Get Thee to the Theatre: Hamlet as you’ve never seen it before

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Micha Cromwell as Ophelia in Below the Salt’s Hamlet, staged at and on an enormous  Edwardian dining table, at Neptune’s studio theatre to Jan. 20. (Stoo Metz)

I’ve seen Hamlet at Point Pleasant Park, a film noir Hamlet and even Mel Gibson as Hamlet — what was I thinking?

I have never seen a Hamlet like Below the Salt’s startling, unique theatrical experience at the Neptune Studio Theatre to Jan. 20.

Jackie Torrens as Hamlet stomps on the longest Edwardian dining table this side of Downton Abbey in an intense, inventive, atmospheric production with the audience seated at the table, behind the table and in the Neptune’s studio theatre seats.

The six actors are a butler and five maids in black dresses and white aprons who decide to stage play around – and on –  the  dining table before guests arrive.

This Hamlet matches the intelligence and inventiveness of its director,  Two Planks and a Passion Theatre’s artistic director Ken Schwartz, with the skill, ferocity and emotive power of Halifax actor Jackie Torrens as Hamlet.

Schwartz specializes in making Shakespeare’s language sound like natural conversation and the actors talk, even in the famous soliloquies, to the audience members seated at the table.

Schwartz has nurtured a tight-knit ensemble for outdoor theatre during the summer at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts near Canning. He takes some of those actors to the city including fan favourite Burgandy Code.

She brings Hamlet’s uncle, the usurping king, alive in a way I’ve never seen before – as a crafty, comfortably powerful, two-faced demagogue.

hamlet jan 2019-191Burgandy Code as the duplicitous king in Below the Salt’s Hamlet.  (Stoo Metz)

Schwartz also utilizes his magic for transforming everyday objects into things they aren’t. For example, Code dips a dining knife as a pen into a glass of scotch to write on a blood-red napkin as a piece of paper.

Jackie Torrens, who in real life is far apart in years and build from a young boy, is highly convincing and compelling as Hamlet.

Her blond hair pinned back to look boyish, her body stance stiff and solid, she brings a powerful, often restrained – other times violently unleashed – emotional torment to Hamlet that rings true.

I recognize the deep anxiety, the effort to mask it, the head-hitting in self-directed anger, as female. My husband disagrees entirely but he’s never forgiven me for taking him to Mel Gibson’s Hamlet.

hamlet jan 2019-82Jackie Torrens as Hamlet. (Stoo Metz) 

Geneviève Steele is an excellent Gertrude, both queenly and a fraught mother. She and Matthew Lumley are wonderful as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, with Steele slipping out of Rosencrantz and leaving behind a hat that Lumley holds as he switches into a high voice.

Sarah English and Micha Cromwell are both fine Ophelias, with English playing Laertes and Micha anchoring Hamlet’s friend Horatio as a more interesting, commanding and  loyal character than I’ve seen him played before.

It’s amazing that only six actors populate the stage. With the audience it seems like there are so many more players. The only quibble is that the device of the table while brilliant is sometimes distancing from the actors.

This production is intensely beautiful, like a Renaissance painting, with a great use of light by designer Susann Hudson – both overhead and as candles for an excellent ghost-on-the-ramparts scene with the ghost speaking in a scary, strangled whisper.

The design by Two Planks costume designer Jennifer Goodman and set designer Bob Chaisson is rich and polished, all dark wood with warmer golds and Ophelia’s shockingly white dress. Also on the creative team are assistant director Emily Jewer and stage manager Christine Oakey, with assistance by Virginia Iredale. Set pieces were built by “Ross Creek hero” Micah McGough.

It took four years to get this creative Hamlet to the stage. Tickets at the Neptune box office are going fast but are still available.

NOTE: The summer season at Ross Creek opens July 6 with three Two Planks and a Passion Theatre shows: the mainstage show, In This Light, an adaptation of An Enemy of the People by Governor General’s Award-winning playwright Catherine Banks, the fireside performance of Frankenstein by Fire, based on the novel by Mary Shelley, and an end-of-season special performance of The Ruins by Nova Scotia playwright Gillian Clark. Tickets are already on sale (http://www.artscentre.ca/twoplankscurrent.html).

