Thursday, October 11, 2007

Suspension of Disbelief - second viewing of Three Sisters

I went back to Soulpepper's "Three Sisters" last night (so it is 3 times "Our Town", two times "Top Girls", and now this) with two much younger women as company.

As we walked up to the lobby at intermission, a woman behind us, referring to the casting of Olga, said something like, "Sure this is edgy, but I really don't like it".

Now I am pushing 60, so I do not really know what "edgy" means, and she clearly meant it as a dismissal, but when the play opened the first night I saw it with d'abi.young.anitafrika delivering Olga's speech about their father's death, I struggled for a few seconds, but she very quickly had me in her hands. It was not so unlike her opening "Threepenny Opera" as well, as she did in their production this year, where she was playing a man! But it was unlike that, in a large way.

I did not think this was anything I would call edgy; it makes no sense to me even contemplating casting a play in Toronto these days and matching the colour of the actors to the roles. After all, nobody in the cast was a Russian! I am not sure what the discomfort is. This had better become routine for us or artistic directors will have a very difficult time building seasons.

I figure, I take my seat, I know these actors are actors, and I try as much as I can to forget that; it is part of their job to help me forget it! And wow, is the excellent local talent great at doing this for me.

Now another point - the younger women I was with both seemed to think Megan Follows looked somewhat aged. As I said, I am pushing 60, and I did not get that at all. But it got me thinking in a way, again about suspension of disbelief. Chekhov starts the play with Olga at 28 (credibly), Irina at 20 (barely credibly), and Masha at 24 (which was fine for me, but clearly troubling to my companions). (Of course Masha has been mis-married to the very nice Kulygin for six years, so maybe that could age her.)

So it's a bit like watching John Hughes' movies where 30-year-old actors play high school students. I always loved those.

My guess is that a performance of the play with the actors actually the ages of the characters might not be so satisfying - the three roles are very tough, and part of what makes the play so moving is knowing how life goes, which they have to learn as it goes (though they are particularly feckless). On the other hand, I do have some Chekhov history that might suggest that young actors might do quite well..

But it got me thinking about the magic of theatre. Rob Diamond can become Vreshinin. Anne of Green Gables can grow up into Masha. The context is crucial and one must in the audience create that lovely and enjoyable context.



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