My jaw dropped and I said “wow” out loud when I entered the transformed theatre. I was immediately transported into another world and welcomed by fellow comrades. It was like a child seeing Santa’s Village at the mall for the first time. Scott Penner has done a great job designing the set and costumes.
I jumped at the chance to see Jesus Chrysler. The story is about real people and real events. It occurs during The Depression in South-Western Ontario. I’d also seen Aviva Armour-Ostroff in previous performances and been impressed.
The play is mainly the story of the relationship of two women. Armour-Ostroff plays Dorothy Livesay (Dee). Armour-Ostroff uses the multi-dimensional set and extensive talent to make Dee seem distant and cold.
Margaret Evans plays Eugenia Watts, or Jim. Jim and Dee are lovers, or at least ex-lovers. Evans does a great job as the hard-drinking, chain-smoking Jim.
In real life, Livesay was the recipient of two Governor General Awards and the Order of Canada. Jim went to Spain, drove an ambulance and worked in the media during The Spanish Civil War.
Stratford veteran Jeffrey Wetsch is also great as young western farmer, Nate. He becomes sexually involved with Jim. He becomes involved in Jim’s play. He becomes bewildered.
It is a very complicated and confusing network. There is a play within a play. There is a love triangle. There is cross-dressing. It is a play about communists and feminists. Also Jesus Chrysler switches back and forth between play rehearsals and real life.
I found the plot challenging to follow at times. I suspect that is intentional. The audience is part of the play, part of the set. The characters are confused, so the audience should be too.
The characters dance with each other, even though they are physically separated. Letters, emotions and even cigarettes and booze tie them together.
I suggest you buy tickets to Jesus Chrysler early, as seats are limited.
This is a tremendous chance to see gifted actors in a very intimate setting.
–Jesus Chrysler is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson) until December 11
– Performances are Tuesday through Sunday at 7:30 with matinees at 2:00 on weekends
– Ticket prices range from $15.00 to $30.00 (plus HST and service fees)
– Tickets are available online, by phone at 416.504.7529 or at the Box Office up to two hours before the show
Photo of Aviva Armour-Ostroff and Margaret Evans by Will O’Hare