A variety of new works on offer through the New Ideas Festival
The 32nd annual New Ideas Festival is on stage now at the Alumnae Theatre Company. New Ideas is a three-week juried festival of new, short plays, works-in-progress, and experimental theatre. This year there are 14 plays being presented over the course of three different weekly programs. I attended the opening night of Week One which featured four pieces ranging from melancholy to mystical.The evening opened with Remember Him Chasing Squirrels by Donna Langevin. In this tender two-hander, Jane (Brenda Darling) must decide what to do about her beloved dog who is dying of liver cancer. The ghost of her late husband Walter (Tom O’Neill), who also died of cancer, appears to help her. Although the piece is only 10 minutes long, Langevin’s quietly moving script manages to paint a vivid picture of the couple’s relationship and the struggles of dealing with terminal illness and loss.
Next up was The Curious Case of Jockstrap Malone by Dwayne Yancey, a fun and wacky twist on a classic gumshoe detective story. Private detective Tabitha Katt (Kim Sprenger) investigates the disappearance of local sportscaster Jockstrap Malone (Andrew Horbatuik). He’s being held hostage by three sisters who’ve been nurturing a grudge for fifteen years. For me, Yancey’s script hit the right note, with just enough wisecracking and slangy lingo. Not too kitschy and lots of funny lines and humor. Sisters Dixie (Alison Dickon), Pixie (Piyal Sarker), and Trixie (Sundance Nagrial) were gleeful as they played out the revenge fantasy of every little girl who has been told she didn’t matter as much as the boys.
Kay Randewich’s Speed Dating Night at the Bull and Bell was the third play of the night. This one was my favourite. On a rainy night, eight very different individuals look for love during a night of speed dating. The characters ranged from a hypochondriac tech genius who is obsessed with his mother to a wealthy gallery owner looking for a stay-at-home wife. This leads to some hysterical pairings and some unexpected matches. As the person next to me said, “They were all completely believable.”
Just in Love by Richard Ellen was the final play of the night and the most experimental by my estimation. Louis (Alina Kouvchinova) lies on a garden bench in a dreamy state caused by his love of Laila (Jessika McQueen). His grasp on reality is tenuous as he is visited by a serious of mysterious figures. Ellen’s script is nonlinear, with a mix of poetic flights of fancy and witty non-sequitur. I wasn’t always sure what was going on, but I found the piece whimsical and charming. Madeleine Keesmaat-Walsh’s portrayal of the Bird Lady was appropriately bird-like. And Duncan Gibson-Lockhart’s Black-Hat was a mix of sinister and mischievous.
Before the evening started, one of the producers mentioned that all the people involved with the production are amateurs and many are novices. The plays were performed with minimal props and sets in Alumnae Theatre’s intimate 3rd floor walk-up studio. Despite some rough edges with the tech, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of all four plays. The scripts were well developed and felt complete. And all the actors gave committed and enthusiastic performances.
My companion and I both enjoyed ourselves. All in all, I’d recommend checking out the variety of new works on offer at the New Ideas Festival over the next three weeks.
- New Ideas Festival is on stage at the Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley Street) until March 29, 2020. *UPDATE* The rest of the New Ideas Festival has been cancelled due to respect social-distancing requests around COVID -19
- There is a different program each week. See website for details.
- Performances are Wednesday – Saturday at 8pm and Saturday and Sunday at 2pm
- Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online or by calling 416-364-4170
- The performance space is not wheel-chair accessible and is up multiple flights of stairs.