new ‘version’ (note that it is not called a new ‘translation’) by Richard Bean is currently onstage at The East Side Players' home at Todmorden Mills — Papermill Theatre — and it supplies whatever colour was missing from the language of the original.
The East Side Players (ESP) have been producing repertory theatre out of the City-owned and operated Don Valley facility since 1972, a remarkable run for any theatre company. Community theatre, like many other areas of non-big-league arts and culture, is too often ignored by most Torontonians. However, in a near-capacity theatre on a steamy Friday evening, the strength of that community is evident.
The production itself is enjoyable, and while the accents are occasionally funny ‘hmm,’ the farcical aspects and clowning are funny ‘ha-ha,’ and the emotional appeals ring true. To see non-Canadian repertory theatre performed at a higher level, one must travel to Niagara or Stratford. Indeed, this production represents the Canadian premier of this particular version, so just getting to see it will be of interest to Moliere fans, and those who enjoy farce and satire in general.
Papermill Theatre is located within Todmorden Mills, which seems like an underappreciated cousin to the Brick Works within the Don Valley revitalization. While the latter is recognized by many for its local and organic output, the same can’t be said of the East bank facility, despite its heritage homes, 9.2 hectare wildflower preserve, art gallery and active theatre. While ESP Publicity Director Daryn DeWalt mentions the comfort of the seats and the lack of a covered entrance with a marquee when asked for a wish list, the Papermill Theatre is roughly as comfortable and pleasant a space as the professional companies’ digs in the West end, even if you are not that interested in the visual art.
DeWalt also mentions the heritage homes’ need of funds on his wish list, highlighting the community aspect of the group as a whole. Papermill Theatre will also be home to Amicus Productions for the 2012-13 season, as their usual spot at Fairview Library Theatre is renovated. DeWalt is also positive about Amicus’ imminent arrival in the building, citing the benefit to the city in rental revenue, and cross-promotional potential.
While most people will likely not travel from far out of town to see a play, for Torontonians who enjoy going to the theatre, East Side Players provide an easy, safe choice. The site is nice, and the tickets cost is moderate. The play will not be too avant-garde for the casual theatre attendee, nor will it be the sophomore flop of the next big thing in Canadian theatre*. It will be a quality play, done well; and it will be fresher than whatever is on TV.
* The reward of seeing a new play having its life breathed into it through the lungs of the character’s first iterations is worth heavy risk, but not for everyone.
Photo: John McQueen
Chris Burt is a freelance writer who writes about sports at sportsvssports.wordpress.com, Toronto parenting at exm.nr/pw3Pvl and whatever. You can follow him on Twitter: @AFakeChrisBurt.