Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre presents a play by Kevin Dyer full of warmth and humour
Playing at Young People’s Theatre in Toronto, Under the Stairs is an important, fanciful musical story written by Kevin Dyer. It’s about a little boy named Tim who escapes to a closet of coats when his parents argue. There he finds comfort amongst a motley crew of other abandoned souls.
Timmy (Kyle Orzech) is sweet and boyish in his grey pyjamas and bare feet. Lily (Kelsey Verzotti) lives in the closet and is loving and protective. Violet (Fiona Sauder) is her cynical, foot-stomping best friend, and Albert (Paul Rainville) is their non-verbal tag-along whose knees easily wobble.
Since Under the Stairs presents us with two worlds, the rotating staircase by set designer Teresa Przybylski works magnificently. One side reveals the stairs and the closed closet door, offering us the real world of bickering parents, and a quick spin gives us the coat sleeves and fantastical friends. A touch of whimsy is added when more jackets descend from the ceiling.
One highlight was a dynamic song with the refrain “Keep up, Violet” in which Sauder re-enacts her character’s life at 8 years old. It’s remarkable to watch her play chess, piano, soccer and cello, squeeze in a yogic tree pose, all while being pulled by one arm by her mother, and her other arm by her father. As the pace quickens and she eventually fumbles her moves, we’re comically reminded of the folly of over-scheduling our children. Hats off to Sauder for her energy and vulnerability, and to Movement Director Viv Moore for the inventive, funny gestures.
When the young team ventures out into the city to locate Tim’s parents, the flashing lights by Michelle Ramsay do a great job of evoking the scariness of being in strange places.
As far as costumes go, Mum (Neema Bickersteth) wears an eye-catching dress made of crumpled notes towards the end of the play. She has started and stopped so many letters to her husband that she’s weighted down by unspoken words. The broken down communications of her marriage are indeed sewn into this dress, creatively designed by Anna Treusch.
I highly recommend bringing your kids to see this world premiere of Under the Stairs. Written with warmth, love and humour, it’s a play that bring children’s vulnerability to light and can start conversations about family friction.
- Under the Stairs is playing until April 16, 2019 at Young People’s Theatre (165 Front St. East)
- Next public performances are April 13 and 14 at 2:30 PM
- Next school performances are April 9 to 12 and April 15 and 16
- Ticket prices range from $10 to $39
- Tickets are available online or in person at the box office
Photo of Kyle Orzech and Kelsey Verzotti by Cylla von Tiedemann