'Wildfire' translated by Leanna Brodie. From the play 'Le Brasier' by David Paquet
(Photo credit by Dahlia Katz)
"An at times unpredictably surreal satirical comedy that is ‘so damn good’ once the fragmented plot pieces connect with each other."
Sometimes it’s a challenge within a theatre review and commentary not to give away any plot twists.
I’m doing my best not to spoil the surprises in this at times unpredictably surreal Canadian English Language premiere of David Paquet’s ‘Wildfire’ with translation by Leanna Brodie.
It’s just so damn good that to delve any further than I have regarding the plot would spoil and ruin what audiences need to experience for themselves.
Divided into three parts, I’ll admit I kept wondering what is the connection of the second and third tales to the first part of the script. Be patient, however, as once these pieces fall into place, and start making sense, there were gasps and laughs from audience members. And yes, I admit I was one of the individuals who laughed out loud and who gasped when I realized what was going on.
A quick bit of research about ‘Wildfire’ before I ventured to the Factory. The play has six characters. Up to six actors could be cast. In other productions in North America, three actors were cast in doubling up the roles.
That’s what Director Soheil Parsa in his Factory Theatre debut wisely selected to do with sterling work by Paul Dunn, Soo Garay, and Zorana Sadiq. More about them shortly.
To begin, we meet three whacko sisters: Claudine, Claudette and Claudia who are experiencing their own personal crises within their lives possibly as a result of a tyrannical and abusive mother. They are each confined to their own space and rarely leave those confines but instead telephone each other. Claudine’s cookies taste horribly according to her sisters, but she continues to bake them. Claudette is trying to get her baby to say Mama but, instead, a sentence emanates from the bassinet that sends her nearly over the edge to do something insanely wild. Claudia (who initially perhaps appears to be the ‘sane’ one) tries to give her sisters advice sometimes biting, often sarcastic – perhaps a remnant of their time with their mother.
In the second part, we meet a very shy Callum who is a fan of fantasy card games. Callum meets Carol who is despondent over her dead cat. What next transpires is their falling in love through playing these fantasy card games and going to the movies. Sadly, their cute love affair becomes unraveled in a trip to the local candy shop.
The third part explores the life of Caroline who is passionate about the world of television and eventually succumbs to her sexual libido that, at times, becomes hilarious to watch and then rather uncomfortable as this is something we should not be watching as she turns into a ‘wildfire’ storm (note the connection to the English title).
As I sit and ponder why this final preview performance worked so well, the first thing that remains within my mind is Kaitlin Hickey’s Set & Lighting Design, Thomas Ryder Payne’s Sound Design & Composition and David Hoekstra’s props. Hickey’s prudent vision of the simplicity of the bare stage with the right props, perfectly coordinated and timed sound composition and tightly focused lighting strongly focused my attention completely throughout the 70-minute performance. I can still visualize the stage in a complete blackout during the pre-show save for the sharply focused lighting on the angled angelic-looking baby bassinet stage right which, to me, somehow suggested that same baby bassinet at the conclusion of the 1968 Roman Polanski film ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. Whether that was intentional or not, that image is ingrained in my memory, so bravo.
Ryder Payne’s Sound Composition is primo to hear. As the sisters call each other on the phone, they talk to the audience and punch an imaginary dial pad. When the call is picked up by another sister, the actor appears to click an imaginary button with their palm to indicate the call has been picked up. The audience hears the click sound perfectly timed.
Paul Dunn, Soo Garay and Zorana Sadiq’s bravura performances are carefully deepened emotionally by Soheil Parsa’s assured direction. There are some dynamite monologue deliveries by all three artists. To all actors who are looking for new monologue deliveries for auditions, take a look at ‘Wildfire’.
The doubling of roles works extremely well in this Factory production as the story clips along at a good pace. Blackouts on the stage only momentarily shift our attention to another place, space and time. Paul Dunn and Zorana Sadiq grittily capture youthful and vibrant first love as the shy, awkward Callum and the despondent Carol. Soo Garay’s Caroline becomes a sultry mess of a woman who must deal with sexual feelings that have been repressed for so long.
Final Comments: Since we’ve all lived through these last two Covid-ridden years of angst, David Paquet writes in his programme note something that caught my eye: “Believing that we are detached from others …makes us short-sighted. And when we collectively lose our vision, we stumble and grope our way until we can’t move at all.”
Hopefully a return to the theatre will be one baby step forward to re-attach ourselves to others so we don’t lose our vision of community.
‘Wildfire’ is an in-your-face, bold, comic look at what we all share as our common weaknesses as individuals.
Running time: approximately 70 minutes.
Covid protocols are in effect at the theatre.
The production runs to June 19 at the Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst Street, Toronto. For tickets, visit www.factorytheatre.ca or call 1-416-504-9971.
WILDFIRE Translated by Leanna Brodie
From the play ‘Le Brasier’ by David Paquet
Directed by Soheil Parsa
Set & Lighting Design: Kaitlin Hickey
Costume Design: Jackie Chau
Sound Design & Composition: Thomas Ryder Payne
Apprentice Stage Manager: Anastasiya Popova
Head of Props: David Hoekstra
Stage Manager: Christina Cicko