I’m always excited when the Citadel Theatre incorporates local talent into their productions, and Make Mine Love made me especially proud of the world-class theatre that is created and produced in Edmonton. Written by Tom Wood, directed by Bob Baker, with a cast largely rooted in Edmonton and multimedia effects by Edmonton’s Guru Digital Arts College, Make Mine Love, which closes out the Citadel’s 48th season,is probably the most Edmonton-heavy show I’ve seen at the Citadel thus far.
A romantic comedy set in 1938, Make Mine Love tells the story of Apex Studio’s production of a screwball comedy film with a headstrong, perfectionist leading lady who is in control of all aspects of the film – even staffing. Along the way, we see a number of first-class freak-outs, cases of mistaken identity, and love stories unfold.
When you see the show’s line up of actors, you know you’re in for great acting. Given the amount of physical and slapstick theatre incorporated into Make Mine Love, I didn’t expect to emotionally connect to the characters. Often in shows with a lot of physical elements, you get your laughs from the physical theatre and that’s as deep of a connection you have with the characters. However, in the second act of the play I realized I was on the edge of my seat, actively rooting for each of the characters to find love, and relieved when they did. Both Tom Wood’s writing and the way the actors played their characters showed the dedication to developing an emotional connection with the audience that transcends the slapstick or screwball comedy label the show may otherwise have. The only let down of the show for me was when the main character, Lily (played by Rebecca Northan) who, up until this point had been a very strong, opinionated and outspoken lady, was rendered speechless in the final moments of the play. This moment left me with a bit of disconnection between her character’s other actions, but given the otherwise strong writing, perhaps this just came across incorrectly on opening night.
Plays about the making of another play (think The Taming of the Shrew) aren’t uncommon, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a play about the making of a film. I loved how Make Mine Love used video and projection to address the inherent dichotomy in making a piece of art about another piece of art. If you’ve read some of my previous reviews, you know that I am a big fan of incorporating multimedia into theatre because of the possibilities in layering context, time, and meaning through film. Until this show, my favourite use of multimedia in a theatre show had been Ride the Cyclone, presented at the Citadel in 2013. While I still admire that production, I was blown away by the work Owen Brierley, Jordan Dowler-Coltman, and Bob Baker did with the creation and incorporation of video elements into the play. In Make Mine Love, the rapid-fire roll of the genre of films popular in the 1930s as well as the scenes where they were reviewing the footage they had shot that day was highly effective in establishing the time and place of the play. I was also delighted by the way film projection was used to blend the present day setting of the opening and closing scenes and the past setting of the main story … but I won’t spoil it for you by revealing how.
As cool as the film projections are, they wouldn’t be nearly as effective – or beautiful – without Bretta Gerecke’s wonderful set. The fabric draping of the set, and the screens that are raised and lowered depending on what best showcases the film being played were a beautiful backdrop to project the black and white films onto. The moveable set pieces were also especially intriguing, as each piece pulled double duty, making watching the scene changes and what each piece on the set would transform into almost as fun as watching the play. And the props! I was shocked as a life-sized car, a passenger rail car, and a booth at a ritzy dining room were successively brought onto the stage. One of my favourite scenes, which shows the intimate way all involved in this production must have worked together, was the car chase scene in the first act. The car is built to be a dynamic prop piece that swerves in and out of the traffic as the actors steer the car, while the traffic they are weaving through is projected on the screen behind it – just the way you would see this in a film!
Both the Citadel Theatre and Edmonton as a whole should be proud of Make Mine Love and all the local talent it showcases.
Make Mine Love plays at the Citadel Theatre until June 1. Tickets are $36.75 – $82.95 and can be bought at the Citadel Theatre.