Tag Archives: Alexis Scott

Grounded: Review – A flight over new territory & a war too close to home

An edited version of this review was published in APT613.

This short one-woman play by George Brant explores the devastating impact of detached modern warfare on an air force combat pilot who is grounded to become part of the “chair-force” guiding unmanned drones from a windowless trailer in the Nevada desert.

Directed by Eleanor Crowder there is little on the starkly set stage – a chair and a large suspended sheet – requiring Alexis M Scott, the unnamed pilot, to deliver a powerhouse and energetic physical performance. This is a challenges Scott rises to with assurance.

Scott dominates the opening scene with spirited energy as she articulates the freedom and camaraderie of the air force. Her plane “tiger”, her gear, her missions, her accomplishments all define who she her. She’s a self-satisfied, cocky woman proud of her world and the job that defines her. Her sense of achievement and embrace of top gun macho posturing as she soars through her beloved “blue” or decompresses with male colleagues in a bar is intense.

GroundedAfter meeting Eric, a supportive and accommodating partner, who sees her as “the rock star that I am” there follows an unexpected pregnancy that leads “the blue”, her sky-high Shangri-La,  to be replaced by “the grey” visual feedback of an unmanned drone pointed directly downwards over a faraway land. Relegated to flying drones her cockpit is now an airless trailer where the solo fly girl is part of a team that decides the fate of those below though it is her own white-knuckle hand that controls the trigger once judgment is made. The threat of imminent violent reprisal is gone but where she once fled an airstrike now she must linger over the combat zone surveying the horrible writhing outcome of strikes.

The immersive long-term battles of old, that removed her from family duties, are gone as is the camaraderie that accompanied real-life conflict and now she alone must flip a switch between war and domesticity on a 12-hour basis. Initially an attempt to view modern warfare as a gift allowing greater family time gives over to the incongruent juxtaposition of 12 hours of classified violence followed by domestic routine.

Scott paces the stage first ecstatically, even arrogantly, and then as her situation shifts the movements become wary with a haunted trepidation. In a resonant scene, on a week’s leave she takes her daughter to the mall where the ubiquitous surveillance cameras overwhelm her as post-traumatic stress engulfs her. The stage lighting glows red and her fixed stare is spot lit as the threatening torment builds and the price of detached warfare is revealed.

George Brant’s award winning tale is relevant and provocative while Scott is masterful filling the theatre with bravado and tension. Her physical performance takes her audience easily with her on a journey across deserts and domesticity, through swagger and fierce pride, to a place of great fragility as she too becomes an unhinged casualty of war. This brief theatre touches on much in its 75 minutes from gender roles, modern warfare, motherhood, advocacy, secrecy and self-awareness as it considers an enemy close to home.

Grounded
January 18-27, 2018
At The Gladstone

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Frankie & Johnny bring Immersive Theatre to Ottawa

Frankie and johny posterIt is with excitement and anticipation that we awaited Vacant House Theatre‘s latest production Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. Following last spring’s outrageously entertaining inaugural production this company marked itself as one to watch for its talent and innovative approach to staging.

Last year’s stage was the laundry room at the Backpacker’s Hostel this season we are invited inside Frankie’s poky Manhattan apartment; ushered down a narrow back staircase to a tiny basement apartment in Sandy Hill. The audience is clustered in two rows of folding chairs in one corner as the play unfolds literally at arms length.

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune follows the lunar trajectory of a first date between two greasy-spoon co-workers where a tumble in bed ignites Johnny’s (David Whiteley) feverish romantic embers countered by Frankie’s (Alexis Scott) restrained caution, accepting as she is of her current uninspiring and solitary life. Eager to return to her private world she brushes off Johnny’s declarations of love and tries to rid her apartment of this excitable stranger. Can two middle-aged world-weary souls connect and reach for the romantic moonlight reflected in the strains of Debussy’s Clair de Lune.?

