Tag Archives: dale Wilson

Letters from (and to) A Doll’s House

torvald nora

Tim Marriott, as Torvald, and Nicole English, as Nora, in A Doll’s House. Photo Kristen Finlay.

Dear Captain Awkward:

I’m worried about my old friend. I just moved to her city, and we’ve been spending time together for the first time since she got married.  Captain, I think she’s married to a Darth Vader Boyfriend.  She pretends to follow his order not to eat macaroons, but sneaks them behind his back.  When I offered to help her with some mending, she pushed me into the kitchen with the help, saying “Torvald can’t stand to see anyone sewing”.  And he totally mansplained me the other day about how knitting was an ugly low-class pastime and advised me how to do embroidery instead.  She goes along with his whims to a ridiculous extent and she thinks he’s wonderful.  Captain, what can I do?

  • (pronouns she/her). 

Dear Ask a Manager:

I don’t have good references because I made some mistakes in my past.  No charges were laid, but I was stuck using some sketchy schemes to make money for a while, until I got this entry-level job at the bank.  Now I’m keeping my record clean and looking forward to promotion.  When I found out one of my old school friends was hired as the new vice-president, I was sure this would be an advantage for me.  So I started dropping in at his office and reminiscing loudly about the things we got up to at school.  And now he says I’m being too familiar and he’s given me a written warning and a pink slip!  However, I’ve got something on his wife (see above, sketchy schemes), so I was thinking that I should just blackmail them into letting me keep my job and move up at the bank.  Nothing can go wrong with this, right?

NK


Dear Miss Manners:

As I am in chronic pain due to congenital syphilis (which my nanny told me was my father’s fault), I would like to die with dignity while I have some agency.  I don’t think my friends could handle seeing me in rough shape, so I’d like to tell them to stay away.  What’s the approved way of notifying them using visiting cards? 

Doc


From Dan Savage, Savage Love, confidential to NoNoNora:  DTMFA.


The conflicts and choices portrayed in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, first produced in 1879, are disturbingly timely in 2017.   Alex Hawkins directed the current Walterdale Theatre Associates production to show the complexity of all the characters and the ways class and gender affect their choices. Nicole English (last seen as Mrs. Lovett in ELOPE’s Sweeney Todd) is troubling and inspiring as Nora, and the rest of the cast is strong as well (Tim Marriott as Torvald, Dave Wolkowski as Krogstad, Marsha Amanova as Christine, dale Wilson as Dr. Rank, and Leslie Caffaro as Anne Marie).   The designers worked with the restrained palette of 1879 Norway to create an atmosphere embodying both oppression and beauty, with set by Joan Heys Hawkins, costumes by Geri Dittrich, lighting by Richard Hatfield and Rebecca Cave, sound by Kiidra Duhault, and props by Alayna Hunchak.

A Doll’s House continues at the Walterdale Theatre until Saturday October 21st, 8 pm Tuesday-Saturday and 2 pm Sunday.  Same-day tickets are available at the door and advance tickets are through Tix on the Square.

Tragedy is silly, Happiness™ is not what it seems …

Epic Tragedy is actually neither.  It’s frivolous and delightful, fun even if you don’t know the Greek-tragedy source material very well.  Gerald Osborn sets his story in a taverna in the Ancient Greece of the classic tragedies, but with thoroughly modern tropes like a first date from a dating-site match.  In the smaller roles, Eric Smith is a very feline Sphinx on the prowl, Francie Goodwin-Davies is a favourite as the Oracle, and Landon Shayne Penner shuffles anxiously as a mute slave working for taverna owner James Hamilton (Laws of Thermodynamics, With Bells On, Waiting for Bardot).  Ruby Swekla, Syrell Wilson, dale Wilson, Catherine Wenschlag, and Cat Walsh all bring extensive experience and fine comic timing to the major roles, making this fun and easy to watch.  One more show Sunday afternoon at the air-conditioned Walterdale.

Happiness™ is not easy to watch – at least, it wasn’t for me.  But it is very much worth experiencing.   Cory Thibert and Tony Adams, from Ottawa, perform as a sales/self-help duo making a product-launch presentation to the audience, with help from the technician for their presentation who was played by the technician for their venue.  The real context and the story context kept blurring like that, and it was creepy and effective, because I do want to go to a Fringe show and I do not want to go to a Forum presentation, Amway recruitment, or gospel revival meeting.  I couldn’t figure out whether to engage with the show or hide in case they were really one of the latter.  I loved it.  They have one more show on Sunday evening, at Rutherford School across the road from La Cité Francophone.

