A Howling Success: Griffith’s Fortune of Wolves Premieres at Theatre New Brunswick

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Theatre New Brunswick presents Ryan Griffith’s Fortune of Wolves, Oct 12 – 22 / 24 – 30. Left to right: Michaela Washburn, Carlos Gonzalez-Vio, Graham Percy, and Kimwun Perehinec. Photo Credit: Andre Reinders.

Enjoying its world premiere at Theatre New Brunswick, Ryan Griffith’s Fortune of Wolves is a fabulously imaginative play about a young man named Lowell (Carlos Gonzalez-Vio, and others) who encounters the strange and inexplicable while travelling across Canada. According to TNB, no performance during the show’s run will be the same. Dice are rolled before every performance to determine which of the more than 40 characters Lowell will meet and interview. In its entirety, the show would run over nine hours long. How long is the show actually? Approximately two hours and thirty minutes, with one intermission. So, the chances of a repeat performance are slim.

Lowell’s entire world is empty after the death of his parents. Wanting to recapture sound, Lowell sets out on a cross-country adventure from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia to Tofino, British Columbia. Along the way, he documents the lives of everyday Canadians using his voice recorder. That’s the plan, anyway. What Lowell doesn’t know is that he may in fact be documenting humanity’s last days on Earth.

Of course, no one knows right away that the world may be ending. The strangest thing Keith (Graham Percy) from Perth-Andover can tell Lowell is about a friend who claims he met God while in a coma. When not drunkenly complaining about a town that thinks it’s a city, Stacy (Michaela Washburn) from Fredericton mentions that someone from her boyfriend JP’s work disappeared recently. In Waterville, Lowell learns from a hospital worker named Emma (Kimwun Perehinec) about a patient who disappeared without a trace. It’s not until Lowell arrives in Montreal that he and other people start to realize that the reported disappearances are not isolated, but part of a larger unknown phenomenon.

What makes Fortune of Wolves a howling success is its refreshing and grounded approach to the science fiction genre. Aliens. Starships. Experiments run amok. These classic images associated with science fiction are nowhere to be found, or at least their implied presence is very minimal, in Griffith’s play. Instead, the New Brunswick playwright focuses on what’s at the very heart of science fiction: ordinary people against extraordinary circumstances. And no scene better encapsulates Fortune of Wolves than Dwight’s monologue.

Montreal resident Dwight has earned a pay raise at work. The bump in pay means that he and his girlfriend can now stay a little more ahead of their monthly bills. Tragically, Dwight’s girlfriend dies suddenly in her sleep. What is a greater unknown than death? He is reluctant to leave his girlfriend’s body to call for help, fearing that her body may disappear. Of course, it’s not about aliens abducting people. It’s not even about the world ending. For Dwight, the world has already ended, and his only connection to the world he knew and cherished is his girlfriend. It’s a powerful and very human monologue about loss that breaks the heart thanks to a delicate and nuanced performance by Gonzalez-Vio.

Anyone curious about the ‘no performance is the same’ concept should know that yes, it does actually matter. Going in, I was skeptical about the concept, because what difference does it make if I’m only going to see the play once? So what if this performance may only exist for me and none of my friends? Here’s the thing, Lowell records frequent travel updates, and in them he references events the audiences may or may not have seen in scenes prior. It’s really cool to hear Lowell speak about something I was lucky to see in this performance of the play. It’s also really cool to hear about what I didn’t get to see, to let myself imagine what else is happening to the characters that inhabit Griffith’s apocalyptic Canada. Such excitement over the play’s other stories is super dependent on the quality of the script. In that sense, it’s an incredibly risky work of drama, because frankly nine hours of material doesn’t mean a thing if no one wants to sit through any portion of it.

And so, would I see the play again? Yes. I want to hear from the other characters. I want to discover their stories. I am so curious to know the full scale of the play’s mysterious phenomenon. I wouldn’t even mind if, somehow, it was the exact same performance, because there is just so much to appreciate in the script. Griffith’s strongest quality as a playwright is writing characters who you feel like you could meet one day, either walking down the street or in your apartment building. The script’s elegant introspection will stay with you and may even call you back inside the theatre.

