Last spring, their production of James Reaney’s “The Kildeer” was among their very best.
This season with a new director at the helm in Teri Loretto, the troupe of mostly OYP grads and university students, decided to try their hands at a comedy, although they couldn’t help themselves in picking a comedy centred around a man who is about to commit suicide.
“7 Stories”, which was written by Canadian playwright Morris Panych, is a thinking man’s comedy with a wonderfully dry wit about it and a marvelous Mary Poppinesque ending .
At the centre of the play is a person simply referred to in both the script and the program as the man. In the opening scene the dapperly dressed gentleman is standing on a ledge holding an umbrella.
The set resembles a building facade with five shuttered windows running along the front and two balconies with doors leading to them at either end.
As the play unfolds, our protagonist meets a steady stream of maniacally eccentric characters who live on the seventh floor of the building. There’s a husband and wife who spend their waking hours taking turns trying to kill each other; a bug-eyed, sleep deprived psychiatrist who suffers from paranoia; a young man who has 291 friends and doesn’t like any of them; a former actor who’s decided to live the rest of his life as a character complete with a fake mustache and fake accent; a party host who tries to end her own party prematurely because she can’t stand the guests; two friends who are have self identity issues; an old woman who hasn’t left her apartment in 50 years and her nurse who can hardly wait for the old lady to keel over.
Besides the fact that they are all a tad eccentric, they all share another common trait in that they are so wrapped up in their own lives they don’t even bother to ask the man what he’s doing on the ledge, except for the old woman and the nurse who both think he should jump and get it over with.
“7 Stories” is very much a character study, in fact, it’s all about the characters, which puts a real onus on the actors. For the play to come alive, the characters must come alive, which takes energy, commitment and enthusiasm on the part of the cast.
The ENCORE! crew comes through on all three counts. Hayden Smyth is does a superb job as the man contemplating suicide. His deadpan delivery and ability to control the subtle changes in emotion are brilliant.
Nick Dubus delivers a solid performance as well, doing double duty as the sociopathic husband and the confused groom to be. Equally outstanding are Maryse Darch as the sociopathic wife; Michael Yuill as the man with 291 friends; Sarah Benfield and Stephanie Haggarty as Al and Michelle, Samantha Meyer as Rachel; Martha Reeve as Joan; Karine Longpré as the nurse and Kathleen Shore as Jennifer and the old lady.
But my favourite performance of the evening was turned in by Jenn Jarvis who makes her return to the stage after directing a long line of ENCORE! productions.
Jarvis is absolutely hilarious as the wild -haired, wild-eyed, sleep derpived psycho psychiatrist. She barely opened her mouth and I was already in stitches.
Suffice it to say, I loved the entire production from beginning to end and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a little escapism this weekend.
The next performance is tonight (Saturday, March 4 ) at 7 p.m. at the Orleans Theatre in the Orleans Client Service Centre on Centrum Blvd. followed by two performances tomorrow (Saturday, March 4 ) at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for OYP members and seniors. It should
be noted that the play is recommended for audience members over the age