Veteran Toronto stage actor Alon Nashman is starring in This, a comedy by New York-based Canadian playwright Melissa James Gibson, currently running at Toronto’s Berkeley Street Theatre.
Directed by Canadian Stage Company’s artistic and general director, Matthew Jocelyn, This features Laura Condlln, Christian Laurin, Yanna McIntosh and Jonathon Young, an ensemble cast that Nashman calls an inspiring, A-list monster team.
“The play is a beautifully crafted Rubik’s cube of relationships,” says Nashman, who plays Alan.
“College friends who have stayed together for years have been rocked by the loss of one of their members, the husband of Jane, the central character who everyone adores,” Nashman says.
“In the course of her coming out of grieving, she is set up with a mysterious Frenchman who is a doctor without borders. This man throws all of their lives into a flurry, with all sorts of passions and jealousies coming to the fore.”
Nashman says the play is a piercing observation of contemporary lives and our fascinations and it takes an extremely funny look at the way 30-somethings and 40-somethings are trying to find meaning in their lives.
Nashman’s character is a gay friend of this group, who has a remarkable talent. “He can remember everything he has ever heard. He’s a professional who actually goes on TV and makes his money remembering a lecture from college or remembering a conversation from awhile ago, and then they test him because they have a recording of the actual thing,” Nashman says.
“That’s his odd skill, and it comes into a personal and practical use when this finely honed group of friends start to break apart and remember arguments and conversations and he is able to correct everyone. He’s a person you would never want around because he is incapable of forgetting.”
Nashman says he’s had the privilege of playing incredibly intelligent people before, including Einstein, Freud and Kafka. And once again he’s playing a kind of Jewish genius. “What I love about him [the character] and what I can identify immensely with is his struggle to do the right thing and to bring some balance of significance to his life.”
Nashman says that along with wit, there is a great deal of “heart” and “philosophy” in the script. “There is a kind of effervescence to the dialogue. Melissa James Gibson has laid out a phenomenal scavenger hunt for the audience – deeper and deeper into these characters. I think audiences will be delighted as well as provoked.”
Nashman says the set design of This is so startling that audiences are going to walk into a space they think they know as the Berkeley Street Theatre and they are going to be upended by the way This uses it.
Nashman’s long list of theatre credits includes Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Forests, Scorched Democracy, The Wild Duck, Macbeth, Remnants and most recently Hirsch at the Stratford Festival. Hirsch received a rave review from the New York Times. His film and TV credits include Jonestown: Paradise Lost, Cinderella Man, Our Fathers, The Pact and The Assistant.
This year, Nashman will be taking his one-man play, Kafka and Son, which he and Mark Dassidy created 10 years ago for the Ashkenaz Festival and has since toured across Canada, Iceland and Scotland, to Europe with a stop in Prague, Kafka’s birthplace.
The play This runs until April 13. For tickets, call 416-368-3110 or visit www.canadianstage.com.