Piecing Together Pauline (Fire and Air Productions) 2012 Toronto Fringe Review

Piecing Together Pauline (Fire and Air Productions), written by Chris Coculuzzi and Roxanne Deans, is a historical drama that uncovers one of history’s “forgotten women” and is one of many offerings at this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival.

An ambitious play, it has the feeling of a two hour performance crammed into 90 minutes. Famous poets, authors, and 19th century composers fly across the stage, spewing their up-tempo dialogue and exiting before the audience has time to grasp who they were.

Piecing Together Pauline is a history textbook come to life.

Those familiar with George Sand (played by the spirited Brenda Somers) or poet De Musset (Damien Gulde) have the advantage of seeing these historical figures embodied.

And those who have spent their younger years in piano lessons – wondering about the lives of the composers on the page rather than practicing – will enjoy this play immensely.

Pauline is part a “who’s who” of 19th century musicians – “Was that Liszt with the long hair?” “Oh, I think that’s Chopin with George Sand!”

The other part is a fragmented narrative of Pauline’s life. We learn about her passion for the stage, her success as an opera star, and the loss of her elder sister – the opera’s veritable prima donna, who Pauline is afraid she will never surpass.

Two actresses play Pauline – the younger, artistically modern Pauline (Kristen Zaza) and the lonely, forgotten Pauline (Elva Mai Hoover). Hoover is one of the few actors who takes time with her lines. She helps create more intimate scenes – and is a good anchor to an otherwise frenetic play.

Piecing Together Pauline is largely dialogue. Though the energy never drops, and the audience stays awake and attentive – the scenes often become static.

There is no climax or building tension. Piecing Together Pauline consists of – pieces – fragmented scenes that give us a sense of her highly-researched life.

For the modern artist Pauline raises questions about duty and devotion to one’s craft. For the modern woman Pauline raises questions about motherhood, but does not delve into these too deeply.

Pauline is a historical drama that appeals mostly to those that already know the history of the period. The actors are lively and confident, and the dialogue is intelligent.

However, the show moves at a breakneck speed.

At the end, Piecing Together Pauline may find you a little dazed – still picking up the pieces.

Details

  • Piecing Together Pauline plays at Venue 1 – Tarragon Theatre Main Space (30 Bridgman Avenue)
  • Showtimes are: Thurs, July 5, Thurs 8:15pm; Sat, July 7 at 5:15pm; Sun, July 8 at 10:00pm; Tues, July 10 at 10:30pm; Wed, July 11 at 12:00pm; Thurs, July 12 at 7:30pm; Sun, July 15 at 5:15pm
  • All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $9+$2 service charge)
  • Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows

photo by Kathy Plamondon