A new Toronto theatre company, Restless Spirit Productions, presents a Triple Bill of disparate works
On Friday night, I made my way down a staircase at 688 Richmond Street West, followed the instructions to remove my outdoor footwear, hung up my coat, padded into a studio on the lower level, and settled in for A Triple Bill. The evening consisted of an opener by improv troupe “Seinfeld?!?”, a one-woman show by Katie Ford and a production of Edward Allan Baker’s Dolores. I’m still trying to figure out what the connection was between the three, and why new theatre company Restless Spirit Productions decided to showcase them together, but I have a feeling that will remain one of life’s great mysteries.
The studio space provided a cozy atmosphere and a welcome escape from the cold, but the setup of the audience made for many a sight-line issue (for those of us seated at the sides of the room anyway) any time performers moved away from centre stage. The room was set up like a living room, complete with couch, ottoman, lamps and a dresser. Most of the set pieces did not get used until the third act, but did offer a nice backdrop for Katie Ford’s The Value of Trying, which centered the night.
When I say it centered it, I don’t just mean that it came in the middle, though it did. Ford’s storytelling, though apparently scripted, was natural and lovely, funny and inspiring. For me it grounded the evening and made it feel more like an intimate discussion than a rehearsed performance. Her thoughts on art, creativity, and beauty in the world rang true and hit me in places I didn’t know I needed to be hit. There were a few line flubs and pauses throughout her portion of the evening, but she handled them with humour, held my attention, and made me glad I was at the show.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the rest of the production. The improv was entertaining if slightly underwhelming, but did give a fun start to the evening. That said, I’m just not quite sure what the connection was between the performances, or why the night started out with improv and ended with a show about domestic abuse. The programme did note that the troupe was filling in for the usual stand-up comedian who had other commitments that night, so perhaps that may have been where some of the disconnect came from? (Again, I suspect that may be another question I won’t soon find an answer to…)
Dolores was, in every way, a whole other story. The night’s closer and the most structured of the acts, it seemed to my friend and I to have very little depth and a very abrupt, out of nowhere, ‘is that really where you want to leave things?’ kind of ending. The performers were nothing if not emotional, and really did give it their all, but for me the characters just didn’t go deep enough to allow audience members to feel any particular emotion towards them. The show was brief but covered a lot of intense ground (and a lot of yelling) and left me wanting more of a story, more of a resolution, more of a connection.
However, if Katie Ford is to be believed, and after hearing her speak, I absolutely think she is, then the value in any art is in the trying. Not in successes, not in failures, but in the effort and the work and the attempt. And trying is definitely what Restless Spirit Productions did in putting on this production. It took bravery and strength to assemble a show, bring people together, and present their art – and whether it fell flat as I felt Dolores did, or tugged at heartstrings as I felt The Value of Trying did, it gave the world something it didn’t have before. It was art; it was given, and it was received. And that is something we can surely all find a connection in.
- A Triple Bill plays at 688 Richmond Street West, Suite 103 until March 8th
- Shows run Friday and Saturday at 8PM, with a 4PM matinee on Sunday, March 8th
- Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online
Photo of Tanya Lee and Nadia Blanchfield in ‘Dolores’ by Joe Marques