'The Waltz' by Marie Beath Badian

A Factory World Premiere production in partnership with Blyth Festival. Now onstage at Factory Theatre

A Factory World Premiere production in partnership with Blyth Festival. Now onstage at Factory Theatre

Joe Szekeres

An especially select coming-of-age story performed by committed artists who give natural and believable performances.

To leave a theatre at the end of a performance feeling uplifted and hopeful is wonderful.

This is the reason to see the world premiere of Marie Beath Badian’s ‘The Waltz’. At times, her script is ordinary mundane conversation while at others there’s a sense of poetry and pictures captured by Director Nina Lee Aquino’s subtle direction.

The Playwright’s Note on the Programme card reads ‘The Waltz’ is a sequel to Badian’s ‘Prairie Nurse’. I didn’t see it, but it did not detract me from following the plot. At one point, I think there may have been a prior reference as the character Romeo refers to something that occurred about ten years ago. Doesn’t matter. I don’t think you will need to have seen ‘Nurse’ to enjoy this lovely coming-of-age story.

Every inch of the Factory Theatre stage is used to its fullest thanks to Jackie Chau’s fetchingly designed set. I’ve never visited Saskatchewan (and I learned how to pronounce the province’s name correctly after 55 years), so I can only imagine this is what the outdoors of a remote cabin in the prairies resembled. As I watched both actors look out over the audience and imagine they were staring into the Saskatchewan sky, Michelle Ramsay’s ultra-fine soft lighting on the actors’ faces revealed their wonder at the sight, and I believed they were looking outward. Centre stage is a swing and what appears to be a porch suggesting the outside of a remote cabin. There are various objects in glass jars stages left and right. From my seat, I couldn’t make out what they were so after the performance I took a quick jaunt down to see - various Canadiana objects from 1993.

It is August 1993. Approximately five minutes before the performance begins, Bea Klassan (Ericka Leobrera) enters the stage wearing a Nirvana t-shirt, cut-off shorts, boots and what looks to be a plaid shirt wrapped around her waist. She reads intently for these few minutes, leading me to believe that perhaps Bea is an avid reader. As the story progresses, we discover she is.

Romeo Alvarez (Anthony Perpuse) drives across the country from Scarborough to British Columbia to attend university. He makes a pit stop in Saskatchewan to connect with some of his mother’s old friends. Romeo is not keen on doing this but he obliges his mother’s wishes. Perpuse enters from the back of the auditorium laden with many bags, suitcases and valises to the door of this remote cabin where his mother instructed him to stop and visit.

When Romeo stops and meets Bea for the first time, she remains on her guard about him. At one point, she brings out a crossbow to scare him off. Romeo somehow manages to get Bea to put the crossbow away.

What follows in the various conversations between the two focuses on their parents and how they feel about them what their hopes and dreams are and what has perhaps disappointed them over the years. We begin to see Bea allow her guard down as Romeo and the two begin to connect ever so slowly. Bea learns that Romeo has instructed dance to senior citizens and has taught the Laendler. This is the dance between Maria and Captain Von Trapp in 'The Sound of Music' where the two begin to realize they are interested in each other.

And yes, both dance the Laendler at the end, awkwardly, but it’s not meant to be polished. They connected realistically, and that’s the joy of watching ‘The Waltz’.

Nina Lee Aquino weaves a poignant compassionate interaction between two very different individuals who clashed at the beginning. I found it clever how a boombox and its music appealingly underscores the growing attraction between the two people. Purpose and Leobrera are likeable and engaging, and I got caught up in wanting to know more about these two characters. Ericka Bea is quick-tempered, irascible and snappish. There’s a boyish naivete in Anthony Perpuse’s Romeo. Although his parents argue all the time, Romeo wants to be the dutiful son until he realizes he has to stand on his own two feet to establish his own identity and thus the reason for wanting to continue his post-secondary education in British Columbia.

Watching the wall break down between Leobrera and Perpuse grows quite charming and also quite funny, especially through beer chugging. At least twice Ramsay focuses a spotlight on the two of them, underscoring the growing interest between them even though Bea and Romeo would not be so quick to admit it.

Final Comments: ‘The Waltz’ is a lovely, touching story of the awkwardness of young people (and even those my age) in their connection to each other. Ericka Leobrera and Anthony Perpuse remain committed to letting us see real people and their interest in each other.

Running Time: approximately 70 minutes with no intermission.

‘The Waltz’ runs until November 13 at Factory Theatre in the Main Space, 125 Bathurst Street, Toronto. For tickets, call (416) 504-9971 or visit factorytheatre.ca.

The Waltz by Marie Beath Badian
A Factory World Premiere production in partnership with Blyth Festival

Directed by Nina Lee Aquino
Set and Costumes: Jackie Chau
Lighting Designer: Michelle Ramsay
Sound Designer: Lyon Smith
Choreographer: Andrea Mapili
Stage Manager: Tamara Prolic

Performers: Ericka Leobrera as Bea Klassan and Anthony Perpuse as Romeo Alvarez

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