Loose TEA Theatre’s new show Autocorrect Opera opened last night on the steamy outdoor patio of Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu. It’s a double bill of one acters adapted for the age of the smartphone and the text message. The first piece; Sravinsky’s Mavra was played fairly straight. The young girl Parasha does open the piece with a lament about her boyfriend not texting her and the final denouement is brought on by a missed text but otherwise the plot isn’t much altered though we get a neat updating to the home of a contemporary, status conscious bourgeois with references to the price of Ferrari tyres etc. Good performances all round with Morgan Strickland as a well sung, angsty Parasha, Greg Finney, with his characteristic power and comic timing, as the rich and rather obnoxious father. Keenan Viau, coming in at short notice for an indisposed Daniel Wheeler, was the convincingly annoying neighbour and Justin Stolz was excellent as the extremely unconvincing cross dressing pizza boy, boyfriend, maid. So, good fun but maybe not taking the theme of the evening as far as it might have gone.
That couldn’t be said of the second piece; Andrew and Andrea, based on Mozart’s Bastien et Bastienne. Here the plot turns on a sext, intended for Andrew’s high tech executive sugar momma that he sends by mistake to his girlfriend Andrea. Mayhem, not helped by the intervention of egocentric hacker Mark Z, ensues. In the end, the lovers reconcile and learn to relate to each other as humans rather than via their smartphones. The performances here were really very good. Finney made a convincingly sinister hacker and Strickland and Viau managed to be convincingly clueless while singing the twelve year old Mozart’s music quite stylishly. This really was a very clever reworking for the modern age that certainly resonated with me (smartphone addict!).
Alaina Viau directed and conducted and adapted Mavra. Andrew and Andrea was a collaboration between Viau and Loose TEA GM Marcus Kopp. Jennifer Tung, on electronic keyboard, was the rather excellent “orchestra”.
So, another small Toronto company takes opera into a new place that asks us to question our assumptions about the form and performance practice. The only thing I regret about this is that all the effort and originality put in by the likes of Loose TEA, Against the Grain, Opera 5 etc will be seen by a few hundred people and those mostly pretty hard core. The challenge of how we get the tens of thousands who attend the COC or, perhaps more to the point, significant number of new people to such shows remains elusive.
There are further shows tonight and Saturday at 7.30pm and Sunday at 2.30pm. Performances are at Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu, 198A Davenport Road. Tickets are $30 ($25 with student ID) and are available here.
Photo Credit: In the spirit of the thing it was taken by me on my iPhone. It’s the least crappy of the shots I took and shows Finney, Strickland and Viau in Andrew and Andrea.