Christian Murray’s new play is a 90-minute, non-stop show full of black comedy, physical theatre, ventriloquism, absurdity and surrealism within a fixed plot.
A grieving Halifax couple embraces a new scientific discovery they’ve read about in the Halifax papers to bring back the seven-year-old son they lost 30 years ago.
The never-seen scientist, presented as a disembodied authoritative voice talking to people as they stand in a square of light, uses DNA from Anthony’s baby tooth to bring him back to life.
The problem is Anthony,
like Frankenstein, is an unpredictable man-child who horrifies the parents and violates their memory of the beautiful, lost child.
When a skinhead duo in underwear, the Whitey Tighties, helps Anthony recover his own bones to build the puppet Bone Boy, the play grips you solidly in its odd reality.
This is where the roller-coaster of plot has ascended its summit and starts to careen downhill as the comedy and energy intensifies to a manic, hilarious pitch.
Mike McPhee, innocent and playful, physically awkward and full of wordplay as Anthony, crackles with zany comic energy as the demonic Bone Boy puppet that he operates as a ventriloquist.
At the same time, Brian Heighton as Anthony’s father grows increasingly and insanely frustrated in another tour-de-force performance in terms of energy, magnetism and nuanced comic delivery.
Mary-Colin Chisholm is perfectly cast as the mother, a kind of caricature of all mothers with her chittering list of concerns for her child, her lack of focus in the moment, her musings on the nature of time. It’s a wonderful surreal moment when she pulls a tea cup out of her excessively floral apron and starts drinking tea.
There are many roads into Bone Boy, a dense, literary
script full of details that you can savour. Or you can just laugh along with a crazy story told with great comic timing, which is where Murray the director comes in.
The grey, Styrofoam rock on stage with the text, Ce n’est pas un rocher, signals Magritte and surrealism and multiple realities within a dream play.
Murray also references absurdist playwright Samuel Beckett, whom he studied extensively as a 20-year member of Halifax’s Jest in Time Theatre.
Anthony’s father hates the theatre and is furious to find himself inside a play. The show that turned him off the stage was Beckett’s Waiting for Godot with its two characters in trash cans.
God is not taken lightly in Bone Boy; there’s a wonderful prayer scene on a trash heap where words tumble sadly from Anthony.
Nothing is thrown away in this text. Even the family name of Bateman rings bells.
The set by Wes Daniels, a graduate of the National Theatre School, is wonderful with its rear fireplace and giant chimney.
The Batemans’ faded, antique-looking living room furniture signals that they are frozen in the past, as do the visible slats in the partially eroded walls of their home.
Lighting designer Leigh Ann Vardy and costume designer Emlyn Murray skilfully complete the look.
Also in the cast are Annie Valentina as the enigmatic tooth fairy and Jonny Tompson and Ashleigh Pike, convincing and comic as the skinhead duo on its way to reform.
Frankie Productions presents Bone Boy at the North Street Church, Fuller Terrace and North Street, Halifax, through Sunday, 8 p.m., with a matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets (cash only) are $25 and $15 for students, seniors and artists. Call 401-8202.
Bone Boy! The Theatre Play
When: May 26-June 2, 8 p.m., Sun., May 27, 2 p.m. and Sun., June 3, 2 & 8 p.m. 2012
Price: $25 regular $15 students/seniors/artists
If you like your theatre twisted and twisty (as I do), you’ll love Christian Murray’s new play Bone Boy. It’s a black comedy that stars Mike McPhee as Anthony, a young man who’s been grown from the baby tooth of a dead child. Anthony is a hyper-active innocent who sets his parents’ teeth on edge and makes them question the wisdom of their desire to resurrect their child. McPhee, a gifted physical actor, is simply brilliant in the central role. His vacant look and spaghetti-limbed movements are both charming and eerie. Brian Heighton is perfect in the role of Anthony’s father. His acting encompasses both the over-the-top wacky comedy of the play and the real depth of its tragic situation. Wes Daniels’ set captures Bone Boy’s off-kilter sensibility and Leigh Ann Vardy’s lighting design (complete with eclectic foot lights) truly shines. (KW)
North Street Church
5657 North Street NORTH END
An experimental, meta physical, science fiction play / comedy.
Cast - A Nuclear Family, Mother; Father; and once dead newly alive Son…
Disembodied Voice, Skinheads and the Toothfairy.
Time – perhaps today, not yesterday or could be tomorrow.
Setting – Halifax South end Living room…(Monied.)
In 1974 a boy, Anthony, was killed. His parents keep a picture of this 7 year old above the mantel of their fireplace. The Mother has kept a lock of her son’s hair and thirty years late through a process which science has given the people of planet earth, this child is brought back to life…grown from the DNA of the hair she kept as a memento.
He returns to them 37 years of age the age he would be had he not died in 1978.
