Friday, March 8, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) Hroses

Nick Di Gaetano, Katie Swift ©Andrew Alexander

A HROSE by any other name
HROSES: An Affront to Reason is refreshingly different 
by Valerie Cardinal 

When HROSES: An Affront to Reason ended last night, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to write. It’s shows like this that make my job more difficult because they’re so different from what I’m used to seeing. As I love challenging productions that leave me thinking and analyzing for hours after the lights go up, this is a good thing.

Once they name the horse, it all starts to fall apart. 

HROSES (pronounced Horses) is the story of Lily and Ellery, star-crossed lovers who meet in No Man’s Land and bond over a horse they find. They try to overcome the conflict that stems from their different families and views on life; one mines sugar underground and the other is a paper farmer. Lily and Ellery are complete opposites, yet they fall in love at first sight. Once they name the horse, it all starts to fall apart. 

The Ottawa Dance Directive’s studio makes for an intimate setting, with limited seating placed all around the stage. Emily Pearlman’s direction uses the concept of theatre in the round very effectively. The set is interesting, covered in bare burlap with a big wooden horse in the middle. 

I feel like everyone in the small audience left HROSES with a different experience, and not just because they were sitting on different sides of the action. My thoughts varied from moment to moment during the performance. Sometimes, I was completely lost. Others really struck me on a personal level and thrust me into the world of Lily and Ellery. 

Ottawa native Jill Connell’s script feels both magical and relatable at different points. HROSES is a show I’d like to see more than once so I could really get a feel for it. 

It definitely helps that Nick Di Gaetano and Katie Swift act the heck out of it, turning out intensely captivating performances. Katie Swift in particular is magnetic, especially in the monologue that opens HROSES. 

The third character is an old-fashioned radio, which punctuates and accentuates the dialogue from time to time. The horse itself is an interesting prop as well as an interesting metaphor. It comes to life through the actors carrying it this way and that across the stage. 

The only one negative thing I can point out is that the sound effects sometimes buried the dialogue. 

In this exploration of how naming things can sometimes destroy their identities, Evolution Theatre definitely fulfills their mandate to produce cutting edge Canadian works. Like it or not, HROSES is a refreshing change of pace for Ottawa theatre. 

To March 16

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