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/

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.

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/