The Ottawa Fringe 2012. The Open Couple. Dario Fo meets Pirandello

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Couples go into battle on the stage in some of the most unforgettable plays. Who’se Afraid of Virginia Wolf haunted us for months. The Open Couple is another viciously angry event  that disguises itself as a comedy but whose humour is meant to inflict pain and suffering.

Antonia hates the “Open Couple “ scenario that her husband has imposed on her and the result is a game of  attack and defense- like a classical sword fight, as they both try to get the upper hand in this situation that Antonia finds unbearable but that the husband rather enjoys. After all, he gets the young chicks and she is having a nervous breakdown.

What struck me most were the levels of theatrical experience that are embedded in this performance and that director Jodi Sprung-Boyd revealed  and embellished in a most professional way.

Dario  Fo’s essentially physical theatre that highlights  class struggle came into view as their encounters had them climbing out windows, tearing off their clothes, jumping around the beautiful middle class set , throwing  a Rock Musician Engineering professor into the mix, and  constantly crossing the invisible line between  the  audience and the stage, inviting us into what appears to be a Pirandellian scenario that was extremely interesting.  And it was all put into focus by her   marvellous leading lady Madeleine Boyes-Manseau. Here are two characters in search of their own  performance as the play is literally about playing out  the story of their  open marriage experiment as they move in and out of the play discussing their roles with each other and with us  as Pirandello would have them do. It seems I even noticed a tiny “frozen moment” somewhere in all that turmoil.

With most exquisitely orchestrated  lickety split timing, the actors, and especially Mme Boyes-Mansearu as Antonia, shift from our present with her huge mischievous  grin, back to their  past  of the story line. As  he struts around grinning,  her face decomposes into horror, surprise, tragic grief and all the hyper theatrical nuances you would want to find in something that is almost farce but not quite . The director, who has set the play in Canada,  has them swinging in behind the white panels of their fancy living room where lights pop on and show us the shadowy profile of either of them dressing, bathing or trying to commit suicide in a sort of sinister  shadow puppet scenario, revealing all the kinds of physical theatre that refer directly back to Dario Fo’s art of the stage.

It was nonstop breathless movement that captured the spirit of this author’s work so perfectly.

This was a brilliant staging by Mme Sprung-Boyd and if anyone would like to see how Dario Fo should be done, now is the time to see this. The personal narrative related to their own couple is of no importance here;  what is really important is the way the director has  worked with her actors, created a set and  captured the appropriate staging which is something very very difficult to do..

It was all an immense pleasure!  Go see this

The Open Couple plays in room  311, third Floor of the  Theatre Department of the U. of Ottawa.

The Open Couple

By Dario Fo

Produced by Sasa Theatre

Directed by Jodi Sprung-Boyd

Set by Jodi Sprung-Boyd

Antonia    – Madeleine Boyes-Manseau

Husband   – Sean Sonier

Capitan Planet   – Mike MacAlister


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