Dark production brought into the light at Coal Mine Theatre

The Nether runs at Danforth Ave. theatre until Nov. 7

Robert Persichini (left) as Doyle and Katherine Cullen as Morris in The Nether.  PHOTO COURTESY TIM LEYES

Director Peter Pasyk is aware The Nether is one of the darker productions the Coal Mine Theatre has put on.

“You have to have a good sense of humour about these things so it doesn’t stay with you,” he says.

That’s why the cast and production staff kept things light during rehearsals by laughing, and being positive and supportive.

Originally written by American playwright Jennifer Haley, The Nether is about a virtual world where people can divulge their deepest desires without consequences.

When entering the Coal Mine Theatre on Danforth Ave. and near Monarch Park Ave., the audience is warned by a sign of violent and sexually explicit content in the show including rape, murder, suicide, and pedophilia that may be disturbing to some, though nothing graphic is shown onstage.

Hannah Levinson (left) as Iris and David Storch as Sims/Papa in The Nether. (COURTESY OF TIM LEYES)

The play is a co-production between the Coal Mine Theatre and Studio 180 Theatre, and Pasyk was hired to work on it. He has had experience directing at the Coal Mine Theatre — his first one four years ago.

Directing a play with this kind of material is a challenge, but Pasyk is up for it.

“It’s definitely the most ambitious production technically because of all the design elements and video design,” he says.

Since the script had very little stage direction, most of the decisions were left to Pasyk and the design team. Pasyk was able to add his own interpretation to the script.

A problem he and the design team focused on was how to make the different worlds presented in the play contrast with one another.

Mark McGrinder (left) as Woodnut hugging Hannah Levinson as Iris in The Nether. (COURTESY OF TIM LEYES)

The play is also not written in chronological sequence, as it goes back and forth in time a lot. The entire team worked with the actors to put scenes in chronological order for rehearsals to make it easier to wrap their heads around what is happening. A lot of planning and work took place before they even started rehearsing on their feet.

“I had a dream team,” Pasyk says. “They are all fantastic. The cast is top-notch Canadian talent. Everybody got along really well.”

Meanwhile, stage manager Hannah Thompson focused on what was happening on stage during rehearsals including blocking, props, costumes, and any director’s notes. She also made sure everyone was on schedule. During the actual shows, Thompson works behind the scenes, making sure all the actors are in their places, and all the lights and sound are on point.

This is Thompson’s first production with the Coal Mine Theatre and Studio 180 Theatre. She joined the production after Pasyk called and asked if she was available.

“I had heard a lot of great things about the Coal Mine shows,” Thompson says. “Peter sent me the script and I devoured it. I couldn’t stop reading it. It’s been a great pleasure to bring this story onto the stage.”

Opening night was Oct. 11. There will be shows every week from Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. up until Nov. 7.

Pasyk says he hopes people will want to engage in conversation with other audience members about the play after they watch it.

“I think the play investigates the nature of imagination and questions whether what happens in our imagination is as real as the physical world.” Pasyk says. “It also investigates the nature of creativity and asks ethical questions about what the limit of what one creates is. Are there limits and should there be?”

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Posted: Oct 17 2018 7:26 am
Filed under: Arts & Life