Friday, February 13, 2015


Last Saturday, on a snowy winter night, I walked over the bridge to a cool, new(ish) performance space in town, Fraser Studios, to catch a double bill of two one-act plays by Marguerite Duras, performed by the Spiel Players.

Spiel Players are an independent theatre collective, with a particular interest in translations and adaptations of plays from around the world.  I was excited to have a chance to see Duras' work, performed because it doesn't happen often.

Duras was a French novelist and filmmaker, who also occasionally wrote for the stage.  Her screenplays include the iconic HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR. Her work has a enigmatic quality that's entrancing and crazy-making in turns.  Here, it works pretty well.

In the first piece, SAVANNAH BAY, Deborah Grover gives a star turn,  as a former actress, living in care, who may, or may not have dementia. She  is visited by a young woman (a very sweet Lisa Hamalainen), an old tune and an old story from her life.  Does she remember?  Does she want to? It's a very affecting piece, that asks as many questions as it answers.

In the second half, we get the completely different, LE SHAGA , a delightful bit of absurdist fun concerning the travails of comprehension and communication.  Hamalainen and cohorts, Peyton Le Barr and Paulo Santalucia are all hilarious as three people trying to understand each other, when they don't speak the same language.

Both pieces are adroitly directed, on a nearly bare stage by Joanne Williams, who has just left Canadian Stage to function as an interim General Manager at the Toronto Fringe.  I hope this will only serve as a pause in her directing career, as she always tackles intelligent scripts with understated assurance.

The theatre is small, but comfortable.  My only issue, which I have in many of the indy spaces around town, is sound bleed from the neighbours. The performers deserve better.

There's a lot of shows on in town right now, but if you like literate scripts performed with delicacy and care, this double bill is worth a visit.

Spiel Players present Two Plays by Marguerite Duras at Fraser Studios, 76 Stafford Street, Unit 101 at 8:00 pm , Thus, Fri and Sat and 2:00 pm Sun until March 1st. Tickets and information at

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