There is something haunting and turbulent about the atmosphere created by Composition and Sound Designer Deanna Choi. Somehow, Choi makes TNB’s Open Space Theatre feel at once intimate (which the space is) and very large. Perhaps it’s the melodic eeriness that follows Lowell combined with the violent rumbling, that feels as if the whole world is trembling, that comes periodically. David Degrow’s lighting design adds to the production’s otherworldly atmosphere with its moody character and emphasis on silhouettes.

Director Thomas Morgan Jones’ approach to staging Fortune of Wolves is economical. When not delivering monologues, the non-speaking actors perform movements either in the background or around the actor speaking, and/or they represent an extension of Lowell. While Jane (Perehinec) explains the Fermi Paradox and Great Filter to Lowell, the other actors run in circles on stage, swirling around her like stars and Lowell’s brain trying to grasp the cosmic significance of these two theories. Other times, the non-speaking actors perform small, repeating movement patterns.

This cast that TNB has brought together is immensely versatile. Gonzalez-Vio disappears into his characters, transforming head-to-toe from scene to scene, and portrays Lowell’s disintegration with vigor. Perehinec’s confident and engaging stage presence makes her shine as Jane and Casey, an army medic with no left to report to. Perehinec’s Casey is an endearing character that anyone would want by their side at the end of the world. Percy is seriously, seriously frightening as the unhinged and sadistic Ed who nearly ends Lowell’s journey prematurely. Washburn’s Zoe speaks profound truths with a smile and peppiness that makes one almost forget that the actress also really knows how to play a cantankerous old woman.

Anything is possible in science fiction. The genre embraces the extraordinary and imagines circumstances and worlds so unlike our own. And yet, in works of science fiction, we often find ourselves and truths that have deep meaning towards the way we live. Griffith’s Fortune of Wolves is one such work of science fiction that holds profound meaning for both today’s world and the world of tomorrow. Theatre New Brunswick’s world premiere production is a must-see.


Theatre New Brunswick’s Fortune of Wolves runs October 12 – 22 at the Open Space Theatre in Fredericton. Then, the production will tour New Brunswick from October 24 – 30. For more information, visit: http://www.tnb.nb.ca/fortune-of-wolves/

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Hinter, It Happened at a Party Debut at NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival

Hinter by Jean-Michel Cliche and Caroline Coon’s It Happened at a Party are this year’s winners of the NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival’s playwriting competition in the Acting Out category. For winning in their category, Cliche and Coon received dramaturgical support from playwright and librettist Anna Chatterton. Audiences can see the winning one-act plays at Memorial Hall, located on the University of New Brunswick campus, where they are being presented as a double bill until August 5th.

Nature has reclaimed the earth in Hinter, directed by Sharisse LeBrun. Val (Amanda Thorne) and Missy (Telina Debly) are sisters trying to survive the post-apocalypse and return home – well, whatever is left of it anyway. The wild has buried much of humankind and its achievements.  Seemingly, humans went too far in their pursuit of gaining purpose and were subsequently punished for it by the animals. The animals have divided themselves into different classes, each fulfilling an important function to maintain their dominance over humankind.

A stranger named Calvin (Ryan Griffith) finds Val and Missy’s camp. Calvin claims to be a Guardian, a special class of human that protects the young, and that there are many others like him, searching for others to help. The sisters are hesitant at first to trust Calvin, but then eventually decide to accept his company.

There are three layers to the world that Cliche has created here: (1) the New World, dominated by nature (2) the Old World, buried underneath the wild (3) memories of the Old World, otherwise known as home. Val and Missy’s memories of home are almost ghostly in the way that they can be seen (down to the floor plan of their house) but never lived again. Returning home is a futile attempt at going back to the way things were.

And so, it is an interesting choice by LeBrun to have Val step outside of the stage – effectively removing her from all three layers of the world – and deliver a monologue about her home life. The blocking certainly provides intimacy with the audience, but what about the fact these characters have just retraced their steps back home? Going home is as much spiritual as it is physical. There is a sense of a missed opportunity for Val to walk through her former life on stage, to guide the audience through her introspective journey.

The set is simple enough with two big tree stumps serving as seats around the campfire, logs of wood on top of a circle of rocks. There is a large camping tent, set up by Thorne and Debly, stage left. Strangely, the trees are represented by a long plastic looking material, split down the middle, that hang from up high. The flimsy material really seems misplaced alongside the tree stumps, logs of wood, and rocks – the aesthetic of an earth reclaimed by nature. Yes, there is a kind of depth and image of wild growth achieved, but then the camping tent – a product of the Old World – and the trees look too similar, contradicting the primary conflict at the play’s core.

