Miss (Unit 102 and Actors Company/Spadina Avenue Gang)
This one-act drama by busy local playwright Michael Ross Albert officially opens The Assembly Theatre, a new storefront performance space at the juncture of Parkdale and Roncesvalles Village, jointly run by Unit 102 Theatre (who were displaced from their previous Parkdale location by condo construction) and Leroy Street Theatre. Like his Dora-nominated play Tough Jews, Miss begins in the aftermath of a violent act.
The first performer onstage is a Siamese fighting fish—the class pet in English teacher Laura’s (Nola Martin) homeroom at St. Andrew’s College. We’ll eventually discover this fish has some things in common with Gil (Trevor Hayes), Laura’s estranged fiancé, who blames the troubled state of their relationship on a fight between two students, in which she was tragically injured. Tyler (Wayne Burns), the boarding student at fault, is waiting on this rainy afternoon to discover his fate at the school, and Laura wants a say in that decision—though maybe not to the same desired outcome as Gil.
Albert has crammed a lot of twists and reveals into the one act, and as audience members, we’re immersed pretty quickly into the single-setting, real-time scene, aided by Adam Belanger’s detailed set (wood-panelled walls, pictures of our parent’s prime ministers, and real water running down the classroom window) and Lindsay Dagger Junkin’s costumes; she won a Dora for her work on Tough Jews, and continues her fine work here, fitting Martin into a pencil skirt, giving Gil changing levels of dishevelment, and dressing Burns in a note-perfect uniform. Baby-cheeked Burns, in particular, is excellent as the shrewd and seemingly disaffected teen, who has been taken advantage of but doesn’t view himself as a victim. Hayes is suitably coarse as the volatile Gil; Martin, unfortunately, has the least to play, despite having the most jarring backstory.
All three characters have acted immaturely, especially as motivated by “love.” Tyler elucidates in one line what is really behind their desperation: “Home is something you gave me—and then destroyed.” In trying to salvage what they have left—or avenge what they thought they had—the three may make things much, much worse.
To October 1, The Assembly Theatre (1479 Queen Street West), Wednesday-Saturday, 8 p.m., Sunday, 6 p.m., $20-$25.