Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region.  

Photo by electric umbrella images

Photo by electric umbrella images

The story of Matchstick starts as a familiar cold war-era propaganda machine in action: An orphan girl lives in a cold, restricted – undesirable – land and dreams about America, a free land of opportunities. She meets a prince charming – Alik – who takes her heart by storm and sends her hopes soaring!  But, life is rarely what we hope for. The story leaves the realm of the cliché and enters different, darker waters after they marry and come to the promised land. Little by little, Matchstick realizes that Alik is a paranoid liar, and her life is as far from the freedom and big opportunities she dreamed of as can be. Through her life of misadventures, Matchstick comes to the realization that fairy tales do not happen in a real life. Even more than that, she understands – only too late – that real freedom and opportunities exist where you are loved and where your family and friends are.
The topic of the play is very interesting and worth serious exploration. Digging deeper, going beyond the facts and basic emotions, would make it great theatre. For now, the narrative in Matchstick has some very touching moments and some cleverly constructed dialogues, but the story stays on surface.
Its execution is reminiscent of Bertolt Brecht’s “Mother Courage and her Children,” as it uses the elements of storytelling, a simple but effective set with the projection of city in the center, actors who change characters, and a few songs sprinkled throughout the play to accentuate the theme. Only in Matchstick, due to lack of depth, the writer misses an opportunity to boggle our minds.

Still, the story and approach have a lot of potential. Lauren Holfeuer as Matchstick and Nathan Howe as Alik are wonderful in their respective roles. Jessica Gabriel and Chloe Ziner have designed a beautiful projection of city and behind-the scene characters. Director Kristen Holfeuer creates magic playing with various elements – including very effective lights by Bill McDermott.
Although sometimes the pacing is a little bit off, the final effect of place, time and heroes (or anti-heroes) is right. It feels rather natural, truthful and convincing. That’s why I believe that a bit of re-thinking and re-doing would be worthwhile. The idea behind the story is inspiring; the execution, which can still be perfected in some segments, is different, and frankly, something that we need more of in our theatre. With a little additional work, it might turn a Fringe performance into a big professional one.

Yet, even the way it is right now, Matchstick is well worth your time.

Nathan Howe: Playwright
Kristen Holfeuer: Director

Lauren Holfeuer: Matchstick
Nathan Howe: Alik
David Granger: Set Designer
Bill McDermott: Lighting Designer
Jessica Gabriel and Chloe Ziner: Projection Designer
Lauren Holfeuer: Costume Designer
Jennifer Raithie-Wright: Stage Manager