W;t at the Walterdale

The drama W;t  (pronounced like Wit), opened tonight at the Walterdale Theatre.  I have been fond of that play since I worked on a scene from it in a Citadel acting class a couple of years ago.  The current production, directed by Anne-Marie Szucs, is wonderful.  As long as you are not in a life situation where watching someone on a stage dying from cancer would be too difficult, I will recommend this production to you.

Mary-Ellen Perley is wonderful as Dr. Vivian Bearing, the 50-year-old academic and Donne scholar who has cancer, “late-stage metastatic ovarian cancer”.   She is detached and wry, angry, lonely, thoughtful, blunt, and eventually in anguish, and it felt real to me.

The script (by Margaret Edson, and with a Pulitzer prize) and the direction and design of this production show what it’s like to be whisked around from test to test, technician to technician to research fellow, in a hospital.  The ensemble players (Kingsley Leung, Sarah Van Tassel, Macalan Boniec-Jedras, Katelyn Trieu), dressed in matching scrubs and clean sneakers, whisk various pieces of apparatus around the stage, deliver Dr. Bearing to each test by wheelchair, and speak a few rote sentences each time, all the while moving at high speed and never making eye contact with Dr. Bearing or with each other.   Glimpses of humanity in the medical setting are provided by her oncologist (dale Wilson) and by the nurse Susie (Bethany Hughes).   Her one visitor in the hospital is her old graduate supervisor Dr. Ashcroft (Syrell Wilson), also seen in a flashback scene showing Vivian as a driven undergraduate and Dr. Ashcroft as both academically demanding and encouraging the student Vivian to seek out balanced life.

Two particularly telling scenes late in the story and late in the progression of Vivian’s illness are conversations she has in her hospital room with Susie and with the research fellow Jason (Mark Drelich).  To Jason, she acknowledges that like him, she’s always been more interested in research than in people.   It is clear to the audience that Vivian now wants more human connection than people like Jason are giving, but she does not criticize him directly or expect him to change, or nor does she express any regrets for her own choices.   Susie is on night shift when Vivian wants someone to talk to.  Susie brings the conversation around to the prognosis and the hard decisions about end-of-life choices.   And in one of the most unguarded moments, Vivian asks, child-like, whether Susie will still take care of her until the end.

And the end is … the end.  Messy and unfair and ugly – until it isn’t.

 

Playing at the Walterdale until Saturday the 12th, 8 pm Tues-Sat and 2 pm Sunday, advance tickets at Tix on the Square and same-day tickets at the theatre unless they sell out.  Which they might.

 

Six Degrees of Separation

My posting hiatus of December and January started with being too busy, and I kept meaning to tell you why.   (Not the parts about work, Christmas-present knitting, needing a tire repair in a snowstorm, or straining my knee – those don’t make such interesting reading.)

In the fall I was  working on the play Six Degrees of Separation.  I enjoyed watching the production develop through the rehearsal process and it was a delight to share it with thoughtful audiences and hear/see them chuckle and sigh and applaud.

Six Degrees of Separation is a drama, written by John Guare and inspired by anecdotes of an incident he heard about from friends in New York City society in the early 1990s, in which several people were taken in by a young man claiming to be a movie star’s son and a university classmate of their children.  Back then it was a little harder or a little less natural to fact-check a new acquaintance, compared to today when it doesn’t feel like an unusual effort or a sign of mistrust to quickly check Facebook and other databases and follow up with questions.  In this case, one might use Facebook to find the visitor connected to the student family members and see which of one’s Facebook friends might know the movie star mentioned, as well as looking up the movie star on imdb.com and Wikipedia.  You might do this even when you don’t mistrust the new acquaintance, just to further the conversation and enhance your memory.  So if this story happened today it wouldn’t happen in quite the same way.  “Try the public library.” “Try Who’s Who“, the socialites suggest as a way of verifying what they’d been told.  “Who do we know who knows Sidney Poitier?” they wonder.  Confirming with their children away at school is delayed by difficulty getting through on the phone.  And the smooth-talking young man has slipped away long before they find a book in a bookstore confirming that Sidney Poitier, the movie star, has no sons.

So the details of the story set it firmly in a slightly dated period, but the attitudes remain familiar.  Ouisa and Flan Kitteridge (Nicolle Lemay and Nelson Niwa) are the wealthy Manhattan art-dealer couple recounting the story to the theatre audience.  Mary Ellen Perley and Darrell Portz, dale Wilson, and Bob Klakowitz are other members of their social circle taken in by the charming young man (Jordy Kieto).  Macalan Boniec-Jedras, Samara Von Rad, Frank Keller, and Julian Stamer are their children, hostile to their parents while assuming the privileges of their birth.

