2 Plays. 2 Cities. 2b.

2b's The Russian Play

As with anything, there are people who have come up with a set of prescribed rules for how to write a good play. I may have even referenced a rule or two once or twice here on TWISI when it seemed suitable to do so. Yet, I find it utterly delicious in the theatre to watch plays that break these rules triumphantly, boldly asserting that in the hands of a proficient playwright, cast and creative team our creativity is not to be limited. 2b theatre serves up two such plays at the Neptune Studio Theatre this week, a double bill of short plays by Hannah Moscovitch, Mexico City & The Russian Play. I strongly suggest you treat yourselves to them.

Mexico City is a play that one could argue that nothing much happens as everything happens simultaneously. Alice and Henry are tourists, a young married couple visiting Mexico for the first time. They narrate the sequence of the first day of their quest to experience “the authentic Mexico” and what unfolds for the audience is the intense and riveting relationship between these two complex characters, where as much is said as not said. What is so striking is that their two narratives rarely collide, and director, Christian Barry, has Anthony Black and Tessa Cameron facing straight toward the audience, seldom directly addressing one another at all and yet their connection remains rich and gripping. Moscovitch uses slight changes in language to play with the idea of Alice and Henry manoeuvring between the subjects of the tale and the tellers of it and Barry makes sure that the play is filled with silences so thick with subtext they are worth an entire monologue.

Anthony Black gives a delightful performance as Henry, a sort of nuanced 1950s Ross Gellar equal parts vulnerable and augmentative. I really enjoyed Tessa Cameron’s portrayal of Alice, a lady clearly concerned with propriety but who also has a need to always be right and to always get her own way. For both of them it is fascinating to watch as their characters transition from behaving the way they wish to appear to the world to expressing their more authentic emotions.

The Russian Play proves that even something as ordinary as a piece of bread can prove the catalyst for a tragic love story to rival Chekhov and Tolstoy. Moscovitch writes this play as a metatheatrical pastiche of Russian literature, darkly funny, but also gripping and evocative. It centers on our protagonist and narrator, Sonya, who has grown bitter, sardonic and caustically witty as shitty things keep happening to her. Colombe Demers gives a fierce, brilliant performance as Sonya, so seemingly effortless her “acting” disappears so her character can just be. I found it interesting that Demers characterizes young Sonya as being so exorbitantly naive as it suggests that the version of the story that we are hearing is being shaped by the remembrances of a woman deeply regretting her own past “stupidity.” She also brings to life an amazing little old Russian lady, who, by times, seems like she is from a Disney movie. Demers is joined onstage by Scott Stephenson, who plays her star-crossed lover, Piotr, a character who is charming, but reserved, in a way that makes the audience not always sure of his motives. He is contrasted nicely by Anthony Black’s Kostya, who is more vigorous and passionate.

Christian Barry’s lighting in both pieces, but in The Russian Play in particular, is gorgeous and a magical element of the storytelling. Barry has created a distinctive style for himself bringing his talents as director and lighting designer together, and having these plays at the Neptune Studio Theatre, really emphasize what a dramatic and vivid world he is able to create to compliment Moscovitch’s stories and the talents of his cast of actors.

The Russian Play and Mexico City are brilliant examples of imaginative playwriting colliding with a creative director and a theatre company dedicated to bringing exemplary works of theatre to Halifax audiences. If you’re looking for a pre-holiday escape, I would highly recommend a quick jaunt to Russia and Mexico courtesy of 2b theatre.

2b Theatre’s The Russian Play & Mexico City plays until December 4th, 2011 at the Neptune Studio Theatre (1593 Argyle Street, Halifax). Tickets are available at www.2btheatre.com or by calling 902.429.7070. Also, you should consider taking advantage of the 2b Newbie promotion. Bring a friend who has never seen a 2b show before and you will both receive 20% off your ticket. Just use the promotional code “NEWBIE” when purchasing online or quote it at the Neptune Box Office (902.429.7070). Valid for advance purchases only. Get yours today!  

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