Concord Floral haunting, teen mystery: great start to a theatrical January

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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.

Welcome to Dante’s Wild World

 Andrew Chen plays Dante in the fountain School of Performing Arts production of Dante’s Purgatorio at the Sir James Dunn Theatre, Halifax,  through Saturday. (Ken Kam)

 Dante’s Purgatorio is a noisy, funny, thought-provoking, visual extravaganza that makes remarkable use of the entire Sir James Dunn Theatre in a Fountain School of Performing Arts show running through Saturday.

Stripped down to its black brick walls, the theatre becomes the frightening world of Purgatory as protagonist Dante and his companion, ancient poet Virgil, climb out of hell – a glowing red, smoking pit – to meet the unusual, amazingly-costumed, often frightening denizens sometimes representing different sins.

These creatures rise up out of pits, appear in upper balconies, dash through an invisible lower door and race in and out loudly on wheeled stairs. There’s both a deus ex machina quality and a simplicity to the moveable, architectural set with removable, orange, metal fences – often banged down in frustration.

American playwright and Arizona professor Patrick Baliani’s translation and adaptation of Dante’s epic poem, begun c. 1308 and completed in 1320 just a year before the Florentine writer died, is crisp and clear, contemporary but not overly so and quite humourous. (He gives a free master’s class,Adapting Dante’s Purgatory, Friday, 1 to 2 p.m., in Studio Two, Dal Arts Centre.)

Andrew Chen as the hot-blooded, driven Dante and Logan Robins as the cooler, rationalist Virgil are very good as they argue about philosophy and religion, play word games and encounter fantastic beings who sing, gamble, beg to be remembered to their living loved ones, tempt or torment them.

Dalhousie Acting Program instructor Margot Dionne’s exuberant direction suits her young actors who put their all into character creation and the rush of movement in this inbetween world on this one day — Easter Sunday – when Dante is 35.

Waiting at the top of the Mount Purgatory is Dante’s beloved, celestial Beatrice (Ky Fleming). Also in this strong cast are: Zilong Chen, Kaylin Dean, John Gilchrist,Katie Graham, Rebekah Leon, Stephanie Mah, Greg Mansour, Linda Meian, Meaghan Taverner and Emily Pratt.

The visuals, the sound, the creatures themselves, make for a chilling, unsetttling experience with lots of ghosts called “shades” envying Dante’s living body.

dante4Dante’s Purgatorio features angels and ghosts in an amazing costume design. (Ken Kam)

“This play puts me in mind of such November celebrations as Allhallowtide (Halloween, All Saints’ Day,All Souls’ Day) and the Day of the Dead!,” the director writes in the program. 

It’s like being inside a highly populated Brueghel painting and the stern, good and evil drama of Blake’s images thanks to lighting designer Bruce MacLennan, set and projection designer Karyn McCallum, sound designer/composer Alex Arnold and costume designer John Pennoyer, who has outdone himself with the aid of many student cutters and stitchers. (The angel’s wings alone are amazing.)

Today  the Christian view of the world is less dominant than it was in the early 14th century. Dante’s world was heavily Christian and highly political; heaven and hell, good and evil were very real.

The  highly detailed program helps in explaining Dante’s time, the poem and the director’s intentions. And this producation actually makes you want to read The Divine Comedy.

Dante’s Purgatorio runs through Saturday, 7:30p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee, at the Dunn Theatre, Dalhousie Arts Centre. Tickets available at the arts centre box office(902-494-3820/1-800-874-1669 or online at http://dal.ca/artscentre).

 

The Changeling: #metoo meets 17th century in intense, fast-paced tragedy


Kayla Gunn as Beatrice and Michael Kamras as Deflores in The Villain’s Theatre production of The Changeling: Chimes of Bedlam at the Bus Stop Theatre today and Dartmouth’s Sawmill Theatre Wed. to Dec. 2. (Stoo Metz)  

The Villain’s Theatre updates The Changeling to make it about a young woman driven to extreme action because of male power structures.

 As a Jacobean tragedy, the play set in a madhouse is full of murky morality, murder, treachery and sexual appetite.

The protagonist Beatrice wants to get rid of her father who stands in the way of her marrying a gentleman she fancies.

