Last evening, I had the pleasure to head out to Bloor West Village with my sister to see Stewart Lemoine’s Evelyn Strange at The Village Playhouse. I myself am a classic black and white film lover, for example, of Alfred Hitchcock‘s classics “Psycho”, “Vertigo”, “Rear Window”, “Dial M for Murder” etc, so reading about the film noir-esque performance I would see that night got my hopes up for a similar feel and theme – and my hopes were met with great reward.
The dark stage slowly lit to a private box at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City circa 1955. At first, I felt the set left something to be desired. However – both my sister and I commented to each other throughout the show how impressed we were with the full and dynamic use of the small stage. In between each scene, props were moved about to create an entirely new setting. (I must add – that the actors themselves moved these around and did it gracefully and quietly!) Compliments to Director, Barbara Larose for making such good use of the space and ensuring that everyone in the theatre had clear views, as well as to Viola Frazier for effective set design and David Nicholson for his creative carpentry. Speaking of David Nicholson, his French to English translation of Moliere’s Tartuffe will be finishing up a run with the Lakeshore Players Dorval in Montreal this weekend.
Evelyn Strange was written in 1995 but I’d have thought it was actually written in the 50’s era. Theresa Arneaud as Costume Designer, along with several assistants, were very proficient in keeping the authenticity of the cast’s attire. Both my sister, Tara and I were envious of the dresses and pantsuit “Evelyn” wore throughout the show. The attire was flattering to each character. I have to make a special remark about the headpieces worn by Evelyn and Nina – exquisite and refined! The hat worn by Evelyn reminded Tara of the Salvador Dali painting The Persistence of Memory. The way the carefully crafted headpiece draped and moulded perfectly around Evelyn’s hair, was reminiscent of the drooping clocks from the famous work of art.
The Bloor subway running directly below The Village Playhouse, rumbling and shaking your seat, added to the late night, somewhat dreary 1950’s downtown Manhattan atmosphere. The lighting by Karlos Griffith and sound design by Rick Jones were ethereal. From street traffic and opera audience applause, as well as the instrumental music, were all fitting and kept me in the atmosphere. My sister started freaking out right before the show began when Bernard Herrmann’s Vertigo theme music was played. This was because, until about 5 minutes ago, she thought the source of this music was Lady Gaga as it is used in the intro for the Born This Way video.
Now on to the wonderful acting and characters. I will start with Evelyn – played graciously by Mahtab Sabet. The first 10 minutes or so of her performance on stage I was confused, but soon realized I was meant to be as befuddled as ‘Evelyn’ herself. However, her character only continued to accelerate until intermission and through to the end of the show. Mahtab is an extremely on point and skilled actress. Her demeanour and voice meek at first, but later boomed throughout the theatre without strain. She kept me enthralled with her next thought, her next move and so on. She was also incredibly charismatic and we kept wondering to ourselves why the object of her affections kept seeming to resist her advances.
Stranger turned friend, Perry Spangler, played by Trevor Marlatt was a meticulous editor for fiction novels, who lived in a rooming house with several other male flatmates in New York City. Once he had caught the eye of Evelyn, she was constantly vying for his attention. However, each of her hints towards Perry for a more intimate relationship was quickly rejected! And why?! Evelyn an attractive, charming, endearing young lady, and Perry seemed completely uninterested (or unaware). My sister and I kept glancing in distaste every time he seemed cold towards Evelyn as we were both frustrated with Perry’s disinterest – not to mention he seemed like kind of cheap. Yes, rent in Manhattan is expensive but it made no sense to us that he lived in a rooming house and STILL could barely afford to lend Evelyn $20 (actually taking the money back from her during the most romantic scene of the play). Tara made a great comment at the beginning of intermission, “Move to Brooklyn, loser!”. On top of this incredulity, his same level colleague, Lewis, had his own midtown, one bedroom pad facing the Chrysler building! What in God’s name is going on with Perry Spangler’s finances?? I think that’s another mystery all in itself! Trevor played the character without fault and was confident on stage despite his not so confident with ladies’ character trait. One of my favourite moments between these two, was when Perry lit Evelyn a cigarette and passed this to her in what I felt was a very intense romantic moment for the two of them…until that, of course, went awry as well.
Nina Ferrer played by Marisa King was the over the top, high maintenance rich wife of the owner of ‘Ferrer and Sons’. This was depicted through her snobby and holier than thou attitude towards Perry and the general public as a whole. Her voice exuded a confident demeanour. I felt physically and technically she was a perfect fit for this role! She was very convincing as a snobby socialite in her expensive attire and giant diamond ring. She irritated me – but that’s what she was supposed to do, so A+ on that because I have a love/hate relationship with characters I can’t stand – but they do such a good job at!
Lewis Hake performed by Sean Ballantyne portrayed aforementioned colleague of Perry’s, with the same position within the company who can somehow afford this high rise apartment across from the Chrysler building. This again was a bit bewildering. It reminded us of the famous “Friends” apartment that Monica and Rachel could have never afforded in a thousand years without the help of Monica’s grandmother. Somehow this luxury was afforded to Lewis, including some sort of butler/maid service. Maybe Nina, his mistress, was helping cover costs for her own satisfaction and standards. One of my favourite moments with Lewis was in Act II, Scene 3 when Evelyn walks into the apartment to his surprise. The face Ballantyne made of horror made me laugh out loud. My sister, Tara felt that the role of Lewis Hake was a wonderful chance for Sean Ballantyne to show off his acting and comedy chops, as the last play she saw him in, Norm Foster’s The Melville Boys, she felt was quite limiting. Tara finds most Norm Foster plays to be on the duller side from the three she has seen so far.
Until intermission, I really thought I had this play figured out. I had already made a couple of possible conclusions. Boy, was I wrong! When things opened up especially in the final, long, drawn out (and I don’t mean that in a bad way) scene, I was stunned! Normally a lengthy scene with lots of dialogue bores me – but this one kept my attention. The duration of the final scene, as well as the problem solving, and the unravelling of the “truth” in this story, reminded me of the Alfred Hitchcock movie, “Dial M for Murder”. It all takes place in one apartment scene – just like the majority of the end of this play does. The conversation and the story became untangled and everyone making their accusations or defences really gave me the Hitchcock murder mystery thriller and suspenseful feel that I love those movies for!
The ending of this play takes quite a turn. Baffling, confusing, yet an emotional twist to a mystery I thought I had completely solved! Fortunately, I was wrong – and that is what makes these things the best for me, that I never would have guessed it!
Photo Credit: Jennifer Etches
Friday, November 10, 2017 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, November 11, 2017 at 8:00 pm
Sunday, November 12, 2017 at 2:00 pm
Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 8:00 pm
Friday, November 17, 2017 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, November 18, 2017 at 8:00 pm
Sunday, November 19, 2017 at 2:00 pm
Thursday, November 23, 2017 at 8:00 pm (Talk-Back Night)
Friday, November 24, 2017 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, November 25, 2017 at 8:00 pm (Closing Night)
Senior Over 65 years: $20.00 (Wed/Thurs/Sun only)
Under 30 years: $20.00 (ID required)
Group of 10 or more: $20.00 (must be paid in advance; buy 15 tickets, get the 16th free)
All seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.