Expect spies, ghosts, and romance in Roy Surette’s directorial debut, The Mystery of Maddy Heisler.
The play is set during the Second World War in Nova Scotia, where Jacob Meisner is a washed-up writer trying to come up with the perfect story. Meisner is haunted by the memory of his youth until he becomes romantically involved with an enigmatic older woman, Maddy Heisler.
The play’s characters are troubled by her presence long after she has gone, and begin questioning whether she may have been a Nazi spy. But nothing is entirely what it seems in this mix of romance and intrigue, punctuated by sober discussions on racism.
A graduate of Concordia’s theatre department, Patricia Summersett plays both Maddy Heisler and Ingrid Traeger. Summersett is able to juggle dual roles with ease, which is not surprising since this isn’t her first big acting challenge. One of her most noteworthy performances was playing the decrepit Duchess of York in The Queens.
“I think [The Mystery of Maddy Heisler] reminds you of the past,” said Summersett. “It’s a nice version of a story with really heavy themes.”
The play’s staging is innovative, with a pool of water in the middle of the stage, and uses a moving skyline to divide the past from the present. Although the first act feels a little hokey with its clichéd mystery devices and music, it does earn your heart in the end.
One can gauge from the The Mystery of Maddy Heisler’s success that with Surette, who is Centaur Theatre’s new artistic director, audiences will have some treats in store for them next season.
First up next year is Scorched, a play translated from the original French version by Lebanese-Canadian playwright Wajdi Mouawad. The story is about letters delivered post-mortem from a mother to her children, which leads them to the discovery of her past in the Middle East.
Following up is Skydive, where two brothers are caught in a 30-second skydiving freefall gone awry. Skydive’s characters are suspended in the air throughout the entire play amidst a background soundtrack of ’80s music.
The Montreal premiere of Shirley Valentine comes next. The play tells the story of a disgruntled housewife who flees to Greece.
The award-winning, critically acclaimed Doubt then comes to the Centaur. Set in 1964, the play revolves around a stern nun who is faced with the possibility that a priest is sexually abusing a student.
In The Age of Arousal, five women explore their personal freedom and sexuality at the end of the Victorian era.
The season is set to close with a world premiere by Montreal playwright Bryden Macdonald. With Bated Breath is the story of a gay youth who leaves Cape Breton Island for Montreal.
The next Centaur production for this season is the English-language debut of Michel Tremblay’s Forever Yours, Marie-Lou directed by Concordia professor Sarah Stanley. The play is another story interweaving the past and present as two sisters deal with their parents, who are living out the past. It opens April 22 and runs until May 25.
The Mystery of Maddy Heisler runs until April 20 at the Centaur Theatre.