Review: Life as a Pomegranate (Dawna J. Wightman)

Dawna J. Wightman, as a Pomegranate, from her play "Life as a Pomegranate"

Storytelling, theatre, and one woman’s search for creative fulfillment – all in a Toronto mattress store.

When Dawna J. Wightman steps onto the stage in Life as a Pomegranate (playing at the Essentia by the Beach mattress store, 2180 Queen St. East), you expect her to reach out and shake you. This is a woman bursting with creative and kinetic energy: it seeps from every pore, it leaps out of every pocket, and it all flows directly into her audience. She has a story, you see–and she can’t wait to tell us.

The show itself is straightforward. Rozyee (“Rosy”) Fudge, an aspiring actor, ventures out into the world seeking fame, fortune, and–the holy grail of aspiring Canadian actors–an American visa. What she finds instead is the oppressive beige normalcy of a small town in rural British Columbia, a husband who neither understands nor cares about her creative ambitions, and no escape in sight.

The set–a riser, a ladder, a chair, all in pomegranate red–is simple and effective, as is the costuming. Wightman, wearing a white dress with odd pockets and her hair in wild tangles, looks like a frazzled children’s TV host before her morning coffee. The venue, a sterile white mattress store with an ostentatious chandelier, could be generously described as “cozy”.

The real treasure of this show is Wightman herself. As she explains in the brief opening monologue, her real goal here is to connect with the audience. She wants to “open her flap” and let us peer into her inner workings, in the hope of getting the rest of us to loosen up–and to open our flaps in turn.

The only significant complaint I can muster is that the ending is a little too neat, tidy and compact: it leaps out of nowhere at lightning speed and leaves you with a touch of whiplash. This abrupt end may be necessary due to time constraints–it is clear that Wightman wants to take this show on the fringe circuit, with a running time to match–but it does make the last few minutes just a little underwhelming.

“The best part of me”, Wightman explains, “is creativity”, and she means it. Judging by the sheer number of shout-outs and thank-yous in her program (31 as of publication), this is clearly a long-time labour of love for more than just the performer. The sheer joy and excitement she brings to the show is evident throughout. Both she and director Ginette Mohr deserve full credit for a fantastic evening.

– Life as a Pomegranate is playing at Essentia by the Beach (2180 Queen St. East) until July 15, 2012
– Dates include June 29, 30 and July 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, all at 8:00 PM
– Tickets are $20/$25 at the door
– Tickets are available online, or through the box office at 416-691-3401

Be advised that, due to track repairs, the Queen streetcar is not running east of Greenwood Avenue. Anyone travelling by TTC should plan an alternative route and allow extra time, as latecomers are difficult to seat in this venue.

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