Frankie and Johnny setThe sparseness of the Vacant House Theatre venue enhances the intimacy and immediacy of the “on-stage” action. There is nowhere for these actors to hide a momentary lapse of concentration not that either of them try – both Whiteley and Scott are fully committed to their characters throughout the two act performance. Tumbling naked from the bed to lie not even feet from the audience is not for the faint of heart yet Whiteley & Scott tackle the opener with such natural ease that we’re instantly enwrapped in this middle-of-the-night conversation.

As the night progresses David Whitely reveals a Johnny that is a hopeless romantic frantically clinging to the urgent need to “connect” now. His desperation for grand gestures as his temples grey verges on manic. Alexis is fierce in her resistance – rejecting this idealised view and doubting any fateful signs. Together they work beautifully to convey the letdown of a “life more ordinary” and the self-doubts that accompany mid-life spread.

The performances are tremendous – Whiteley on fine form while Scott is committedly real and beautifully vulnerable. Sadly, Terrence McNally’s work fairly screams late 80’s. Johnny’s patriarchal notion of romance veers to domineering and stalker-like in particular when Frankie insists that Johnny leave her home and he flatly refuses causing the woman behind me to murmur “this is making me very uncomfortable”. For many people today the idea of being bullied in to seizing the day may not resonate as a fairytale. And it’s an interesting segue that Frankie watches domestic abuse in the window across from her own nightly. Tying these two elements together could provide a built-in element to update this play seamlessly.

Regardless of questions the talents in this two-hander swing the balance firmly in favour of this production which delivers unique and accomplished performances and a truly immersive night out.

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune
Vacant House Theatre
May 21-30th 8PM
122 Stewart St

The Anger in Ernest & Ernestine: Vacant House Theatre explodes on to theatre scene

Ernest stage This post also published on Apt613.ca
As the virtual curtain fell on “The Anger in Ernest & Ernestine” this tweet went out: venue is insane but the talent is undeniable. The setting in the tiny basement of the Backpacker’s Hostel on York Street is uninviting. Seating –12 max- includes dingy stained sofas and cushions on the laundry room cement floor. With the actors literally at arm’s length it all heralds an amateur evening… and then the play begins.

The 1987 work by Leah Cherniak, Robert Morgan and Martha Ross follows the downward trajectory of blissful newlyweds Ernest and Ernestine – and the simmering anger within each – as their relationship implodes in an overheated, cramped subterranean apartment.  The tale of the growing cracks between the poorly matched free-spirited Ernestine & bookish methodical Ernest is in turn funny, relate-able and charming. The anger within each is embodied in shadow actors creating a vibrant four-hander dynamic as the wedded pair strive to balance each other and their internal “partners”.

Graduates of the now defunct Ottawa Theatre School, Karina Milech (Ernestine) and Alexis Scott (the Anger in Ernestine), set up production company Vacant House Theatre six-months ago and this is their inaugural “site-specific” piece.

Joining forces with Patrick Kelly (Ernest), Nicholas Wade Fournier (The Anger in Ernest) and director David Whiteley the actors fairly glide through the 90minute production in cramped constraints. The cast transport the audience in to the claustrophobia of their poky apartment, through their interior desperation and denial and across the city from bars to bird watching with an ease and professionalism completely at odds with the venue.

Ernest and Ernestine 4

Scott, Kelly, Fournier and Milech

Milech, Scott, Kelly and Fournier are equally successful in their roles and the relationships they bring the “stage”. From Milech & Scott’s frenzied make-up to Kelly & Fournier’s meticulous broom dance all four work harmoniously together neither upstaging nor drafting. These players are relentlessly committed to their character in an environment that leaves no room for error. As close as they are to their audience without margin for a missed beat or drop in energy they embody their roles with relish throughout with strong timing, subtle inflections and wonderfully choreographed intervals.

I’m sold on this site-specific team. Catch this inaugural show and you’ll agree so long as the future performances equal the quality of Ernest & Ernestine than Vacant House is a whole lot more than a “location” gimmick.

The Anger in Ernest & Ernestine  – Vacant House Theatre
24-26 April 8PM
27 April 2PM
The Ottawa Backpackers Inn, 203 York St.