Hugh Thompson as Costas and Francine Deschepper as Sandra in the premiere of Mary Vingoe’s Some Blow Flutes, at the Bus Stop Theatre, Halifax, through Nov. 4. (Stoo Metz)
I am at an age when – like many people – I have raised a teen, cared for a parent with Alzheimer’s and lived with grief in the loss of both parents.
SO, I needed a lot of Kleenex for Mary Vingoe’s Some Blow Flutes, an intense, powerful, deeply moving play that hits at the truth of human experience on many different levels with a glimmer of the hope human connection at the end.
This 80-minute production has a great Halifax cast; a beautiful, taut structure and Sue LePage’s amazing, highly-detailed, elongated set that splits the Bus Stop Theatre in two. The audience sits on either side of a sitting room stuffed with objects, an amorphous central space where two, troubled teens meet and a dimly-lit warren of a shoe shop at the far end.
Vingoe, also the director, cleverly intersects the lives of people at different ages in her poetic and painful exploration of the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease, different types of loss and human struggle within relationships.
The churlish cobbler from Greece, Costas, is not coping with a mysteriously ill wife and a dark family secret.
Into his cluttered shop steps the middle-aged, glamorous shoe fanatic, Sandra, a professional organizer with a very messy life. Their unusual – often humourous – connection is rooted in buried loneliness and self-doubt.
Hugh Thompson is amazing as Costas in terms of his accent, anger, deep pain and comedic irritation over things like the poor quality of synthetic shoes. Francine Deschepper is striking as Sandra in a beautifully nuanced, crystal-clear portrayal of a flawed person desperate to maintain a relationship with her daughter.
Key to this production is Mary-Colin Chisholm in her poignant portrayal of Elena, an aging, British immigrant with the recognizable behaviours of Alzheimer’s and glimmers of a radiant, loving and imaginative personality.
Mary-Colin Chisholm as Elena. (Stoo Metz)
The troubled teens carry all the obsessions and fears of youth but also a hope for the future. Gina Thornhill is flinty and beautiful as Marijke, a teen in crisis, while Ailsa Galbreath is solid and emotive as her less glamorous, more grounded best friend. Vingoe has the teen language, angst and self-obsession down very well.
Some Blow Flutes takes place over Halloween, which suits this play. Late October, with the dying back of nature and the falling of leaves, is a time when people reflect on (and fear) death. Also, Costas, Sandra and Marijke are in a state of disguising and denying the truth in their lives.
LePage, as costume designer, rises to the challenge of great thematic Halloween costumes for the teens. She is part of a 17-member design and production team including composition and sound designer Steven Naylor, lighting designer Vicky Williams (whose lighting is very fine within challenging parameters), projection designer Nick Bottomley, production and stage manager Sylvia Bell and Greek language consultant Theo Pitsiavas.
There is a Halloween contest (https://www.facebook.com/HomeFirstTheatre) with the prize of tickets to Wednesday’s show and $50 in gift cards to The Wooden Monkey.
Some Blow Flutes runs to Saturday, Nov. 3, 8 p.m., with the final show Sunday, Nov. 4, 2 p.m. The Nov. 3 matinee is ASL interpreted. Tickets are sold through tickethalifax.com.
The production company, HomeFirst Theatre, was founded by Vingoe and playwright Colleen Wagner in 2010 to produce Atlantic Canadian theatre of social and/or political importance. This is the company’s fourth world premiere and fifth production.
Gina Thornhill as Marijke and Ailsa Galbreath as Leah. (Stoo Metz)