Short Stories are good, but do they belong on the stage?

Monday Magazine's Theatre Critic Sheila Martindale reviews Alice Munro Stories at the Belfry

Don’t get me wrong – I really like Alice Munro’s writing; she won a Nobel Prize for her short stories. But that’s what they are – short stories. Trying to make them into stage productions while keeping every word as it was written, is not only over-ambitious – it doesn’t really work.

The Belfry has mounted two stories, the first of which is baffling and somewhat tedious. I suppose it was chosen because of its very specific Victoria setting. We can relate to Clover Point, Oak Bay and so on. The story, Differently, is about infidelity and marriage, of broken friendships, of looking back and wondering. But the setting, inside a hospital room, with a bunch of people dressed as doctors and nurses telling the story with , He said, She replied and so on, begins to be a bit silly. And wearisome.

Things definitely pick up after the interval, when the story Save the Reaper is presented. This is a bizarre situation, with a grandmother driving her two grandchildren around Southwestern Ontario, and coming across a weird house and even weirder people. As she makes a hasty exit with her family, a scruffy young girl gets into the car and demands to be taken along. She manages to hold the woman in a sort of hostage situation, leaving her fearful and unsettled. The props and stage management here are amazing, with a car interior and fields of corn, which are propelled around, giving the impression of movement and isolation.

The cast, Caroline Gillis, Arggy Jenati, Gerry MacKay, Michael Scholar Jr., and Jenny Wasko-Paterson, comprises excellent performers who manage to convey atmosphere, under the direction of Anita Rochon, and who work together beautifully. So no argument with the acting.

But I think I still prefer to see actual plays on the stage, and read stories at home or in the park.

Alice Munro Stories runs at the Belfry until May 14. For tickets call 250-385-6815.

 

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