It’s well-written, well-directed, well-performed; it’s even well-designed! Black Theatre Workshop delivers the full package with their latest production The Lady Smith, by Andrew Moodie, on at the MAI cultural center.
The story is simple, but the truthful acting lures the audience in and keeps them hooked through to the end of the show.
Two young girls living in a trendy loft in Toronto. They are having trouble meeting rent requirements and decide to take in a third roommate. Enter Ms. Smith, played by Amanda Strawn.
From the very beginning it is clear that Ms. Smith has a secret. She speaks in short, careful sentences; and holds her arms firmly crossed in front of her chest at all times. The girls are suspicious, but are won over by the fact Ms. Smith can easily produce her share of the rent – in cash.
Lucinda Davis and Jessica B. Hill are so comfortable on stage that the audience is immediately put at ease. One has the sense we are eavesdropping on the interactions between two girlfriends who have known each other forever. Hill’s character is perky without being tiresome, and Davis has a warmth that comes through in each line she delivers.
The dialogue is very well-written and the exchanges between the two girls flow naturally. They move on stage as if completely unaware of the audience; which is a rare ability in theatre.
Strawn’s cautious tone as Ms. Smith, however, soon becomes irritating and one longs for a change in pace, delivery and mood for her character. Her secretive air does intrigue the audience, but it shouldn’t colour the delivery of all her lines. Her tone can go from interestingly strange, to consistently flat in a fairly short time.
The three characters end up in a sort of web of relationships that they attempt to understand as the play unfolds. The relationships are all believable and each actor maintains a realism that definitely adds to the play. Moodie’s text is intelligently written and the actors clearly understand each joke and play-on-words their characters deliver.
The set is also very cleverly designed. The main playing space is inside the girls’s fashionable loft. The decoration is minimalist, allowing the characters to change the scene without changing the actual set too much. The actors move through the space, creating a variety of locales for different scenes. Because the few pieces of furniture used are so simplistic, the audience has no trouble believing the scene changes as they occur.
The play moves seamlessly through jumps in chronology, both forward and backwards. Director, Tyrone Benskin has carefully blocked the scenes, allowing each moment to flow easily into the next. The actors do not seem to be struggling against the play in anyway. They are fully immersed in the story they are telling, and the emotional levels it brings them to.
Such convincing performances make The Lady Smith a pleasure to watch. The actors in this company’s production take the audience comfortably through each step of the story and make it an entertaining experience.