by Megan Mooney
I was thrilled when I heard that I would have the opportunity to see Ansuree Roy on stage again in another THEATRE JONES ROY production. Letters to my Grandma, playing at the Theatre Passe Muraille backspace, is the company’s second production. The first was Pyaasa, a piece adored by many, myself included.
I saw this one with John, and we had very different reactions to the piece. John saw Pyaasa with me and was also blown away by it, so he went in with the same high expectations as I did. When I asked him what he thought of the show he told me he didn’t connect with it, that it didn’t really resonate with him. I found that pretty interesting, since the first note I took during the production was “had me crying in the first 5 minutes”.
For John it was a show of many excellent moments, and he did enjoy it, but it didn’t pull together as a whole for him. On the other hand, I also really enjoyed it, but I enjoyed it as a whole, even if it didn’t feel as strong as Pyaasa. The story is personal and engaging. I was pretty much hooked with the first moment – the beautiful a cappella singing of a powerful song.
Ansuree Roy is a consummate character performer, who has an amazing rapport with her director, Thomas Morgan Jones. As a result, the show is full of amazing transitions between characters, excellent use of a practically bare stage, and dynamic storytelling.
John and I did both have a challenge with one character, the grandmother. Roy and Jones seem to have decided to include regular gasping for air in the character. It’s an interesting idea, but we both agreed that it actually took us more out of the character than pulled us into it. I would have been far more pulled into the character – instead of an actor doing a character – without the gasp. In fact, in the few moments between gasps I’d be drawn in, then immediately pulled out with every gasp, it was a bit jarring.
Other than that the portrayal was amazing. I am blown away by the way Roy can change from a teenager to an old woman in milliseconds, both completely believable, and physically perfect. Suddenly, without the help of make up or a change of clothing or props, Roy looks like an old woman. It’s amazing to watch. I would love to see what Roy could do playing a single character throughout a whole show. One of John’s complaints was that this felt a bit like more of the same from Payaasa, which is true. The thing is, I didn’t have a problem with that, but I do agree with him, it would be amazing to see what she could do with a different format.
This may not be a perfect show, but it’s a damn good one. This is a show filled with skill, heart and talent – don’t miss it. It only plays this week, so get there soon. And, when you do see it, let me know how you felt, did you fall more along the lines of John – good show but not engaging emotionally, or along my lines, crying within the first 5 minutes?
– Letters to my Grandma runs is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille backspace (16 Ryerson) until March 8, 2009
– Show runs Tuesday to Saturday at 8 PM, matinees Saturday at 2:30pm and Sunday at 4pm
– Tickets are $20 ($18 for Students and Seniors), with a PWYC matinee on Saturday
– Tickets are available through the Theatre Passe Muraille box office (416) 504-7529, at www.artsboxoffice.ca, at www.totix.ca, or at the door.
Photo of Ansuree Roy by Anne Lindsey Black