The Black Theatre Workshop – also known as Theatre BTW for obvious reasons – traditionally offers a Discovery Series Performance – a one night a year in the spring ‘reading’ of a new play by an Afro-Canadian playwright. I’ve attended at least 3 of these – and found them consistently entertaining. They are always held in the cafe of the MAI building on Jeanne-Mance – a stone’s throw from McGill and St. Laurent.
I was quite thrilled to be attending another one of BTW’s public readings on April 15th. I was a bit concerned about the title – “Eating Pomegranates Naked” – but I will admit to being hard pressed to explain the title after having ‘heard’ the play. Perhaps I should have gotten up my courage and asked why “Pomegranates” and why “Naked” during the Q&A after the performance.
How does a ‘reading’ differ from a play I hear you mutter? Well, a reading – at least as interpreted by the folks at BTW – means limited reversal time, no need to memorize, no sets, no costumes, and an ‘up to the performer’ attitude towards the amount of ‘drama’. All this said – these are talented performers – and they aren’t going to just stand up there and read. Nope – these performances are very ‘theatrical’, which means that the lack of costumes and props focuses your attention on the facial expressions and nuances in the voices of the performers. The result is an intriguing performance blending low-tech with high drama.
The action starts at a dinner party thrown by 2 of the characters – and through their conversations, and through brief glimpses of their lives as couples and friends, throws a spot light on one of the key concerns of this group of 30 somethings – Having Children. To have or not to have – that is the key question, along with the complimentary concern – Can and Should you have children. Having listened to my kids explore exactly these same concerns – while slightly different in some of the details, I can feel for the conflict that the thoughts of children raise.
For one couple – the revealing discover that one of them can never parent a child is devastating, to another couple a series of mis-carriages has changed the meaning of parenthood completely, and to a third, the impossibility of finding a mate in order to have children has become emotionally overwhelming. As pairs of characters regroup to engage is one revealing conversation after another, their ‘woe’s’ mount up to insurmountable heights.
Obviously – it is too late for you to hear the reading – it’s done. But the play is being produced as part of Toronto’s SummerWorks festival – and I suspect will end up on stage here in Montreal before long. Keep your eye’s peeled.
But more importantly – make it a promise to go to the next in the Discovery Series – sometime in April 2014. It’s a lot of fun – it’s generally well advertised – and if you visit the BTW website – you can even sign up to be notified by email.