Toronto’s Sterling Studio Theatre delivers a dynamic second week of their One Act Festival.
I only caught the second week of Sterling Studio Theatre’s One Act Festival, and it made me wish I’d been there for the first, and was going to be there for the third. Each week features a new double bill of one-act wonders. The festival began last week with two local playwright contest winners. This week’s show moves on to one-acts with a bit more history behind them – Lewis John Carlino’s Snowangel and Anton Chekhov’s The Bear.
The two plays make an intuitive pair in their shared bill. The concept of reflection plays heavily into both pieces, each coupling a man and woman as mirrors in a swirling battle-of-the-sexes.
The emotive Snowangel begins the evening. What is most captivating about this piece is how quickly it shifts audience feelings from empathy to disgust and back again. A shy, nervous john named John (Colin Edwards) enters the abrasive Connie the call girl’s (Lisa Aitken) bedroom, and commands our pity and understanding. We can all understand nervousness and uncertainty and it’s easy to commiserate with John’s initial – seeming – sincerity.
Within a few lines of dialogue our understanding shifts to Connie, and continues to shift throughout, as the two try to negotiate their pain and intimacy. There are some very creepy moments, some very sad moments, and some very funny ones.
The following production of Chehkov’s The Bear floored me. I’m not sure I ever stopped laughing. Consider my appreciation for Chekhov renewed! There is this piece of writing advice Kurt Vonnegut offers that has always stuck with me: every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
The Bear is such a keen example of this. These characters’ desires are not mysterious, to be puzzled together. What they want is quite obvious – an IOU repaid, to remain vindictively faithful, to get their Miss out of the house. And this obviousness of desires gives these characters a delightful immediacy that makes them accessible and dynamic.
Alana Hawley’s Popova and Robert Fulton’s Smirnoff share excellent chemistry – their hatred and love of each other equally palpable – and Clayton Gray’s Luka pops in as ‘comic relief’ on top of the already extremely comedic action.
This double bill is a balanced one, mingling heavy subject matter with lighthearted fun making. Up next in this festival are Diane Flacks’ By a Thread and Tennessee Williams’ Interior: Panic. If you miss the rest of this week’s run, I can only imagine next week’s picks will equally delight.
- The One Act Festival is playing at Sterling Studio Theatre (163 Sterling Ave, Unit 5) until May 5th with Snowangel and The Bear playing until April 28th
- Shows run Tuesday-Sunday at 8pm with 2pm matinees Saturday and Sunday
- Tickets are $20 with $10 Tuesday previews and $15 matinees
- Tickets are available online or with cash at the door
Photo of Alana Hawley as Popova and Clayton Gray as Luka by INSIDE LIGHT STUDIO – Angela Besharah