Review: "Summer on Fire" at Scorpio Theatre
On Friday February 19th, I suddenly decided that I was going to the closing weekend of Summer on Fire with Scorpio Theatre. I am so glad I did.
Performed in a small, personal theatre space, this show tells the story of six people sharing a vacation house in the summer of 2008. The players: a conservative right-wing reporter for FOX news, his gay assistant, his exuberant ex-wife and her new obnoxious liberal boyfriend, and a soon-to-be famous singer with her loudmouthed lesbian partner. Together they get into crazy, politically and emotionally driven hijinks that left the audience rolling with laughter.
The set was used so well; a stylish functioning kitchen, living room and hallway that my colleague described as "hipster". Very well designed. Although I found it amusing that ushers encouraged the audience to sit as far stage right as they could since some rather pivotal plot points were blocked by the narrow hallway design. I applaud Dale Fea's use of the space. The Joyce Doolittle is not a large theatre (seating about 65) but she somehow managed to fit in an entire summer home - one very well decorated and semi-functional. I want to live in that house. With the exception of that glass coffee table. I say: learn to be deliberate with your use of clinking glass or don't use a glass coffee table. Especially if you're going to be doing that many set changes in the quiet and the dark.
I've only seen a handful of shows from this company and in this space but I've continuously left feeling entertained and satisfied in the past due in a large part to the incredible acting talent working with Scorpio. The cast, which consisted of: Carolyn Ruether, Jerry Callaghan,
Wendy Froberg, Mira Maschmeyer,
Adam Jamieson, Jacob Lesiuk were well chosen for their roles. That's one thing I can say about the entire cast. Everyone up on stage made perfect sense and looked well together. Our protagonist, played by Carolyn Ruether, was phenomenal. Insecure and unsure of her own feelings, I was taken in by the blonde singer/songwriter. Her girlfriend, on the other hand, left me wanting more. It was hard for me to tell whether it was the stereotyped writing or the stagnant energy coming off of the actress but Miss Maschmeyer's performance felt more like she was reading from her script compared to the rest of the cast - especially considering her character is written as the abrasive, loudmouthed lesbian lover. I would prefer a few flubbed lines over a monotone performance.
I was very impressed by director Aaron Conrad. A lot of the material covered in this script was...vulgar. And crude. And sensitive. But boy, did I laugh despite myself. And I felt that I had permission to laugh at the truly offensive content without having to think about it.
That was probably my favourite part of the show. Not the props I wanted to steal, or the male nudity, or the excellent use of lightning and vibrating thunder, it was enjoying a night of shocking humor that only gets funnier with time.
Imagine looking back at the world in 2008 at the end of the American election and the height of social revolution. Remember the choices you made and the dinner table conversations you avoided with your overly conservative family members. Imagine seeing all of that displayed on stage for a 2 hour laugh riot. Absolutely entertaining.
Summer of Love is now closed. The next show from Scorpio Theatre is Love Song opening on May 27th.