"A romp through the ages - and the genders."
Sarah Ruhl's adaptation of Virginia Woolf's 1928 novel preserves Woolf's words, but brings out the latent humour in them. As do a standout cast, four of whom narrate the story in throwaway lines and sly asides: Matthew Backer, Garth Holcombe, John Gaden, and Anthony Taufa. Each actor also takes on a slew of other roles, Backer the charming, feminine later love interest Marmaduke, Holcombe the tittering Archduke/duchess, Gaden as Elizabeth I, who by far earned and deserved the biggest laughter of the evening, and Taufa shifting easily between poets, thespians and love interests.
The men who narrate however are only able to be so funny because of the skill of Jacqueline McKenzie, our titular hero. McKenzie embodies (her predilection for physical humour shines) the young (male) Orlando, gauche, then brash, brimming with young masculine bravado — that is until he becomes a she, a she who never ages. Then all that masculine bravado lies beneath a woman's exterior, and she encounters the kind of gendered discrimination young men are rarely forced to encounter head on. She remains brash and bold, but as she ages 300 years, but not a day in the face, her challenges remain the same. We're moved through the ages by a rotating set, a double-sided staircase serving as a ship and a hideaway, and by the incredible costumes of Renée Mulder, who adds her own dash of humour and brightness.
A romp through the ages — and the genders.
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