Monday, July 8, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Inge Snapshots (Fringe)

Old fashioned script, new fangled cast
by Joel Fishbane

There’s something charming about watching two one act-plays lifted from another time. Playwright William Inge, best known for the Pulitzer-Prize winning Picnic, was writing back in the 1950s when scripts had their own particular flavour. Exposition is blunt and there’s quirky, slice-of-life dialogue that echoes William Saroyan’s Time of Your Life and other plays that attempt to take snapshots of life. 

Here, Remnant Theatre delivers two one acts – Bus Riley’s Back in Town and Glory in the Flower - that explore the exact same story in different ways. Years after an affair gone sour, two lovers are reunited with varying results. While it’s a novel concept to show the plays back to back, decisions made by director Rod Ceballos somewhat muddies the concept. 

Given that the first play happens in the early 1950s and the second in the late 1950s, it’s never made clear whether the second play is a direct sequel to the first or if we’re watching a pair of alternate histories that explores what happens when two roads diverge in the wood. Central to this confusion is the decision to have two different actors play Bus Riley. In the second play, actors Katharine McLeod, David Mackett and Jeff Gruich all reprise their characters from the first play, which at least allows them to show different sides of the same personas. But Bus Riley is played first by Joseph Mottola and then by Tim MacLean; the choice does little to help the audience figure out when and where we are.

Aside from this, the cast is fairly solid and enjoy the text, though at times they didn’t quite grasp Inge’s slice-of-life dialogue. As the perpetually unhappy salesman, Jeff Gruich has all the best lines and does the most with them: he is, in every way, a lone Greek Chorus commenting on the world that the other characters seem content to ignore. 

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