There is an ambiguity as to whether or not Calvin is telling the truth about the Guardians. What feeds that ambiguity is Calvin’s obsession with hero narratives – saving the day from the big bad wolves that prey on innocent life. Is Calvin simply a hero in his own mind or has he really been tasked by a secret group of magical protectors with saving the next generation? He wouldn’t be the one who’s chasing a fantasy. Griffith makes this ambiguity interesting with the way he is calm with a very slight aggression underneath.

Although sometimes the script loses its footing, the conclusion is very satisfying, albeit with the exception of one thing, Left for dead, Val comes face-to-face with one of the monsters (Alex Rioux, wearing a large animal-like skull with massive antlers and fur). LeBrun’s perceptive study of the scene, in addition to her eye for theatricality, produces a confrontation that is magnificently melancholic, yet hopeful. The play feels so emotionally and thematically complete at this point that it’s really too bad that it’s not the final scene! And that’s nothing against Debly who closes the play with a brief scene afterwards; knowing when to end something is hard.

***

Directed by Tilly Jackson, It Happened at a Party tells the story of Camilla (Kelsey Hines), a high school student invited to a house party hosted by popular student athlete Ryan (Alex Fullerton). Joining Camilla are her friends Tyler (Robbie Lynn) and Lexi (Mallory Kelly), a couple in a problematic relationship. The group of friends get drunk together at the party. Tyler is the only one worried that Camilla may be too drunk. Lexi doesn’t think so, and neither does Ryan who flirts with Camilla all night. After Tyler and Lexi leave, Ryan invites Camilla to lay down in his bedroom, and then the truth about what happened that night is taken to court.

Coon’s It Happened at a Party seeks to raise awareness about consent and sexual assault. The subject matter is very important, especially for young people. For some parents and educators, teaching sexual education is uncomfortable and something that would preferably be avoided altogether. As a result, some young people are left to figure out a lot on their own, including how to define a healthy relationship.

Coon recognizes social media’s damaging effect on the victims of sexual violence. Online, classmates actively try to damage Camilla’s reputation and credibility by spreading false information about her; she becomes a target of cyberbullying. The students show a lack of understanding – and concern – that their words have consequences in the real world. The aftermath of Camilla’s coming forward with her story leads her to feel alone, powerless, and trapped within a (larger cultural) narrative twisted against her.

Unfortunately, the play struggles to push its subject matter in a way that satisfies the question, “what does this play contribute to the conversation?” There is a lot that Coon wants to say with It Happened at a Party, as evidenced by the bloated script’s frequent jumps from scene to scene to scene. But there is a distinct lack of focus and individual voice throughout, perhaps a result of the 60-minute limit for entries in the Acting Out category. In trying to cover everything, Coon has written a play that’s not only flat, but missing the kind of urgency that generates discussion on the drive home (and hopefully beyond that, too).

For the set, there are three large rectangular panels upon which images are projected. The setup is put to good use by showing images of posts on popular social media sites about Camilla, along with text messages between students. The set can be described as minimalist, likely necessary in order to accommodate the number of scene changes.

Jackson’s direction produces a steady pace for the play. Although, time and place are loosely established.

Hines carries the show with ease as Camilla. The actor demonstrates great expression with an ability to deliver emotional highs and lows. The ensemble do a good job working together in a play that tackles serious issues.

Although there is a clear enthusiasm for education and awareness, Coon’s It Happened at a Party is a play in need of more work. The script might benefit from another look where the perspective is refined and its characters are given dimension. Maybe then, the play will have more weight that goes beyond its surface.


Hinter and It Happened at a Party were presented as workshopped productions.
The plays ran August 3 – 5 at UNB’s Memorial Hall.

For more information about the Notable Acts Theatre Festival, visit:
https://nbacts.com/the-festival/

Grace Notes Returns to the NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival

Returning this year to the NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival is Patrick Toner’s Grace Notes. Grace Notes was first presented last summer as part of NotaBle Act’s Play Out Loud series, where new plays in development are given public readings. Audiences can catch Grace Notes at St. Thomas University’s Black Box Theatre, July 26-29.

