There’s a lot of theatre packed into the 90 minutes of Metropolitan Operas on stage at Toronto’s Theatre Machine
In the late 1980s, Joseph Pintauro was a darling of New York, writing queerly-inflected bitter/satiric/sardonic plays at an astonishing rate (imagine Daniel MacIvor, but without nearly as much tenderness). After a critically acclaimed book (Cold Hands) and a pair of brilliantly received plays (The Snow Orchid and Men’s Lives) he wrote Metropolitan Operas, a series of 27 short plays meant to be performed in a marathon. They were sharp, mocking and celebratory at the same time, and of-the-moment. Late 80s New York was the time of The Normal Heart juxtaposed against The Wolf of Wall Street, and Metropolitan Operas sent up those familiar characters and more. It was ambitious, uneven, and ultimately quite worthwhile – just like this Witchboy Theatre production.
Even the theatre, the cozy 100-seat Theatre Machine with its hotel surplus chairs (thank you, from the bottom of my bottom, for not using folding chairs) felt right for the staging, and the rawly-enthusiastic cast of 13 overflowed the washroom and what I’m fairly certain was a broom closet as the audience arrived. In the 90 minutes that followed, they played an array of priests and sex workers, hair dressers and socialites, movie stars and soccer moms with greater and lesser degrees of skill but all with great passion.
A few were particularly good. Breanna Dillon, as both a hilariously uptight Upper East Side heiress having moral palpitations over her dinner and then a few scenes later as a sex worker who finds herself at odds with her boyfriend for a most unusual reason was a particular standout. Ferelith Young turned in a surprising, vulnerable performance as a movie star being emotionally blackmailed by an old friend, and David Lafontaine hit a great note as the bewildered, loving boyfriend of a woman he can’t understand in the very first scene.
The only truly sour note was, as it happens, not from the acting. A member of the tech staff laughed, uncontrollably, through the evening at things that I couldn’t imagine were supposed to be funny. The lighting and sound and scene changes generally ran just fine, but the incessant inappropriate laughter was incredibly distracting for me. Otherwise, all of the shorts were diverting and a few — especially those with Dillon playing — were riveting.
As a group, the plays were well-chosen out of the 27 total, and the acting was better than you might expect for a small company — quite a bit better. Especially considering that this little-known material is full of emotion and contradiction, the evening was mostly a success and the actors and director Trevor Hayes should be pleased with what he and the cast have made.
- Metropolitan Operas plays at Theatre Machine, 376 Dufferin St., until Sat, November 29th
- Showtimes are Tuesday through Saturday at 8pm through Sat, November 29th. There is no matinee.
- Tickets are $20 and may be had online or at the door.