GORE BAY – Outstanding!
That is the only way to describe the Gore Bay Theatre production of “Molly Sweeney,” which will hit the stage for the third and final time this evening (Friday) at the Gore Bay Community Hall.
This past Sunday I was able to watch a dress rehearsal of the production of Molly Sweeney, by Brian Friel, considered one of the great playwrights of the past century. To say I was engaged from start to finish by story and stellar performances by Tara Bernatchez, John Robertson and Will Smith would be a huge understatement. Their mastery of the Irish dialect and their deep emotional connection to their characters kept me totally engrossed and mesmerized by very believable performance in three extremely challenging roles.
The acting ranks as one, if not, of the strongest ensembles to perform on the Gore Bay stage and will leave audiences searching for superlatives in this powerful and riveting production.
The play tells the story of Molly, (played by Tara Bernatchez), a woman who has been blind since infancy who undergoes an operation to attempt to restore her sight. We hear the story from the perspectives of Molly, her husband Frank (John Robertson), and Paddy Rice, her doctor, as three monologues that are woven together to form a compelling drama; underscoring the connection between vision and understanding.
By using our imagination the audience can easily identify with Molly and the special world of blindness, a world where we close our eyes to block out visual distraction, when we want to carefully listen to language and the art of storytelling. We realize that when we embrace a limitation, one acquires a special gift.
While the play is about two hours in length to watch, audience members will no doubt spend a lot more time thinking about the story afterward. Molly, who has been blind since 10 months of age, starts off by recounting her life, one blessed with friends and a recent marriage. Her ever-enthusiastic husband, Frank, puts together a plan to restore her sight and seeks out Dr. Rice, an eye surgeon who once had a very promising career who has now gone into near seclusion.
“What has she to lose?” is a question Mr. Rice asks as he agrees to operate on Molly. It is a question that will eventually weigh on all three characters’ minds.
Characteristic of Gore Bay Theatre, the set is very symbolic, representing the isolation of each actor being blind to one another and stripped to the bare bones. The lighting reinforces this and also offers some colour and visual variety. Harp music, composed and performed by Barrie Island resident Mary Anderson, features both lively and haunting melodies characteristic of Ireland and re-enforces the mood and character of Molly.
We have become used to the high quality of work done by this award winning group but something of this calibre should not be missed.
The play closes tonight (Friday) with its final performance at the Gore Bay Community Hall at 7:30 with all tickets sold at the door.
After the performance adjudicator, Annette Procunier will be critiquing the production as part of the Northern Ontario Drama Festival, a wonderful opportunity for the audience to learn more about the art and craft of theatre. Gore Bay Theatre will be competing against plays being performed in Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury and North Bay. This year the adjudicator is travelling and will see the plays on their home stages.