Directed by Clarissa Hurley, Grace Notes tells the story of Sergeant Grace Neil (Leah Holder), a recently demoted member of the military police. She is given the ‘easy’ assignment of Junior Pipe Band Instructor in the Territories. The band is comprised of young Tribe followers. There is a deep mistrust by the West towards those who follow the religious teachings of Tribe, with Tribe being unable to fly on airplanes as just one example.

There, in the Territories, Grace is reunited with her sister Magda (Caroline Coon). She also becomes acquainted with Solomon (Warren Macaulay), the pipe band’s drum major. Solomon is a Tribe activist guided by dangerous ambition. He pressures Grace to question the truth of everything the West has told her, and many others like her, about Tribe. Grace eventually opens herself to Tribe teachings as she becomes more involved with life (and Solomon) in the Territories.

A lot is broken in this world that Toner has crafted, with clear inspiration from the state of global affairs today. Solomon carries the weight of a traumatic childhood, memories of occupation. What motivates the character to push towards despicable acts is the immutable narrative that has emerged from the Territories. Solomon is frustrated by the fact that nothing has changed, only worsened. There are drones now that fly overhead and are capable of massive destruction. And the local people have become accustomed to air raids, heading into underground shelters when the sirens blare. The possibility for peace through diplomacy has long been ruined for Solomon; violence begets violence.

Grace Notes offers its audience interesting commentary not only about the world at broad, but also the treatment of ‘others’.  One of such key moments is when Captain Boisclair (Joel Diamond) informs Grace that her pipe band has been invited to play in the West. Grace recognizes the invitation for what it is: propaganda. It is a clear demonstration of the way in which (typically) marginalized groups of people are used by institutions to publicly convey and reaffirm their values, then are discarded and forgotten once their temporary purpose has been fulfilled.

On a similar note: given the real-world parallels here, kudos to Hurley for not attempting to play up the ‘foreigness’ of the Tribe characters.

Toner’s ambitious scope is certainly worthy of praise, but it is too bad that the characters are underdeveloped. More could be done to explore and reveal the struggle of these characters trapped at the mercy of powers beyond them. And it is frustrating when there are glimpses of where Toner might peel away layers only for him to rush through the emotions and move onto the larger story at play. (Toner should consider expanding the play into two-acts). Imagery of bagpipes and food steal focus from characters in a play stuck on a higher metaphorical level.

Thankfully, the production is gifted with a talented cast that help enrich the human factor of Toner’s play. Holder expresses her character’s shifting loyalty through subtle movements that speak volumes. She really has that capacity to take a character through an emotional arc. Macaulay’s back and forths with Holder’s Grace are fascinating to watch. He is a great antagonist with his ability to make words creep and crawl, planting seeds of doubt along the way. Holder and Macaulay are a strong pairing. A recent graduate from Brock University’s Dramatic Arts program, Coon brings a subdued intensity to Magda that she knows how to use to its fullest effect. So, it is a shame that there is not more Magda (see paragraph above) in the script because Coon shows promising range. (And what a singing voice!) The same can be said for Diamond who really only gets to play towards the end, where he’s not delivering exposition. Devin Luke plays the minor role of a lawyer, a character put in to help advance and frame the plot.

Back to Hurley’s direction, she manages very well with the numerous scene jumps that take the audience to different locales in the past, the future, and the present. The actors travel across the stage fluidly and with clear intentions that help establish space. There could be some restraint on animated projection images in the background (ex: grainy aerial footage) since the detailed play-by-play from the characters stand on their own.

Mike Johnston’s set design is very conscious of the demands of the play. As a result, the set pieces are mobile and dynamic. In one scene, the set pieces are used as bus seats; the next, they form a wall and the entrance to an underground shelter. Chris Saad’s lighting work in the play’s final moments make for an exciting conclusion. There is effective sound design by Mike Doherty who delivers a robust sound for the action sequences. Costume designer Sherry Kinnear gives Macaulay a military jacket that has strong hints of ‘revolutionary’, very fitting for his character’s appetite for justice – justice as he defines it.

Grace Notes is relevant today in a world where our collective future grows more and more uncertain everyday. Although thought-provoking, the play struggles to bring together its big ideas in a way that connects on a deeper, more personal level.


Patrick Toner’s Grace Notes runs July 26 – 29 at the Black Box Theatre, 7:30PM nightly.
For more information about the NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival, including tickets and the complete schedule: https://nbacts.com/the-festival/

Smooth Sailing for Theatre New Brunswick’s The Boat

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Left to Right: Ron Kennell and Jon De Leon in Theatre New Brunswick’s production of The Boat, based on the short story by Alistair MacLeod. Adapted by Ryan Griffith. Photo Credit: Andre Reinders.

