A certain kind of delusion seems inherent within the season of summer. Textbooks and silk ties to the wind, whenever summer starts, everyone is convinced this will be the summer to end all summers. Somehow, the season will make us transcend our abilities for us to be reborn. Unfortunately, things rarely pan out that way-summer ends and we are still the same people. The only difference might be a good tan if we're lucky. This idea of the fairy-tale reputation summer is central to the plot of Conni Massing's new play, Myth of Summer. Returning to ATP's playRites festival after an eight-year absence from the theatre scene, Massing's latest work is the second play of hers to make its premiere at the festival.
Myth of summer tells the story of eight characters living in a "leisure community" somewhere in Alberta and the difficulties each must overcome. These are the only two factors binding these skillfully played and very real characters together. Brenda played by Karen Johnson Diamond is a middle aged housewife refusing to believe her marriage is over; her sister Jackie (Helen Taylor) is a neurotic single woman with an anger management issue; Jessica (Brieanna Moench) is Brenda's daughter with an almost unhealthy obsession with Joan of Arc; Mordred (Rob van Meenan) is Jessica's boyfriend and a pathological liar (his real name is Morris); Melanie (Kira Bradley) is terrified to get married and has an amusing tendency to use a hand puppet named Minnie to express her feelings. The party planners Kevin and Dacia (respectively, John Kirkpatrick and Gail Hanrahan) are no less dysfunctional. Kevin is a single gay man and is constantly looking for the next hot summer romance, while Dacia is convinced she will one day help people re-discover themselves. Werner (Stephen Sparks), a German immigrant, goes to see the pair to find out what a "Canadian summer" is. Needless to say, that doesn't end particularly well.
Massing brilliantly weaves this diverse group of people together effortlessly. The play alternates seamlessly between scenes in which the characters interact and those where the characters deliver personal monologues. Most of the monologues are poignant and allow audiences insight into what shaped the character.
The set is simply designed and minimalist-the permanent set consists of a set of steps and a blank billboard. The actors bring anything else that is used on and off the set as they need them. Entrances and exits are made primarily from two narrow aisles on either side of the stage. Despite the seemingly sparse space, the actors make good use of it, not distracting from the emotionally charged show as a complex set sometimes does. The music and lighting is similar in nature. It's nothing showy or special, but it works.
Myth of Summer is another success for Massing, an entertaining, real, heartfelt and often funny play that embraces its characters. It's definitely a pleasure to be able to see Massing's talent back in Calgary for the 2005 playRites festival.