Ella Buckler as Bobbie stands behind Mai To as Nearly Wild in Concord Floral, produced by DMV Theatre with the King’s Theatrical Society, at The Pit to Jan. 13. (Emily Pettet)
Concord Floral is an intriguing, compelling, 90-minute, magical mystery about suburban youth hiding a dark secret.
Staged by DMV Theatre in partnership with the King’s Theatrical Society in The Pit to Jan. 13, it’s remarkable for its talent, for Pamela Halstead’s clear and passionate direction and for the play itself – an artful, profound and haunting work by Toronto hotshot Jordan Tannahill. (In 2018 he became the youngest two-time winner of a Governor General’s Literary Award.)
In this literary 2014 work, originally created with high school students from the Greater Toronto Area, Tannahill underpins a pungent realism and accurate, raw teen-speak with magic, mysticism and historical references.
There is a universal, eternal quality to this slice-of-life and examination of guilt, fear, redemption and mercy with a philosophical, talking bird, a fox and a greenhouise.
Concord Floral is the name of an abandoned greenhouse in a field at the back of these kids’ houses in their Ontario town north of the 407. It’s a hideout, a party place, a teen world of wildness and gritty reality apart from the everyday world of school and home.
One night on their way to get McFlurrys, Rosa and her best friend Nearly Wild drop back from the group to go into the greenhouse to smoke a joint.
Using their iPhones as flashlights to search for a dropped lighter, Rosa drops her phone down a pit and they stumble on a freaky mystery that will haunt them both, Nearly Wild in particular, as she heads towards madness.
Concord Floral has a Greek, choral structure with a narrator announcing mini-scenes as actors step out of line to become students in a classroom or a cafeteria – settings created just with the swift movemnt of chairs – or friends hanging out in a basement.
The play is very funny even as it deals with the big issues of sex and death, cruelty to one another and the need to belong.
The way these characters, so adept at social media, talk over each other, interrupt each other and finish each other’s sentences is wonderful.
Halstead, co-founder and artistic producer of DMV, has an excellent cast of 10 actors who are either in high school or university.
They are good at defining character and natural in their roles so these teens feel authentic as Halstead moves them quickly around like chess pieces in an imaginary world made visible through words.
On stage are the play’s anchors in the very talented Mai To as Nearly Wild and the equally strong Ayline Sozdinler as Rosa; Harvey Gildea in a scene-stealing bit as the endangered Bobalink; Maika Villeneuve as an excellent fox; Ella Buckler, Lauryn Forrest, Daniel Halpern, David Woroner and Leela Shamash. The moral heart of the play turns out to be the greenhouse, a wistful, insightful character played by Adriana Loewen.
The creative team includes lighting designer Ingrid Risk, whose expert lighting is key; sound designer June Zinck, choral consultant Chuck Homewood, movement coach Emily Pettet, technical director Christopher Tully and stage manager Gina Thornhill.|
Concord Floral runs Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m. Enter The Pit through the main arts and administration building of the University of King’s College. Tickets are $20 adult, $15 artist and $12 students (http://www.theatrens.ca/buy-tickets/ or 902-425-3876) and good value for your money.
Concord Floral is one of four plays in Halifax this January including Below the Salt’s immersive production of Hamlet, set in an Edwardian dining room, directed by Ken Schwartz, now running to Jan. 20 in a Neptune Theatre presentation in its studio theatre; The Bridge, Shauntay Grant’s exploration of faith, family and foregiveness in a rural Black Nova Scotian community, Jan. 25 to Feb. 10, Neptune mainstage, a 2b theatre/Neptune co-production in association with Obsidian Theatre, and Matchstick Theatre’s staging of Michael Melki’s Joyride, also about disaffected youth and violence, for the play’s 25th anniversary, Jan. 24 to 27 at Neptune’s studio theatre.