Highland Arts Theatre invites people into a haunted house for Hannah Moscovitch’s psychological thriller Little One, just extended to Nov. 15 because it’s been selling out.
A masked audience of 15 is guided through a Whitney Pier home under renovation to watch this intense and chilling 75-minute drama with striking performances by Tayves Fiddis (Mary’s Wedding) and Bhreagh MacNeil (Werewolf).
Director Alison Crosby moves her actors through dingy rooms of peeling paint and wallpaper, into dark stairwells and up narrow stairs to a creepy attic for a brilliant pairing of text and context.
Little One – initially funny – is about two adopted children in suburban Ottawa, one, a boy, Aaron, who fits the family’s dream of a normal, hockey-playing, animal-loving kid; the other, a badly damaged girl. Claire is violent and destructive due to an unknown trauma. (Clues indicate it was sexual.)
She is also obsessed with the unusual relationship of the couple next door — a mail-order bride and her techie husband. (Tech guys take warning; you do not come off well here.)
Pressured by his parents to love and support Claire, Aaron tries his best but his anger builds and builds as his world is turned upside down.
Bhreagh MacNeil, who was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for her role in the 2016 film Werewolf, is terrific and deeply affecting as Claire. She holds in a lot of pent-up energy and is both repellent and sympathetic. She wonderfully varies her voice from that of a suburban little girl to a psychotic. Her physicality is excellent.
Tayves Fiddis slips beautifully into the body and voice of Aaron, moving from a playful, patient brother to an increasingly distraught young man. Both actors move well through their different ages.
Up in the attic this poetic, powerful play grows so suspenseful that it caused an audience member to jump when a tree branch tapped the window or was it a ghost?.
Little One ends somewhat unsatisfactorily but that is not enough to detract from an exciting theatrical experience. Jordan Palmer’s sound design is key to the spooky atmosphere. Set and costumes are by Kayla Cormier with lights by Alison Crosby.
Show times are Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday, 7 p.m.; Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Masks are mandatory. Wear your coat since the house is suitably chilly. Tickets are $22 plus HST.(https://www.highlandartstheatre.com/)(With adult themes and language, the show is recommended for ages 16 and up.)
This is the Highland Arts Theatre’s first production away from its theatre on Bentinck Street and is not part of its free-ticket Radical Access program.
To keep going during COVID 19 the “HAT” recently finished raising over $600,000 in monthly donations via Patreon of $25 or more from 2,000 people. The Radical Access program means it can offer 12 mainstage plays and musicals with limited audiences of 50 to 70 per show in its 400-seat theatre in a renovated old church.
Upcoming free-ticket productions are Billy Bishop Goes to War, Nov. 4 to 15, and the family-friendly All I Want for Christmas Dec. 1 to 13.
The HAT is this year’s winner of Arts Nova Scotia’s Creative Community Impact Award, to be presented at the 15th Creative Nova Scotia Awards Gala, being held virtually through liveheist.com/livestream on Saturday, November 14, 7 p.m.