Neptune Theatre is turning suicide and murder into absurdist comedy in 7 Stories, its new edge-of-the-ledge play about a man trying to decide whether life is worth living.
Alberta playwright Morris Panych’s award-winning work tells seven stories from a window ledge located seven storeys above ground. The main character, known only as Man, hears from the neighbours as he contemplates taking the stairs or the air to get down.
Director Jim Warren said the sky-painted building and the besuited Man’s bowler hat deliberately invoke the surrealist paintings of Rene Magritte. The Belgian artist focused on revealing the strangeness of everyday life.
“All of the characters are desperately searching for some kind of meaning in their existence,” Warren said. “He’s looking for a reason not to commit suicide and for something to believe in.”
Halifax actor Jackie Torrens plays three characters: An intoxicated partygoer who is terrified of conversational silences; a buttoned-down spinster; and a stereotype-busting 100-year-old woman.
Torrens co-starred in A Beautiful View in last season’s Studio series, but 7 Stories marks her mainstage debut.
“I’ve always found humour such a great way to get into someone’s head, soul and spirit. It’s amazing the breadth and seriousness of topics you can talk about with the opening of humour,” said Torrens, who also writes for and appears in her brother’s comedic TV show, TV with TV’s Jonathan Torrens.
Torrens said the manic tone and frequent costume changes make for a high-energy night.
“It’s a workout, but it’s a fun workout.”
Production returns to roots
7 Stories premiered in Vancouver in 1989.
The Halifax production uses Ken MacDonald’s original set design of an apartment building’s exterior painted sky blue with white clouds.
Director Jim Warren said it captures the absurdity of life while not dating the action to any particular time or location.