Tear the Curtain: A Multimedia Must See

On Tuesday, October 9th, CanStage kicked off its 2012/13 season with the opening night of Tear the Curtain! Unlike anything we had seen, we dubbed the production a “filmage” over a post-show glass of wine as it was quite literally the ultimate hybrid of film and live stage. The multi-media psychological thriller relies on 70 minutes of edited film footage as it alternates from screen to stage in a seamless transition reflected in the intricate set and versatile acting. The hit show was created by Electric Company and directed by Siminovitch Award-winning director Kim Collier. It was written by long-time Electric Company collaborators, artistic associate Jonathon Young, who also stars in the production, and artistic director Kevin Kerr. 

Much like a convoluted movie plot that may require a repeat viewing (think Vanilla Sky), this production is one that could consider offering a half-price discount for viewers to see for a second time just to fully grasp the storyline. Inspired by Vancouver’s Stanley Theatre as a live theatre and former cinema, the storyline follows Alex Braithwaite (Young), a disgruntled theatre critic in the 1930s, a time where the emergence of the cinema and the “talkies” threatens the influence and sustainability of theatre. This competing interests of film vs. theatre is a central theme throughout the production, as Alex finds himself questioning his identity and caught between two conflicting mob families (one who controls the city’s playhouses, the other the cinema) when he falls for an intriguing actress, Mila, played by Laura Mennell

Determined to write the next best editorial after his column gets cut in half, Alex sets out on a dangerous mission to uncover a convoluted back story and the underlying conflict between the competing art forms while he tries to maintain his sanity in the process. The blend of the two mediums leaves the audience second-guessing which one they are watching at times as the actors offer a compelling performance, transitioning effortlessly between performing for the ever-so-sensitive camera lens and the larger-than-life stage. 

Aside from the city’s creative set, we still find the theatre an often-reluctant time commitment among young professionals when it comes to entertainment options, especially with “alternatives” like Netflix in the comfort of our homes. We do think, however, that this is a production that even the least avid theatre enthusiast will appreciate both for the impressive multimedia use as well as the relevant themes for today’s young professional, like art and what we want and expect from it, changing forms of art and entertainment, as well as professional tension and crisis.  

Tear the Curtain! is on stage until this Saturday, October 20th, at the Bluma Appel Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. Tickets range in price from $24.00-$99.00. Expect to make an evening out of it; the play runs for 2 hours and 30 minutes, with an intermission.

Photo courtesy Canadian Stage