In Speaks Alone, which plays at the Pier 21 Museum: Bronfman Theatre as part of the Atlantic Fringe Festival, Emily Jewer performs twenty monologues, taken from an eclectic mix from plays and musicals across history.
It is an interesting idea. I love Jewer’s programme notes where she challenges her fellow actors to “learn a monologue a day,” for wouldn’t it be terrific if we all had the words of everyone from Ionesco to Aristophanes, Brecht, Brad Fraser and Anne Marie MacDonald, Williams, Schiller, Moliere and Hannah Moscovitch pouring out our mouths at will? Garry Williams has sort of harnessed this idea in Cafe DaPoPo, but it’s interesting to see what happens when one actor performs twenty back to back.
The result feels a bit like a marathon audition. It’s interesting also that I found myself thinking of those who claim that auditions are false because monologues are not written to stand alone, but require the context of the rest of the play to give them real depth and resonance. For me there were certain pieces of the twenty that I felt absolutely stood on their own two feet, divorced from the rest of the work, and quite vividly. It was the classical pieces, oddly enough, the ones often pulled out as parlour tricks, that felt a little lost without the anchor of the rest of the play.
Jewer is a captivating performer with strong stage presence and there are some of the monologues that she nails wonderfully. A particularly strong one is a crazed hockey fan from Danielle Skene’s The Games We Play. I also loved her Picasso monologue from Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile, which made me really want to read that play. Jewer has a very specific “girl next door” quality that works really well for certain monologues but when performing twenty back to back it seems like showcasing a wide and diverse range would give the piece a sense of shape similar to that of a one person show where the actor slips into a multitude of different characters.
I wanted to see Jewer play more with the physicality of these roles, both in her body and in her voice and to really transform from one to the next. Also, I’d love to see her push even farther into the depths and darkness of her inner crazy or broken and to not be afraid to explore the disturbing entrails of the human condition and to really ground her voice and body there.
I loved director Natasha McLellan’s set and how streamlined she kept Jewer’s movement, the slight prop and costume pieces and how streamlined her transitions from one monologue to the next are. Twenty monologues seemed a bit long to me, but I am curious about the idea of creating a play that uses the words of other playwrights in this way. Perhaps it may be an idea to explore the idea in a less linear and more “patchwork quilt” way.
Even though I found that this concept didn’t work as well for me as I would have liked, I really appreciated the opportunity to experience it and I hope that Jewer continues to hone in on these monologues because one of them will likely get her cast in something someday soon.
Speaks Alone plays at the Pier 21 Museum Bronfman Theatre at the following times:
Sunday Sep 2 • 6:00-7:00
Monday Sep 3 • 7:30-8:30
Wednesday Sep 5 • 6:00-7:00
Thursday Sep 6 • 10:30-11:30
It is $5.00 to book tickets please visit this website or call (902) 999-7469 or visit the Box Office at the Seaport Farmers’ Market at Pavilion 20 on Marginal Road. Tickets are also available at the venue ONE hour before the show.
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