Theatre's a lot like a faked orgasm: it's all done in the dark, everyone's working on a time limit and any screaming you hear is completely staged. If that weren't enough, the actors fake it for three weeks straight, so unless you've made it to opening night it's sloppy fifteens for you.
But every year there are a few plays that manage to feel so much like the real thing, or at least transport you to a place weird enough to be exciting, that the audience doesn't have to fake a thing. When it's good, it's damn good, and woe betides the folks who have to clean the theatre up afterward.
So, as 2006 draws to a close, the Gauntlet looks back on its favourite menage a trois: the best three productions of the year.
10 Days on Earth
Alberta Theatre Projects/Ronnie Burketts' Theatre of Marionettes
Ronnie Burkett is a magician. With a subtle twist of his wrist or the right accent in his voice, he can make his marionettes wink with their eyes wide open. Tragic and beautiful, 10 Days on Earth proved once again that this former Medicine Hat boy is as skilled with his scripts as he is with his puppets. The only shame is that Burkett visits with the frequency of an elderly couple's sex life.
Famous Puppet Death Scenes
The Old Trout Puppet Workshop
Another puppet play, sure, but where Burkett was one long night with an experienced older man, the Trouts showed us something that was more like a wonderful carnival peep show. A series of vignettes ostensibly drawn from the best puppet plays in history, Famous Puppet Death Scenes ran the gamut from weird little creatures named Bipsy and MoMo having their skins ripped off (comedy) to the emotional death of a great former beauty. Anyone who missed the peep show its first time around will get a chance to drop a quarter in when Theatre Junction hosts a remount in 2007.
Little Mercy's First Murder
Ground Zero Theatre/Vertigo Mystery Theatre
Like the shy younger sister, Morwyn Brebner's Little Mercy wasn't as big as Ground Zero's later production of Broadway-favourite Urinetown, but goddamn was it pretty. Even though some audience members had to sit on the barrels that served as setpieces (which had all the comfort of an extended S&M session), the historical fiction of a jaded photographer and virginal femme fatale had noir, flair and dancing. No wonder Little Mercy swept Toronto's Dora awards when it first premiered: she's the most gorgeous midget you'll ever see.