THUNDER BAY, ON --- February 1, 2010 --- The current production at Thunder Bay’s Magnus Theatre is a world premier. The Postmistress by Tomson Highway has given me pause for thought over the last few days.
Our society today is mixed and we share a wealth of cultural experiences with one another and the experience makes us all richer. I have been told that our aboriginal peoples have passed down their heritage from one generation to the next through storytelling, so naturally I would assume that there should be some good story tellers amongst their number. Then after thinking about this for awhile I realized that if anyone else had written this play, people would call the playwright a genius.
The entire concept of the play is chock full of potential. It is about a woman who works her way up through the post office until one day after her boss’s demise she becomes Postmistress.
Pandora Topp plays Marie-Louise Faucon, a woman who lives her life vicariously through other people’s mail. Tomson Highway’s portrayal of the Postmistress is a sublime parody of all the characteristics of a small French-Canadian town. I have a feeling that Highway sat down to the piano after reading Steven Leacock’s “Sunshine Sketches” , played for awhile, perhaps had a shot or two of good scotch and proceeded to write the Northern Ontario version Leacock’s tale. The story is set in the fictional town of Lovely Ontario, which is right next to Sudsbury the place with the big nickel on the hill. The Postmistress has a lot of stories to tell and not much time to tell them, so the verbal delivery is fast and animated with lots of hand gestures. There is not a lot of substance to what she is saying sentence by sentence but the volume of sentences say a lot. I thought Tomson’s portrayal of the small town French-Canadian woman was priceless.
This is a one actress play, and I must commend Pandora Topp for being able to keep up the pace for the entire length of the play. This is more than a play. It is also a musical production as well, so she sings incredibly well as far as singers actors go. The music in this production takes away from the fact that it is a one actress play, the music director Danny Johnson is a long time regular with Magnus, likely because he is so good at what he does. For this production he is joined by saxophonist Dino Pepe on stage.
This is a story about life, love and music, especially the kind of Jazz that Tomson Highway has managed to come up with for this show.
For some of us slower paced northerners, understanding someone who speaks quickly can be a little annoying. That is just the character that the Postmistress is. Pretend that you are married to such a person and listen to every second word and you will likely enjoy the story twice as much. By the way the story takes a beautiful left turn to end the play. A surprise none of us had expected. This is a world premier of this play and all future productions of this work will be measured against Magnus Theatre and their high performance standards
The show runs from January 2th through to February 12th 2011. It is a good show and worth seeing, and it could become a Canadian classic just like Leacock and “Sunshine Sketches...”
Arts Editor: LakeSuperiorNews.com