Monday, November 26, 2012


JOHN COULBOURN, Special to TorSun
26 NOV 2012
R: 3.5/5

Pictured: Maev Beaty

TORONTO - Despite their decline in general popularity, there’s still a lot of entertainment value to be found in a good, old-fashioned radio play For proof, look no further than the production of TERMINUS that launched the spanking new enterprise known as the Off-Mirvish season on the stage of the venerable Royal Alexandra Theatre Friday night, offering Mirvish subscribers a walk on the wild side of theatre and a sampling of more alternate fare.

And, to be clear, when we say “on the stage,” that’s precisely what we mean, for in TERMINUS everything, save for the brief second that ends the show, takes place on a stage where the audience is seated.

Written by Mark O’Rowe, TERMINUS is a harrowing Trainspotting sort of tale featuring three characters — “A” played by Maev Beaty, “B”, by Ava Jane Markus and “C”, by Adam Kenneth Wilson — whose unhappy lives collide for one brief moment on an ill-fated night of horror in Dublin before being blown apart in memorable fashion. In a series of interwoven monologues, O’Rowe leads us through his tale in flashback, using rich language punctuated by unexpected rhymes, and seasoned with dark, gallows-like humour, to paint verbal images that leave one feeling like what’s playing out is a bizarre stage adaptation of a graphic novel.

But as the tale spins deeper and deeper into the troubled world of murder, Irish junk food and the supernatural, littered with references to everything from Faust to Bette Midler and Beaches, it slowly becomes obvious that the images one sees have little or nothing to do with Nick Blais’ set design nor even Richard Feren’s often-ominous soundscape. Instead, they play out primarily in the mind’s eye, the story projected there in much the same fashion as a really good radio play. Rather than show us what is happening, this script, at almost every turn, tries to tell us instead.

This is not, nor should it be construed as, any sort of negative comment on three finely honed performances from the principals, each of whom tackles a meaty role with relish and manages, under the direction of Mitchell Cushman, to serve it up simultaneously well-done and medium rare, sporting more than just a touch of pink. Nor is it a knock on director Cushman, whose Outside the March company developed and produced TERMINUS for Mirvish — although one suspects that if queried as to his decision to place both audience and cast on stage, the most honest answer Cushman could offer would be: “Because I could.”

In fact, rather than demanding a set that would reinforce his unique staging and force his audience to see this theatre or theatre in general in a different light, Cushman allows Blais’ forced-perspective set piece to obscure his unique location for most of the 90-plus-minute duration of the play — and in the process, reinforces the notion that as live theatre goes, TERMINUS is a pretty damn fine radio play. Sans radio, of course.

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