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Review of Theatre Orangeville’s Script-Tease – Laneway Café

March 4, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

To pass from one phase to another in an obvious and clear way, using a transitional path makes the shift interesting and encourages anticipation: hence, Laneway Café is Theatre Orangeville’s Online latest presentation, running now until March 11. 

Written by Marni Walsh as a romantic comedy, Laneway Café tells the story of two neighbours who finally meet over the disposal of their household compost and recycling at the end of a laneway, where their containers are stored. There’s a hesitant exchange of greetings, each of them wearing a mask, to more interest and conflict – sign on and see it for yourselves.

This is a one-act play, for a complete change to the theatre’s normal fare. The sense of this is given, in that the format is Stream Yard: faces in boxes and that, next up, are three-one act plays, about which you can learn more by referring to Theatre Orangeville’s website.

More than the new play, Laneway Café itself, is the very satisfying decision to offer it as a workshop, meaning that this is a cold – or first – reading of the play, with the director, David Nairn, Marni Walsh, the two actors in the piece, Jane Spence and Jeffery Wetsch, pianist, Nicolas Mustapha, and Dan Palmieri, assistant technical director. This is an opportunity to witness the nuts and bolts of assembling a new play on its hoped-for path to being performed on stage. 

Here is how that works: as each of the participants is on, those faces come on the screen. David Nairn reads the stage instructions from scene to scene. These include what scene is next, its location and the details: lighting, setting, where everything is in that place. A description of each of the actors as to dress, position and, even, mood is included. Mr. Nairn is shown with whichever or both of the actors. 

Nicolas Mustapha joins in as well at these points. His job is to provide musical ambiance with his own improvisations on the piano as the scenes move along. An excellent addition to the overall show, his playing acts as a glue between the scene shift and the interruptions, for interruptions there are.

The instructive and very interesting aspect of this presentation are the pauses for questions and suggestions from the director and the actors to the playwright. Any author handing over a finished manuscript expects comments and questions from first readers. The playwright may well imagine that what she or he writes is clear for intention and content. Not until fresh eyes scan the words do the fallacies really surface and require possibly unexpected explanations. 

So it is in this case, when Mr. Nairn, as director, stops the reading to enlarge on the situation or the character in the moment and also gives the actors themselves the chance to look for clarity in some of the dialogue. At these moments, Ms. Walsh is added to the screen to talk about what she had in mind, while writing and comment on how it might be affected by additions or minor re-writes. For us the audience, this is all the fascinating mechanics of critique, so important to the successful realization of a finished manuscript, potentially ready for the next steps to the stage.

There are other times when Dan Palmieri comes up to discuss the lighting and other technical issues. Mr. Mustapha talks about the way he imagines the tensions and feelings in the play and reflects them through his music.

“This is a transition,” Mr. Nairn told the Citizen in an earlier interview. “Our nine shows so far have all been cabarets but our surveys to our patrons have shown us that, while they enjoyed the shows, overwhelmingly, they long for plays, for stories. So, this is the moment when we begin talking about plays. We have three new one-act plays that have been written for us, coming up through the spring into June.

“So often patrons have said how much they would like to see a play in the preparation, wanting to know the ‘skinny’ on how we get it ready for those productions on stage. So, we thought that, at last, we have a method to actually be able to do that.”

It has been the policy of Theatre Orangeville to stage a Q and A after a select number of plays when they were on stage [pre-COVID]. Audiences were invited to remain in their seats after the shows and the whole team: actors, production, tech and, sometimes the playwright would return to the stage, very informally, to take and answer questions from the audience about all sorts of matters.

Aware of how much engaged audience members enjoyed this, it was decided to bring this back to the new arrangement. 

As Mr. Nairn outlined, “This time, the audience can enter into real live questions; enter into a chatroom either by email or Stream Yard, for live conversations. As a component with our audience, people can be active in the development of the show, can actually be interactive. An audience is involved, in that moment, to share those thoughts in real time. This is to show our audiences the process of bringing the play to the finished product in the theatre.”

In order to be part of this fun, see the show. Participation in the Q and A is audience members only – just exactly as it would be otherwise.

It is clear Theatre Orangeville is making theatre history by finding ways to combine theatre on a screen that is as close to the live experience as it can be, in these weird times. We barely know and we don’t dare guess just when we can or will go back to the theatre truly. In the meantime, we have our Theatre Orangeville family of creative team and wonderful actors, who are like being friends of ours, coming back to us as best they can and they surely deserve our patronage.

To buy your virtual tickets and subscriptions, for more information – go to or call the Box Office on 519-942-3423

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