Kya Mosey and Taylor Olson in Matchstick Theatre’s production of Michael Melski’s Joyride today, 2 and 8 p.m., Neptune studio theatre. (Samm Fisher)
Cape Breton playwright Michael Melski’s short, explosive Joyride is as powerful today as it was 25 years ago.
Matchstick Theatre gives the tightly-structured, suspenseful play its hard-core strength as well as all the bells and whistles with two shows today, 2 and 8 p.m., wrapping up a short run at Neptune’s studio theatre as part of Neptune Theatre’s 2018/2019 Open Spaces program.
At just an hour long and $15, this is a great chance to see a Cape Breton classic first produced in raw, indie style and launching Melski’s career as a playwright and, now, filmmaker.
Matchstick brings this deeply honest, sometimes funny, play alive with fine acting by Kya Mosey, Henricus Gielis and Taylor Olson, sharply focussed directing by artistic director Jake Planinc and a great set design by Wes Babcock of car doors standing in for gravestones, Tim Horton’s and a pool table.
Joyride is set in post-industrial Sydney in 1994 with references to the steel mill and tar ponds. Its tragic story of disaffected youth looking to escape a dead-end town is universal.
Rachel (Mosey) is making minimum wage at the corner store she hung out in as a kid and unable to realize any of her dreams. Jess (Gielis) is also broke but more optimistic about home and inheriting his dad’s lawn mowing business. He is obviously in love with Rachel, though she’ll have none of it.
When their old friend Craig (Olson) returns home after jailtime in Halifax, he is thrilled to discover that Rachel’s boss has $40,000 in a safe.
Rachel, whose wit and intelligence surpass her prospects, is attracted to his danger and drive. The more slow-witted Jess is desperate to belong but so obviously doesn’t. Gielis makes him really empathetic and lovable.
Henricus Gielis takes his talent to Matchstick for a second time as Jess in Joyride. (Samm Fisher)
Mosey brings a natural quality to Rachel. She gets all her edges but also a sweet side and a sense of humour so one cares about her future. Olson, with his blond hair long and lank, fuels Craig with an inner rage, intelligence and initial appeal.
Melski writes with a pace like a car’s wheels spinning faster and faster as those in the audience want to shout out, “No, don’t do that.”
Adding greatly to Joyride’s imaginative design is an excellent lighting design by Alison Crosby, who is emerging lighting designer for Neptune’s Chrysalis Project, contemporary costumes by designer Kelsey Stanger and a good use sound by designer Jordan Palmer. Stage manager Chelsea Dickie is in charge of picking up all those Tim Horton’s cups.
Matchstick is an emerging, Halifax-based company dedicated to revitalizing contemporary Canadian plays. Since 2017 it has produced seven plays and received Merritt Award nominations. Newly a registered non-profit, the company is able to receive donations through Theatre Nova Scotia’s partnership program. Information and advance tickets are online (www.matchsticktheatre.ca).
Wes Babcock’s stellar set design with Alison Crosby’s light. (Samm Fisher)