The performance space at the Theatre Centre is – I’d guess – just over the size of a basketball court.
A good quarter of that space is instruments right now for the Theatre Rusticle production of Peter And The Wolf which runs until this Sunday. The instruments have sort-of a crescent shape arrangement.
I found a seat just a few feet from a spill of percussion instruments (to be played by Ed Reifel), making one – very fat – tip of the crescent. At the other would sit a violinist (Bethany Bergman).
It’s a marvel of talent and skill, I think, when a compact of eight musicians (including Michele Verheul on clarinet, Shelley Brown on flute, Joseph Phillips on contrabass, David Pell on trombone, and Michael Fedyshyn on trumpet) can sound, variously, like a jazz band, with shifting tempos and solos that tease at improvisation, and an orchestra with brass, winds and strings swelling together.
As a work of physical performance, Peter And The Wolf is nearly just as impressive as the score.
Each performer is given a shot to be a bit of a virtuoso.
So, for example, Wesley Connor as the Cat shows off his personification – not so much imitation (though there is some of that, too) – of the animal from which his character takes its name. Same goes for Viv Moore’s crowd tickling Duck, Liam Hanebury’s Giraffe – that seems to be fighting its own tongue as it speaks – and Lucy Rupert’s sassy Bird.
William Yong plays the Wolf. Mr. Yong has a slick, almost snake-like presence; contorting his body so effortlessly. That said, Mr. Yong occasionally gave me a sense that his Wolf was lighter than air; at one point, for example, perching up in a tree.
I found myself asking though, “Why are all these characters together?” What’s Peter And The Wolf about?
And the answer is: I’m not entirely sure.
What Peter And The Wolf lacks in narrative coherence, it gains in moments when the actors play figures skating on ice or, take on the roles of animals at a circus sideshow. Or, memorably, when Mr. Yong’s Wolf gets trapped and writhes in a noose.
Structurally, the end of the work sort of mirrors the beginning, many of the actions are repeated, including horses galloping to – what I think is – war. And there’s more than just a suggestion that Peter as an older man (played by David Smukler) is looking back on a younger version of himself (played by Matthew Romantini).
But, I didn’t really get a sense of story – which is fine. Peter And The Wolf thrives in sheer expressionism.
At the end of the show, the audience gave a thirty-second standing ovation. And, though I was a bit fazed, trying to make sense of what I just experienced, it sure was enjoyable.
– Peter And The Wolf opened on September 6th and runs through September 11th (this Sunday). Tuesday through Saturday the show begins at 7:30 in the evening. On Saturday and Sunday there is a matinee at 2:00 pm.
– Peter And The Wolf is on at the Theatre Centre (1087 Queen West, which is just a couple of blocks west of Ossington, on the south side of the street.)
– Tickets cost $22 for regular admission, and $15 for students and seniors.
– For more info please call 416 538 0988 or visit theatrerusticle.org