Toronto playwright Kristofer Van Solen updates Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray in his new play
The performance takes place in a secret backspace above a convenience store on College street. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect upon entrance, but to my surprise, I ended up with an expertly crafted production that made for an awesome, thought-provoking night of theatre.
Gray (loosely based on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray) follows three years in the life of our main character, the innocent and optimistic Dorian Gray, who’s come to Toronto to find herself as an artist only to spiral into a painfully familiar dark night of the soul by the end.
Tennille Read who plays our main muse, Dorian, has a presence that is both powerful and consistent as she changes from “innocent, new girl in town” to desperate and depressed. Other standouts include Edward Charette who commits to his many characters with full body, heart, voice and soul as well as Sydney Violet-Bristow who brings a rawness to her role that was refreshing to say the least.
The cast performs like a well-oiled machine. Attacking high points with intense passion and zeal while also sitting comfortably and calmly in the more typical moments. Each cast member brings their own special flavour and personality to their roles. They were all so different from each other yet all contained the same seed of intent as they maneuvered their way through the story.
The script itself is a solid, smart piece of work, switching between quick, naturalistic dialogue and gutsy spoken word type phrases that you might only hear in the back room of a bar with no sign. I found that these “breaks” in the dialogue heightened the story and were a welcomed addition to the “contemporary art” theme.
This brings me to my next point…Gray is fully realized. Each piece of the show informs the other. There was a reason for every movement, every line, every prop. Even the design of the show (by Lindsay Woods) evokes a “blank canvas” sort of vibe, with whites, pale greys and wood being used throughout. It was those little details in the direction by Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster that made Gray so exciting to me as a new, original piece of theatre.
Also, this might sound a little weird but I really enjoyed the transitions between scenes (never underestimate a good transition, people). They were swift and intricate with playful details like a quick game of tug o’ war before setting down a sheet or a mutual pause in thought before moving a piece of furniture making for a seamless flow from scene to scene. They were perfectly choreographed almost to a military standard. Just thrilling.
In my opinion, Gray is a perfect marriage between the avant-garde and classical theatre. I found myself feeling very safe as an audience member in the able hands of the undeniably talented actors, informed by the equally talented playwright Kristofer Van Solen.
Gray is what happens when art is created for art’s sake. It was story-telling in its purest form and that’s when you know you’ve found good theatre.
- Gray is playing at the Commons Theatre (587a College St.)
- Playing from September 20-October 1, 2017, see website for dates and times.
- Tickets are 25$ (20$ for arts workers) and are available to purchase online or at the box office before the show.
- This venue is not accessible.
- Audience Advisory: Mature Content.
Photo of Tennille Read and Ximena Huizi provided by the company.