Preview: Duet for One- Stage Toronto

Toronto play about MS makes return appearance next week.

by Lucy Allen

Writing for Mooney on Theatre has given me plenty of oppurtunities to experience and enjoy all sorts of theatre.  Recently, though, it gave me yet another oppurtunity when I got to meet with actress Faye Lavin for my very first interview.  We sat drinking coffee (or hot chocolate in my case, coffee is gross) and discussed Lavin’s role in Duet for One, which opens next week at the Tarragon Mainspace.
Born in Montreal, Lavin is an actress and professional dancer living in Toronto.  She’s studied music at the Vincent D’Indy school of music and has trained at the Randolph Academy in Toronto.  Along with acting, she also owns and teaches at her own dance studio.
Duet for One follows the story of Stephanie Abrahams (Lavin), a concert violinist whose life is changed when she contracts MS.  She goes to psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Feldman (Christopher Kelk) to cope with the disease and must learn to confront her growing depression.
This won’t be the first time that Lavin will have performed the show.  Last year, in a small, intimate space in Yorkville, director Mark Schoenberg showcased the play for a five night run.  Lavin met Schoenberg when she took an acting class with him.  Eventually, they decided to start their own project on the side and ended up choosing Duet for One.
“We put it up with barely any money, any nothing (laughing), just a lot of heart.  Two people that saw the show really just thought the show needed to be seen by a broader audience and so they launched a new theatre company and are opening with this as our first show.”
It’s a rare oppurtunity that an actor gets to revisit a character.  Lavin has found it an interesting process to say the least.  “I left it alone for a long time before we started rehearsals and I hesitated to start, you know, looking back at it too early.  And I ended up going in first rehearsal and just saying “You know, I’m just going to approach this as if this was a brand new character and brand new play”.  But the play had somehow grown with me because when you do a show it changes you as a person as well so it’s different.  She’s more mature, definately.  It was very nice to revisit this character.”
For myself, I was only vaguely familiar with MS before the interview and the same applied to Lavin as well.  It’s not really a disease that you hear about too often, and Duet for One has the oppurtunity to bring awareness to MS as well as provide a dramatic piece of theatre.  The first production already proved the effect that it has on its audience.  “Usually when a show ends, everyone leaves.  But people would end up sitting in the theatre and just wait and ponder.”
The process alone has seemed to open Lavin’s eyes in terms of finding out how people deal with MS.  “You know, I’m a professional dancer and I teach abroad quite a bit and I was in Montreal teaching a few months back and I was teaching to a student privately.  And I talked about the show while I was there as well.  I received an e-mail from her two weeks after the class thanking me for the weekend, that she really enjoyed her private class and that I’d touched her in a really special way and that she actually had MS.  She sent me a three page e-mail on basically just what she was going through and we created this really nice relationship and I’ve learnt a lot from her.”
Duet for One may seem like a heavy show, but Lavin seems more than up to the challenge of tackling the subject matter and is confident in the script’s ability to take the audience on a journey.  “Although it’s a very heartbreaking play it is about overcoming which I think is the most important thing.  Because although it is very hard and it takes you for a ride, you do come out with some sort of hope and I think that that’s the most important thing about it, is that it does give people hope.”
I could tell when talking to her that Lavin was eager and excited to get the show in front of an audience again and I have to say the excitement was contagious.  It sounds like it will be a moving night of theatre and I for one can’t wait to check it out.
-Duet for One opens May 28th and runs until Jun 20th at the Tarragon Mainspace (30 Bridgeman Ave.)
-Shows run Tues-Sat at 8pm and Sun at 2:30pm
-Tickets are $30 or $20 for seniors and students
-Tickets can be purchased online, or by calling the box office at 416-531-1827