Theatre New Brunswick’s world premiere production of The Boat, based on the short story by Canadian writer Alistair MacLeod, is essential theatre for the Maritimes. Adapted by Ryan Griffith, The Boat reminds us that tradition is more than just a way of living, it is the heart and soul of community. And so, what happens when young people reject tradition in the pursuit of opportunity and independence?

Directed by Thomas Morgan Jones, The Boat stages the early memories of a man (Ron Kennell) from Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. He remembers life in the small fishing community where his Father (Ron Kennell) and Mother (Stephanie MacDonald) raised him and his sisters. The man’s father is a fisherman with a strong interest in literature, a great love for books that he passes down to his children. His mother, on the other hand, sees no value in reading books and insists that her children use their time more productively. She persists that her son should be helping his father on the family boat, just as other boys help their fathers once they reach a certain age, but her husband refuses to have their son work with him.

With the support of their father, the sisters become avid readers, find employment with a seafood restaurant (the operators dismissed by the mother as outsiders), and enjoy a social life outside of duties around the house. The sisters eventually move away from home, leaving their brother as the last one in the nest. The pressure from his mother and Uncle (Graham Percy) to participate in the family tradition increases.

The son’s memories are revisited with both nostalgia and mournful meditation. He celebrates the fishing community and their way of life, but also remembers the struggle of those fishermen who worked tirelessly to provide for their families. The sea provides, but also can take away. There is a point where he realizes something new about his father, that perhaps his father never wanted to be a fisherman. He suddenly sees his father in a whole new light, the man who once appeared bigger than life is now exhausted and run down in his mind.

What makes The Boat a compelling story is the fear of irreversible change that motivates the parents to act the way they do. The mother fears the changes she sees in her community and what that means for her family and neighbours, perhaps their way of living will never be the same; the father fears that his children may never have another chance to follow their dreams once they are set on a path. 

And so, New Brunswick audiences may find MacLeod’s family drama, originally published in 1968, still very relevant today. Youth out-migration has contributed to significant population decline in New Brunswick. There are young people who would like to stay, but feel their opportunities in the province are limited. As a result, the province is faced with the challenge of both keeping young people here and bringing people back to New Brunswick. Many would be happy if these goals were achieved, but the thing about change is that once it happens, it’s hard to go back to the way things were.

The small, yet mighty drama is staged inside TNB’s Open Space Theatre. Here, the production embraces subtlety in its design and direction. Mike Johnston’s set is kept simple with four wooden door frames, designed to look as though the wood came straight from the docks, that are mobile and used by the actors to establish new spaces. There are also seven canvases that hang in the back, each full of bright colours. Sherry Kinnear’s costume design is thematically modest with subdued colours and patterns. Morgan Jones’ direction emphasizes distance as a way to establish relationships and the non-verbal – what the characters don’t say, but perhaps want to say. The pace is steady, never too over-the-top unless the moment calls for it (like a big storm). The various elements work well to elevate the elegance of the text.

De Leon’s character has his reasons for doing and saying the things he does, and often he doesn’t feel the need to share them. There is a soft vulnerability under the surface, and De Leon shows it with a muted demeanor that feels more genuine than the jovial act that his character puts on for others. De Leon’s nuanced performance may just cause some men in the audience to phone their fathers after watching the play. And Kennell delivers a fine performance as a son who realizes that his father was a more complex person than he thought. The actor is able to turn on a dime between the character’s youthful naivety and mature reflection as an adult.

MacDonald succeeds at presenting a character whose well-intentioned actions could very well be perceived as antagonistic. The mother’s uncompromising will softens in personal moments, giving us a hint by the actress that her character is really not trying to be a bad person – she just wants her family to stay together. Percy delivers an intriguing performance as a fisherman troubled by too many years working on the open sea. His character speaks frankly about how dangerous the sea can be for fishermen, both physically and mentally, and yet he still goes to work everyday. Of course, he can’t afford not to work since he has to feed a very large family at home. And so what kind of an impact does that have on a person? The weight of such a heavy responsibility is expressed by the actor through brooding movement that conveys defeat, hopelessness, and maybe something darker within.

Theatre New Brunswick’s production of The Boat is a must-see.


