Set in a Moscow theatre in 1939, Polly Phokeev’s play follows the lives of six costume makers during the troubling political and social climate of Stalin’s Soviet Russia. As these characters tear fabric apart, then sew it back together again, love and hate are woven together.
Mikaela Davies has staged a vivid and handsome production. While I sometimes found it hard to invest in the dialogue, my eyes were always drawn to consistently dynamic visuals. There is careful attention to detail, and there is such haunting poetry in her use of movement and stillness. The final moment is a fluttery, hypnotic, then suddenly quiet and chilling bit of visual storytelling.
Add to this already-potent blend Shannon Lea Doyle’s detailed set and costume design. The production fetishizes clothing, initially immersing you in drab, utilitarian working outfits. You don’t even realize how oppressive it is until the appearance of bright, exhilarating colour. Between the sensuality of luxurious evening dress or the suggested violence of a rebellious hand-painted sign (that looks like blood), there is such exhilaration in these flashes of red.
In terms of the plot, most memorable to me were the moments of furtive eroticism. There are sly, stolen touches—brief, tense gestures of affection that these characters could never explicitly acknowledge due to the paranoia that underlies their every action.
This is nitpicking, I know, but I found myself irked by the narrator’s thick Russian accent, which is pointedly absent from the rest of the dialogue. She is, after all, an older version of one of our characters. I suppose it’s meant to distance her from the past and remind us that this story is a kind of cultural artifact, but it just…bugs me.
Seams is a solid historical drama. Not as challenging as I like my fictions, but a good story well told.
Seams plays at Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Avenue)
- Sunday August 9th 7:00 PM
- Monday August 10th 9:45 PM
- Tuesday August 11th 9:30 PM
- Wednesday August 12th 7:00 PM
- Friday August 14th 9:30 PM
- Sunday August 16th 4:15 PM
Individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Live Art Series tickets are free – $20. Tickets are available online at http://summerworks.ca, by phone at 888-328-8384, Monday – Friday 8:30am-5pm, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth – located at SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St). Open August 4-16 from 10am-7pm (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows
Image provided by the company.