Entertainment

Perusing the plays

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Four plays are premiering at this year's playRites. Read on to learn more about the productions.

NiX

Despite the snowy setting, NiX is nothing like a winter wonderland. Set in a sudden ice age, the play focuses on the nature of humanity in the post-apocalyptic wintry wastes.

NiX, unlike the other playRites shows that take place in the Epcor Centre, is outside on the Olympic Plaza skating surface. While it might be a bit chilly, it's something that Calgarians should start getting excited about.

"It's truly one of the most original shows that anyone will see quite frankly," says ATP artistic director Bob White.

For fans looking for even more theatrical thrill rides, the show then moves into the geodesic dome built from the ice and snow. That's right-- the play moves from the Olympic Plaza skating rink to a giant igloo. White is hoping that the weather cooperates and remains chilly enough for the igloo stage to remain on the ice.

"The set inside the dome is constructed from ice and snow that we've trucked in," says White. "If it gets too mild, we don't know what we'd do exactly."

Even though the winter has been mild the past few weeks, theatregoers willing to explore NiX's frigid landscape will find an exciting addition to the Calgary theatre season.

"The very fact that you're sitting in a snow dome-- whatever the temperature is going to be-- with some extraordinary visuals, plus an incredible text by Kendra Fanconi, means that NiX will be one of the memorable shows that Calgary will see all year," says ATP dramaturg Vicki Stroich.

..Jordyn Marcellus

The Good Egg

Michael Lewis MacLennan's newest play, The Good Egg, is not the first of his works to come to playRites. Since Grace, his last work shown at the festival in 1998, he won a pair of Governor General's awards for literature, worked on shows ranging from Anne of Green Gables to the CBC miniseries of Douglas Coupland's jPod and had his works toured internationally.

After premiering The Good Egg last year at the Platform Plays series with a reading, playRites is finally able to stage the play for Calgary audiences.

"[MacLennan's] got a really great eye for contemporary topics and smart comedy that comes from the world around us," says Stroich. "He's really good at creating very up-to-the-minute and topical stuff."

The play's two protagonists are a couple trying to conceive a child. Unfortunately for the two, the husband lacks sperm. Enter the perfect genetic male to sire their child, willing to donate his sperm to help the couple along their way. Unfortunately, there's one minor issue: he wants to be involved with the kid's upbringing.

"Anything worth doing is bound to get a bit messy if you're dealing with other people and emotions-- of course complications happen," says Stroich. "They're funny, touching and it's one of those plays that people will relate to because it speaks to our contemporary world."

..JM

Another Home Invasion

As we get older, we hold certain expectations about our aging body and mind. Joints begin to creak, bones become more brittle and there's an allowance to be crotchety. Joan MacLeod's Another Home Invasion intends to show Calgary audiences that there's more to old age than just bridge and complaining about the youth.

"This play is asking you to look beyond the obvious, beyond the old person who you see with a walker on the street, the old person you see playing crib or sitting in the park," says Nicola Lipman, who plays Jean in the play. "To ask you to look through that person at the real person who is there."

The story of Another Home Invasion is, unfortunately, familiar to many elderly across Canada. Jean, the only character in the play, recounts the story of a week in her life that changed her and her husband. The titular home invasion is the kickstart to the meat of the play as Jean deals with the after-effects of the invasion, her children and society itself. Lipman has her own experiences with dealing with elderly parents in a society that has passed them by.

"I have a father who is 94," she says. "Most of my friends have at least one, if not more, family members who are something that they have to deal with on a daily basis. We tend to let our parents fend for themselves until, suddenly, we open our eyes and we realize that they're not fending as well as they always have."

Jean doesn't just get invaded in her home life. Society itself has assailed Jean and her husband in their golden years, waylaid by a changing social structure and bureaucracy upon bureaucracy.

"She is invaded by the social agency networks," Lipman explains. "She's invaded by age. She's invaded by nature. She is invaded by sound. She is invaded by her own inability to figure out the rules, the social rules which are changing all the time. She is invaded by her children. She's invaded by all the responsibilities that are put upon her as she gets older."

..JM with files from Ryan Pike

The Clockmaker

Entering one's own life without any idea of what's going on can present some challenges. One of Alberta Theatre Projects' offerings at this year's playRites festival examines the tale of a man who faces this predicament and moves through a journey filled with mystery, romance and shenanigans.

The Clockmaker is the latest of celebrated playwright Stephen Massicotte's work. He says the premise is not as clear as it seems as he gained his focus from some of his recent life experiences and ponderings.

"It was kind of tricky because I was supposed to be writing another play and this one creeped up on me," Massicotte recalls. "This is a tricky one to talk about because if you talk to you much it gives it away. My step dad passed away two or three years ago and I started thinking about a lot of things-- the nature of existence, life and death, how one lives a good life. I also looked at inner morality and whether you get that from religion or from some other places. I seem to think it comes from other places and we should give mankind much more credit than just attributing everything to God."

Translating these notions onto the stage may seem like a daunting task, but cast member Christian Goutsis, who plays the memory-impaired Heinrich, says the script itself quelled most of the potential challenges. Given the nature of the plot and his own character, though, he notes there were some moments that tested his acting chops.

"In this play, we're just trying to play it in the moment," Goutsis says. "For this character specifically, more than others, everything just happens right in front of him. There's not a lot of forward thinking. That's been a challenge to take every scene in the moment and at face value."

Though Massicotte doesn't want to give away too much, he says, in addition to his experiences, he sometimes finds his play inspiration in things he's seen recently, noting the apparent undertones of some of the movies and books he's paid special attention in The Clockmaker.

"I've been watching Memento a lot and reading a lot of Kafka and 1984 and all those elements kind of came together to make this play-- a Kafka-like play but sweeter and lighter," he says. "It's a romantic comedy and metaphysical mystery."

..Amanda Hu

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