Two (Not Three) Sisters & Not In LangleyFriday, April 03, 2015
|Robert Salvador, Jay Brazeau, Carmen Aguirre, Sussin McFarlen, Katey Hoffman, & Anna Galvin , March 25 2015|
Sometime around 1974 my Spanish neighbour and I traded science fiction books. His was one by Polish author Stanislaw Lem, mine was Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius. We returned each other’s books a month later. We chatted on how we had enjoyed them. I never was able to read more than four pages of Lem and I am sure my neighbour never peeked into Sirius.
When one has gone from one school to another in different countries, one (that’s me!) ends up with holes in history and literature. I don’t expect anybody here to know the author of music of the Mexican National Anthem or to expound on the wonders of Alejo Carpentier. I could name the first and duly expound on the second.
The above is simply filler on my part before I confess that my knowledge of Anton Pavlovich Checkov is limited to one work and another not quite by the Russian master. In college my text book Theme and Form – An Introduction to Literature had one single story by Chekov, The Kiss. I still have the text book so my research for this blog has consisted in me reading the delightful story again.
The second entry in my brain of Chekov lore is a play I saw in 2011 called Three Sisters in Langley by playwright/director Bronwen Marsden.
After seeing the delightful Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Christopher Durang’s Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike (directed by Rachel Ditor, one who has an elegant sense of humour) I talked to Jay Brazeau (he plays Vanya) backstage, at the Stanley, and told him of the Three Sisters in Langley. He thought this was a goodshow idea.
There are lots of pleasant pieces of music, films, operas and theatrical productions that lure you to the idea that you are watching something light and funny. That was my first impression of Vanya “& Company.” The play has some over the top performances that I could not figure out so I watched Marco Soriano (a very good actor who happens to be my friend) who was a couple of rows ahead of me on stage right. The fact that he was on stage right meant that I could see his profiled face and most of the time I could discern how funny he though it all was, particularly when Carmen Aguirre sucked her chest and stomach in and out in the rapture of Cassandric predictions. I noticed that Soriano’s right eyebrow went up. This meant that he thought this was not only a funny play but an intelligent one.
I did not dare ask Soriano on the mystery of the very good actor and actress (yes, I am old fashioned!) who on cue overact to perfection. I could not tell if any of the actors on stage were over acting or simply acting the act superbly.
My only steady course was to watch the low-key Brazeau who plays a quiet, disillusioned man who is gay with a foot inside the closet. Brazeau is the man who almost died of heart failure, a year or two agoa, because Millerd (the Artistic Director) made him jump repeatedly over a red (I recall) sofa. From what I could see the man was safe siting, this time in his sofa next to his step sister Sonia played by Susinn McFarlen (watch for her makeover). But I knew that something was going to happen when overacting-to-perfection Robert Salvador (who plays Spike the boy toy to Vanya’s sister the possibly over-the-hill actress Masha (Anna Galvin, who did a very good job of it when you realize that Masha was played on Broadway by Sigourney Weaver and alas neither Weaver nor Galvin appeared in underwear).
That is a long dangling sentence so I will continue that boy-toy Spike does a reverse strip and Vanya almost chomps on his (Spike’s ) belt.
All the fun and rollick of the play suddenly got dead serious (much like in a Bartók quartet). Brazeau put meat into this up-to-now pleasing, funny almost (but not) banal play. I was afraid the man was going to collapse (it was a long loud rant about stamps you can lick, and the state of our life in this 21st century) and Millerd would have to quickly find a replacement (who could possibly take Brazeau’s place?).
All in all the play was one that I savoured all the way home and I cannot stop here that one of my favourite Canadian films is Lynne Stopkevich’s Kissed and that Brazeau played a mortician in it.
I loved Katey Hoffman’s Nina but I had to ask her about her red and shinny cheeks. Her answer to my question, “It’s glitter.”