Monday, April 25, 2016


By James Karas

Scarberia by Evan Placey with Shelly Antony, Mishka Thébaud and Alejandra Simmons. Directed by Nina Lee Aquino. Designed by Joanna Yu. Until May 1, 2016 in the Nathan Cohen Studio, Young People’s Theatre, 165 Front Street East, Toronto, Ontario. 416 862-2222.

*** (out of 5)

Scarberia, Evan Placey’s new play, has a lot going for it. For openers, one half of it is based in Scarborough, ONTARIO and that gives it the benefit of familiarity. No doubt there are other plays based in Toronto’s (in)famous suburb but I don’t think there are many. The other half is based in Scarborough, England which takes us out of the parochial restrictions suggested by Toronto’s ….

The play has two pairs of 15-year old friends, one pair in England and one pair in Canada and they are almost identical. The English pair consists of Craig and Simon and the Canadian pair is made up of Craven and Simian. They are played by the same actors: Shelly Antony plays Craig and Craven and Mishka Thébaud plays Simon and Simian.

Shelly Antony and Mishka Thébaud in a scene from Scarberi. Photo Cylla von Tiedemann
There is a fifth character, a teenager called Marisha, played by Alejandra Simmons.

The set represents two beaches, one in Ontario (Scarborough Bluffs) and one in England. Craig and Simon are bosom friends (they spit on their palms and shake hands in affirmation of their unbreakable bond of friendship) and they discover the body of a dead young girl on the beach in England.

They discover that the young girl is Canadian, in fact she is from Scarborough and that raises the troubling and fascinating question of how her body managed to wash ashore in England. There is the mystery that must be unraveled.

Craven and Simian of Scarborough, Ontario are aware that a girl is missing and the mystery deepens as it should. So does the range of reference used by the teenagers which takes us from quantum physics or mechanics to Shakespeare. If someone is dead (like Simon’s mother) she may continue to exist in a parallel universe. Something about transference.

There are a number of references to Shakespeare especially to Romeo and Juliet. The play has what is politely called strong language and explicit sexual references. When one character speaks of Juliet going down on her Nurse, you may not want to explain the image to a ten-year old. The play is noted as appropriate for ages 14 and up. Caveat emptor. 

By this time it may be apparent that I am losing threads of the plot and, to put it bluntly, getting confused. Marisha speaking in rhyming couplets does not provide total comprehension. There is betrayal between the two friends but my interest wanes as the confusion increases.

Mishka Thébaud, Alejandra Simmons and Shelly Antony. Photo Cylla von Tiedemann
Antony, Thébaud and Simmons are doing a fine job except for the accents. They are supposed to speak with a southern Ontario and northern England accent but at times it is tough to tell which is which.  Director Nina Lee Aquino munts a fast-paced thriller and she does her job but the script is not on her side.

At the end of the performance I looked at the person beside me. “I will have to read the script for this one” came the cryptic remark.

Walking down the stairs the word that crops up from the people behind me is “confusing.” These were adults and the word may apply only to the perception of people in their dotage (say over thirty) and not to those over 14 who know quantum mechanics and their Shakespeare.

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