It was the title that made me want to see The Lactors’ Studio production of Watching Seana McKenna Watch Paint Dry at the Toronto Fringe this year. Then I read that the cast were lawyers, and that the play was written by lawyers (Peter Hamiwka and Diane Baker Mason), and I was truly intrigued.
A little more reading, some rudimentary math, and I realized that six of the twelve members of the cast had studied theatre or film, or worked in theatre before they became lawyers. Definitely a show I had to see. Definitely a show worth seeing. And, a bonus, it’s a play within a play, something I love.
I intended to take notes, but I was enjoying the show so much that I completely forgot. These lawyers are really good actors, and they were ably directed by Llana Nakonechny.
The cast came into the theatre with the audience, but instead of sitting with us they went and sat on chairs on the stage. They acted just like an audience, reading programs, looking around, rummaging in their bags, chatting to each other. The reviewer got out her notebook and pen (pretty much the way I got mine out when I sat down). It was a great way to start the show.
The play they were watching really was ‘Seana McKenna’ watching paint dry on a canvas. It’s very much The Emperor’s New Clothes with the ‘audience’ watching ‘McKenna’ in rapt fascination. All except one woman who asks her companion what’s happening, when is the play going to start.
And then they were off.
First, it was just the two of them having a furious whispered debate about whether or not what they were seeing was really a play. The rest of the ‘audience’ ignores them and continues to watch McKenna but gradually, one by one, they are drawn into the debate. Is this a play or not?
Actors, playwrights, reviewers, the audience, everyone’s motives are questioned. The dialogue is sharp and funny, and the delivery and timing is perfect. The play works so well because there’s a lot of truth in their arguments. Not that I ask myself ‘what is art?’ om a daily basis, but it is a question that I think about. And there have been times when I’ve felt as if I’m being conned.
Not tonight, though. Watching Seana McKenna Watch Paint Dry was a thoroughly enjoyable play. I highly recommend it.
Proceeds from the show will be donated to The Toronto Lawyers Feed the Hungry Program.
Watching Seana McKenna Watch Paint Dry is playing at George Ignatieff Theatre (15 Devonshire Pl)
July 05 at 05:15 PM
July 07 at 06:45 PM
July 08 at 10:30 PM
July 10 at 04:00 PM
July 11 at 11:30 PM
July 13 at 01:45 PM
Tickets for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. Advance tickets are $12, and can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), or from the festival box office at the Fringe Club. (Rear of Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. West). Money-saving value packs are also available if you are going to at least five shows; see website for details.
LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Photo of Keri Bennett, Satinder Besrai, Peter Hamiwka, Melanie Herbin, Ajay Krishnan, Saroja Kuruganty, Gavin Magrath, Diane Mason, Kerri Salata, Brent Vickar, Catherine Wiley, and “Seana McKenna” by Jason Crowtz