By Amy Greenwood
Audiences of the new Ryerson theatre productions should brace themselves for a change — every night.
The theatre students have shook things up by running two productions concurrently instead of one after the other, a practice the school hasn’t adopted in years.
Lion In The Streets opened Oct. 18 which was followed by the debut of The Flu Season/The Dwarves, the theatre’s second major production, a few days later. This requires the sets to be switched daily complete with sound and light readjustments because they share the same studio. To alternate from Lion to Flu Season is a four-hour effort, and that’s only half the trouble. When Flu Season opens Oct. 23, theatregoers will notice the cast and crew scrambling during intermission, assembling the set for The Dwarves. The production is a two-for-one deal, with one ticket getting you two mini-plays with different sets.
Lion follows the story of 9-year-old Isobel, a girl brutally murdered 17 years ago, who returns to the city to find her killer. During her search, she witnesses many turbulent situations occuring in the lives of people living in modern-day Toronto.
“There are a lot of gritty elements like marriage breakdowns,” said stage manager Natasha Bean-Smith before rehearsal.
Dark, indeed. Aside from bitter divorces at the hands of adultery, the audience witnesses a wide variety of death and suffering, with violent arguments at every turn. Each actor plays about three characters, all with their own unique backstory: a priest; a person with cerebral palsy; a gay waiter; an absentee father and husband.
“It doesn’t have a solid plot-line; it’s like a series of vignettes,” says David Fisher, the technical director for the show.
This is something a prospective customer may appreciate knowing. Rife with short, fleeting scenes packed with raw emotion, intense conflict and expressions masked in poetic soliloquy, the production demands attention.
What’s interesting is that it’s offering theatregoers a chance to be up-close and personal with the actors. “[The play is] in the round, which means that the audience is sitting on all sides,” says Bean-Smith. “It has to look good on all angles. You can’t hide anything.”
It’s hard to doze off, though, when a character is screaming about refined sugars only 10 feet away.
“It’s really well-written and it’s so compelling,” Bean-Smith, 21, says of the production. “You find something new every time you watch it.”
That says a lot, coming from someone who has sat through more than 30 rehearsals. “It’s nice to actually like the show that you’re watching.”
Lion In The Streets runs until Nov. 15. The Flu Season/The Dwarves runs until Nov. 16 at the Abrams Studio.Gerrard St. E.