zach faye & ryan doucette
Balls is an early play from Toronto-based Fringe circuit veteran playwright/performer Rob Salerno, who is also here doing FUCKING STEPHEN HARPER (his play, not an actual sexual act). Balls is produced by Halifax’s Plutonium Playhouse and directed by Thom Fitzgerald and plays at The Dunn Theatre and at Pavilion 20 in the Seaport Farmer’s Market as part of the Atlantic Fringe Festival.
Balls centers on two best friends who are suddenly confronted with their own mortality when diagnosed with testicular cancer. Paul is valiant as a super hero and becomes the school hero when his high-profile condition prompts him to use the notoriety he has to promote awareness and fundraising support for cancer. Bastien is less assured or less able to convince others of his bravery and wants to run away and hide in shame, misery and fear. The two have a lovely friendship and are able to help one another in a myriad of ways that seem apt for young men to do, mostly distracting one another and making each other laugh with some pretty solid pranks and burns.
Salerno has created two endearing and three dimensional characters, fun scenarios and a moving and important story here. The construction of the play is not the most original, there are a lot of narrated direct addresses to the audience that feel like too much exposition but never enough that one becomes bored or too removed from the emotion of the work.
Ryan Doucette plays Bastien with a scrappy well-intentioned suaveness and Zach Faye gives Paul a beautiful honesty especially when he speaks about the difficulties dealing with people who are struggling to know how to deal with someone with cancer. You really believe that Doucette and Faye have been close their whole lives and the height difference between them, especially when they are playing basketball, is perfect.
I really liked Thom Fitzgerald’s staging of the play in the Pavilion 20 stage. He makes clear use of the space, allowing Doucette and Faye to travel through time and a great many locations with ease and simplicity. I liked how often the characters return to playing basketball and the unique uses of the balls are very clever and pertinent.
In all, a strong performance of a play that deals with an important issue in a tender, insightful and intelligent way.
Balls plays at The Sir James Dunn Theatre (6101 University Avenue) at the following times:
Wednesday September 5th at 7:30pm
and at The Pavilion 20 at the Seaport Farmer’s Market (Also the Box Office for the Festival) at the following times:
Sunday September 9th at 3:00pm and 8:30pm
It is $9.00. 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 A HALF HOUR before the show. Happy Fringe!
(In other news, it has come to my attention that CBC Nova Scotia is embarrassing our fair city in its refusal to give coverage of Salerno’s other show FUCKING STEPHEN HARPER out of fear of offending our Prime Minister. This is a serious problem. We live in Canada where censorship of our citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and speech is morally outrageous. To see this being perpetrated by the CBC, who so frequently tout how “committed they are to the arts and the artists” of this country is shameful and frightening. This is not a dictatorship, regardless of how much Stephen Harper wishes it was. We do not live in a fascist country and the people here should not, under any circumstances, be afraid of their government. I hope that CBC NS will grow some balls and reconsider their choice on this matter and more importantly, I hope that the people of Nova Scotia are made aware of the kind of choices that this network is making and that they are as ashamed and outraged as I am.)
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