Growing up different in Stopheart, playing at Toronto’s Factory Theatre
I braved the wild rain on Friday evening to see Stopheart at Factory Theatre. It looked as if a lot of other people weren’t as brave, it was a small audience.
The play is about growing up different in South Porcupine which is pretty much the same as growing up different anywhere.
Elian Fink (Amitai Marmorstein) and his best friend July (Vivien Endicott-Douglas) have finished school and work at the local supermarket. July is in love with Elian but he thinks he might be gay and loves her as a friend. Elian’s parents Goldie (Elizabeth Saunders) and Cricket (Martin Julien) are poor, quirky, and in love. Goldie was born with a hole in her heart and believes death is imminent. She has the family rehearsing her funeral. Cricket (channelling John Wayne) built her a very flashy coffin. Bear (Garret C. Smith) is July’s brother. He’s just been released from prison.
The stage is divided in two by a broken white line as if it’s a road. On one side is the Fink’s living room complete with coffin. On the other is July’s apartment above the supermarket. The back of the stage looks like a forest. I really liked the set.
Through the first act I felt that there was no real focus, no plot. The action flipped back and forth from one side of the stage to the other without any real linkage. I didn’t get a real sense of the characters; I didn’t feel any connection with them.
I can tell when I’m not connected with a play. I notice little things and they become big things to me. July is supposed to be fat and ugly if we believe the dialogue. Endicott-Douglas is as cute as a button and isn’t fat.
Cricket’s brown pants were way too short. They made him seem like a caricature rather than a character. But then the way he moved also seemed like a caricature. I felt that his John Wayne hero worship should have been more developed or should have been left out. As it is it doesn’t really add anything to the play.
Why doesn’t Goldie have her heart repaired? It’s a straight-forward operation and she lives in Canada and has medical coverage so it isn’t as if she can’t afford it.
Why doesn’t Elian just leave town? He’s not happy and keeps wishing he could go away.
The second act felt more cohesive, some plot although still no real character development. And the pants were still way to short. Allow Cricket some dignity, put the man in jeans.
On the plus side the acting was terrific.
I ended up thinking that Stopheart should be two plays; one about Goldie and Cricket and the other about Elian and July. That way there would be time to flesh out the characters.
- Stopheart is playing at Factory Theatre Mainstage (125 Bathurst St) until May 26th
- Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm
- Ticket prices range from $27 to $42, Sunday is PWYC ($15 is suggested)
- Tickets are available online, by phone at 416 504 9971, and in person at the box office
Photo of Amitai Marmorstein, Elizabeth Saunders & Martin Julien in Amy Lee Lavoie’s Stopheart by Jeremy Mimnagh