Combining near cinematic imagery that verges on the iconic and powerhouse performances from its actors, Liv Stein, presented by Canadian Stage at the Bluma Appel Theatre in Toronto is sure to wow and elicit discussion.
Director Matthew Jocelyn’s sure hand brings Nino Haratischwili’s original German play to the Canadian stage via a translation by Birgit Schreyer Duarte. With the help of his talented players: Leslie Hope, Sheila Ingabire-Isaro, Geraint Wyn Davies, Nicola Correia-Damude, Caroline Gillis and Marc-Andre Blanchard, to say nothing of the talented work being done offstage, the play allows us to ponder the conflict between truth and happiness and whether the two can co-exist.
Hope shoulders the role of the titular Liv Stein, a once renowned pianist who stepped away from fame and success when her son, Henri (Blanchard) died from an inoperable brain cancer 18 months previous. Spiralling into grief, she seems unable to recover. Her ex-husband, Emil (Wyn Davies) pushes her to return to her craft, and even pushes a student in her direction, Lore (Ingabire-Isaro).
When Lore enters Liv’s life, she has an immediate effect on her, and we are soon wondering about manipulation, music, sex, exploitation, and truth. Lore’s dynamic resonates through the entire Stein family, but what are the motives that truly drive her?
Each of the cast is perfectly placed. Jocelyn gets exactly the performances he needs from them to pull the audience into the confrontations that overtake the second half of the play.
Hope is luminous, and Ingabire-Isaro is a perfect foil for her, as the two push one another further not only in character terms, but in performances. Watching the two together is to watch craftspeople at the top of their game, comfortable in their emotions and ready to lay them bare for their art. Wyn Davies’ Emil is one of the most manipulative roles on the stage and he plays it to the hilt eliciting both laughter and furious judgement from the audience. Gillis and Correia-Damude both give delightful turns, even as both characters are used by all sides.
Running at a tight 105 minutes, with no intermission, the emotional and character arcs of the show keep you riveted to the last moments leaving the audience stunned, reeling, and re-evaluating everything they just saw.
With stunning stage, lighting and costume design, the creative team working behind the scenes helps create a glimpse of pain, joy, loss, and discovery, a microcosm of life, served up in a well-crafted tale that transcends stagecraft and reaches towards art.
Running until February 12 at the Bluma Appel Theatre this is one that will make you think, even as you enjoy the gorgeous imagery and performances that Canadian Stage presents to us.
Get your tickets now, and enjoy some of the best of Toronto Theatre with Canadian Stage.