Thursday Theatre Review: Beyond Mozambique
George F Walker was all the rage in my university theatre program. People would swoon at the mention of his name, and excepts from his shows appeared in some form or another in pretty much every class. Apparently some things never die, because when I heard that Factory was mounting a production of Beyond Mozambique I leapt at the chance to go see it.
I have to say, the show didn't disappoint. Although it's a reasonably early Walker play (first produced in 1974), it has all the elements you'd expect from one of his shows. It's full of the signature Walker combination of torment and hilarity. John was my show-partner for this production; he was in the same Walker-obsessed university theatre program as I was, so it was no real surprise for me that when I asked him what he thought of the show he, without hesitation said, "It was great!"
If you're a Walker fan you'll like this. It's a strong production with tight direction from Ken Glass who brings out some nice nuances from the script. The show was also filled with strong performances from actors who really seemed to be into what they were doing. There were two that really stood out though, especially when they were together on stage - Joe Cobden as the priest and Sarah Orenstein as Olga. They were both fabulous on their own, but amazing together.
If you haven't yet experienced Walker, it's worth giving it a try, just be prepared that there's gonna be a strange mix of surrealism and, well, realism. Personally I found this show dragged a bit in the beginning while everyone got their footing, but John said for him the pacing was perfect, so it's going to come down to personal preference on that one (good ol', can't please everyone rule is in effect here). As the show continued I noticed myself leaning forward in my seat trying to get as close to it as I could, and I was very glad that there was no intermission so that i could be drawn into the flow in that way.
Although I enjoyed the show a great deal, I did have a few little complaints. I found the accents distracting - some characters had accents, some didn't, and those who did were sometimes not consistent with them. Both were distracting enough that I found myself being pulled out of the moment and wondering about the choices around accents. When they got in the way of the performances, it became about how the actor sounded, instead of what was going on with the character. The other irksome thing is different, but certainly related; I found myself wondering why the Italian (and former Nazi) doctor sounded like an Italian-American mobster. I just think that maybe if, as an audience member, I am actively wondering about these choices while I watch, instead of focusing on the characters and story, then maybe the choices aren't not working. But really, these are just little quibbles, and when I asked John about them he said they didn't bother him at all.
I imagine you've figured out by now that I liked the show and would recommend checking it out, if for no other reason than to get a taste of an iconic Canadian playwright in an iconic Canadian theatre.
- Beyond Mozambique runs from April 3rd to May 4th, 2008 at the Factory Theatre Mainspace (125 Bathurst St)
- Tuesday - Thursday 8pm, $25; Friday 8pm, $30 (rush tickets 10min prior to show for $10); Saturday 8pm, $36; Sunday 2pm PWYC or $20 if booked in advance.
- Box Office: 416-504-9971 | www.factorytheatre.ca
Photo of Richard Zeppieri and Tara Nicodemo by Ed Gass Donnelly
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