By Crystal Wood
The Mill, a four-part theatrical creation playing at the Young Centre until January 29th, is a bold venture. Like The Ring Cycle or pretty much any show on television, it aims to keep audiences coming back for more. And after watching the first segment on Wednesday night, I can say with certainty: “Yes, please, I’d like some more.”
The production is made up of four plays written by four playwrights to tell the story of a fictional haunted Ontario mill. It spans over 150 years, with each play set at a different point in the mill’s history. I took in Part One: Now We Are Brody, written by Matthew MacFadzean.
Set in 1854, Now We Are Brody tells the story of a young woman named Charlotte MacGonigal (Michelle Monteith) who inherits an abandoned mill from her father. The townspeople aren’t happy to see her, because the mill – and her father – have a bit of a sketchy past that she discovers as the play progresses. At the centre of this secret is Lyca, a spooky ghost-child. Who is she? Where did she come from? The answers are all revealed… in parts two, three and four.
And this is why The Mill is alternately excellent and so very frustrating. I thought Now We Are Brody was so interesting and gripping that I immediately want to run down to the Young Centre and see the other three parts. But you know, I have a life! And a limited budget! What are you trying to do to me, Theatrefront?
But rather than dwell on what cannot be, I guess I’ll focus on what I know, which is that I thoroughly enjoyed the performances in Now We Are Brody. Monteith’s Charlotte is the focus of this installment, and she does a great job carrying the show (she’s alone onstage for the first 20 minutes), transforming her character from a simple pioneer girl to a woman possessed. I also liked Holly Lewis, who plays Lyca. Her character says little, but slithers around the stage in an convincingly Exorcist-like fashion. And Eric Goulem brings some enjoyable lighter moments as a friendly coureur du bois.
I was also impressed with the set, the staging, lighting and sound. But can I ask what is with this trend to run movie-style credits against the backdrop? This is the second show I’ve seen this season to do it. Isn’t that why we have a program? (I love my programs. Don’t take away my programs.)
If you’re interested one or several of The Mill’s plays before it closes, I’m fairly sure they all stand alone without confusion. (There are helpful synopses included in the program.) Part Two: The Huron Bride by Hannah Moscovitch, Part Three: The Woods by Tara Beagan, and Part Four: Ash by Damien Atkins will run until the end of the week.
– The Mill plays until January 29, 2011 at the Young Centre, 55 Mill Street, Building 49.
– Check the Young Centre’s web site for alternating segment performance times. Evening performance begin at 8pm, Saturday matinees at 2pm.
– Tickets are $30 regular, $20 student, and are available in person at the box office or by calling 416-866-8666.
Photo of Michelle Monteith by Chris Gallow.