From: Death Married my Daughter
Stories Robustly Told
by Zoe Erwin-Longstaff
Last Thursday night marked the opening of the Theatre Centre’s Incubator space, where three distinct one-hour plays, by three talented Indie companies, were presented in rep. The subjects of these shows are as diverse as you might expect. What connects them is an innovative lighting designer, André du Toit, and most importantly, a dedication to telling stories through robust physicality.
Ralph + Lina
First off is Ralph + Lina, a true-to-life account of actress/creator Cristina Serra’s Italian grandparent's courtship, marriage and eventual immigration to Canada. Serra even plays beside her real life husband Dan Watson in what makes for an enduring romance that resonates through generations.
The play begins with the couple’s morning routine. As they lunge for the paper in a tango, while Lina absentmindedly pours hot coffee into Ralph’s perfectly placed cup, we know this is a couple who has been carrying on like this for years. This opening display of crabby and comfortable domesticity is impressively realized by these two nimble actors, who use robust physical movement and precise choreography to bring the old couple to life. Indeed, their whimsical acrobatics are the highlight of the show.
As Lina begins to do her husband’s laundry, a familiar smell takes her back some 40 years to the small Italian town where she grew up. Now, the main story unfurls in flashback. A handsome, but poor young buck, Ralph, in pre-war Italy courts a pretty and coy Lina. This story has its charming moments, but isn’t as captivating as their older-couple impersonations. Things become clichéd when Ralph is conscripted and finally returns to Lina, now betrothed to another. Here the play offers up an echo of that famous Notebook scene: “I waited for you for seven years.”
Things are quickly resolved, however; and soon enough the couple immigrates to Canada, and we return to the charming seniors we know already, as they are preparing to greet their large family brood. Heartwarming and silly, Ralph + Lina is a sweet take on a familiar Canadian immigrant story.