07 July 2015
Anatolia Speaks (A)
Anatolia Speaks is the story of a Bosnian woman in Canada giving a presentation on herself to her ESL class. Candice Fiorentino charms the audience from the start with her nervous awkward enthusiasm. Anatolia is trying to keep it light, noting that their teacher has asked them to keep it positive, but as the questions from her classmates poke further into her romantic life, Anatolia’s cheerfulness gives way to the real story beneath. She answers truthfully, though reluctantly, and as she says at one point in earnest, “the truth should not be offensive.” Still, her hesitation is understandable and as things progress she reveals the whole story in small excruciating pieces. The writing is excellent in this regard, and Fiorentino’s performance is sincere, her pain and grief building slowly and steadily. The simple set and use of projections, combined with Fiorentino’s solid acting, made this show simple but profound, and I was moved to tears at a few points. This is an example of great storytelling both in the script and the execution, and a definite must-see!
The Women of Tu-Na House (A-)
New York City is home to many hidden worlds, and one of them is the Tu-Na House, an Asian massage parlour. Written and directed by Nancy Eng, she takes us on a tour of the women who work there, giving us a window into each of their lives – they all ended up in the same place, but their journeys there were all very different. All of the characters are robust and distinct: one sends money home to her village despite a fraught relationship with them, another loves her job but loves her cats more, another is a transgender woman whose intense journey brought her to somewhere she never intended to go. Eng’s performance is vulnerable and sassy at the same time, often employing dark humour to allow her characters to share painful details with the audience. She had the audience laughing consistently, and though the humour and subject matter were often graphically sexual, both were grounded in the sometimes absurd and consistently intense truth of her characters. Her voice is ragged from Toronto allergies (she admitted this at the end of the show) though that didn’t disrupt the experience as much as I had anticipated. Her performance could be slowed down a tiny bit, and polished up for maximum effect, but the story and her charisma redeem many of the minor flaws the production might contain.