Centred around the theme of boy meets girl, Mastrosimone’s atypical love story pins two characters, who are complete strangers to each other, together in one room for the entirety of the play. This makes for one heck of an emotional journey as they proceed to reveal themselves to each other as the play progresses.
Right off the top, I felt like something was a little off. I wasn’t sure if it had to do with opening night jitters, the wordy script or perhaps the choice in direction; but at times, I felt a disconnect between the two actors.
Perhaps it’s because I often got lost in the quickly spoken dialogue that I knew was really important to the plot. It seemed a strange choice to barrel through text that was clearly there to give us insight into the true struggle of each of the characters and their underlying motivation. I have to give the actors credit though because this script is loaded with a lot of comedic back and forth dialogue, epic monologues and heavy subject matter riddled with subtext.
In particular, I found Kayla Whelan’s character, Rose, hard to follow during her monologues. I would have loved the opportunity to really hear her words land. I thought Whelan had a lot of wonderful moments in terms of action and reaction that never got to fully play out to their deep, emotional potential. I would have loved to see her at half speed, feeling every inch of those monologues because she clearly has the skill to knock them out of the park.
Jonathan Shatzky, who plays truck driver Cliff, did an excellent job at making strong choices and committing to them. He seemed effortless up there, just living and breathing his character and you could tell he felt comfortable in the role. He executed moments of comic relief so seamlessly that it never pulled focus from Whelan’s most poignant moments.
Oddly, there was a blackout at one point which the whole audience thought was the end of the play. In actuality, it was to symbolize a passing of time but I thought it was a bit too long. I felt like it diffused too much of the energy that both Whelan and Shatzky worked so hard to create.
All in all, the script is really well written and the actors work their butts off up there. If you like character driven, dark romantic comedies with a twist, this play is for you. I have no doubt any hiccups I noticed will most likely iron themselves out after a couple more shows. I truly believe they will find their stride in this brilliant roller coaster of a play.
- The Woolgatherer is playing until July 12th at The Annex Theatre (736 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets are $12 in advance, $10 at the door. The festival also offers a range of money saving tickets and passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), from the festival box office down Honest Ed’s Alley (581 Bloor West), or from the venue box office starting one hour before the performance. Venue sales are cash-only.
- Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. Set your watch to CBC time, and arrive a few minutes early to avoid disappointment.
- Warnings: Smoking, Mature Language
- July 03 at 01:15 PM
- July 05 at 04:00 PM
- July 08 at 09:15 PM
- July 09 at 11:00 PM
- July 11 at 07:30 PM
- July 12 at 12:00 PM
Photo of Kayla Whelan and Jonathan Shatzky by Dahlia Katz