It was understudy day at Tommy (from Captain Walker on down), and I’m amazed at how many of the players were making their Stratford debuts (all the way up to Robert Markus, Tommy himself), but Pete and Des’ show is resilient and vivid.

Everything’s been consolidated and condensed from the album and from Russell’s sprawling movie. With a few decades’ distance and the partnership of Des, Townshend’s vague story comes into focus. The relationships between the 40s, 50s and 60s, and between celebrity and spirituality, get more clear.

The direction and choreography, and lots of McAnuff’s team, are from the Broadway run in the 1990s. New to this production are some incredible visual effects, including the use of live video shot by cast members (and yes, Des directed that 2009 Macbeth with those stunning videos!).

I think the best gig I’ve ever seen on a Stratford stage is riding a spinning, bumping, sparking, flaming pinball machine.

Longform

July 8, 2013

“Your heart breaks when even the best novel sags a tiny bit, as they all must, sort of like the give in bridge suspension. A great short story is more like a stiff plank across a narrow but bottomless crevasse. The plank will hold. But that doesn’t mean you are not in danger of freaking out and falling off.”

Sam Lipsyte, found by Sully.

Faith Healer

July 2, 2013

So much to think about in Faith Healer, I’m not entirely sure what all to write.

When I read a very short description of the play (the work of a faith healer is described in monologues by him, his wife/mistress, and his manager, somehow trying to get through memory and confusion to something like truth), I was fascinated. And then I saw the cast: two Shaw favourites, Jim Mezon and Peter Krantz, plus (for us) a relative newcomer in Corrine Koslo, who was more than able to hold her own, offering a tour de force…but I can’t say that, because all three of them were so perfectly balanced.

And balance is such a strange thing to say about the acting, because the whole play is about being off-balance and searching for it. We can never be sure, until the end, what “happened”. All these filters of performance and story and history and memory. We only come to some conclusion in the last line: “At long last I was renouncing chance.” Claiming certainty from a trio of lives that have been characterized by miracle and sorrow but most of all by uncertainty.

Mom caught the thread by intermission, and it held true. Frank, the faith healer, as the ‘expression’, language, show. Grace (what a name!) as ’emotion’. We wondered if Teddy would play the role of ‘truth’. The trickster, huckster, fool — but TRUE.

And all three of these pieces are the keys to narration, story, memory. How we make sense of our lives. Poetic expression, strong emotion, coming to truth. At the end, what survives is what’s true.