Theatre New Brunswick’s The Boat runs March 9 – 18 in Fredericton at the Open Space Theatre. The production will travel to Halifax, Miramichi, Bathurst, Woodstock, and St. Andrews starting March 21st. Visit Theatre New Brunswick’s website for full details.

Be…In Outer Space: Next Folding Theatre Company’s Fred Nebula is Purely New Brunswick

Fred Nebula is the latest production from Next Folding Theatre Company, and it’s really something different. The play is set in the vastness of outer space, and yet the characters are purely New Brunswick. It’s New Brunswickers…in space! With aliens, robots, and space cougars.

Presented inside St. Thomas University’s Black Box Theatre, Fred Nebula is a collaborative effort by eight writers, seven of whom also perform on stage. The episodic play, directed by Ryan Griffith, stages life on board a spaceship where the crew are beginning to miss home. Turns out that the novelty of space travel gets old after enough time away from friends and family. And so, the crew try to get along with each other because, well, who else are they going to spend time with?

The play’s opening scene sums up Fred Nebula very well. In it, members of the crew are seated around the table listening to Steve (Madeline Whalen / Rebekah Chassé) share a ghost story. Even in the far future people are not only still afraid of ghosts, but they also still like to tell stories.

Where Fred Nebula succeeds is the humanity at the core of its science fiction setting. Characters like Gabby (Kira Smith / Tilly Jackson) are grounded by common troubles. She is secretly in love with Eric (Corenski Nowlan) and wishes she had the courage to tell him. (Also, Eric is a robot). And then there’s the whole issue of eating the same meal day after day. Gabby doesn’t care if the crew’s meals follow Canada’s Food Guide, no one should have to eat the same meal over two hundred times.

Science fiction is no stranger to social commentary, look at Star Trek or episodes from The Outer Limits. Here, the prejudice is against citizens from Aia’s conflict-ridden home planet. When some of the crew members learn that Aia is from that planet, they suddenly start to see her differently and wonder if she’s just like “them” or an exception. What gives the scene impact is when Steve and Aia, away from the other crew, start to talk about their families. There’s a realization by Steve that they share a lot in common, leading the character to stand up for Aia when she’s not around.

Again, the strength of Fred Nebula is its focus on the human even in extraordinary circumstances. The main theme here is some things never change. Like peoples’ desire to belong or to feel respected, as one crew member shares during a team building exercise. The emphasis on community and ideas about belonging makes us think about where and who we are now, and the direction we are headed in. There’s a lot being said not only about communities in New Brunswick, but also life on our Pale Blue Dot. 

That doesn’t mean that Fred Nebula isn’t also delightfully weird. At one point, a character talks about adding a third samosa stand at the Farmer’s Market; the next there’s a dangerous space anomaly that threatens the crew. There’s even a fresh and hilarious take on the enduring New Brunswick cougar myth – a great scene by Whalen and Melissa McMichael who plays the Captain. So, there’s a refreshing mix of serious commentary and oddball humour.

Alien interference causes the human crew members to have new bodies when the play resumes in the second act, hence the dual credits for certain characters. The crew members, now being played by a different set of actors, are totally not okay with the changes. It’s a fun and clever way of fitting all 19 actors on stage.

Unfortunately, Fred Nebula‘s second act feels less cohesive and engaging than its first. The love triangle that emerges is an interesting development, but potential sabotage by one of the crew members? Oddly placed near the end of the play, so it feels inconsequential. Which really sticks out in a play that runs long at 2h 15min (excluding a 15-minute intermission). It’s too bad since the character dynamics from the first act are worthy of revisiting. 

The production embraces the vibe of a low-budget space opera, almost ideal for the type of stories staged here. Holmes-Lauder’s atmospheric light and sound design produces a feeling of travelling the stars. The cast’s acapella performances during scene transitions give the feeling of an intense serialized sci-fi drama (think Captain Kirk vs. Gorn). The spaceship, prop and set design by Samuel Crowell, feels as though this vessel has seen better, more vibrant days – like a certain province. Costume Designer Katherine Hall (who plays Sam, along with Telina Debly) delivers a great cheesy robot costume for Nowlan. It’s simple black clothing with thin material glued on to give the appearance of a metal body. The crew’s outfits are kept simple, as well, with plain casual clothing, which helps accentuate the more sci-fi elements of the production.

Fred Nebula is a space adventure that manages to be both fun and relevant to our current stardate.