To do so she leads on the nasty orderly Deflores who has long lusted after her. As everything unravels, she becomes a victim as much as a villain. When the song Let Me Call You Sweetheart comes on after an unpleasant end to Act I it’s super creepy.

This intense, fast-paced, atmospheric production – at 90 minutes including intermission – compresses the plot.  Some details are a bit confusing if you don’t know the early 17th century classic by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley.

Director Dorian Lang strongly creates a mood befitting all the references to fools and madmen at Bedlam.

The design of windows and mirrors with Matthew Downey’s spooky, low level lighting is very effective. Characters rush in and out; a mad girl sings presciently. The use of sound is good: dripping water, carnivalesque music for mad dances.

Particularly expressive in the cast are Kayla Gunn as the increasingly desperate, conniving Beatrice and Michael Kamras as Deflores, with scabby makeup on his forehead since it’s clear Deflores is physically repugnant. Kamras creates an unloved monster like a Caliban with a looming sense of violence and all the hopes-dashed misery of the outcast.

Abby Weisbrot as the servant Diana is a natural and makes the scene where Beatrice tests a drug on her to indicate virginity a lively, fun one. Also in the able cast are Dan Bray, Sherwin Buydens, Audrey Eastwood with a lovely singing voice and Colleen MacIsaac.

Also on the creative team are: dramaturge Laura Burke, stage manager Olivia McGinn, original composer Jenny Trites, set designer Patricia Vinluan, costume designer Kelsey Stanger and choreographer Holly Arsenault.

 In updating a classic to explore contemporary issues, the Halifax company’s artistic director Dan Brayand and artistic producer Colleen MacIsaac make it clear that Beatrice has no options to exercise her free will and has to navigate – and break – rigid societal structures as she seeks power.

Watching The Changeling: Chimes of Bedlam one thinks of all the male media and entertainment executives demanding sexual favours of young women to advance their careers and of the many rigid patriarchal structures – some crumbling, others still standing – that block women and other oppressed people around the world.

The Changeling: Chimes of Bedlam is at the Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen St., today at 2 p.m. and at the Sawmill Playhouse (formerly the Dartmouth Players’ theatre), 33 Crichton Ave., Darmouth, Nov. 28 to Dec. 1, 8 p.m., with a 2 p.m.matinee Dec. 1 and 2.. Tickets are through villainstheatre.com. Next up for the nine-year-old company is Fox, based on Volpone, in February.

A tale of twin spirits in silversmithing: gallery talk today, 1:30, at Mary E. Black

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Labrador Wave, (close up), Wesley Harris, 12×17.6×13.5cm, sterling silver, fine silver, copper, 14k rose gold, 14k white gold. Harris gives a talk today (Sunday), 1:30 p..m.

In the beginning there was a red jasper Chinese ring.

This hundred-year-old ring that Wesley Harris found among his late mentor’s things  launches Mentor & Metalsmith: The Silver Art of Arthur Brecken & Wesley Harris, at the Mary E. Black Gallery, close to Pier 21, to Dec. 21.

A must-see for anyone who loves jewelry and metalwork,  this is the story of how Brecken inspired Harris in his lifelong career as a silversmith. It is told through 23 of Brecken’s works, some loaned from his niece, Grace MacNairn, of Nova Scotia, 11 of Harris’s early works and 38 recent pieces, several constructed in homage to Brecken.

“It means a lot to me,” says Harris, who has taken this show in his car to several  institutions across Canada.

His Erin, Ont., high school arts teacher – a 1940 applied fine arts graduate from Mount Allison University – “ helped me from high school on. He took me under his wing, he became a facilitator and a patron and a friend. I always wanted to recognize him. He was very low profile.”

Brecken spent his first nine years in China after he was adopted in Canada by missionary parents and teachers living and working out of Chengtu (now Chengdu and the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province.)

The jasper ring must have been purchased by his parents. Found in a moth-eaten bag with Chinese symbols, it “has the same motifs and patterns Arthur used throughout his career.”

Brecken liked to work with rope-like twisted wires, coiled wires and spherical silver beads in highly detailed, precise, decorative pieces like the exquisite spoons, salt and pepper shakers, rings and small sculptures on exhibit.

