By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
“You are a stranger though,” says a character, musing on whether to lay out her life conundrum to someone she’s just met in an unspecified place that turns out to be … a train station. “Ah, who isn’t?” is the rejoinder.
That’s the thing about theatre: people you haven’t met before invite you into their world, in all its imaginative possibilities.
I’m so late coming to this, my theatre-loving friends; sorry, I’ve been laid up for a couple of weeks. But I wanted you to know that you still have a chance, but only one alas — tonight! — to catch the light-hearted but very moving new Stewart Lemoine comedy that opens the new Teatro La Quindicina summer season at the Varscona.
A Likely Story, with its cheeky double-jointed title, either affirmative or skeptical, is all about the way stories get made, how characters set forth on “journeys” (as a much-used theatre metaphor has it) and as travellers find their way to destinations they hadn’t booked in advance. (stories aren’t the booking.com of narrative). And how, unhinged from prescribed logic and pre-ordained goals, they discover each other, and themselves, in exploring not what has already happened (theatre choked with exposition) or what will happen (leave that to speculative fiction), but what could happen.
As the mysterious and amusing Karl (Jeff Haslam) tells us in a sassy prologue about prologues, “sometimes it’s best when we all discover such things together….” Exactly.
That, in a nutshell is the fun of watching characters and their stories emerge from the anonymous strangers we meet at the outset of A Likely Story in the location that turns out to be a train station. The five-member Teatro acting ensemble is superb, led by Haslam as a wry intermittent presence who urges forward motion not through exposition but a succession of signature cocktails.
To Mathew Hulshof falls the delicious challenge of playing everyone the travellers meet in Europe, Salamanca to Gdansk. And he is just exceptional. You’ll enjoy the charm of Rachel Bowron, Jenny McKillop and Vincent Forcier, too, all so dexterous at floating Lemoine’s literate and highly amusing asides or amplifications, on everything from Baltic amber to obscure Castilian dances.
Endings aren’t final, says A Likely Story. Like the characters they propel themselves past resolutions that you feel are bound to be temporary, past the curtain call, into a future of which you are a part-owner.
This is Lemoine at his most experimental, and playful. Do yourself a favour tonight.