Lost and Found showcases solo plays on the Toronto stage
Lost and Found is an evening of four solo performances by Gambler Productions at the Red Sandcastle Theatre. The four plays featured were not explicitly connected to each other. Instead, each was a meditation on losing or finding a piece of oneself.
The first piece of the evening was the only one not written by the performer. Lost and Found started with a brief excerpt from The Shooting Stage by Michael Lewis MacLennan, a Canadian playwright and television writer. Jen Farr played Len, a photographer defending his controversial work in court. The excerpt was very short with no set or props. But I didn’t miss them. Farr delivers her defense with a sense of swagger and confidence in the power of art.
Next up was Head-On, written and performed by Francis Masaba. Masaba portrays Lionel, a businessman who is slipping into anxiety and depression as he questions what his life has become after the loss of his father. Scenes from his life are overlaid with conversations with his therapist, whose voice we hear projected from off stage.
Although I thought Masaba did a good job conveying Lionel’s increasing despair, the structure of the piece did not work for me. I felt there was a lot of unnecessary movement back and forth across the stage, and I had a hard time following what was happening. Images projected on the back wall helped to delineate scene changes, but each time Masaba left the stage, I was unsure if it was the end.
The third piece was Cheers to You, Cheers to Me, written and performed by Jen Farr. Farr plays Ali, a young woman whose trip to visit her best friend in Europe turns dangerous and violent. The play moves between past and present as Ali reflects on their friendship and what went horribly wrong. (A warning – the events described are very disturbing and upsetting).
I really liked this play. It was well written and well-acted. Farr plays several different characters without costume or prop changes, but I never was confused who was speaking. Just a slight change of intonation or body language was enough to define the character. Farr made me care about Ali and want to know her story. My one complaint is that the ending felt too abrupt for me, as if the tale was not quite finished.
The last piece of the night, The Adventures of Downtown Dennis, written and performed by John Rowantree, was my favourite. Dennis is a man who has been incapable of feeling emotions and connections to the people around him. He has been challenged by his “theatre friends” to tell his story in public as a way to better understand himself. In five short chapters, Dennis describes his life from his days as an introverted loner in Markham to his adventures in online dating in Toronto.
Rowantree had the audience laughing out loud at his relatable depictions of the awkwardness of adolescence and the challenges of building meaningful relationships. His delivery was sincere and moving without being soppy. He interacted with the audience in a natural way, almost like a friend at a party. The play felt complete, with a narrative arc that flowed from one scene to the next and reached a satisfying conclusion.
Lost and Found is the third show by Gambler Productions, a collective founded by Jen Farr and John Rowantree which focuses the development and exploration of solo performance and writing. All in all, I was glad to be introduced to these new, young performers who definitely have something to say. And I’m interested to see what they say next.
- Lost and Found is playing at the Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen Street East) February 15-19, 2017.
- Shows are at 8pm Wednesday – Saturday, 2pm on Sunday. Doors open 30 minutes before the performance.
- Tickets are $20 General Admission and $15 for Artists and Students and are available at the door. Cash only.
Photo of Jen Farr provided by the company