BWW Review: TROUT STANLEY Dupes and Shines at Factory Theatre
The first thing you notice about TROUT STANLEY is Shannon Lea Doyle's exquisite set, which is somehow both utterly humdrum and creepy as hell. A typical rural house - kitchen, sofa, TV - is lined with hundreds of figurines, evocative of the kinds of statuettes that cultures around the world have used for worship and mourning for thousands of years. We get the feeling that, even as we watch events unfold in front of us - two sisters eat supper, talk about their day, their parents, their hopes and dreams - we are the ones being watched.
TROUT STANLEY brims with confusion and delight, like a birthday cake when it's nobody's birthday. Set somewhere in rural BC, it follows a pair of lugubrious but charming sisters, Grace and Sugar, as they cross paths with a mysterious man, Mr Trout Stanely, who's wandered in off the street. Neither they nor we really know what anyone's intentions are, only that, if patterns repeat themselves, somebody is going to die.
Uncertainty pulses in every scene of TROUT STANLEY. Playwright Claudia Dey's highly stylized language makes even the most familiar moments seem foreign; her characters are imbued with a gift for the poetical and a taste for the morbid. They spin metaphors so beautifully, tell stories so eloquently, we want to believe they're true. But we've seen nothing of the world outside the walls of the set; we don't know where Grace really got those boots, or what really happened to Trout's parents, or if the Scrabble Champ Stripper is even still alive. TROUT STANLEY reminds us that to see a play is to allow yourself to be deceived.
So why do we allow it? Because the truth can be devastating, suffocating. The stories that we tell ourselves, tell others, give us a sense of control over our lives. An ethical code that allows us to be the good guy, a set of rules that allows us to win.
Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu directs flawless performances from her cast. Stephen Jackman-Torkoff is especially exciting in the title role, a bawdy, physical performance that also produces empathy and pain at the drop of a hat. He hides in his every energetic gesture so much potential for danger, and so much promise of truth. Shakura Dickson and Natasha Mumba both do brilliant work with Dey's challenging text, finding, or maybe inventing the deep and tortured souls of Sugar and Grace beneath all that opaque, obstreperous language.
After my friend dropped my off last night, and before we hugged goodbye, a thought occurred to me. "I don't think any of that was true," I said. And she agreed. And as we listed all the ways we felt duped by TROUT STANLEY - all the potential lies, tricks, and double meanings - we came to the conclusion that we'd been duped in the best possible way.
FACTORY THEATRE's TROUT STANLEY runs through 10 NOVEMBER at the FACTORY THEATRE MAINSPACE, 125 Bathurst Street, Toronto.
For more information or to buy tickets, visit factorytheatre.ca
Photo credit: Joseph Michael Photography