Wednesday, November 19, 2008

three Fine girls indeed

The Attic, the Pearls and Three Fine Girls is the current offering at Sage Theatre. Terrible title, wonderful play.

It's an odd sort of play for Sage Theatre to be producing, and that is evident in the way the room is set up when you enter - a very conventional layout with rows of seats on risers at one end, the stage at the other. And you know Sage does not do conventional, so your suspicions are immediately aroused.

And it's an unusual play in the way in which it was written - by committee. Jennifer Bewin, Leah Cherniak, Anne-Marie MacDonald, Alisa Palmer, and Martha Ross teamed up to pen this tale of three sisters, long estranged but once very close, who meet at the family home for their father's funeral. How one writes a play with four others is completely beyond my comprehension, but these playwrights have pulled it off quite brilliantly.

The Attic, the Pearl and Three Fine Girls
is a fast-paced, hilarious romp. Again, hilarious is not a term that you normally associate with a Sage Theatre production. Biting wit, certainly. Dark humour, absolutely. But hilarity is not an attribute I expect from a Sage play. There are weightier themes that are explored as Jelly, Jayne, and Jojo Fine rekindle their connections and reopen old wounds, but the clever repartee is never allowed to lapse for very long. Many kudos to Ava Jane Markus, Nicola Elson, and Elinor Holt for the high-energy performances in these
verbally and physically demanding roles. There's even a slo-mo fight scene, complete with laser sword, wonderfully wrought.

The majority of the play takes place within the confines of a party, a dying wish of their father, held a week after his death, The party gets wilder and more out of control as Jayne gets drunk and confronts her secrets, Jojo has a break with reality, and Jelly tries to hold everything together. The Fine girls mingle with the audience during the party, offering crackers and lap dances, much to everyone's delight.

Interspersed throughout the production are flashback scenes to the Fine girls' childhoods, where they would invent elaborate games of make-believe in the attic, complete with the torture dress that allowed the wearer to dominate the others. The relationship dynamics that were developed during those games form the basis for the dysfunction that continues to stalk the sisters. The performances during the flashback scenes are quite astounding in their very real capture of the body language and the power struggles that are inherent when siblings play.

The Attic, the Pearls and Three Fine Girls is an immensely enjoyable production, and a very welcome addition to Sage Theatre's strong season of plays. It runs until November 22.


mellowlee said...

Sounds like an interesting play Barb. I wonder how the writing process worked. I think I'd find that just as interesting and as enjoyable as the play itself :O)

John Mutford said...

Just out of curiousity, what is the seating capacity?

Sean Wraight said...

This sounds really interesting Barb. I'm quite curious about the process of the playwright and this sounds like a really creative endeavour. Aristic collaboration always yields the most interesting of results and this sounds like no exception.

I propose we take it to the next level and playwright by blog. With the level of imagination in this group we'll be on Broadway by next summer!


BeckEye said...

I actually like that title, so nyah.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I picture them sitting around someone's kitchen table with a massive pot of coffee or perhaps a big box of red wine, cackling at each other's jokes, Mel, but I am sure the reality was less idealistic and more work.

It's (and I am guessing here) about 60-70 seats, I think, John.

Artistic collaboration takes you out of your comfort zone, and that can lead to some unprecedented work, Sean. Collaborative playwright blogging? You know I am in!

It does have a certain rhythm, I will give it that, Beckeye, but I still find it cumbersome.

Allison said...

It does have a rather unfortunate title, but it certainly sounds quite interesting. Does it take place in one evening? I always enjoy stories that take place in one day or night.

Gifted Typist said...

I would love to see that play. That is exactly up my alley and with writerly pedigree like Ann Marie Macdonald - FAll on your Knees and good night Desdemona - it sounds brilliant. lucky you.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Most of it takes place in one night, Al, but the main action does take place over about a week. And of course there are the flashbacks to childhood as well.

It was very funny, Gifted. And if I am not mistaken, I even recall a reference to Fall on Your Knees in the dialogue.

justacoolcat said...

Hey, anything with cheese and lapdances can't be bad.

Sign me up.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Sadly, there was no cheese with those crackers, JustA. But can you imagine how utterly awesome it would have been had there been a cheeseball?

Dale said...

Excellent sounding premise and execution from your review. I'd think the collaborating could be incredibly creative and fun or just painful in the worst way.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I suspect the authors had quite a lot of fun with it, Dale, as it was very funny. It's hard to do funny when you sweat it too much.


That Sage Theatre sounds intriguing but I know that I could never get the SO there. He hates interactive theatre with a passion. Probably because they always pick him.