Last year, Mirvish Productions took an intriguing chance on actor/playwright trey anthony’s “‘da Kink in my Hair“, with little evidence that a production about Black women’s experiences would have wide commercial appeal. Tickets at the Princess of Wales theatre often sold-out and anthony [capitalization sic] would see ‘da Kink get extended multiple times.
The strength of ‘da Kink was in its everywoman vignettes, mixing comedy with gut-wrenching reality that was at times almost unbearable to watch. trey anthony has a knack for massaging an audience with humour, only to drop bombs that entirely change the context of a scene in one fell swoop.
Pairing up with Rachael-Lee Rickards (also a Kink player), anthony has returned with I Am Not A Dinner Mint, appropriately subtitled, “The crap women swallow to stay in a relationship.” The playwrights describe a “dinner mint” as a simple bonus one enjoys after a really good meal — pleasing, refreshing, but essentially unnecessary. Like ‘da Kink, these are stories from a collective of female voices, yet the experiences portrayed are pretty universal. If it’s not about you, it’s someone you’ll recognize.
Stories range from falling for “Mr. Emotionally Unavailable” to the complexities of same-sex relationships. Flow radio host Jemini held the audience in the palm of her hand as she relayed the horrors of meeting one’s ex when looking one’s worst. Aktina Stathaki charmed with her goofy presence and Greekglish accent, only to turn-in a significant dramatic performance as a stressed-out mother of three. Out of the five women on stage, Rickards is particularly strong, capping her performance with a devastating portrayal of a nouveau-riche Bridle Path wife.
Dinner Mint also features singer Belinda Poolay, who hovers above the women on a balcony above the stage, adding a few vocal touches here and there. Poolay steals the show in the second act with her razor-sharp, controlled version of Alanis Morissette’s “That I Would Be Good.”
During intermission and post-show, we were approached a few times by women wondering what we thought from a male perspective. The promotional material and graphic design for Dinner Mint has been strictly (dare I say it?) chick-lit territory, but the stories are much deeper and relevant. Men in the audience seemed to enjoy it just as much as the women they were with, but why shouldn’t they? It’s about their mothers, sisters, partners, wives — and the stories are real and meaningful.
I Am Not A Dinner Mint runs at Harbourfront Centre Theatre until July 30th. Tickets range from $26.75 to $48.25, plus applicable surcharges.
Starring Jemini, Rachael-Lea Rickards, Graziella Mastrangelo, Aktina Stathaki, and Mandeep Kaur Mucina. Choreography by Jennifer Bennet. Vocals by Belinda Poolay. Produced by Rachael-Lea Rickards and trey anthony. Directed by trey anthony.