(Poster from Theatre Aurora website)
Presented by Theatre Aurora and The One Voice Project
Executive Producers: Sergio Calderone and Neill Kernohan
Production Design: Sergio Calderone
Lighting Design: David Buffham
Technical Design: Neill Kernohan
By Joe Szekeres, Supervisory Toronto Critic for On Stage Blog
What an absolute treat to come across how a local GTA community theatre group is continuing with providing socially distant live theatre through streaming. Theatre Aurora’s ‘The One Voice Project’ uses four one act/monologues by playwright Andrew Biss. These monologues are approximately 20-25 minutes in length.
I’ve always admired the one act play format. In its brevity, a good one act/monologue can always reveal so much in such a shortened time span.
It looked as if this presentation was filmed on the stage at Theatre Aurora. Periodically, I could hear the echo of the actors’ voices reverberating from the walls. This is a nice touch (thanks to technical designer Neill Kernohan) as it allowed me to imagine that I was actually in a theatre watching and hearing the story unfold before me.
‘The One Voice Project’ begins with the hard-real statement that Ontario and Canadian theatres are closed with a devastating impact by the coronavirus, but that isn’t stopping Theatre Aurora. They are promising they will return. Until then, the company is committing to bring art back into their theatre for the present moment.
Hence, ‘The One Voice Project’. There are four of them. I’d like to review each individually.
I must say Episode One, ‘WYWH’ by playwright Andrew Biss, is one fabulously written script that tells the story of a reclusive, middle-aged divorcee who deals with what she calls a ‘BP’ (bad patch) in her life. It is her nephew, Sam, who gets Eileen to discover a new life in the virtual world and all the computer language therein.
Director Judi Cragg and performer Gerri Sefi as Eileen beautifully toy and play with the nuances of the language of the script to present a very plausible middle aged lady who is doing her best to try to move on after so much sadness in her life. David Buffham’s soft lighting design warmly invited me to enter this world if only for a few minutes.
The placement of a rocking chair upstage right and a park bench upstage left were nice effects indeed as they too enhanced the story being told to me. I also really liked the appearance of a softly lit projected window on the back wall because it became an effective reminder that I was looking briefly into the life of this remarkably interesting and ordinary individual.
What also worked nicely in this presentation was the fact ‘WYWH’ doesn’t become schmaltzy and syrupy with a woeful ‘Oh woe is me and my life for what has happened.”
Instead, Ms. Cragg clearly wanted Eileen to be a true and believable person and mission was accomplished. I was on every word spoken by Ms. Sefi as I didn’t want to miss one part of this story being told to me with such grace and class. Clad in a dark sweater with pink top, Ms. Sefi confidently tackles this script and always appears in the moment as Eileen. At times there is a bright twinkle in her eye with a slight grin as she tells us some funny moments in learning how to navigate the virtual world. I laughed out loud at some of computer acronyms Eileen hilariously had to learn from LOL to CYA etc. There were other moments where Ms. Sefi is rather poignant in telling us some of the sad moments Eileen has endured; however, Ms Sefi never resorted to histrionics in her delivery as she allowed the words of the monologue and their intent to resonate clearly.
Appropriately timed pausing along with a natural touching of suitable choice of props from a lap top computer to Ms. Sefi’s dangling glasses from her neck brought an underlying subtext to the script that I though deserve an examination. Ms. Sefi is a natural storyteller in this presentation as I loved listening to her using her voice and its registers in narrating certain events from her life.
A lovely way to begin this project. WYWH to take a look (I didn't know what this computer acronym meant until I watched this one act).
I look forward to the next three episodes.
To access Theatre Aurora’s ‘The One Voice Project’, visit www.theatreaurora.com and click the link. The cost is $4.99 to access each one act for 72 hours.
Episode One is worth the price. The top left hand picture in the poster web design is a picture of Gerri Sefi.