Confusing, “whimsical” play about star-crossed lovers hits Toronto’s Waterworks stage
HROSES: Outrage a la raison is an eerie, bilingual play about two people from rival families who fall in love but cannot stay together. Performed in a downtown Toronto industrial space called Waterworks, HROSES has an indie, fringe vibe to it that is for the most open-minded of theatre-goers.
Lily (Sascha Cole)—who works on a farm—belongs to an English-speaking family. Ellery (Frederic Lemay) is part of a French-speaking clan; their family-run mine extends under Lily’s farm, harming their hard-earned harvest. One day, Lily and Ellery are brought together when a horse appears between the two properties. They decide they wish to care for it, together.
The bilingualism of the performance was for me its more interesting element. At the opening of the play, we see Lily speaking English against a white-curtained backdrop showing the French translation. The French text was projected onto this sheet which cleverly formed a wall in this non-theatrical space. In English, Lily speaks of the horse as every girl’s dream come true, foretelling the importance of the animal in her love story.
I’ve never seen a play before with a bilingual back-and-forth dialogue. Questions are posed in English, but answered in French, and vice versa. While the characters stick mostly to their mother tongue, they understand each other’s language, and they make a few attempts to speak it themselves. It is certainly interesting to see this on stage, as it represents the reality of thousands of people who intimately connect with others from different cultures and with different vocabularies.
Lily and Ellery are both presented in androgynous clothes that practically match. Both have one-piece worker uniforms, wear their hair away from their faces, and have the same brown boots. Their femininity and masculinity are played down, but I’m not sure why.
Other aspects of HROSES that confused me a bit was the absurdity of some of the details. I understand that paper doesn’t come from small plants, that sugar is not mined underground, that bodily fluids don’t belong in mason jars, and that a young man should know what a horse is and not spell it as “hrose.”
Because the story was far from linear and it had so many absurd elements, I was at times left scratching my head. My guest also had a hard time following the story. In my personal opinion, HROSES is for audiences who want to see a play that pushes the boundaries, and who don’t mind confusion.
I must also congratulate Cole and Lemay for their unshakeable professionalism. There was a lighting issue that forced us to take a surprise intermission, and it came at a moment when Lily and Ellery were undressing. Once the power issue was resolved, Cole and Lemay picked up where they left off, as if nothing unusual had happened on their opening night. I admired their the-show-must-go-on attitude. If they felt any disappointment or frustration, those feelings remained invisible.
All in all, if you’re looking for an unusual, whimsical, bilingual experience, HROSES: Outrage a la raison is for you.
- HROSES: Outrage a la raison is playing until March 4 at Waterworks (505 Richmond Street West, entrance on Maud St.)
- Showtimes are as follows: Feb 28, Mar 1 and 3 at 8 PM; Mar 4 at 6 PM and 9:30 PM
- Prices are $20, and the show on March 4 at 6 PM is Pay What You Can.
- Tickets are available at the door by cash only or online.
Photo of Sascha Cole and Frederic Lemay taken by Svetla Atanasova