As he evolved as an artist, Harris became drawn to pure forms and flowing lines, cleaner surfaces and contours.

The difference between the two is evident in a tale of two tea sets. One is a fascinating miniature, fully-functioning, dolls’ tea set that Brecken made, inspired by  mid-20th century Scandinavian hollowware and Art Deco. Created to celebrate Canada Centennial in its 10 pieces, it won first prize in the Guelph Creative Arts summer exhibit.

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Sugar Bowl and Sugar Spoon, Wesley Harris, sterling silver, rosewood,  2017

Next to it is Harris’s recent tea service of gleaming, rounded silver vessels with rosewood handles flowing out of the silver with no visible signs of construction.

This is the last piece Harris made for the show. The first is a homage to Brecken’s love of the terraced landscape of China with stacked, moss agate pieces at the top of a silver structure that at its base has a lotus flower lying on a slice of green jade, like a lily pad.

wesley1Lotus and Landscape, Wesley Harris, sterling silver, fine silver 14k. gold, citrine, jade & moss agates,  2015

As soon as Brecken noticed Harris’s affinity for metalwork, he invited him, and other students he mentored, to work off school hours in his studio at his house. They called it Kitchen College.

“I worked at his home for three years before I got my own studio and he never charged a penny,” says Harris, who has an undergraduate degree in music from the University of Toronto and a master of fine arts in metalsmithing from Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Brecken encouraged his students throughout their careers, buying them materials, advising them and commissioning challenging works he would later return to them as marquee pieces they could use in submissions for exhibits or grants.

“When I started to freelance full time in 1987 Arthur helped me to kickstart my career with two major commissions, the pagoda and the labradorite box,” says Harris.

The intricate, intensely-detailed pagoda, created in Brecken’s style with a cumulative buildup of wire patterns, has 13 miniature drawers each opened by a tiny knob that is a precious, set gem.

“It took me over four years since we had started a family and I was a stay-at-home dad working very much part-time. I like to say the kids were my most challenging and rewarding gems to set.”

The labradorite box, which Brecken returned to him shortly before he died in his late 80s in 2003, is inspired by Brecken’s fascination for the main foyer, labradorite floor in Canada House which he saw on a visit to London, England, in 1938.

Brecken taught him careful problem-solving and patience, something Harris needed in spending eight months constructing an awe-inspiring silver pitcher wire by wire.

“Arthur spent over 40/45 years creating a very three-dimensional Chinese garden in his backyard. He used two pails and one shovel. The process was just as satisfying to Arthur as the result.”

Harris met his wife on the ferry on a trip to Newfoundland while working as a silversmith in New England. Today his Cornerbrook studio overlooks the ocean and he sees whales and dolphins.

His work is inspired by nature literally and metaphorically as an expression of the unity of form and function.

His piece, The Wave, features a stunning slice of irridescent labradorite as ocean water with an adult tern sweeping down to feed a tiny gold fish to its baby. It is a fine metaphor for the relationship of teacher to student.

Check Harris’s website (www.wesleyharris.ca) to see all his work and an educational tab called “Process” that shows how 32 of his pieces were made.

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 Wesley Harris in his Newfoundland Studio (courtesy of Wesley Harris) 

Queer-Storytelling Quadfecta in Halifax this weekend

tomStewart Legere in Tom at the Farm, the Atlantic Canadian premiere of Michel Marc Bouchard’s drama, at the Bus Stop Theatre, Halifax, today and Sunday, 4 and 8 p.m., with $5 rush tickets for any LGBTQ+ folks five minutes before every show. (Tee Johnny)

The U.S. elected its first openly gay governor Tuesday and, this weekend in Halifax, there is a quadfecta of queer storytelling with three plays and one art show.

The world premiere of KAMP — A New Musical, an unforgettable, locally-made, full-length musical about gay prisoners struggling to hang onto their souls through art in a Nazi concentration camp, is sold out for its final weekend.

With music and lyrics by GaRRy Williams and book by Jamie Bradley, the Neptune Theatre/Eastern Front co-production has an amazing cast of 11 featuring Shawn Wright in a fabulous performance as the central Gustav/Luna; a remarkably grim, forbidding set; an intricate, imaginative use of movement; mind-blowing music; tight, passionate direction by Eastern Front Theatre’s artistic producer Sam Rosenthal, and a searing story – rooted in historical fact – that sticks with you like peanut butter in a dog’s throat.

