East Side Players in command of “Speaking in Tongues”

If staging a play is a challenge, director Anne Harper has helped East Side Players rise to the occasion with its production of “Speaking in Tongues.”

“They like to do things a little more challenging in this theatre company,” she said in an interview.

“Speaking in Tongues,” written by award-winning screenwriter and playwright Andrew Bovell in 1985, depicts the indiscretions and extra marital affairs four characters in a nameless town. Part of the challenge director Harper faces is portraying the intermingling characters with an interesting twist – staging multiple scenes at once.

Playwright Bovell once said of his play, “It is a story about contracts being broken between intimates while deep bonds are forged between strangers.”

Each performer in the East Side Players production plays at least two characters. This offers each an opportunity to show breadth of acting ability. Actor Ted Powers pulls it off, in that at one moment he plays articulate Pete; the next he transforms into dead beat Nick.

In the play, Powers, as John, recalls an incident in which Sarah, played by Lydia Kiselyk, accosts someone for no reason. The scene flows between her shouting what she said, while he simply includes the details. Similarly, Steve Switzma, as Neil, writes a letter to Valerie, played by Kizzy Kaye. She reads aloud the parts illustrating that she is in control, while he reads the parts depicting his weakness.

Director Harper said she began her directing career in children’s theatre, then worked as assistant director on adult productions. In Toronto, she has directed for shows at Village Playhouse and the Alumnae Theatre.

Harper says in this production even the backgrounds were designed to split the scenes with colour co-ordination defining each room in which the characters are speaking.

“I’ve always liked looking at the whole picture, (not just acting),” she said. “As a director you have to be interested in the music, the lights, the costumes, the staging…”

She went on to explain that this type of play challenges the audience to be engaged in the performance.

“It assumes we have an intelligent audience,” she said.

“Speaking in Tongues” continues through March 7 at Todmorden Mills Theater. Tickets are $22 and $15 for students and are available at 416-425-0917 or www.eastsideplayers.ca.