The Chance, playing at the Assembly Theatre in Toronto, feels “real” with “true” interactions
Hands up anyone else who has never seen a play by George F. Walker. Nor had I until Saturday when I saw the world premier of The Chance at The Assembly Theatre. I’m not sure why I hadn’t seen any of his plays before this, it wasn’t a conscious decision; more a case of never being in the right place at the right time.
Now that I’ve seen one I’m looking forward to seeing more. The Chance is funny, suspenseful, and a social commentary that never hits you over the head. It has strippers, bad guys, mistaken identity, a moral decision, a dead guy, cell phones, and a loan shark.
Marcie (Fiona Reid) is drowning in debt. She was deeply depressed after her partner died and couldn’t work for a year. She lived on her credit cards; she owes money everywhere. She borrowed money from Rocco, the local loan shark and he’s stepping up the pressure to get paid. All she needs is a chance and when it comes she’s ready to grab it.
The plot was fine, one part was maybe a tad far-fetched, but it was the characters and the way the actors inhabited them that I loved. They seemed like real women and their interaction with each other rang true to me. I love that in a play.
Fiona Reid is terrific as Marcie, an unwitting matriarch still trying to find her way. She’s kind of grey looking and on a spectrum that ranges from helpless to determined. Her portrayal of a woman drowning in debt and dreaming of owning a house was so believable. I loved the way she changed from accepting and a bit whiny early in the play to absolutely determined by the end. This is her chance and nothing is going to stop her.
Claire Burns was great as Jo, Marcie’s daughter, a stripper waiting for her court date. She’s resigned to going to prison for kidnapping her daughter and even with Marcie nudging her doesn’t see any alternatives.
Burns has great facial expressions, some subtle and some broad. It was wonderful watching her react to some of Marcie’s suggestions and comments. She really doesn’t want to go along with Marcie’s scheme.
And then there’s Amie, admirably played by Anne van Leeuwen, Jo’s best friend since they were children. They’re more like sisters than friends. She was my favourite character. Dumb and ditzy on the surface but not really as dumb or ditzy as she appeared. It’s a tough balance to pull off and van Leeuwen managed it perfectly.
It’s tough to find a reason to move the characters around on the stage when a play is essentially a conversation between three people. I don’t know whether this is a playwright decision or whether director Wes Berger was responsible but using cell phones and having the characters lay them down and then move to a different spot and have to move back to answer them was very clever.
The cell phones were integral to moving the story along. It’s how the audience learned what the other side was doing.
Another thing I really liked was Chris Bretecher’s set. The play took place in a pretty nondescript apartment living room. It was little details that made it special. Things like two bathrobes hanging on the back of the bathroom door, a pair of shoes kicked off next to an arm chair, a security chain and deadbolt on the front door.
I really enjoyed The Chance. If you’re a George F. Walker fan you’re probably already planning to see it. If you’re like me and haven’t seen a Walker play this is a good one to start with.
One thing though, The Assembly Theatre is small, it’s probably best to get your tickets in advance so you aren’t disappointed.
- The Chance is playing until October 28, 2017 at The Assembly Theatre (1479 Queen St W)
- Showtimes are Tuesday through Saturday at 8:00 pm
- Tickets are $20.00, Arts workers $15.00 and are available online and at the door
Photo of Fiona Reid, Claire Burns and Anne van Leeuwen by John Gundy