Saturday, July 5, 2014

Review: (Toronto) True (Fringe)

The Truth of Lost Time
by Jason Booker
True, the latest play from Governor General nominee Rosa Labordé, receives a staging in a café-cum-fashion boutique on Queen Street West: an intriguing, unusual space for a bit of theatre. The space is well used, though a bit tight for audiences, which makes the use of fresh ingredients for the guacamole glorious to smell. 
Telling the story of the three sisters –a fashion designer, a café owner and a flower arranger –  and what transpires when their estranged father, now suffering from Alzheimer’s, walks into the store. Instead of allowing the piece to devolve into clichéd melodrama or a series of punchlines, True focuses on the humanity of these characters with their faulty memories and damaged pasts.

Strangely enough, True showcases the men in its production the best. The charming Scott McCord as Franco delivers comic relief then riffs on the in-store piano, and his scene with the patriarchal Roy is one of the production’s best. As Roy, the legendary Layne Coleman takes a potential monster and makes him scary but vulnerable in this star turn.
Labordé wrote and realistically directed the slightly uncomfortable show, exploring the nature of memory as tension and questions propel the story forward, even as it involves travelling back. However, the heavy-handed flashbacks of the last 15 minutes make the piece drag while too graphically and too obviously (especially in such proximity to the audience) to demonstrate the evils that lead to the present day situation.

During the play, a soundscape indicates when characters recollect a fragmentary image while still in the present – which is a stronger choice than out-of-context hyperdramatized scenarios with harsh lighting. And tragically, the final scene of the play becomes confusing as history is rewritten, with very little precedent.
Nonetheless, the performances, the intimacy and the strong dialogue do make True an investigation of truth – in memories, in families, in relationships – worth a view.

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