Neptune Theatre’s artistic director Jeremy Webb says KAMP would “likely” have been extended but another show goes into the studio space Monday (the already sold-out YpCo’S Les Miserables School Edition.)

KAMP - A Musical - Dress-110Jake Willett, Robert Clarke, Clint Butler, Shawn Wright and Josh Doig in KAMP — A New Musical, at Neptune’s studio theatre. (Stoo Metz)

“We are meeting today to discuss the next stages for the production,” he said Saturday. “We all believe it needs some more work now we have seen it with an audience. I’m sure this won’t be the last that you’ll see of the show.”

Over at the Bus Stop Theatre, 22013 Gottingen St., is Workshirt Opera’s Atlantic Canadian premiere of Michel Marc Bouchard’s Tom at the Farm – winner of the 2014 Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Drama – in a short run with shows at 4 and 8 today and Sunday. (Matinees are PWYC; tickets at tickethalifax.)

This play about a gay man whose deceased partner’s family knows nothing about him has a stellar Halifax cast of Stewart Legere (Merritt Award winner), Shelley Thompson (ACTRA, FIN and Merritt Award winner), Sébastien Labelle (Merritt Award nominee) and Stephanie MacDonald (Merritt Award winner).

When Tom goes to a remote farm to attend the funeral, he becomes tangled in a web of lies. “It’s a portrait of a family in mourning, and the lengths they will go to protect a lie. It’s darkly funny, poetic and always surprising,” says director Michael Lake.

Real women’s stories of queer birthing experiences in rural N.S. hospitals are on stage today, 8 p.m., and Sunday, 2 and 8 p.m., in What To Expect When You Aren’t Expected at the Museum of Natural History Auditorium, 1747 Summer St., Halifax.

Playwright/director Annie Valentina worked with verbatim text in a cross-section of stories gathered by Dalhousie School of Nursing professors Dr. Lisa Goldberg and Dr. Megan Aston for their scientific report (http://qrbnsandbeyond.ca/). In the cast are Annie LaPlante, Koumbie, Emily Shute and Sophie Schade. (Admission is a suggested $10 to $20 donation.)

If you can get to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia at all this weekend, you must see the mammoth Miss Chief’s Wet Dream by famous Cree artist Kent Monkman, on view only through Sunday. THEN, you have to up to the third floor for Monkman’s fabulous, humorous and, heartbreaking, multi-room show Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience, on view through Dec. 16.

Miss Chief’s Wet Dream, which is  .5 by 3.5 metres and the size of a small housefront, is Monkman’s provocative tale of a grey, dying Old World meeting a vibrant  New World.

Monkman was inspired by Théodore Géricault’s Raft of Medusa and Eugène Delacroix’s Christ at Sea  to depict a sinking raft of colonial figures like Queen Victoria, Marie Antoinette, a plague doctor, even Jesus Christ, coming in contact with a canoe full of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Lying in that canoe is Monkman’s queer alter-ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, in her trademark high heels.

The Donald R. Sobey Foundation bought the painting for the gallery. It will go on permanent exhibit in the same spot (first floor of the old building) after the exhibit, Jordan Bennett: Ketu’elmita’jik, Dec. 1 to March 31, 2019.

Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience, created as a critique of Canada’s 150th, is an amazing journey through life-size dioramas, large paintings with a slew of art historical references from Paul Kane to Picasso and artefacts.  Monkman tells you everything you need to know – from an indigenous perspective of pain and perception – about the last 150 years of indigenous history in Canada.

Miss Chief's Wet Dream (2018)Kent Monkman’s Miss Chief’s Wet Dream, purchased for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia by the Donald R. Sobey Foundation, on view this weekend before being taken down, then re-installed permanently in the spring, 2019.

Mary Vingoe’s Some Blow Flutes: deeply moving, honest, rewarding theatre

Home First - Some Blow Flutes-39 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.

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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.

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Gina Thornhill as Marijke and Ailsa Galbreath as Leah. (Stoo Metz)