MORRISBURG – Shakespeare had it right.
All the world is a stage.
And what a pleasure it was to see five young actors take to the stage at Upper Canada Playhouse to present a witty, thoughtful and most unexpected production, In Ordinary Conversation, May 12.
Jack Peets, Ashley Wasylko-Fletcher, Keltey McCooeye, Jamie Wilson and Jodie Robinson took three of literature’s most influential “characters”, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde, and presented a delightful, innovative and sparkling interpretation of some of their timeless works.
In a play that opened with an exuberant, synchronized recitation of “All the world’s a stage/And all the men and women merely actors..” (less Jack Peets’ comic mishaps as the ‘last minute substitution’), the young players found hilarious and often ironic connections between today and the ideals and manners of 150 years ago.
On a minimalist stage, using the simplest of props with well-chosen mood-setting musical transitions, the actors created completely believable Acts.
The audience found itself transported one moment to Wonderland, the next to a proper 19th century tea party, and finally to the Garden of Eden itself (apparently somewhere near Niagara Falls!).
The striking costumes, actually made for this particular production, swiftly established character and time period.
As Alice, Ashley Wasylko-Fletcher was pert and determined, despite being “not quite myself today”. Of course she did have to deal with a curmudgeonly Blue Caterpillar who informed her she was “wrong from beginning to end” and was highly offended that Alice did not share his belief that three inches was absolutely the finest height to be.
And what fun it was to join Cecily (Keltey McCooeye) and Gwendolyn (Jodie Robinson) in the garden over a very proper Victorian tea, that, in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, degenerated into an oh-so-terribly civilized (and hilarious) “cat fight.”
The two young actors delivered on the airs and graces, and the wit of the lines with ease.
“Whenever one has something disagreeable to say, I feel they should be very candid.”
“I wish you were rather more plain…and 42.”
Later in the production, one could almost sympathize with Jack Peets’ very exasperated Adam, accustomed to being top human, who awakens on a perfectly normal day in Eden, (unexpectedly minus a rib), to discover that some bizarre new “creature” has moved in right next door.
“I get no chance to name anything anymore,” Jack/Adam exclaims. “I wish the creature would not talk. It is always talking! I do wish the new creature would stay with the other animals…And now she’s taken up with a Snake.”
Eve, ingenuously played by Jamie Wilson, is, for her part, not that impressed with Adam either.
“I have to do all the talking. He talks very little. Perhaps this is because he is not very bright.”
Who knew that Mark Twain would anticipate the War Between the Sexes quite so well!
The five actors were part of a small group which has been meeting since February with Mary Ellen Viau, director of the summer senior students theatre program, at the Playhouse. This smaller workshop was an off-shoot of the theatre school.
These actors wanted a more intensive theatre experience, a chance to develop different skills and to attempt different roles on the stage.
Their stage presence and projection were notable: all five seemed to be enjoying what they were doing, and communicating that sense of fun to the audience.
In Ordinary Conversation developed out of research the students did under Viau’s direction. With Playhouse stage manager Jackie McCormick handling technical aspects of the show, the cast did an outstanding job.
Perhaps, like Oscar Wilde, they can now say, tongue in cheek, that they have “nothing to declare but their genius.”