haley mcgee and roger bainbridge
If you are searching for the next brilliant young Torontonian playwright to emerge out of the 2010 Toronto Fringe Festival, I would suggest to you Briana Brown, whose play Almost, Again plays at the Factory Studio Theatre Sunday, July 11th at 9:00pm.
Almost, Again centers on Jack and Ginger, two coworkers at a large, chain bookstore whose shyness, awkwardness and penchant for delightful bursts of earnest nerdiness, immediately draws them together while also creating a sexual tension that both are too hesitant and neurotic to confront. When their first date goes awry, Ginger convinces Jack to erase the encounter entirely from their personal history, to wipe their romantic slate clean and to try the first date again. As the pressure to have the perfect date, create their perfect mood and capture the perfect moment mounts, Jack and Ginger’s relationship spirals into fascinating dramatic territory as the couple develops a sense of intimacy as time passes, but their relationship is never allowed to grow or develop since it is constantly being rewound and replayed once imperfection interjects.
The result is a heart wrenching tale of two people whose chemistry and affection for one another is clear, yet who are continually thwarted by one impracticable expectation and the desire to live and remain in a moment before it becomes corrupted by reality. Brown’s dialogue captures a very strong sense of Ginger and Jack’s respective personalities and they interact and banter with one another in a particularly charming and convincing manner. Brown’s direction is as good as her playwriting. She continually brings Ginger and Jack either too close to one another for them to contain their emotionally charged awkwardness, or has them standing too far away from one another to compensate. Brown’s most inspired direction is in the transition between scenes, which alternate taking place in Ginger’s exceedingly messy bedroom, and Jack’s exorbitantly well-organized one. She uses the emotions of the characters to charge the transition scenes, which leads to a great moment where Jack and Ginger are throwing books around angrily, using their frustration with one another to turn Jack’s clean room into Ginger’s cluttered one. Fantastic.
Roger Bainbridge is flawless as Jack. He has a perfect mixture of charm and geekiness and no end of patience and tenderness. Bainbridge’s expressions often seem to be implying that Jack is analyzing his situation with Ginger more than he is vocalizing. Haley McGee brings wild fire to Ginger, and can communicate with utmost precision exactly what she wants with one intense gaze. The dynamic between Bainbridge and McGee is extremely strong and allows both characters to spring to life organically as though becoming them is the simplest thing in the world for these two actors to do.
I have seen this play referred to as a “romantic comedy,” and I would disagree with that characterization. Almost, Again is a poignant play that delves beyond the rewind ploys of Fifty First Dates or Groundhog Day to really examine the effect an intense fear of imperfection can have even for two people as well suited to one another as Jack and Ginger. Brown brings these two so close to happily ever after and it is fascinating to watch a couple so close to having it all being overwhelmed by the desire for it all to be idyllic.
Almost, Again plays at the Factory Theatre Studio Theatre (125 Bathurst Street) on Sunday, July 11th, 2010 at 9:00pm. 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/.