Review: Birdbath (Still & Moving Theatre)

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“Birdbath” at Toronto’s Red Sandcastle is a charming production, full of personality.

Still & Moving Theatre is presenting Birdbath by Leonard Melfi at Toronto’s Red Sandcastle Theatre. Melfi, a deceased American playwright, has written many plays but Birdbath, first produced in 1965, is the most well-known of his work.

I attended the opening night on June 19th with my mother, Alice. We walked into the small venue and saw three long rows of chairs. The chairs were facing one side of the room designed as an old fashioned diner. I was handed a pamphlet and saw the description: “…a short, sweet, disturbing night at the theatre”. Having watched the play, I would say the description was very fitting.

The one-act show is under an hour. It takes course over a night when two coworkers go through flirtations and revealing confessions. Nicole Buscema plays the jittery, talkative and socially-unaware Velma Sparrow, and Adam Pellerine plays Frankie Basta, the typical vision of a poet: broody, smoking, drinking, and occasionally writing poems. The two actors have a certain chemistry, making you feel like they would end up in such a mixed-up situation together.

And as for the “sweet”, the play manages to convey so much personality that your attention is held. Velma’s strangeness is played for laughs, but is not so much that you’d become annoyed. Nicole’s Velma is both ridiculous and vulnerable – likable despite her flaws. Frankie’s sexier, more serious personality worked with Velma’s to create a smooth balance. The hilarity of Velma and the magnetism of Frankie made it hard to turn away, even as the tension escalated.

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It’s clear that director Anja Zeljkovic understood the limitations of a one act play. At a point where the play could tip over to melodrama, it pulls back. This production understands its limits and takes advantage of smallness. You’re not left wanting or overstuffed: you are simply satisfied.

In the same way, the play understands how to use its small venue to the best advantage. Still & Moving Theatre claims: “our ambitions have never been for elaborate sets or magnificent playhouses, but simply to seize the work ourselves and to take on the discoveries and adventures that come along with it.” Instead of seeing a small venue as a set-back, it’s used for a sense of intimacy and creativity.

This is best shown in Alice’s favourite part, when Velma and Frankie casually transform their workplace into Frankie’s apartment. She smiled in surprise when they flipped over menu signs into windows and turned the front counter into a an already-made bed. Kudos to Katie Hinchliffe (Props & Costumes) and Cailin Fysh (design consultant) for seeing opportunity in the little details.

If you’d like to have a wonderful hour at the theatre, attend Birdbath at Red Sandcastle Theatre.

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Details:

  • Birdbath is playing until June 22nd at Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen Street East, Toronto)
  • Running Friday and Saturday at 8: 00 pm
  • Ticket sales: $10 for students, $15 for adults
  • Ticket reservation available in advance. All sales at the door.
  • To reserve tickets, call the Box Office at 416-845-9411 or e-mail the company. (stillandmoving.birdbath@gmail.com)

Photographs of Nicole Buscema and Adam Pellerine by Jacqueline Andrade.