by Michelle Barker
Now, when I was looking at the playlistings for the coming week, I immediately asked to review this piece. Not because I read the synopsis or the concept for Are You Okay. Rather because of the two theatrical gems that created the piece and the exquisite creative team that supported them throughout the process. My show partner, Val, had the exact same response when I asked her if she wanted to accompany me to the show.
Are You Okay, presented by Necessary Angel Theatre Company in Factory Theatre’s studio space, is what can only be described as a two-person autobiography being performed onstage by two separate people in two different styles. Directed by acclaimed director/actor/writer/producer Daniel Brooks, performers Peggy Baker and Michael Healey navigate themes of consciousness, choice, repetition, and aging through their respective theatrical styles.
The spoken aspect of the piece is shaped around Healey’s (‘Mitz Delisle’ as he refers to himself in the piece) daily journey of walking to and from his office at Tarragon Theatre. As he recounts this repetitive act and his thought process during each excursion, Baker performs a modern dance with energetic piques and emotional valleys that occasionally echo the themes of Healey’s monologue.
To start with, I have to say that, as always, I found that Healey and Baker seemed to shine effortlessly in their respective crafts. Healey’s words are often thought-provoking and humourous, while Baker’s movements are effortless, inspiring and filled with emotion.
Having said that, I wasn’t in love with their respective pieces when they were placed together. As one who reacts strongly to words, I was quite captivated by Healey’s monologue and had to take moments to withdraw myself from his story in order to try and connect with the deeper meaning of Baker’s dance. And while I appreciated his design, I can’t say that I fully grasped why composer Debashis Sinha was sitting in a pit downstage running the sound from a laptop computer. In general, a lot was happening on the stage that distracted me from grasping Brooks’ bigger picture.
Val, who has a lot of experience stage managing dance, loved the combination of dance and spoken word onstage. She was really moved by the deeper questions about our lives that were posed by Healey and said that she left the theatre with a lot of questions about her own life.
As usual, the technical side of me has to comment on what I thought was an incredible lighting design by Rebecca Picherack. Her design was a huge asset to the show and often helped in guiding the audience to the important moments.
As we left the theatre, I had a lot trouble telling whether I felt invigorated or depressed. Val turned to me a number of times during the show with a ‘that was heavy’ look on her face. Whether invigorating or depressing, I will take every opportunity that I can to see performers onstage who have helped to shape the world of theatre. If you feel the same way and want to see some thought-provoking new work, check out Are You Okay at Factory Theatre’s studio space before it closes.
– Are You Okay is playing at the Factory Theatre Studio Space (125 Bathurst Street) until March 13th
– Performances are Tuesday – Saturday 8:00PM, Sundays at 4:00 PM
– Ticket prices range from $20.00 to $25.00
– Tickets are available at here
Photo of Peggy Baker and Michael Healey by John Lauener