Saturday, July 11, 2009

Theatre off the grid: Rockbound

Theatre Off the Grid is the theatre company Two Planks and a Passion when they perform at Ross Creek Centre for the Arts, because they perform outdoors without electric technology. This summer's performance is Rockbound, a musical drama based on the novel of the same name by Frank Parker Day. Rockbound the novel was written in 1928, and is set on a small island, Rockbound (East Ironbound Island), in Duren (Mahone) Bay on the south coast of Nova Scotia.

The stage was built by my neighbour Mike and it is quite impressive. In the story there are scenes set on the island itself (the main stage), a boat at sea (the boat around which the stage was built), and a small island lighthouse (a lantern on a platform on the left of the main stage).

Seating is in bleachers; you are issued a blanket at the Box Office to use as a cushion or a wrap in the cool evening air. Nancy invited me to go with her to a preview of the show (the official opening is on July 12), she said we should try to get seats on the top row of the bleachers because that is the only row with a back rest. Good point!

It was a lovely sunny evening with a breeze to keep the insects away, although sometimes the breeze also made it difficult to hear the actors. And the stage is oriented so that the setting sun was behind us, so the audience did not have to deal with glare, although I imagine it was a bit of a problem for the actors. The whole performance ended just before sunset, so we also got to watch the sunset afterwards. Gaspereau Vineyards served wine before the performance and during the intermission. How civilized!

It was a wonderful performance, the music was just great, the singing dramatic, the story quite intense. It is difficult to single out particular actors or scenes that stood out, they were all so great. Nancy and I got a kick out of the performance of one actor (Kyle Gillis) falling into the sea off the boat, it was slow motion and slightly comic.

The orchestra (Mark Adam, Chris Churchill, Sandy Moore) is in a small pit in the centre of the main stage. They played double bass, accordion, drums and xylophone(?). At one point, during a xylophone solo, a small songbird fluttered around the stage singing in response to the xylophone, only leaving when the xylophone player stopped and one of the actors started his lines in a loud voice. Quite cute!

The actors played several parts and also served as a chorus, sometimes in the orchestra pit, sometimes onstage, and sometimes in the "aisles" between the bleachers. Basically, the story is about a power struggle between Uriah Jung (Frank Moore) who essentially rules the island and his nephew Davy Jung (James Macdonald) who wants to claim what is rightfully his and make a life for himself on the island. Also a love story involving multiple triangles and dramatic confrontations. A lot going on, on that little island! Uriah's sister and Davy's aunt Anapest (Burgundy Code) stood out as a classic east coast matriarch standing up to all the menfolk for her rights and what she thinks is the right thing to do. Artfully played!

Wonderful show, can't recommend it enough, and if you're from away, you get a discount and your name entered into a draw for a prize. I gave my local address so did not qualify for either, but since it was a preview show, did get the preview discount.

Having mentioned a few of the actors' names, I should also say that the musical adaptation and direction was by Allen Cole, the choreography by Alexis Milligan, and the theatrical direction by Ken Schwarz. Other actors include Bridget Bezanson, Marty Burt, Amanda LeBlanc, Cliff Lejeune, Ryan Ragerson, Margot Sampson and Leete Stetson, all delivering wonderful performances and making their characters come alive for us.


20th Century Woman said...

I can't think of anything I would enjoy more than good outdoor theater on a lovely summer evening. I wish I could be there.

Barbara Anne said...

Applause, applause!!!!!

The set is marvelous, the setting incredibly beautiful, and I love that there is an orchestra pit. Please tell Mike he's amazing!

This is rural living at its finest!

I'd love to see the play. Are they making a tour seriously down the east coast - to Virginia?!