Review by Danny Gaisin
It’s usually a treat attending UTM’s Theatre Erindale productions. Last night, seeing ‘Occupy Verona’ and ‘Alms for O’; a repertory double-header by the 3rd year students gleaned a rave. The pre-performance circumstances surrounding Parking had us ready to throw in the towel – hence the rant from one pissed-off writer & some other attendees. Miss’a, methinks thou shouldst get thy By-law house in order… “a plague on the city and its particular department” photo by Jim Smagata
1st, – The Rant. Last night the ticket machine at Park #1 refused to issue passes after coinage was deposited; it also failed to accept charge Cards. After walking to the theatre in bitter cold, the box office called Campus Security only to be told that the City supervises the lot. We planned on leaving a window note about the malfunctioning machine, but after hearing numerous tales of woe from others about dealing with the city’s Parking Gestapo, we again went back to the car; drove to another lot & its functioning machine; then re-parked in No. 1 and again walked back to Erindale. Miss’a – what about affixing a sign with a 24-hour call number about malfunctions so there’s a record of the situation and the hefty penalty can be cancelled. Sound like a logical plan?
Now – the rave. Giving Shakespeare’s and Homer’s famous tales a tragicom (or perhaps a comi-trag) treatment was the innovative concept of director David Matheson. The Romeo & Juliet struggle became the clash between the Capitalists of Wall Street and the Occupiers of three years ago. The suits vs the hippies; the cellphones vs the placards; love vs the bottom line add relevance to an eternal story. Given the electronic devices and contemporary digital expressions of attitude, the struggle underscores its humorous element. Even though the audience knows the outcome, each little shtick garners giggles. The Trojan War is seen as WWI still being fought a century later. Shakespeare’s Troilus & Cressida emphasized the minor aspect of their relationship rather than the Agamemnon/Achilles struggle. Matheson brings out both plotlines.
The two sets by Peter Urbanek and the costumes by Joanne Massingham are major contributors to the evening’s impact and messages. The actors exchange star and support roles for each segment but given the verbosity of the writer, the dialogue and monologue demands are Herculean (pun intended) The Romeo of the 1st piece is an energetic dynamo portrayed by Stuart Hefford. The young man exhausted this writer with his consistent dashing about. Kira Meyers-Guiden was a credible ‘teenager in love’. Her parents, Kyra Weichert & Nathaniel Voll seem to capture the essence of moneyed new Yorkers. He’s also a convincing Diomedes in the T & C play. Mercutio’s role is also MC for the Occupy Verona story and Emma Robson is a remarkable standout given her poise, stature, and especially her costume. Troilus, as played by Nathaniel Kinghan takes a back seat to his sensual Tatiana Haas’s Cressida. But both are overpowered by Isaac Giles’ Hector; Sarah Kern’s terrific Achilles and especially Larissa Crawley who’s diseased degenerate Uncle Pandarus is best-in-show.
There must have been moments of sheer giddiness while director Matheson had his charges emulate some Pattonesque moments of arrogant recording for posterity; the numerous bon mots; the Achilles speechifying like Cassius Clay and the hilarious stepladder cum Balcony scene – especially the paint-tray drop-down gimmick.
The Romeo/Juliet story is familiar; some know that Troilus & Cressida aren’t Toyota models, and nobody actually knows the Iliad or subsequent Odyssey; especially in the translated dactylic hexameter. But in lieu of buying the Coles Notes ™ version, a trip to Erindale would have sufficed.