Next Folding Theatre Company’s Fred Nebula runs March 2 – 4 at the Black Box Theatre.

Cast & Writing Team

Amelia Hay…Writer/Aia
Tilly Jackson…Writer/Gabby
Lee Thomas…Writer/Communications
Elizabeth Goodyear…Writer/Garrett
Neomi Iancu Haliva…Writer/Advisor Lexus
Madeline Whalen…Writer/Pilot
Kira Smith…Writer/Gunner
Alex Rioux…Writer
Jenn Flewelling…Ambassador Kardoso
Heather Stuckless…Overseer Jutuun
Rebekah Chassé…Steve
Telina Debly…Sam
Corenski Nowlan…Eric
Arianna Martinez…Jean
Robbie Lynn…Louis
Katherine Hall…Security
Melissa McMichael…Credits Music Composition/Captain
Michael Holmes-Lauder…The Second One

Adventure Awaits in Theatre New Brunswick’s The Snow Queen

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Miriam Fernandes and Andrew Broderick in Theatre New Brunswick’s production of The Snow Queen, written by Hans Christian Andersen and adapted by Thomas Morgan Jones. Photo Credit: Andre Reinders.

This holiday season, Theatre New Brunswick presents an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen. Adapted by director Thomas Morgan Jones, The Snow Queen tells the story of a young girl named Gerda (Miriam Fernandes) who embarks on a journey full of magic and peril to save her best friend Kai (Antoine Yared) from the titular villain (Michelle Polak).

The trouble all begins when shards of a cursed mirror land in Kai’s eye and heart, causing him to become very mean towards his friends and neighbors. And then one day, the Snow Queen appears before Kai and bestows upon him a kiss that makes him forget his loved ones, including Gerda. Kai is soon taken far away from home to the Snow Queen’s ice palace.

Along the way to save Kai, Gerda meets a variety of characters – the actors in multiple roles – from new lands. An evil old woman (Polak) casts a spell on Gerda that traps her in a deep sleep. Later, Gerda meets a Crow (Andrew Broderick) who tells her he may have seen Kai. And then, Gerda’s voyage in a golden carriage ends when she is taken prisoner by The Robber’s Daughter (Eva Barrie).

The magic of Andersen’s fairy tale is in what Gerda discovers out in the natural world, away from the comforts of home. Although somehow Gerda’s epic journey feels very small inside the Fredericton Playhouse. One part of the problem is how barren Jung-Hye Kim’s set looks, especially with a small cast of actors. The stage action is captured inside two large frames that have an ice crystal pattern along their borders. There is plenty of room for set pieces to fly and roll in, although perhaps too much room. Kim’s set works fine for the ice palace, but what about the vast, living world that Gerda ventures out into?

Jones’ direction also feels far too contained for the scope of Andersen’s fairy tale. The staging could be more open so to give a greater sense of the world around Gerda. Really, TNB’s Open Space Theatre might have been a better venue for The Snow Queen than the Playhouse. Perhaps then the set would not feel as empty, and more flourish could have been added to breathe extra life and warmth into the set. Michelle Ramsay’s lighting work does add some dimension and excitement to the production, but not enough to push the show full on towards holiday spectacle.

Sherry Kinnear’s splendid costume designs capture the awe that awaits Gerda outside her front door. The Rose (Barrie) is dressed beautifully in soft green and deep red, making the evil old woman’s act of trapping her underground all the more terrible. The Crow’s sharp, detailed wings look great when Broderick opens his arms wide. Denise Richard’s masks for the animal characters, particularly the reindeer Ba (Broderick), are also visually stunning.

Fernandes plays Gerda with cheery determination, delivering an enchanting performance that makes us root our young heroine. One of Fernandes’ great strengths is the vibrancy of her expression and movement, which fits very well in a story like The Snow Queen. Her stage partners share the same enthusiasm, making the the production a joy to watch. What’s fun about Barrie’s portrayal of The Robber’s Daughter is how she plays the character, who really enjoys waving her knife around, with a cavernous gruffness. It’s just such a contrast to the other fairy tale characters, even the Snow Queen, that Barrie truly shines when she takes the stage. Broderick captures the physical qualities of a crow and reindeer very well. Polak has a big presence as the Snow Queen. Yared makes the switch from good-natured to arrogant feel like a real loss for Gerda.

