Review: Blood (Doghouse Riley Productions)

Sandy Duarte and Stephen Chambers

At-Risk Toronto ‘hood gets an injection of culture

Blood is currently being mounted by Doghouse Riley Productions at Somewhere There, a small Toronto venue.  It is an interesting site, to say the least.  Finding it is a bit like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  It is located near Bloor and Landsdowne, an intersection with a lot of “personality”.

I worked at a gelatine factory in that neighbourhood when I first moved to Toronto.  One spring the boss rewarded me by sending me out into the yard to clean up.  He warned me though, “beware of needles!”

Fast forward a few years and I am back in the ‘hood.  Somewhere There is off the beaten path across from a construction site.  The theatre is a long narrow room and not much more than a box.  It also hosts live music on most nights.

Seating is a dozen folding chairs on one side of the “stage”, and a couple of couches on the other side.  This is “in the action” seating, and it works to great effect.  Being so intimate, the focus is on the actors, and the audience has nowhere to hide.  Fortunately the acting is splendid and none of us want to.

Speaking of needles, this is a play about two junkies struggling to stay sober.  Chris and Noelle are also siblings. 

Sandy Duarte plays Noelle.  Her performance is powerful.  She is dominant and controlling.  Maybe I’ve read too many William Burroughs books, but she seems far too energetic and healthy to be a 30 year old heroin addict.  She is a gifted, charismatic and passionate woman.  She comes across more as a kid about to drop out of high school. 

Stephen Chambers plays Chris.  Sober for years, Chris shows up to visit his sister as she is preparing for a “trick”.  We’re not sure why Chris shows up.  He’s become a born-again Christian.  We’re not sure if he truly believes in his newfound spirituality.  Noelle doesn’t seem to trust or believe him either.

The play has a lot of physicality.  Fight Director Anita Nittoly has done an impressive job.  The confrontations are absorbing.  The chemistry between Duarte and Chambers is obvious and believable.  The relationship between Noelle and Chris is more difficult to grasp.  Incest is something completely foreign to me, and I suspect most people.  I wondered if it is a gimmick.  If Chris were an ex-boyfriend, would this play have the same impact?

We lose our concept of time while intoxicated.  Maybe this is why the 90-minute production seemed more like 10 or 15 minutes.

It’s a nasty, dirty play full of taboo subjects and secrets.  I had strong objections to attending.  I’m very happy that I did.  It’s also an excellent, worthwhile production.   So was that first big city job at Bloor and Lansdowne.

– Blood is playing at Somewhere There (227 Sterling Rd., Unit 112) until October 3, 2010
– Shows run various evenings September 24-Oct 3 at 8pm, with matinees on Sundays at 2pm
– Tickets are $15 and available at the door