A child, an alter ego, and a chicken

Marie-Antoinette, Opus 1 is the story of a young girl who revolts against her bourgeois family by not speaking to them or to anyone else. Her best friend is a chicken.
This was all the information I was given before I took my seat at the F.C. Smith Studio. For all I knew, the chicken had lines and was a main character.
This would have made for an excellent article. I could have interviewed? “The man behind the mask.” And asked apropos questions like: Was it difficult to find your inner chicken? Or: What does it take to get into character? But my questions would have been foreign jargon unless they were translated into a cluck cluck format; the chicken was real.
When a live chicken was thrown at my feet in the first scene, I admit I was a little disappointed to realize my pertinent poultry questions were useless.
However, the play was far from disappointing. Marie-Antoinette provided two and half-hours of poetic dialogue, moving characters, and fanciful bursts of song.
The play was a joint collaboration between Concordia’s theatre and music departments.
Originally written in French by Lise Vaillancourt in 1984, it has since been
translated to English by Jill MacDougall.
Director Robert Astle felt that the text could be brightened further if set to music. He discovered Concordia student Carl Ragonese, who composed an entirely original score for the play.
Present that evening were both Vaillancourt, a Montreal native, and MacDougall, who flew in from Baltimore for the show.
This is the first time the play has been presented with a musical score. The arias were moving and beautifully composed, but they didn’t always fit the scene.
MacDougall agreed. “It’s a tough call with the music. But they really did an amazing job.” Actress Michelle Harris added that, “it helps to show how ridiculous it all seems.”
Ridiculous is definitely a good description. The cast of 14 created colourful, spontaneous, and over-the-top personalities. Characters arrived at the scene in frou frou costumes that mimicked their wildly eccentric dispositions.
Played by Jocelyn Wickett, Marie-Antoinette’s alter ego was one of the most enjoyable characters to watch because she was so interactive with the audience.
Jvorx, the household maid, was absolutely charming; Tatiana Soloviova did an incredible job creating a thick-accented tough broad with a lovable side.
And my heart went out to Irene (Kristen Forsyth) when she worried that she would have to marry “that Harrington boy” whose father owned a women’s underwear factory; and she would die young, smothered by her husband’s corsets and undergarments.
However, the actors would not have had such an easy time creating fanciful characters had the script not been so charming. With lines as witty as, “my parents had me when I was very young,” it is hard to believe this play could ever be performed badly.
Some off-key singing, a table that broke when actors jumped on it, and a few line prompts didn’t seem to take away from the magic that took place in the F.C. Smith Studio.
Although, opening night had some glitches, they did not distracted the audience long enough to think twice.
Playing Oct. 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19 at 8 p.m., and Oct. 20 at 2 p.m., I have no doubt that each show will bring its share of whimsical events and provide a night you won’t forget.

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