(Actor Rebecca Suzanne Aurora Mickle as Giselle performing in Post Productions’ Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands by Edele Winnie at The Shadowbox Theatre in Windsor, Ontario, on Wednesday, February 5, 2020. Photo above by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.)
A few minutes into local playwright Edele Winnie’s Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands, which opened Friday at the Shadowbox Theatre, and it is clear she has sworn sovereignty over the unexpected. At times, her award winning play seems whimsical but there are clues Winnie is more than serious particularly the way she crafts an exodus for her protagonist, Giselle, from living a life so predictable it almost aches.
One of the tools Winnie employs to help in the transition is to allow the audience to hear Giselle’s inner thoughts through an off-stage voice. It is an admirable technique which fills in all the blanks and helps explain a number of curiosities.
Giselle’s life is so predictable engineers could easily plot it out on graph paper. Any in the audience just might do so with the aid of a set designed to resemble what an apartment would look like if its décor was a motif replicating the set lines of graphs.
Giselle’s break from the rigidness of a linear life is based on the happenstance of a fellow fretting subway passenger disembarking while at the same time leaving a hat box behind. Which in turn, turns the play into somewhat of a romantic comedy with partly absurd edges aided by extreme audience loving edginess.
With the box just sitting on a chair under the subway wall, Giselle surmises there could be money inside. She grabs it while unceremoniously easing into a breaking of the mold of her on the grid life in favour of a dream of living expensively. Brought back down to earth, it strikes her, and her alter ego and Mini-Me roommate, Giselle as well, that such an arrival of a foreign object in their highly sanitized living quarters is tantamount to ecological disaster.
Playing the role of alter ego Giselle, Stephanie Cragg, in her first venture on the Shadowbox stage, adds an amusing and perfect degree of emotional frumpiness suggesting she, and her fixation on predictability and clean room living, might be the reason Giselle has a dateless life.
Big Giselle, played with frustrated passion and vulnerability by Rebecca S. Mickle, no stranger to Shadowbox, quickly develops her character’s considerable charm despite occasional erratic behaviour. Steadfast, and over little Giselle’s objections, she first peers into the hatbox and then opens it finding, without revealing exactly what it is, something shocking.
The police are called in, actually walk in, arms linked, with the audience introduced to officers Denton and Denton, no relation. The roles of these two long arms of the law are performed amusingly frank by Colin Zorzit and Gregory Girty.
Although he has had multiple roles before, Zorzit tells Eyes on Windsor, his roles in Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands have really taken him to a new dimension in acting in which many things aren’t as they seem and have him often moving, rather marching, about the stage in perfect straightforward motion, except when he performs as a zombie.
That is really the genius of Winnie, nothing is as it seems but it all seems to be more than nothing. A clever scene has Cindy Pastorius in a fascinating dialogue with Giselle in the bank’s washroom. An equal oddity that seems perfectly placed is the ability of coffee shop clerk Robert, played with considerable dexterity by Luke Boughner, able to jump into a dance number at any moment.
In fact, music and mirth happen hardly without warning but producing great delight including a remarkable praiseworthy effort by the whole cast to entertain with a classic Harry Belefonte.
Put it all together, because things really have to be added up, and this, the first Post Production of 2020, is a sure must see if only for its unique, highly original and creative script brought to life by a cast of actors who really know how to put it all together.
But, there’s more. A sort of playette begins the evening titled First Cut. Hair stylist Cindy Pastorius, just about to commence cutting Luke Boughner’s hair gets a call from her husband, Gregory Girty, who innocently says he is going to be getting home late. How late? Three years about the same time his lover, Dallas, a male transsexual performed by Colin Zorzit, will spend in jail for killing barber Vito who previously cut Boughner’s hair. Winnie has presented in a matter of minutes, the comedic connections of a very small world in a most playful manner.
Her little play, First Cut, was actually written overnight. When Post Productions asked her to put something together as sort of the appetizer for the evening. Michael O’Reilly tells Eyes on Windsor, she returned with the polished script the next day. That alone is testament to a talent which must be seen to be believed.
Winnie is the winner of the 2019 Windsor-Essex Playwriting Contest. There is a bona fide reason she won, simply because she crafts plays which are magical, ironic, and well off the beaten path without being all that far removed from reality.
Post Productions has recently announced its third annual playwriting contest. This is an opportunity for playwrights from Windsor and Essex County – whether established or emerging – to see their work produced onstage at The Shadowbox Theatre as part of Post Productions’ 2021 season. For details visit the The 2020 Windsor-Essex Playwriting Contest Facebook event page.
Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands is directed by Fay Lynn and Michael O’Reilly. Produced by Post Productions (Michael O’Reilly, Fay Lynn, and Michael K. Potter). Set Design by Fay Lynn and Matthew Burgess. Lighting Design by Carter Dersch. Sound Design by Michael K. Potter.
Performances are scheduled for Feb. 7, 8, 13, 14 & 15 2020 at The Shadowbox Theatre. All performances begin at 8:00pm (doors open 7:30). Tickets $25 in advance at postproductionswindsor.ca or at the door while supplies last.
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.