A Theatre Buff Reviews: The Nether

When consenting adults can put their imaginations together in virtual reality, what are the implications for morality and ethics? The Nether, a brilliant sci-fi crime drama, poses these questions and others through Jennifer Haley’s tightly written script. The production at Hamilton’s Theatre Aquarius is both spare and elegant; the cast and the creative team have excelled.

The story is set in the not so distant future where a coder extraordinaire has created a disturbing haven for consenting adults —The Hideaway.  Safely hidden by deep coding, adults can act out their most disturbing fantasies on children. The audience does not see these enactments. They are implied, and that’s probably how this PG14 movie and theatre goer was able to stay in her seat for the entire show. Although I have to say that for much of it, I was on the figurative edge.

The play is a series of vignettes that alters between a sparse nether1interrogation room and the lush space of The Hideaway. During the interrogation, a scrolling script details the charges as a detective from The Nether challenges two detainees (‘Papa’ the coder, and a site visitor) about the morality of their cyberspace activity. Their  responses are evasive and disingenuous. Only the threat of never being able to login again evokes an emotion of fear. The Victorian styled Hideaway, by contrast, is warm and welcoming, and there are gentle familial style interactions between Papa and one of the children, Iris.nether2 Any feelings of this being a safe space are severed when a visitor is received by Papa, and then brought to Iris. The drama plays out in the imagination of the audience, as much as it does on the stage.

The Nether is a play that deserves a much larger audience than Hamilton can provide. It would play well at Off Mirvish which is why Toronto theatre-goers should plan to make the hour-long westward trek to see this superb production.  The Nether is being performed at Theatre Aquarius, Hamilton, from October 26-November 12, 2016.

Bonnie Lendrum is the author of Autumn’s Grace, the story of how one family manages the experience of palliative care with hope and humor despite sibling conflicts, generational pulls and career demands.

Photos of Andrea Runge & Randy Hughson, and of Randy Hughson & Mary Maria Bourdeau are by Banko Media (http://theatreaquarius.org/onstage/the-nether/).

A Theatre Buff Reviews: The Ladies Foursome

If camaraderie, confessions, and competition are the hallmark of a golf foursome, then director Marcia Kash has hit this production of The Ladies Foursome straight down the fairway. Playwright, Norm Foster, has captured women’s voices and social tics in an uncanny manner. It’s funny to the point where laughing is not enough. Spontaneous applause and foot stomping broke out several times. There were moments when I wondered if Foster’s research had involved activating hidden recorders in golf bags — in my foursomes’ bags to be specific.

The story begins on the first tee. It’s the morning after one of the members of the foursome, Katherine, has been buried. Her place has been taken by Dory who is a stranger to the remaining three members. Dory had known ‘Kathy’ for twelve years; the three remaining members have known each other and ‘Katherine’ for fourteen years. The knowing and not knowing of Kathy/Katherine creates a core of tension which leads to the revelation of secrets. The character profiles are strong: the narcissistic, flirtatious Connie (Gabrielle Jones); the anxious but pretty Tate (Stacy Smith); the tough talking, beer guzzling Margot (Karen Wood); and the earth mother, scripture spouting Dory (Carmen Grant).  Foster gives them lines that have the audience howling. Each of the actors has a powerful grip on her character, and her clubs.

The set by Douglas Paraschuk is spectacular— a lush golf course which has the actors entering and exiting from three different points. It supports the illusion that the tee box at centre stage is specific for each of eighteen holes. The lighting by Siobhán Sleath produces the effect of the passage of time during the course of four hours of play.

The Ladies Foursome is the final production of the 2015-2016 season at Theatre Aquarius. It should leave theatregoers eager to come back for more. The Ladies Foursome plays until May 7, 2016.

2016-the ladies foursome

A Theatre Buff Reviews: It’s A Wonderful Life

Theatre Aquarius’ It’s A Wonderful Life is a superb transformation of a classic Christmas movie to the stage. Thomas M. Sharkey’s re-working of this piece comes complete with an engaging mash-up of secular songs and Christmas carols. Tunes will be sufficiently familiar, such that some theatre attendees may find themselves humming, as did the lady behind me!

It’s A Wonderful Life is a retrospective for George Bailey who has decided one Christmas eve that his family would better off if he were dead. Over the course of an evening, his guardian angel, the bumbling Clarence, is able to show George what life in Bedford Falls would have been like if George had never been born. It’s an opportunity for reflection that many of us might benefit from, and that’s probably why It’s A Wonderful Life is a movie that many families watch year after year.

The triple-threat cast for this production is strong. They act, sing, and dance with ease. With the bridge as the backdrop, the set is a creative interpretation of life in small towns — from the intimacy of living-rooms, to the commerce of offices, and the sociability of front porches. The series of suspended windows that frame the stage are used effectively to illustrate the health and well-being of a community. The period, World War II, is represented well in the costumes. I noticed details that were attended to, like a fur stole complete with head and tail, and seams in the nylon stockings.

My only regret is that I did not get to see and write about this play earlier in its schedule. If you can find the time between now and December 27th to see It’s a Wonderful Life, it will be an afternoon, or an evening, well spent.