As you enter the Berkeley Street Downstairs Theatre for the performance of Five Faces for Evelyn Frost you see the stage covered with clothes. Three young women and two men walk on stage and greet the audience politely. They tell us things about themselves. When they were born, their taste in clothes, their motto and mundane bits like that.
They pick up the pace of their speaking until they speak so quickly you can barely understand what they are saying. They slow down and launch into a long segment of telling us what “I like,” what “I’ve seen,” what “I’ve read.” Everything about these people is me, me, me and they address the audience directly almost all the time. Their tastes and the breadth of their musical and literary knowledge is breathtaking and I admit that most of the names they dropped are unknown to me.
Most of them go to a bar and the same type of dialogue continues but the emphasis changes on social media postings. All of them describe what they did, the pictures they took and, it seems, the pictures they posted. This is today’s youth living on Facebook and Twitter?
Playwright Guillaume Corbeil skilfully constructs the narrative from the selfish and perhaps silly narrative of the young people telling us about the great time they are having and leads us into darker developments. What appear as minor chinks develop into serious issues as their lives begin to unravel or perhaps simply encounter reality? The mother who has Alzheimer’s disease, the sex, the drugs, the crimes, the degradation, all come to them. They lead to the ultimate tragedy for youth. I will not tell you what it is for fear of spoiling it for you.
Most of the dialogue consists of short sentences and as the play gains momentum the “I” and “me” style achieves poetic substance. By the end I felt that the play is a requiem for youth.
Evelyn Frost of the title only appears as the photograph of a young, beautiful black woman whom the characters see in the club that they go to. She seems to have everything until we are told she suffers from leukemia. There may be more to her and about her but in the speed at which the play moves I may well have missed it.
The five actors are Laurence Dauphinais, Steffi Didomenicantonio, Tara Nicodemo, Nico Racicot and Alex Weiner and they deserve special praise as does director Claude Poissant. The cast is on stage for the full seventy-five minutes’ duration and they must go through a large number of lines and a variety of emotions. Outstanding work. Kudos to Poissant for bringing out the best in a play that must look pretty bland on the page.
The set by Max-Otto Fauteux consists of the stage covered with clothes and a screen where photos of the characters in various poses as if on Facebook are projected.
This is a Canadian Stage and Théâtre Français de Toronto production which is being done in English and French by the same cast.
The whole thing is an amazing feat.
Five Faces for Evelyn Frost by Guillaume Corbeil opened on February 16 and will run in English until March 5 2017. It will be performed in French (Cing Visages pour Evelyne Frost) from March 21 to 25, 2017 with English surtitles at the Berkeley Street Downstairs Theatre, 26 Berkeley Street, Toronto, Ont. www.canstage.comhttp://theatrefrancais.com/