Monday, April 15, 2013

Gigantick Laughs and Heart at Zuppa Theatre

Pictured: Susan Leblanc-Crawford and Stewart Legere
Friday night was my first Zuppa Theatre experience, and I have to be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. Even for an arts aficionado such as myself, "theatre" can be a bit intimidating, especially going to see a "play" rather than, say, a popular musical. There is an implication that the experience is going to be very intellectual, maybe even so deep that you will walk out of the theatre unable to process what you just saw. 

This was not the case for me after seeing "The Attaining Gigantick Dimensions". I walked out with a smile on my face and a comfort that none of us are alone in our experiences.

The title of this play is appropriate because it deals with a lot of big subjects - death, grief, trauma, separation, isolation, love. But it is also an oxymoron because the play deals with tiny things, too; i.e. the little moments that make up the majority of most of our lives - the conversations with friends, the house parties, the spontaneous day trips. The characters in the play deal with all of these things - big and small - all at once, separately and together. And like all of us, they deal with them as best they can - on their own and together.

Each of the actors held my attention for different reasons - Stewart Legere (Martin) for his endearing awkward immaturity; Susan Leblanc-Crawford (Alice) for her protective yet snarky big sister vibe; Ben Stone (Frances) for his unassuming air punctuated with inner sadness; and Katie Dorian (Robin) for her vivacious energy. I enjoyed watching each and every one of them and was glad to see that they each got their moment to shine. Surprisingly, the dialogue of the play was really funny - the characters had me laughing out loud at their various one-liners.

My favourite part of the show, however, was how the story was told. The miniature buildings and their interchangeable roles created an amazing dynamic and made the props almost like cast members in their own right. It was so creative to use them not only as set pieces, but as containers and hiding places for the cast, as well as a backdrop for the various projections, including moving people, photos and video of the cast members own faces. There was always something to look at it, always something happening but it didn't take away from the story or the dialogue - it all moved together seamlessly. I was amazed at the energy and fitness of the actors in that they were on the stage for the entire two hours, always participating, and that they could scrunch themselves up into various positions!

The sounds were as incredible as the sets - the scenes where the 'gang' visits Peggy's Cove and the soundtrack of waves crashing and wind screeching made me feel like I was actually standing out there myself. The sounds were a bit TOO loud at times, making it hard to follow the words of the cast, but I love how they completely filled up the entire room and enveloped me.

As someone who has lost loved ones to sudden death, I could relate to the feelings of grief and sadness that Frances and Alice felt about their father. At one point, Alice says something about the silver lining being that they have time to say goodbye and process his death, and this really spoke to me because agree completely. And I agree because I know what it's like to lose someone and not have that chance. To be left with questions and loose ends untied. That made the play all the more profound for me.

We all go through things - gigantic and miniscule - but that's the point - that we ALL go through them. The good thing is that when we do, we have laughter and the support of friends and family to help us get through another day. We are not alone in the world.

*Added note-Apr16th: Wondering where the 'unique' name of the play came from? Well, according to the Zuppa Facebook page, "...the title The Attaining Gigantick Dimensions comes from a list by scientist/alchemist Robert Boyle, in the 1660s, of the most pressing problems for scientists to tackle." Hmm, neat! As my boyfriend would say, "the more you know"*


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