Brendan Gall Can Do it All

brendan gall
One of the new Canadian plays that I am certain that you will be hearing much buzz and acclaim for in the future is called Wide Awake Hearts, written by Brendan Gall, which I had the privilege of hearing read as part of Tarragon Theatre’s Play Reading Week which is running until Saturday, November 28th, 2009 (all readings directed by Richard Rose except The Attic Sequel, directed by Alisa Palmer).
I heard much praise for Gall’s play Alias Godot which premiered at the Tarragon Theatre over a year ago, I was mesmerized by his portrayal of Rudi in Hannah Moscovitch’s play East of Berlin (a role he is currently reprising at the Manitoba Theatre Centre’s Tom Hendry Theatre Warehouse until December 5th, 2009), and I saw him improvise brilliantly in Flighty Club Foot, a play not written by Neil LaBute, with Naomi Snieckus and Kayla Lorette. I have reached the obvious conclusion: Brendan Gall is unbelievably and incredibly multitalented.
But, back to Wide Awake Hearts; from its very first lines, a magnificently well constructed monologue with derisive insights into the power play among child actors on a movie set, I was entirely captivated and pulled into the world of this play. Gall writes incredibly sharp dialogue and his characters; a screenwriter, two film actors and a film editor, are continually engaged in a battle of the wits perfectly suited to Hollywood where set ups are being constantly fed, and are always matched with the most satisfying of punch lines. The story is layered in a beautiful and artful way, which often leaves the audience wondering whether the events and conversations they are seeing are “real” or part of the world of the movie they are all creating. This raises the issue of art versus reality, and, in a world where everyone play acts and constructs roles for themselves and others, how can we tell if what our heart feels or what our brain thinks is actually real? What struck me most about Gall’s writing was his use of the element of surprise. So often, I found that the intentions and locations of the characters were entirely different from what I had assumed or expected. This added a richness and uniqueness to the story which I really enjoyed.
I know that there is a long road with many twists and turns between a reading of this kind and an Opening Night Reception, but it would please me immensely if the four actors who lent their talents to first giving these characters life were available to bring them to the stage. I saw four beautiful performances last night. Kate Hewlett was equally fierce and vulnerable, as her acrid wit only mostly covered her character’s tender heart. Jonathan Goad gave a very subtle reading so that the audience, along with the three other characters, continually searched for a hint of his character’s motivations, and the truth buried beneath his self-depreciating movie lines. Caroline Cave was beautifully compelling in a similar mysterious and obviously tormented role. I found that Aaron Abrams was especially perfect in his role and was beautifully well suited to Gall’s dialogue. He set the standard for the reading exceptionally high, and Cave, Goad and Hewlett all rose to the challenge.
It is a special experience to take part in the reading of a new play, and to be among the first to laugh or to cry, and to be swept away by the characters and the story someone has poured his talent and his time into creating. It is one that I would recommend to anyone, and I think that it is wonderful for Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgeman Avenue) to open itself up and allow the public such a unique experience. There are readings happening there all week: you should check them out- they are free!

Wednesday, November 25th at 8pm
. Carried Away on the Crest of a Wave by David Yee. Thursday, November 26th at 8pm. Incendiaries by Jane Maggs.
Friday, November 27th at 8pm. The Attic Sequel by Jennifer Brewin, Leah Cherniak, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Alisa Palmer and Martha Ross.
Saturday, November 28th at 8pm. Bethlehem by Aaron Bushkowsky.
Be a part of the development of Canadian Theatre, right from the beginning!

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