Friday, August 9, 2013

Review: (Toronto) girls! girls! girls! (SummerWorks)

by joel fishbane

The great Satanic joy of Greg MacArthur’s girls! girls! girls! is how innocuous it all seems; what starts off as a comical look at precocious small town children quickly spirals into something much darker. It’s a bit of a sinister magic trick, one which the new production by Present Danger Productions, premiering at SummerWorks, clearly understands. A smart and elegant production, the cast – shepherded by directors Jessica Carmichael and Donna Marie Baratta – merrily lead the audience down the shadowy road. 

The plot synopsis reads like the an episode of anything from the Disney channel. Fourteen year old Spitz (Jackie Rowland), devastated by a recent loss at the local gymnastics tournament, enlists her friends Jam (Zoe Cleland), Puss (Bridget Wareham) and Bucky (Ben Wheelwright) to steal the first place ribbon from do-gooder Missy (Lindsey Middleton).

But there are early warning signs that we’re in a much darker world. The first warning bell sounds when Bucky – actually called Little Bucky the Fag – waves his “wiggly-piggly” in front of Spitz as a way of cheering her up. From there MacArthur quickly shows his target is a much darker exploration of adolescence. It’s Lord of the Flies territory; the children are running the island with maniac glee.

The entire cast is as sharp as the writing but the standout on opening night was Zoe Cleland. Her Jam is a wimpy follower whose morals are sadly never quite as strong as her need to remain in the gang. Cleland is superb in presenting Jam’s deep struggle; in her hands, Jam is a tragic figure who realizes too late the seriousness of the world she’s in. 

The show ran long on opening and the fight scenes could have used a little tightening up, but this is par for the course with SummerWorks – like the Fringe, the actors barely get a chance for a technical run before the first audience filters in. Nonetheless, opening night was still a thrill. Things can only get better from here.

girls! girls! girls! is at SummerWorks

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. Please read our guidelines for posting comments.