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Colm Magner: A world premiere to stand up and shout about

Published on September 12, 2017

Connor Lucas and Kelsey Falconer portray Ivan and Sofya in the world premiere of "A Misfortune" at The Charlottetown Festival.

A Misfortune,” playing at The Mack, is an adaptation of a story of the same title by Anton Chekhov, book and additional lyrics by Kevin Michael Shea, lyrics by Wade Bogert-O’Brien, and music by Scott Christian.

This is a play for folks who’ve grown tired of popcorn parables, so have come to the big city to see what all the grown-ups are watching.

For a small amount of time, the play consists of two couples, and an odd man out, sitting around drinking. Soon the odd man out goes to leave.

“Why not have another drink?” he is asked.

Now, I don’t know who wouldn’t lean forward in their seat and think: “well, this should get interesting.”

And it turns out it does. Very interesting.

"A Misfortune" tells the age-old story of love, marriage and trouble. There’s betrayal, sexual passion, guilt, regret and a likely impending divorce. Yes, it’s awful to live through, but shucks golly it’s always scrumptious and fun to watch! And it just so happens this is the world premiere of a very good Canadian musical which P.E.I. and the Confederation Centre of the Arts have reason to stand up and shout about.

 

- A Misfortuneplays at The Mack Theatre of the Confederation Centre of the Arts, Sept. 7-22, 7:30 pm.
-Tickets at www.confederationcentre.com or call the box office at 1-800-565-0278.
-Were you at the show? What’s your review? Email us at letters@theguardian.pe.ca.  Please include your name and a daytime telephone number where you can be reached.

 

On the surface it’s a simple story of a young couple in a summer cottage. There are minor hints of trouble on the horizon, but this central story is then counterpointed by the arrival of a couple who could very well have stumbled over from another play called Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. This makes for some delectable dark fun.

In the original Chekhov story, one line defines the theme: “It is only by being in trouble that people can understand how far from easy it is to be the master of one's feelings and thoughts,” says the narrator.

Ain’t it the truth.

Perspectives shift onstage as they do in real life. One moment you are for the young and advocating wildness; the next you are for the aging, rooting for sense and conservatism. The acting is good enough to pull you in various directions, and Eliza-Jane Scott’s direction is, but for one or two design decisions, concise, careful and assured.

Réjean Cournoyer as Andrey is wonderfully centered and solid, like an aging tree. He gives a lovely, touching and accomplished performance. Kelsey Falconer as Sofya and Connor Lucas as Ivan are both young actors who give us their hearts, and that alone is worth the price of admission. Melanie Phillipson as Masha (I was going to say long-suffering, but won’t because she seemed happier after that “walk” in the woods), and Brendan Wall as her husband Pavel bring a wonderful sardonic edge to the stage as the world-weary, long-married.

Decisions regarding set and lights however are somewhat disappointing. Chekhov’s story itself establishes a wonderful dichotomy between the woods and the cottage. The woods, particularly, should be a dark and mysterious space, alive with danger and possibility, where these characters transform themselves (or are transformed). Yet, what we see onstage, is a rather lacklustre interpretation. The musical score, although it has its moments, also as yet doesn’t quite mirror the excellence of the book. It is played with aplomb, but there is a sameness, which gets a bit tedious at times, especially as the other components of the play unfold and shimmer so brightly.

But though there are opportunities lost in this regard, they can easily be resolved in later productions. The structure of this musical is really quite impressive, and at an hour and 15 minutes it is a perfect length. This is a must see for anyone who likes real theatre.

 

Colm Magner, who is a member of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association, has worked as a playwright, actor, director and teacher for more than 30 years. His column, In the Wings, will appear regularly during the summer. To reach Colm, email inthewings61@gmail.com or find him at Twitter.com/IntheWings61

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