After the first round of deceptions is uncovered, with some sense of betrayal especially to Ouisa but no material losses, things get darker.  Paul, the charming mysterious manipulator at the heart of the story, goes on to draw in some more vulnerable young people, played by Rudy Weibe, Kate Jestadt Hamblin, and Kyle Tennant, and to leave each of them devastated.   The ending is cryptic and unsettling.  Paul is the central character in the story, but in the playwright’s convention of having various characters step out of scene to provide narrative to the audience, we never ever hear from Paul directly.  We never do get to find out what he’s thinking or why he does anything he does, and I don’t believe anything he says.   It’s a fascinating script and a complex story.  I kept finding more in it throughout the rehearsal process, and the cast did it justice.  Apart from the main characters mentioned above, the story was filled out with Mark McGarrigle (a detective), Sonja Gould (a building concierge and a police officer), and Selina Collins and Greg Kroestch (ubiquitous servants).

Proof, at the Walterdale

“She’s not my friend. She’s my sister.”

There are lots of good lines in David Auburn’s play Proof, currently playing at the Walterdale Theatre and directed by Kristen Finlay, but that was one of my favourites.  Two of the characters in the story are sisters, Catherine (Gabby Bernard) and Claire (Jessica Watson).  Catherine, the younger, had been living at home and taking care of her mentally ill father Robert until his death just before the play starts, and Claire is the successful stylish older sister who breezes in from New York City to manage things.  The tensions between them are understandable but not clichéd.

Robert (dale Wilson), seen in some flashback scenes and other devices, was a likeable character who reminded me of my own father.  He had been a mathematician and math professor.  The fourth character in the play is his protégé Hal (Jordan Ward, previously seen in The Full Monty and the Fringe show God on God).  Hal has been reading through the notebooks in Robert’s study looking for anything important or publishable that might have appeared among Robert’s graphomaniac gibberish.

All four actors portray their characters as interesting and complex.  One might assume that Claire, the conventional non-mathematician in the group, is going to be socially competent where the rest are awkward, but in the company of her sister and Hal she turns out to have her own brand of awkwardness and insensitivity, and Jessica Watson occasionally shows her as being wistful about being excluded.  Claire and her father, and then Claire and Hal, all share a kind of delight in literal thinking and wordplay-argument that is very familiar to me.  In a flashback scene, a younger Catherine tells Robert that she’s been accepted to Northwestern University and will be moving out soon to resume her studies.  He is resistant, flailing to make up various objections, but when his graduate student Hal shows up to drop off a thesis draft, Robert immediately begins bragging to Hal about Catherine’s good news and bright future, making sure that she overhears.  Another thing that impressed me about this scene was Jordan Ward’s different body language and voice as a 24-year-old student at his advisor’s home, compared to how we’d seen him in the previous scene, aged 28, talking to Catherine who is younger and without academic credentials.  As the student, he’s hunched over, hesitant, out of place, over-eager to agree with his advisor, but as the young instructor he’s got a veneer of superficial confidence and condescension.

Hal’s interactions with Catherine were fascinating and infuriating to watch throughout the play, because although they have shared interests and are attracted to each other, he reveals over and over the kinds of casually-sexist and educationally-elitist assumptions that are unfortunately not uncommon in young male academics.  For example, he asks her how old she is but responds indignantly when she asks him the same question.  He obviously thinks that her age is relevant and his isn’t, and that he is entitled to assess her credibility as a scholar.

I thought Gabby Bernard was very strong in her portrayal of the main character Catherine.  The character’s unguarded facial expressions were perfect, especially in the scene where she thinks she’s caught Hal stealing something but his backpack turns out to be empty, and in the scene where Hal tells Claire about finding some unpublished work in the study.  That scene, ending the first act, is the critical point of the play.  Catherine is standing outside of Hal’s field of view, and it’s clear that the other two characters are completely unaware of her, but the lighting designer’s choices and the actor’s stance and facial expressions of growing disbelief led me to focus on her.

As Robert, dale Wilson appears in only a few scenes.  But the scene in which he is convinced that he’s ready to resume productive mathematics after his previous bout of mental illness is heartbreaking.  He encourages Catherine to read out his draft notes and he nods with self-congratulation as she reads gently “The future of cold is infinite. The future of heat is the future of cold. The bookstores are infinite and so are never full except in September…”

The story of this play gave me lots to think about, not just about family relationships and about attitudes of men and women, but also about fields of discovery, about the fear of being too old to do good work, and about watching oneself for signs of instability. 

There are three more performances, tonight through Saturday night at the Walterdale Theatre.  Tickets are available at Tix on the Square and at the door.