Although the fantastic charm of Andersen’s fairy tale feels limited, if not underwhelming at times, TNB’s production of The Snow Queen is still an enjoyable ride thanks to a strong cast of actors who are served well by excellent costume and mask design.


Theatre New Brunswick’s production of The Snow Queen runs December 15 – 17 at the Fredericton Playhouse. The production will be touring New Brunswick until December 20th.

For more information, including tour dates and how to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.tnb.nb.ca/the-snow-queen/

Irresistibly Charming: A Sunday Affair Premieres at Theatre New Brunswick

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Mathieu Chouinard and Miriam Fernandes in A Sunday Affair by Gabrielle Houle, Thomas Morgan Jones and Richard Lee. A Sunday Affair is a co-production by Theatre New Brunswick and Le Theatre populaire d’Acadie. Photo Credit: Matt Carter.

In A Sunday Affair, a new play written by Gabrielle Houle, Thomas Morgan Jones (who also directs) and Richard Lee, there’s no time like the present. Seriously.

Enjoying its world premiere at Theatre New Brunswick, A Sunday Affair is a breezy love story that serves also as a cautionary tale about waiting too long for the ‘right moment’. Father Tom (Mathieu Chouinard) and Josephine (Miriam Fernandes) practice the same morning routine every Sunday before mass. Josephine dances to music on the radio before fighting with her hair in front of the bathroom mirror, while Father Tom makes sure to eat a hearty breakfast and kneel in prayer before running out the door. And without fail, it’s always raining, making for a wet and windy walk to church every Sunday morning.

Here’s the thing, Josephine is in love with Father Tom. No one (except maybe her cat) knows about her true feelings for the shy and awkward priest. Imagine Josephine’s relief when one Sunday, she finally finds the words to invite him over for dinner – the beginning of a long tradition of Sunday dinners and missed opportunities.

The years eventually go by, and nothing has changed except now Josephine and Father Tom are grey and old. Their Sunday morning routines remain the same, only now the pace is slower and they walk together to church. No confession (yet).

The story is about as mushy as a bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with Sweethearts. There’s not much in the way of surprise, although the ending is certainly clever. That said, it’s difficult not to be swept away by the irresistible charm of this love story that unfolds over sixty years and through inspired physical theatre.

With little dialogue, the story is told primarily through physical movement. It’s not just the story, but the characters’ emotions and desires that are revealed through movement (like a dream sequence where Josephine imagines her and Father Tom sharing a full life together). Fernandes’ movement is at once delivered with great calculation and vibrant enthusiasm. She brings a sense of genuine joy to Josephine, although that joy is often interrupted by the character’s self-doubt. Fernandes’ soft vulnerability as Josephine is an interesting contrast to Chouinard’s Father Tom. The actor plays more of a ‘character’ than Fernandes, so much so that his performance brings to mind Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean. Through loose and elastic movement, Chouinard portrays Father Tom as someone who greatly lacks awareness and confidence. The difference in movement styles establishes firmly the characters’ different personalities; Josephine is the type of person who serves roast dinner, while Father Tom’s dinner menu includes hot dogs and caesar salad.

Kaitlin Hickey’s minimalist set serves the play, presented inside TNB’s Open Space Theatre, very well. Jones sets the interior scenes inside the white flooring, with exterior scenes (walking to church) taking place along the square’s outside edges.  The precise definition of space is important considering that Fernandes and Chouinard are working without props, creating the world of these characters exclusively through movement. Jones frames scenes, both big and small, with clarity and depth.

White umbrellas hang on the back wall, providing the space with rich texture and colourful illumination, when lit from behind. Hickey’s lighting design is effective at casting the stage in a range of striking emotional tones.

Composer and Sound Designer Jean-François Mallet’s piano score is dynamic and enchanting, light and playful. Some may find that the Mallet’s composition takes some time to settle in, as it does feel just a touch too overly sentimental. Slowly, however, the music feels like less of a backdrop and more of a compelling companion to the story.

 A Sunday Affair is like a cup of hot chocolate after hiking miles through a blizzard. Sometimes it’s just what you need.


Theatre New Brunswick and Le Théâtre Populaire d’Acadie’s co-production of A Sunday Affair ran Oct 13 – 23 in Fredericton. The show is currently touring New Brunswick, with performances in English and in French.

For more information about the show, including tour dates and how to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.tnb.nb.ca/a-sunday-affair/