Anusree Roy in Pyassa

Thursday Theatre Review - Pyaasa and The Misfit

This week is a bit of a two for one deal on the theatre review front. Theatre Passe Murialle is showing Pyaasa and The Misfit simultaneously. Although these are two separate shows, they are playing in a way that means it's possible to go to both in one night. And, if you do go to both in one night, you get a $10 discount off the tickets. So, really, it just makes sense to review them both at once. And, the bottom line is that they're both good, so you may as well make a night of it...

I didn't get a chance to see Pyaasa last year, the production that won two Dora Awards, but I sure heard a lot of great stuff about it. I was very glad to have the opportunity to see it this time around at Theatre Passe Murialle.

Although the subject matter sounds pretty ominous (it's hard to imagine a happy fun play featuring the Indian Caste System) the play is full of light heated laughter, as well as the expected heart-wrenching moments. The combination means that you get to learn a bit about something that you may or may not already know about, but not feel like you're being preached to, or being beaten over the head with a message.

Ansuree Roy wrote the script and performs the piece with amazing precision. John (my show-partner) and I were both very impressed by her ability to execute deliberate movements, and clear transitions between characters, all while keeping the audience closely engaged.

Roy's acting and writing was complimented nicely by a minimalist set - a bare stage and one prop, a bucket, clean simple tech, and strong directorial choices. Thomas Jones has focused his direction on the performance, he seems to have recognized the strength of the script and has highlighted it, avoiding the sometimes distracting trapping of excess in other elements.

Pyaasa was a treat to watch - if there's any way for you to find time to see this before it closes on November 15, I can't recommend it strongly enough.

The Misfit
I had very high hopes for Anita Majumdar's The Misfit. Not only because I adored her play Fish Eyes, but also because I really enjoyed the reading of the piece at 2008's CrossCurrents festival.

Although the show didn't entirely live up to my expectations, I still enjoyed myself. The story is a good one, the characters are funny an engaging, Majumdar is an excellent actress, and, to top it all off, it's got bunches of really beautiful and great dancing.

John and I both agreed that the show was a worthwhile way to spend an hour and a half, but could use some tightening up. The biggest complaint for both of us was the 'multi-media' component. It consisted of quotes and words projected on a screen at the back of the stage. The initial pieces were quotes from movies, which both John and I found kind of painful and superfluous. After that there were things that seemed more appropriate, but instead of letting them be part of the work, they were singled out. Action on the stage stopped so that the audience could 'absorb' the words. We both thought we'd be okay with them being there as a backdrop to the action, but we were almost insulted by the amount of time they thought we needed to read the words and get them.

This, along with other moments that seemed more drawn out than they needed to be, made the production too long. The impact would have been more dynamic if those pieces were tightened up. John and I aren't in agreement on how that would be best done. John thinks maybe there needs to be some judicious cutting of the script, but I think the script is solid as it is, it's just the execution of it that needs work.

Now, this may be discouraging you from going to the show, but it really was enjoyable, it was just a bit frustrating that it didn't live up to it's potential. But, as I said, the script is full of interesting characters and interesting stories, the portrayal of the characters is done with skill and care, and the dancing really is stunning.

For what it's worth, I think this one is worth seeing, it may not be perfect, but it's still pretty darn good, and has some interesting things to say.

- Both The Misfit and Pyaasa are playing until November 15 at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Ave)
- Shows run Tuesday to Saturday (Matinee and evening performances on Saturday)

- Shows in the Backspace at 8:30pm, with an additional show Saturdays at 4pm
- Tickets range from $20 - $25, with PWYC on Saturdays

The Misfit
- Shows in the Mainspace at 7pm, with an additional show Saturdays at 2:30pm
- Tickets range from $30 - $35, with PWYC on Saturdays

$10 discount if both shows are seen on the same evening. Tickets are available from the box office at 416-504-7529, or online.

Photo of Anusree Roy by Aviva Armour-Ostroff

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