Toronto’s Unit 102 Actors Company presents Miss, a new play by Michael Ross Albert
On Saturday I stepped out of my comfort zone and saw Miss, a Unit 102 Actors Company production, at the new Assembly Theatre in Parkdale. Out of my comfort zone because the press release describes the play, by Michael Ross Albert, as an “explosive drama about loss, grief, guilt, and revenge” and I usually avoid anything with that kind of description. I am so glad I went.
It was one of those rare evenings of perfect theatre that will stay with me for years. It’s why people make theatre. It’s why I love theatre.
It would be a disservice to the play to describe the plot. The story unfolds, sometimes obliquely, through the dialogue. I’m going to quote the press release again “A shocking accident at a boarding school irrevocably changes the lives of a teacher, her fiancé, and a troubled student….”.
Michael Ross Albert’s script is marvelous. Each of the three characters had a truly distinct voice. I loved the way the story was revealed through the dialogue in small pieces, sometimes in just a couple of words.
There’s one part in the show when Wayne Burns, as Tyler – the 15 year old schoolboy, reads an essay he’s written about what home means to him. It was every essay written by every 15 year old boy, rambling, ridiculous, with moments of pure heartbreak and others of pure hilarity.
Burns ‘reading’ of the essay just added to the 15 year old schoolboy perfection. He read the essay line by line rather than by sentence with little intonation or expression. He lost his place at the end of the page. He stopped and said that the next part was stupid. He was the essence of a 15 year old boy.
The couple walking in front of me after the play were talking about that scene, about how amazing it was.
The two other characters are Laura, the Miss of the title, a teacher, played by Nola Martin, and Gil, her fiancé, a CPA, played by Trevor Hayes.
The three characters are so lost, it’s heartbreaking. All three actors gave marvelous performances.
Martin is so fragile it seems as if she’ll break if anyone breathes on her. She switches from cool and rational to angry to warm and loving in the blink of an eye.
Hayes plays drunkenness like a real drunk. He’s so sad and so desperate to help Laura and has no idea what to do. As he keeps drinking he slowly shows his anger, and with it, his violence. By the end he’s very frightening.
Burns is perfect as the 15 year old, wavering between childhood and manhood, not sure where he belongs or how to act when he’s there.
David Lafontaine’s direction makes the most of the stage and the set. His timing is perfect. Everything felt balanced and real. It was almost as if I was eavesdropping on something that was happening in real life.
Lindsay Dagger Junkin’s costumes went a long way to defining the characters before they even spoke. Laura looked like an English teacher at a private school in a pencil skirt, white blouse, cardigan and black pumps, finished with a gold necklace. Gil, in his casual pants, shirt, pullover, and jacket looked like a professional on the weekend. Tyler’s grey trousers, white shirt with the top button undone and tie slightly askew, and blue blazer were just disheveled enough for a boy who started his day perfectly pulled together for a disciplinary meeting and had been slowly coming apart ever since.
The set is amazing. Adam Belanger has created a private school classroom on the stage. The walls are paneled and and there are coat hooks, bookshelves, maps like roller blinds, a blackboard, and a clock. The student desks have books on them. The teacher’s desk has a cup full of pencils and pens. There’s a fish in a bowl at the back of the room. It’s wonderful.
Miss is not all emotionally demanding, there are some very funny moments. There are also some harrowing moments. There’s a fight scene that I found terrifying. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who cried. You really will want tissues.
It’s a wonderful play with a fabulous cast, You really should see it. Even if it’s outside your comfort zone.
- Miss is playing until October 1, 2017 at The Assembly Theatre (1479 Queen St W)
- Shows are Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00pm, Sunday at 6:00pm and 8:30pm
- Tickets are $25.00, arts workers – $20.00
- Tickets are available online and at the door
Photo of Wayne Burns, Nola Martin, and Trevor Hayes by David Lafontaine