Season openers are tricky business. There are just no hard and fast rules for kicking off the year with a rib-tickling comedy, toe tapping musical, wistful drama or an edge-of-the-seat thriller.
While the Coal Mine Theatre brand is noted for engaging and thought-provoking theatre, the company makes the bold decision to unveil its 2019-2020 with a field equal parts original and lofty.
In director Leora Morris’ gratifying narrative harvest, you won’t find any sharp blades or pheasants in the 80-minute mood manipulator. Instead, she clears the path of a sheltered woman, ploughman husband and outcast mill owner with a dark, sketchy past to illustrate the flour power of comical sowing in all the right patches.
If its true that all things come in threes, her trio of high calibre talent yield some memorable performances in this mostly dark and dense play pasture that relies on inked paper, a curse and a kiss to build up a naïve wife’s thirst for knowledge, language and freedom in a farm country setting. All of which is set to Christopher Ross-Ewart’s intense sonic design that can give you the creepies.
Diana Bentley treads smartly on this spongey foundation that suggests loyalty to horse distracted lover can wobble when under the influence of another. The playwright chooses not to give her name.
Her presence allows Jonathan Young’s Gilbert Horn free reign to plant doubt in the female character’s mind that the life she has is as good as it gets unless risk is welcomed.
Yet as Pony William, played by the always astonishing Jim Mezon, it’s clear that offering the basic necessities of existence to his better half does not always result in the trust and dependency he expects.
Despite a lack of familiar conflict, rising action, or light at the end of an entrapped tunnel, Knives in Hens assembles words and sentences to add yet another layer to its mystique. The production may not be instantly accessible theatre or spell out everything you need to know but don’t let this stop you from admiring a writer’s crafter in a distinct form.
With shades of Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, many find this deeply rewarding fable an important installment to the city’s theatre landscape. Which is never a let down when Coal Miners aim to unearth poetic beauty.
KNIVES IN HENS by David Harrower COAL MINE THEATRE, 1454 Danforth Avenue, Toronto DATES September 22-October 13, 2019 TICKETS $25.00 – $55.00 www.coalminetheatre.com/tickets
CAST Diana Bentley, Jim Mezon and Jonathan Young
DIRECTOR Leora Morris
SET AND LIGHTING Kaitlin Hickey
COSTUMES Michelle Tracey
SOUND DESIGN Christopher Ross-Ewart
PRODUCTION MANAGER Laura Philipps