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Friday, October 22, 2010

Catch the light

Below is my review in the paper this week of our local theatre company's latest play.

This latest offering from the Mulgrave Road Theatre, in association with LunaSea Theatre, was a pleasant surprise. On the surface, a play about an unknown painter doesn't elicit excitement in the average theatre goer. Once I got past the extreme facial gestures and body movements, which I had forgotten were part of live drama, I settled in for a fun filled evening.

To Capture Light by Mary-Colin Chisholm had its' season opener on Saturday, October 16 at Chedabucto Place Performance Centre. Loosely based on the life of 19th century Nova Scotian impressionist painter, Frances Jones Bannerman, the play imagines the trials and tribulations of a young female painter caught up in the whirlwind of the Parisian art world. While focusing on the stereotypically troubled life of the artist; there is a nod to the added complication of her gender in this male dominated profession and era.

Though a thematically serious work, the cast including Mary-Colin Chisholm, Mauralea Austin, Martha Irving, and Sherry Smith, managed to garner their fair share of laughs from the audience. Smith was extremely amusing in her performance of several male characters including Oscar Wilde. The resurrection of the can-can by all 4 cast members charmed many theater goers as did the augmentation to the cast by the addition of dressmakers dummies which were twirled about as dance partners, stood as silent purveyors of art, and supplied a quick means of costume/character changes.

With all but one actor playing multiple roles, costuming was an important element in creating character. Quick changes backstage, an addition of a hat, and sometimes only an actors face atop a dummy gave the illusion of a much larger cast.

A linen backdrop with images projected upon it served as the set. I prefer something more elaborate and tangible but acknowledge that such a small group could not afford such frivolities. On the upside, this arrangement allowed the audience to view the artwork of Bannerman and her contemporaries.

The play ended with several minutes of applause from an appreciative audience. In this digital age where attention spans are declining, it's good to know that new works by Nova Scotian artists are out there to capture our imaginations and transport us from the 2 second sound bite.

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