Settling into my seat in the cramped but pleasantly cozy Theatre Ste-Catherine for The Mysterious Case of the Flying Anarchist, the much hyped play by local production company/political statement the Blacklist Committee for Unsafe Theatre, I really didn’t know what to expect.
I have to plead unfamiliarity with the much-acclaimed Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo, upon which this play is based. So I had a vague idea that the plot revolved around the murder of an anarchist by the asshole Rob Ford and little else.
Walking out of the theatre a little over an hour later weeping from laughing so hard, I have only one word: masterpiece. This is, by far, the best piece of live theatre I have seen in a very long time.
To sum up the plot without giving anything away, there’s been an incident following the G20’s return to Toronto in the year 2018, and an anarchist in police custody has fallen to his death. Mayor Ford may have been involved, stories are contradictory but no one seems to care. Except for one mischievous Maniacâ€¦
From the opening curtain the infectious energy and pitch perfect timing of Susanna Jones as the Maniac set the bar somewhere in the stratosphere.
Rarely do you see an actor inhabit the character they play so completely, from mannerisms to vocal inflection to stop and start frantic energy and the odd wink at the audience. She played the part with reckless abandon and a heavy dose of physicality, slipping effortlessly between a succession of characters, without once losing the essential underpinning of the Maniac. Perhaps most impressive, she maintained the energy and feverish intensity throughout, never dropping off or losing her breathing.
Vince Benvenuto provided the perfect foil for her hijinks in the opening scene, as the easily aggrieved Inspector Bertrand Bertozzo. But his finest hour would come later, in one of the more perfectly staged pieces of physical theatre I’ve ever seen, as his tightly wound Inspector gradually blows a gasket while being violently shut up by the other characters.
Moving forward, we are introduced to Mikaela Davies as the slightly simple-minded and highly suggestible Superintendent Pam Russell, whose stupidity is only exceeded by the hilariously dense Constable Dick (Playwright and Co-Director Matt Jones). She nails the part, and serves as an excellent straight woman for the Maniac and the man (or moron) himself, Rob Ford.
Kyle Allatt is superb as Mr. Mayor, playing the character to the very edge of buffoonery, without crossing into farce. As he gestures wildly and sputters uncontrollably, he remains a plausible facsimile of a man who lends himself to caricature. He nails both Rob Ford, and an exaggerated and hilariously oafish parody of the man.
Finally we are introduced to Co-Director Caroline Fournier as journalist Maria Felkin. At times probing and sceptical, at others gullible and easily misled, she plays the avatar of modern media perfectly.
The casting is perfect, and each actor seems to stretch and explore their role, bringing terrific comedic timing and a wealth of physicality to the stage. The hand of the two co-directors, and what must have been a great deal of rehearsal time, is clear here, as the actors dance around the stage in perfectly choreographed symmetry.
However, the real lynchpin of this production is the writing. This play had the audience howling with laughter over and over again, with some sustained bursts lasting minutes as jokes or physical gags were layered one upon the other.
As I mentioned, I am unfamiliar with the source work from which this play is derived, but enough was clearly specific to this production to know that Matt Jones is a brilliant and inspired playwright.
I beg you, I really beg you, go see this play. It may be the best thing you do with an hour and a half of your life all summer. If you don’t love it, if you aren’t absolutely blown away by the charm and talent of this ensemble cast, I promise to eat a print-out of this article. So how can you lose?
The Mysterious Case of the Flying Anarchist is playing Saturday August 6 at 3PM and again at 7:30 PM and Sunday August 7 at 3PM at Theatre Ste-Catherine, 264 Ste-Catherine East. Tickets are $10. Seating is limited so get there early!
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