is an intense documentary-style play written by Charles Crosby derived from interviews conducted with Halifax-based sex workers. Tanisha Taitt’s production evocatively brings five women’s individual stories to life and plays at the George Ignatieff Theatre as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival
This play boldly steps beyond the stereotypes and romanticization of the World’s Oldest Profession and offers five different perspectives on not only the harsh realities and drudgery of prostitution, but also delves into intellectual and philosophical, economic and even poetic musings about desperation, masculinity, misogyny and the rigid hierarchy that exists between the high-end escorts and those performing ten dollar blow jobs in the alley.
Crosby has captured the distinct and fascinating personalities of these five women in their alternating monologues and sparse interactions with one another. The questions that he asked these sex workers elicited powerful and fascinating answers and the stories build nicely around an emotional arc culminating with one of the girls being brutally murdered by one of her clients. The women’s opinions about men, their work ethic and sense of self are varied, although it is suggested that perhaps their feelings are essentially consistent, but that each one operates at a different level of detachment and denial. Crosby’s script could benefit from some editing as toward the end it has a tendency to be repetitive, but even so the play remains engaging.
The most jarring aspect of this production was undoubtedly the five strong performances by the actors of the piece. Jennifer Kenneally plays Carnie, a hooker pushing fifty whose biting sense of stone cold reality is frigid to the bone. Kenneally transitions nicely between projecting a tough exterior, but also showing genuine tenderness and protectiveness for the younger girls. Joanne Williams gives a dazzling performance as Mary, the refined and business-savvy escort who seems so delusional in her justifications for her career choices that she is one of the most heartbreaking characters on stage. Hayley Fisher plays perky, obliging Lori, reminiscent of Stephanie Tanner (from Full House) on crack. Sarah Illiatovitch-Goldman is wonderfully compelling as Cherry, a university student whoring her way out of student loans, as she analyzes and intellectualizes nearly every aspect of her job and incredibly, continues to do it. Clare Blackwood is tragic as defensive, terrified, cracked-out, hopeless, tiny little Sam, the most desperate and withdrawn of all the girls. She gives a performance that is particularly worth seeing.
Tanisha Taitt’s direction is mostly effective, with the girls prowling and manoeuvring around one another suggestive of their separate worlds. This play spawns reflection and its answers give rise to even more questions, and that coupled with a tremendous cast makes The Whores a gripping theatrical experience.
The Whores plays at the George Ignatieff Theatre (15 Devonshire Place) at the following times:
Mon, July 5 8:00 PM
Tue, July 6 3:00 PM
Thu, July 8 Noon
Fri, July 9 8:45 PM
Sat, July 10 4:00 PM
all tickets $10 at the door or book in advance by calling the fringe hotline at 416.966.1062 or go online at http://www.fringetoronto.com/.