SummerWorks Review: Red Machine Pt. 2 [The Room] and La Señorita Mundo [Music Picnic]

La Senorita Mundo High Res 4

It was a muggy Toronto afternoon as my companion and I entered The Theatre Centre for two shows as part of the SummerWorks Festival on Monday. The first show, Red Machine Part Two, the second part of an ensemble piece supposedly about one story from the perspective of different parts of a single character’s brain, had always promised to be kind of challenging, but though the second, La Señorita Mundo: An Operatic Allegory (promo picture above) started off much simpler, we left just as perplexed.

Of course, Red Machine is meant to be perplexing. Part Two of the series (I didn’t see Part One, and I can only assume there’s a Part Three) is made up of three different stories, written by three different writers and directed by two different people with the same four cast members. Each is, as I mentioned, supposed to be from the “point of view” of different parts of the same person’s brain. This part of the series is done from the language/speech centre, the visual cortex, and the pleasure centre. I enjoyed the first part the most, where actor Christopher Stanton stood at the front of the stage, babbling about sentences over and over (“This sentence will be forgotten as soon as the next one is uttered. This sentence is meaningless. This sentence has never been uttered before. This sentence is…”), but then, I’ve got a communications degree and am kind of a messaging/language geek. The other two stories were pretty good, the second seemingly about the lead and his early life with his illusionist mother, and the second about his later life with his wife, when he’s a vegetable confined to a wheelchair.

How these stories all relate to each other is a bit confusing. The program says the seven pieces making up the series, written by seven different writers, are all about the same story: “mysterious writer checks into strange hotel.” But none of these three really seem to be about this person checking into a hotel, and as the character is played by three different actors at different stages (I did figure that much out, at least), it all gets pretty confusing and abstract. My companion suggested it might all be better and easier to understand if it were written in a book instead of performed onstage. But it’s not bad, the actors are all quite good and it’s reasonably thought-provoking.

As for La Señorita Mundo, it started simply enough: a vain yet charismatic gentleman (Keith Klassen) is throwing his own birthday party, a masquerade at his home, while at the same time trying to deny, in the face of increasing evidence, that he’s getting older. An uninvited and mysterious woman (Vilma Vitols) turns up, and he spends the rest of the evening trying alternately to figure out if and from where he knows her, and to seduce her. About 90% of the show is sung operatically, most of the lines rhyme and are quite lyrical, and the music, played onstage via laptop by librettist and director Kico Gonzalez-Risso, is enjoyable.

But La Señorita Mundo drags in the middle; honestly, it gets kind of tiring watching two people sing at each other on an unchanging set without a lot of plot beyond “mysterious woman arrives at party, evades man’s attempts to figure out who she is” after a while. Then at the end, it gets weird; it turns out the woman is…well, I’d like to say I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who might be going, but frankly, my companion and I really couldn’t figure out exactly what she was supposed to be.

The strength of La Señorita Mundo is the singing, as both actors are quite good at it, and Klassen’s charisma. He came on stage first, the house lights came up, and he talked to the audience like they were his party guests, he came into the bleachers and sat down, he told several audience members how attractive they were, danced with one briefly onstage, and had the crowd sing the chorus of a song or two back to him.

It was fun. But the first 3/4 of the show never really rose above the level of “cute,” and the last quarter was confusing. Though parts were well done, I can’t really give it more than a middling rating, but if you’re a fan of the operatic, I’d recommend seeing it.

Remaining dates for Red Machine Part 2 are August 12th and 15th at 8 PM and August 16th at 2. La Señorita Mundo runs August 12th at 6, the 15th at 4, and the 16th at noon. Both are at Theatre Centre. See the SummerWorks website for schedule and ticket info.

Posted on by Brian in Everything, Summerworks, Theatre

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