By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
“Tell me a story” (preferably “funny but dark”). And make it snappy.
Hey, what are friends for? In KaldrSaga: A Queer Tavern Drama For A Midwinter’s Night, Harley Morison’s free-wheeling new pub show for Cardiac Theatre, two old pals of the Norse persuasion meet up once a year in the same bar, in the dead of winter, to catch up and re-bond. This they do in the time-honoured way — by hoisting beer and sharing stories of their trials, their tribulations, their setbacks and their fancies. “Our friendship is like one of those old familiar tales,” says one.
Kaldr (Jake Tkaczyk) and Saga (Nasra Adem), who are well-connected in Norse god, hero and giant circles, are propelled through life with a classic and crucial question: “does everyone feel love differently?” In Morison’s playfully subversive, loose-limbed and limber concoction of queer origin stories, spun from an all-star list of Norse characters, love is love.
The production, which ricochets through the back room of The Almanac like a fizzy cocktail special, feels appealingly impromptu thanks to amusing performances from Tkaczyk and Adem. The former is lanky, with a kind of wide-eyed earnest deadpan; the latter is small and wry, with a modern eye-rolling sort of skepticism. And Morison’s script, which nods to archaic cadences, is peppered with anachronisms both sly and sassy.
Mosey, son of the macho god of thunder Thor (the guy with the big hammer), breaks the news to dad that he isn’t going to take Competitive Wrestling. Instead, he’s going into the arts. Yes, he’s signing up for Musical Theatre Study: Gershwin to Guettel, and hoping to be in Light In The Piazza. Thor is not amused. “What will people think?” Tkaczyk gets a funny drag number out of it (My Man from Funny Girl).
Saga doesn’t get much encouragement either from her single mom, who’s perpetually expiring (with a New York accent) and trying to fix up her daughter with a marriageable guy. Like that’s gonna happen. Adem is a bustling and charismatic stage presence.
Their coming-of-age adventures en route to what purse-lipped sociologists of another age will call self-actualization are a violent swirl of squirrels (really) and bugs, giants and villainous innkeepers, master craftsmen, ill-fated bets and doomed marriage contracts. And Kaldr and Saga helpfully step in to play the character parts in each other’s tales (with a song at the end, A Better Burden by Rebecca Merkley). It turns out that the tapestry of Norse mythology, which doesn’t exactly position gods on pedestals, has all kinds of queer threads and obstacles to true love. And KaldrSaga has a sporting time following a selection of them, leaving a trail of contemporary breadcrumbs.
“An artist’s work is never done,” sighs an artisan who carves a perfect chess queen, in return for room and board at a hostelry. She gets cheated in the deal. ’Tis the way of the world; you’ve got to be smart and step lively to survive. And this genial, messy, good-humoured show knows it.
KaldrSaga: A Queer Tavern Drama For A Midwinter’s Night
Written and directed by: Harley Morison
Starring: Nasra Adem and Jake Tkaczyk
Where: The Almanac on Whyte
Running: through Jan. 26