental theatrical presentations (In On It, You Are Here), Marion Bridge is rather traditional in its approach; with the exception of a series of monologues (each of which feature elements of metatheatricality), this is a fairly straightforward family drama, interspersed with moments of humour. The intentionally sparse set—a table, three chairs, a coat rack and an easy chair—puts all the focus on the script and the talent.
Working without an outside director (WAVE’s mandate is for the actors to work collaboratively and co-direct themselves), Rubin, Prendergast and McIntosh blend well, having previously appeared together in The Attic, The Pearls and Three Fine Girls. Each is a consummate performer and indeed, it is a treat to watch three fine actors working without a net, as it were. As the borderline alcoholic Toronto party girl, Rubin has the outwardly juiciest part and plays it very well, but McIntosh’s plaid-wearing, possibly lesbian, TV addict is equally charming and she offers a wonderfully understated performance; in comparison, Prendergast’s turn as the hand-wringing nun with mildly shaky religious convictions comes off as far less interesting, though no less engaging.

If there’s a complaint to be made about this production, it’s in the pacing. There are clearly spots where the action could be picked up a tad, and MacIvor’s dialogue would be better served at times with a more rapid-fire delivery; and, unlike the Belfry studio (where WAVE did Attic), Metro’s stage may just be too darn big for this production. There are times when it seems to take the cast forever to cross from one side to the other. Yes, the outside eye of a director could possibly have made a difference with details like this, but that’s neither here nor there, given WAVE’s mandate.

But these are minor quibbles in what is generally an enjoyable dramatic offering. If you’ve ever had family feuds over the death of a parent or simply have long-standing sibling issues you’ve never gotten around to dealing with, Marion Bridge will ring truer than you think. And keep an ear open for the closing track—an acoustic instrumental version of “People Are Strange”—which, if you catch it, will make you leave the theatre with a smile on your lips and give you some final insight into this production.


We have preview articles in the January 2 to 9th edition of MONDAY Magazine, the January 4th edition of the TIMES COLONIST and preview spots on Shaw Cable TV and A-Channel.

Review articles are appearing in this week's MONDAY Magazine and UVIC's MARTLET.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007


Go to for more information on WAVE Theatre's production of MARION BRIDGE by Governor General Award-wining playwright Daniel MacIvor.