One of the most essential elements of having a Fringe Festival in a city like Halifax is that it fosters the development of our own indigenous playwrights and provides an avenue for them to produce fresh new works at various stages in their development. One bright example of this is Natasha MacLellan’s new play In The Valley produced by her company Forerunner Theatre.
The play centers on a professional approach to speed dating whereby an eligible young lady sits at a table with a drink and five gentleman come, one by one, to join her. Each is allotted a specified time pitch, during which they may not converse with one another, and they are to choose the date of their choice like one might choose the best advertising jingle. Given this structure, the play is mostly a series of monologues, and MacLellan uses these both to poke fun at familiar prototypes from the dating world, but also to reveal some real vulnerability and adds a nice dash of conflict as well.
The play also reveals a lot about our complex relationship with language and how it can betray, inhibit and thwart us instead of allowing us to better connect. What really helps to make this play so delightful to watch is the exceptional cast that has been brought together to bring these characters to life. All five gentlemen, played by Matthew Lumley, Shawn Duggan, Andrew Kasprzak, Jim Fowler and Nate Crawford are compelling and establish, even within limited time constraints and little dialogue, solid and effective relationships with Samantha Wilson’s Teresa. I was struck most ardently by Matthew Lumley’s performance as the intoxicatingly charming, intrinsically cocky well-oiled salesman. Lumley effortlessly plays this character’s façade, giving him subtlety and allowing him to be more than the cut-out stereotype he could be in less capable hands. Shawn Duggan has this incredibly hilarious, meticulously timed, monologue as “Bachelor #2” that is genuinely laugh out loud funny.
Samantha Wilson plays Teresa, which is a role that is predominately based on Wilson’s ability to react to the speeches of the various men placed in front of her. I don’t think I know of an actor who can sit silent on a stage and be more engaging, expressive and endearing than Samantha Wilson. She is a beautifully subtle performer, but her intentions are always strongly and clearly communicated to the audience, which often feels like she is letting us in on a secret. In this performance space especially, Samantha makes us complicit to her journey, wordlessly, but nonetheless, it roots us ardently to her side throughout the play. She is exactly what Teresa needs to be to make this play work as well as it does, and in this case, all the other shining stars are orbiting around her.
In The Valley plays at the Plutonium Playhouse (2315 Hunter Street) at the following times: it is $8.00
Tuesday September 6th, 8:00pm
Thursday September 8th, 6:45pm
Friday, September 9th, 6:45pm
To book advanced tickets please visit Neptune Theatre’s Box Office, 1593 Argyle Street or call 902.429.7070 or visit www.atlanticfringe.ca.
Same Day Sales are available at the venue (Neptune Studio Theatre) From 1 Hour Before the First Show of the Day.