Tender sentiments surface in Pith!
Troupe resurrects one of its most popular plays
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 13, 2012 06:00 am
Teatro La Quindicina
Running until Saturday, Oct. 27
10329 – 83 Ave.
For Teatro La Quindicina’s end-of-season closer, playwright/director Stewart Lemoine was smart to remount the whimsical Pith!, one of the company’s favourite ticklers.
In weaving together the life of three unmoored solitudes, Pith! takes the audience on an ingenious odyssey of self-discovery – the characters’ and ours – and by the end leaves a smile on everyone’s face.
The dictionary defines pith as the essence, the core, the heart of the matter. And through the dialogue-rich script, these larger-than-life characters penetrate the soul and tenderly learn to deal with lost love, loneliness and regret.
Set in 1931 Rhode Island, this confection retains a delightful retro flavour that resonates so perfectly in the 21st century age of hyper-connected isolation. It is all about reaching out to someone in need.
Anchoring the production is Jack Vail, who first appears on the darkened stage under a spotlight. He is a sailor, or in his own words “a potato peeler, a deck swabber.” But as we later discover, Jack is much more, a storyteller and a master illusionist.
On a shore leave, he visits the Sunday Presbyterian service and meets Nancy Kimball, a young, vivacious maid that dreams of travel, mainly in her own imagination.
Nancy is employed by Virginia Tilford, an elegant, wealthy widow whose husband disappeared 10 years ago in search of a silver mine in Ecuador. She has never accepted his death and spends her days stitching embroidery and listening to scratchy, mournful opera records. Life has stopped at the Tilford household. The dark heaviness of mere existence has replaced it.
Through Nancy, Jack hears of Virginia’s predicament and offers to employ his considerable storytelling talents as a way to reach the heart of her emptiness. As captain of the storytelling narrative, he navigates a roundabout route that gives Virginia the courage to face her fears and opens a world of adventure for Nancy.
Watching the production, you realize how perfectly cast the actors are and how they bring an emotional transparency to their roles.
Andrew MacDonald-Smith, playing Jack, who morphs into a variety of wacky characters, gives a tour-de-force performance. As an obsequious Brazilian waiter, a pushy government agent, a nefarious information trader, an oily Lothario and a doomed botanist, his wild-eyed, zany antics are a sheer delight to watch.
Kristi Hansen as Virginia has an innate, cool elegance carefully balanced with genuine warmth. Her face-off between the dream world she has created for herself and reality offers one of the most touching, poignant moments.
And St. Albert’s own Jenny McKillop as Nancy is a captivating nymph that makes full use of her comedic abilities. A remarkably funny blend of sweet naïveté and street-wise wisdom, McKillop’s Nancy truly warms the heart.
A solid script, great pacing and three unforgettable characters are the main ingredients for Pith!’s punchy production now showing at the Varscona Theatre until Saturday, Oct. 27.