Saturday, October 8, 2011

Review: (Montreal) True Nature

(photo credit:
The True Nature of Colleen Curran
By Byron Toben

The true nature of Montreal playwright Colleen Curran was revealed at the opening of her latest play,”True Nature” at the Centaur. Normally attired in sweatshirt and jeans, she revealed her inner glamorous self swathed in a sparkle studded bright red dress. And she was entitled to glow in the favorable reaction of the packed audience.

This prolific playwright (26 plays) has been produced all over Canada and abroad but, surprisingly, no major shows in her home town even though she was Centaur playwright-in-residence 1984-5.

Two hundred years ago, in the British coastal town of  Lyme Regis, eleven-year-old Mary Anning discovered a dinosaur fossil in a cave. This led to her unearthing many other bones and curios to support her modest family. She became an unaccredited paleontologist whose sex and class origins prevented her from proper acknowledgement by the stultified society of the time. Still, evidence of these strange extinct creatures supplied grist for the mill to Charles Darwin in formulating his Origin of Species.

It has now also supplied grist for a play blending the travails of Mary Anning with the contemporary turmoils of us moderns. Director Amanda Kellock guides a dream cast of accomplished local actors, all well-known to Centaur audiences. Leni Parker is Anna, a single biology teacher who is obsessed with the importance of Mary. She is friends with Mary Harvey's Robin, a 50-year-old caterer. Both long for a significant other. Along comes Bruce Dinsmore as Mitch, a famous paleontologist, who falls for Anna.

Laughs aplenty are aided and abetted by Michel Perron as Simon, a gay chef and Felicia Shulman as Mimi, Mitch's overbearing sister.

Curran's  signature blend of snappy one-liners and current trends, which would have made her a fine Seinfeld writer, is well served by a clean clever set and appropriate musical background as the characters seek their own true natures through broken relationships, desires  to belong and yet be unique, wine tasting, a giant exercise ball and Mimi's plethora of Yiddish expressions.

Hopefully, this show will lead to a  reappraisal of Curran's other scripts  for local production. My own candidate is In The Land of the Blue.

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