Review: Death Meets Harlequin and Other Plays (Unspoken Theatre)

Death Meets Harlequin

Death Meets Harlequin and Other Plays is a triad of short works that draw from mythology, giving playwrights, directors and actors alike a chance to develop their skills. Produced by Unspoken Theatre, it is currently onstage at the Ralph Thornton Centre.

The first short piece, The Empress by Sandra Cardinal, pits a whimsical grandmother (Glenda Bell ), ready for an al fresco dinner, against a restaurateur (Aleksandra Maslennikova) determined to preserve the image of her upscale establishment. The play is inspired by tarot and the outcome is what anyone who has read fairy tales might expect.

The second play is The Red Deer by Nina Kaye, based on the legend of Fionn mac Cumhaill. Fionn (Aaliya Alibhai) falls in love with a doe (Aleksandra Maslennikova) when out hunting. With the help of his servant Bran (Natalie Kaye) he brings her back to his castle where she is transformed into a woman and they marry. But Fionn cannot protect her from the fallout of her enchantment when he goes off to war.

The final piece, Death Meets Harlequin, features a boy, Harlequin (David Montesdeoca) who would prefer to chase butterflies and play his guitar all day than adhere to the strict routine of chores dictated by his father, the Doc (Thomas Gough). Using techniques of Commedia Dell’Arte, both characters are caricatures, delightfully so. Harlequin is a wide-eyed and mischievous dreamer, embodied with physicality by Montesdeoca and paired nicely against Gough’s red-faced and angry father figure. The relationship takes a turn after Doc falls in love with an unseen widow and Harlequin is visited by Death in guise of a lovely young woman (Nina Kaye, also artistic director of Unspoken Theatre and playwright of both the previous play and this one.)

There are a number of musical performances, the most striking of which was Nina Kaye’s as Death. She sings while engaging in a dance with Harlequin, who juxtaposes some comical moves against her pretty voice and dark lyrics. Other times, the songs slowed down the action to the detriment of the show.

The venue is a hall in a community centre, not a theatre, and the seating is in a tight alley formation.The performers were done no favours by their close proximity to the audience. At times I felt awkward to be in such a brightly lit environment, within touching distance of someone who was trying very hard to act.

This show seems like a labour of love, and it must be a great opportunity for those involved to experiment and enhance their abilities.

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Picture of Thomas Gough and David Montesdeoca provided by the commpany