Feel the wait

Penelope Waits has no plot, but an engaging ensemble

The Queen’s drama department presents Penelope Waits which has a 21 person cast.
The Queen’s drama department presents Penelope Waits which has a 21 person cast.

When the audience first walks into the drama department’s new production, they follow a candlelit pathway that’s lined by dioramas. Each piece of art contains various interpretations of Penelope Waits and the idea of passing time.

The ambient pathway leads audience members onto a balcony, down steps, through the jungle-gym-like stage and into their seats.

If you’re anticipating a plot in this play it will be a frustrating wait — there isn’t one. Penelope Waits requires an open mind, where you allow your senses to guide you.

There’s a lot of eye-candy. Projection screens are used throughout, cutting between images of clocks and an aging man.

Costume designer Gillian Wilson’s pastel costumes and set designer Darienne Lancaster’s tree-fort set evoke a nostalgic Neverland-like feeling. The combined aesthetics of the projections, set and costumes create a surreal atmosphere.

Music co-ordinator Alison Gowan arranged an amusing and exciting assortment of songs in collaboration with director Kim Renders and cast members. The songs range from melodic and emotional, to up-tempo dance music. Guitarist Chad Yacobucci’s jams with Gowan are a highlight.

Not only are your eyes and ears engaged, but your body as well. At the start of the play the entire ensemble takes a deep breath in and slowly exhales. You’ll be surprised to find yourself following suit.

In this avant-garde piece there are no main characters; the entire cast is one big ensemble. They function like machine parts.

Though the cast of Penelope Waits is female-dominated, the male cast members aren’t overshadowed. James Gagné demonstrates his versatility, shifting from seriously postured moments to making the audience giggle as he tumbles across the stage. Michael Hynes accompanies Gagné’s comedy with wit and charm.

Becky Kirby delivers a powerful vocal performance. Among the notable female performances, Tia McGregor, Nicolette Pearse, Tamara Thomas and Kimberley Sakkal all have great stage presence, and overcome the challenge of standing out in an ensemble of 21 people.

Caroline Rémont makes her debut — adding her alluring voice and flowing accent to the musical score. The energetic first-year student Elliot Maxwell catches the audience’s attention with his unyielding energy.

One of the ensemble said, “I know what time it is. As long as no one asks me what it is.” This is true to how the audience understands the play. What kind of play is it? What am I supposed to take away from it?

Though it has no story it has all of the elements: suspense, romance, conflicts, allusions and resolutions.

To understand what Penelope Waits is, you’ll have to experience it yourself.

Penelope Waits plays tonight until March 17 in the Rotunda Theatre in Theological Hall. Show times are at 8 p.m. with Saturday matinees at 2 p.m.

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