SUMMERWORKS: under the parrot/over tennessee, Review by Katherine Sanders

under the parrot/over tennessee

Written and Performed by Val Campbell and Gail Hanrahan
Directed by James Fagan Tait
Presented by Theatre in Exile, Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace


Sunday August 9 6pm
Tuesday August 11 8pm
Thursday August 13 6pm
Saturday August 15 2pm
Sunday August 16 6pm

The moment I started to enjoy under the parrot/over tennessee was about halfway through, when suddenly the two performers broke out of the Tennessee Williams characters that their clown characters were portraying and turned into themselves, the actors, the people - for one brief moment. It also elicited the most genuine laugh of the whole show.

From that point on, I allowed myself to go with them on this weird ride they were on. Two clown-type characters (they are not red-nose clowns), Ol’ Man (Gail Hanrahan) and L’il Boy (Val Campbell) find themselves sharing quarters, and as a way to pass the time Ol’ Man decides that they will act out scenes from Tennessee Williams plays. Simple premise – but why? That’s what I found myself asking most of the way through. Why did they decide to present Tennessee Williams in this way? Why are the clowns obsessed with Williams? Why are they there together? What is this place? So many unanswered questions. My cynical self was starting to think, “These are just a couple of middle-aged women who wanted to play some Tennessee Williams heroines.” And that’s fine – lots of people do vanity projects. But then why the clowns? Why not just do the plays?

That weird little moment in the middle when they both broke character (intentionally), was the one glimmer of truth that allowed me access to the show. I wish they would have done the whole show that way. And from then on, I let myself stop asking questions, and just listened. The passages from Williams were actually performed quite beautifully. Particularly by Hanrahan, who held the audience spell-bound by the end of the show.

Companies from out of town often have a difficult time getting an audience at Summerworks and I think that’s a shame. There are only four shows from outside of Toronto – four chances for us to prove that we’re not as insular and self-absorbed as the rest of the country seems to think. So please, at this year’s Summerworks, see a show from out of town. See a show that doesn’t have any of your friends in it. Let’s expand our horizons, shall we?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too found myself asking the same question. 'Why?'. 'Why are they doing this?' But then I asked myself 'Why ask why?'. Is it a valid question? Not really. Why Tennessee Williams? Why not? Do I need the answer to that question to go on the journey they take us on? To enjoy and understand the plot? No.
It's a cute piece with a lot of imagination, playfulness and clever layers with much for the audience to take away from performed very well by both actors.