Factory Theatre/Wildfire, written by David Paquet, translated by Leanna Brodie, directed by Soheil Parsa, Factory Theater Upstairs, May 28-June 19. Tickets here.
How lucky are theatergoers in Toronto? We get two plays directed by Soheil Parsa in one season. Hot off the heels of his magnificent production of La Maison de Bernarda Alba, Parsa is back with a totally different animal — the English-language Canadian premiere by remarkable Quebec writer David Paquet. Fires (The blaze2016).
Lack of better terminologyFires is the Theater of the Absurd, which makes Paquet a legitimate heir to Ionesco and Genet. Seemingly ordinary people are placed in irrational and illogical situations, with the play returning to its beginning. I say remarkable because Paquet has created six utterly endearing characters who pull us into their absurd lives and hold us back. The emphasis is on the word endearing.
The play is made up of three vignettes, with each of the three terrific actors playing two different characters. The first vignette introduces us to the very special triplets, Claudine (Paul Dunn), Claudette (Soo Garay) and Claudia (Zorana Sadiq). We then meet nerdy misfits Carol (Sadiq) and Callum (Dunn), with the play ending with a monologue from Caroline and her wayward libido (Garay) that tastes very strange in men.
Paquet peppered his script with tongue-in-cheek and sometimes hilarious dialogue where seemingly silly statements ring true and absurd situations become real. That’s the brilliance of Wildfire – the play literally sucks the audience into chaos – and at this point we should mention Leanna Brodie’s sparkling translation that captures Fires‘s content inane but serious to perfection.
In his program notes, Paquet explains that he began by drawing inspiration from Greek tragedy and the words ‘curse’ and ‘fate’, but replaced the heroes with ordinary people. Over time, however, Fires transformed into the modern tragedy of the broken connection, or as he puts it, “the sense of belonging to the human family seems to crumble”. Fires, it seems, is Paquet “lighting a match” to counteract “growing obscurantism”. Like all great absurd dramas, Wildfire is deep.
Which brings us to Mr. Parsa. As a director, Parsa is a man of detail, and is therefore the ideal person to direct this play, because details abound. Whether it’s the delivery of the lines (and you can hear every word), or the physicality of the characters, or the minimalist directing, or working hand-in-hand with the set designer and lighting Kaitlin Hickey, costume designer Jackie Chau and sound designer Thomas Ryder Payne, nothing was left to chance.
In fact, such is the integration of script, actors and production values, which Fires must be taken as a whole. Nothing can be isolated because of the way it all comes together brilliantly.
Paquet, and translator Brodie, gave us a scintillating place to start with their clever script, which inspired Parsa and her forces to create the effervescent and engaging theatrical experience that is Fires.
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