We wonder, “What is the the spark of life?” as family history, expectation, terror and rejoicing unfold. The family roller coasters through a learning curve of clown-esque scenes…including the construction of a puppet by Anthony, made up of his own childhood bones – the eponymous ‘Bone Boy’.
|April 14th, 2011
Lauchie, Liza and Rory
Lauchie, Liza and Rory is a heart-warming, easy and, most importantly, winning play
Lauchie, Liza and Rory is the latest production from celebrated Maritime author Sheldon Currie, known for his wry and delicate portrayals of the quirky characters who inhabit his fictional small Maritime villages. “Currie’s writing has a very unusual tone,” says director Mary-Colin Chisholm, “there’s always a lot of humour and a real acceptance of eccentricity.”
The scene opens on an old coal-town house, a single front and roof divided into two separate homes. It sets a tone for the production: indivisibility and a necessary closeness with a slight subtext of claustrophobia. In other words, it’s a family play. The first person we see on the stage is fiddler Mairi Rankin, who in the words of Chisholm “seems to be a muse, ghosting through the scene.” She leads into the show with a changeable, quicksilver tune. “Because theatre is a live thing, [Rankin's performance] makes it more real, and adds dimension,” explains Chisholm. “Subconsciously it underlines the fact that this is live.”
The houses are populated with a multitude of characters but only two actors, Christian Murray and Natasha MacLellan, who nimbly transform from character to character as the scene demands, sometimes both taking the same part in alternating turns. It’s wonderful technical work from the two leads, to shift postures and mannerisms so convincingly.
Currie’s writing isn’t dark or tense, but takes what otherwise could have been a difficult psychological situation and defuses it. Some people will call this play schmaltzy,
yet it delivers precisely what it promises and that’s really all you want when you buy a ticket to the theatre. Interestingly, despite its sombre tones the play has a happy ending that unexpectedly reverses the bitter system of morals presented throughout. “Better later than sooner,” says a character at one point, and I thought “Yeah! Why not?”
Lauchie, Liza and Rory
Written by Sheldon Currie
Directed by Mary-Colin Chilsholm
At National Arts Centre (53 Elgin Street)
Until April 16
An NAC English Theatre presentation of the Mulgrave Road Theatre (Guysborough, NS) production in association with Frankie Productions (Halifax, NS).
I guess death is a lot like rum, the truth comes out in it.
From the author of Glace Bay Miners’ Museum comes a play set in a 1940′s coal mining town in Cape Breton. Lauchie MacDonald lives a humdrum existence but his world soon turns upside down when the vivacious Liza dances into his life. The courtship is sealed with a big win at bingo, until Lauchie’s daredevil twin brother, Rory bursts back onto the scene. A wry spinster, a sonorous priest, a reformed party girl, and a cantankerous Cape Breton matriarch, are all witnesses to a twenty-year interrupted love story. Two actors bring the whole town vividly to life in this heartwarming comedy of misguided loyalty and unspoken emotion.
Running time is approximately 70 minutes with no intermission.
One of the funniest, technically dazzling, smartly-acted pieces to drop on a Nova Scotia stage all year. - Coast Magazine, Halifax.
HALIFAX, NS – Eastern Front Theatre’s 17th Season continues with the presentation of Frankie Productions’ Lauchie, Liza & Rory, adapted from his own short story by famed Cape Breton writer Sheldon Currie. The play previews April 6, opens April 7 and runs until April 18 at the Bus Stop Theatre.
“We are delighted to present one of Nova Scotia’s funniest and most beloved comedic plays of all time.” said Artistic Producer Scott Burke, “Lauchie, Liza & Rory has an excellent track record as a crowd pleaser that serves up a genuine slice of Cape Breton life. Wherever the show has been performed it tickles the funny bone and touches the heart.” READ MORE
Frankie Productions is delighted to announce its hit production Underneath The Lintel by New York playwright Glen Berger starring acclaimed Halifax actor Christian Murray and directed by Portia White winner Mary Vingoe has been invited to the Vancouver Cultural Olympiad as a co-production between the Vancouver East Cultural Centre and the Norman Rothstein Theatre’s Chutzpah festival.
Underneath the Lintel will play March 14-20 at the Norman Rothstein Theatre in Vancouver.
A Dutch librarian discovers a book that is a hundred and thirteen years overdue. The librarian becomes obsessed in his search for the culprit; his search takes him on a journey across continents and back through time. It is a bit of daVinci Code meets Sam Beckett of a script, a search for identity culminating in an act of existential defiance.
In a sense the play is a testament to the Jewish determination to survive. It is both a dark and funny play; Berger was greatly influenced by the persona of the English Musical hall artist Dan Leno (and forerunner to Charlie Chaplin). The librarian is in many ways reminiscent of the little tramp, always on the outside looking in.
Underneath The Lintel enjoyed a successful Halifax production in 2007 and a maritime tour in 2008. Designed by Stephen Osler with lights by Ingrid Risk, Frankie’s production of Underneath The Lintel is now available for future touring.
There will be two special preview performances for Halifax audiences March 10 and 11th at 8pm at the TNS Living Room space at 2253 Agricola St in Halifax. Please email email@example.com to reserve. Seating is limited!
Mary Vingoe 902-461-4755
Photo credit Ken Kam