There’s always a slight buzz in a theatre lobby minutes before a performance is to begin. But the atmosphere at Theatre Columbus’s annual outdoor play is like no other: there’s the anticipation of a new production, of course, but that’s heightened by the slightly intimidating, slightly insane prospect of watching that new production entirely outside.
For the last two years, Theatre Columbus has performed Martha Ross’s delightful comedic adaptation of the nativity story, The Story, throughout the grounds of the Evergreen Brick Works. This year, director Jennifer Brewin (who first got her feet freezing with Theatre Caravan’s beloved sleigh-drawn show in Vancouver) commissioned a script from up-and-comer Haley McGee, who played the part of Mary in The Story. Weather the Weather is her take on a Swedish folk tale that follows Daga (Amy Lee) and her brother Diwrnod (Kawa Ada) as they try to find their way back home after being uprooted by a wicked winter storm created by the sinister Igora (Lisa Karen Cox), a troll who controls the weather from atop a mountain. As siblings often do, they disagree about whether to continue their journey or go their separate ways. That’s when Igora, envious of the light inside of Diwrnod (the result of his having been hit by lightning), captures him. Daga must then join forces with a magical prince (Courtenay Stevens) and a gnome named Tomte (Colin Doyle) in order to rescue him.
The script isn’t perfect. The opening scene is exciting and fun, but the context is muddy—we venture onward without a firm grasp of the world or the story that’s about to unfold. Once we have a stronger sense of both, however, we get to enjoy strong characters created by Lee and Ada, and a particularly funny Tomte from Doyle. And, thankfully, McGee creates a headstrong but brave and loving character in Daga, and manages to include a love story that doesn’t fall into the “happily ever after” cliché, despite the very happy and (literally) heartwarming finish.
The staging of Weather the Weather brings audiences to new areas of the Brick Works that were missed by The Story, and Glenn Davidson’s lighting, Catherine Hahn’s costumes, and John Millard’s music make it a whimsical journey. Though some awkward sightlines and acoustics made the final confrontation between Daga, Diwrnod, and Igora virtually impossible to follow, the fireside finale and singalong ended the performance on a much cheerier note.
But, most of all, the experience of participating in an outdoor performance makes this a completely worthwhile tradition.