Review: Muse (Little Black Afro Theatre Company)

Muse, at Sterling Studio Theatre in Toronto, is a series of monologues inspired by art and creation

Muse is playing for a limited time at Sterling Studio Theatre and it is comprised of thirteen discrete monologues linked by a common thread: art and the artist’s muse. The monologues are short, all less than five minutes. Some are from the perspective of the muse, telling us why they like or don’t like being the artist’s inspiration. Some are from the perspective of the artist, who describes with neurotic zeal the agony and the ecstasy of their craft. There are moments of tenderness, dread, terror and humour.

Each of the monologues is different which is why I was surprised to discover that they were all written by the same person, Veronica Appia. Some pieces are stronger and more developed than others. Two of my favourites include a fabric artist who is tormented by the adage “You can’t have your cake and eat it too!” and a woman who challenges her artist boyfriend’s pretension by painting a vagina and calling it his essence.

The show is very short. I left my stage manager’s brain at home yesterday but if I were hard-pressed, I’d say the whole thing clocked in at just under forty minutes. Because of the length, the writer and company have their work cut out for them. I feel this show could benefit from having fewer and longer monologues that really get to the core of what the characters feel and experience. For the most part, I wanted more from these characters, to know who they are and why they are bothered, affected and moved by their situation.

Sterling Studio Theatre is very intimate and the company does a great job with the space. The set-up is the inverse of theatre-in-the-round with the audience in the centre of the room, rotating according to the scenes played on the periphery. The lighting is simple and appropriate and some of the actors are interspersed throughout the audience.

The thing I love most about this production is the art on display in the performance space. Little Black Afro Theatre Company is working in conjunction with SKETCH, a community arts group that engages street involved and homeless youth. I spoke with the writer after the show and she told me she’d given the monologues to the young artists who then created interpretive art pieces. After each show, there is a silent auction of the pieces and proceeds go directly to the participating artists.

I am very inspired by the work of this emerging and enterprising theatre company and I recommend this experience to anyone who values the intersection of theatre, art and community.

Details

  • Muse is playing at Sterling Studio Theatre (163 Sterling Road, Unit 5)
  • Remaining performances are April 2-4, 7:30pm & 9:30pm, Sat April 5, 2:30 & 7:30 pm
  • Tickets are $15 (general), $10 (students), and can be purchased online or in person (CASH ONLY)

Photo of Rachel Kennedy provided by Little Black Afro Theatre Company

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