Friday, January 25, 2008

Salt-Water Moon - How To Fall In Love With A Boy - Theatre Review

Salt-water Moon - Soulpepper Theatre Company - Young Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON
Written by David French, Directed by Ted Dykstra

Salt-water Moon is a "classic" Canadian play that was first performed in 1985 and is the simple story of a young man Jacob returning home to Newfoundland in 1926 from the big city Toronto as he tries to woo his love, an embittered Mary who is already engaged to someone else.

And that's it.

The entire 90 minute play takes place in front of Mary's residence under the stars on the garden and front porch, as a persistently charming, if not exhausting Jacob tries to convince Mary to forgive him for suddenly leaving before and to ditch the new fiance for him.

There are heavy undertones of the history of Canada built into the conversations and one could analyze each character to death as metaphors to something (and the fact that this was really a prequel to a grander plan of plays French had written) but the basic charm of the play lays in the tug of war between Jacob and Mary. And really, it's a very CANADIAN charm in that Anne of Green Gables Road To Avonlea way. Which can mean it's kinda slow and not much happens. Plus the Newfie accents are heavy.

So it's really important to really like Jacob and Mary and to cast excellent actors and this is where this production half succeeds. Jeff Lillico plays Jacob and nicely commands the stage, with mesmerizing presence and a likable demeanor and some fire in that soul. Krystin Pellerin plays Mary and sort of washes out from the stage, sulking back against the more fiery Lillico and her Mary doesn't have enough of the gusto to match wits with Lillico's Jacob.

Part of me was just entranced by the handsome Lillico (almost Italian model looking at times, fitting into those new Dolce ads) and thought maybe I was just being totally superficial but I'm glad to now read that other reviewers (links below) felt the same about his acting presence. Part of me was also just entranced at his transformation since the last time I saw Jeff Lillico was more thuggish looking in The Threepenny Opera and I've always thought of him as regular and rugged. It's amazing what a good haircut and some clean cut clothes could do!

But really, Lillico's performance is the main reason to see this performance as the play itself was enjoyable but nothing world-changing for me. The "classic" play is a cute triffle to me, but more as a period piece that doesn't even metaphorically resonate anymore, at least from my own life perspective, but it was enjoyable to see just for the charming story of falling in love with a boy.

Salt-Water Moon - *** (3 stars out of 5)

Here are some of the other reviews:
The Toronto Star 3.5/4
Eye Weekly 3/5
The National Post
The Globe and Mail 3/4
Now Weekly 3/5

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