The artistic director of Toronto’s award-winning Theatre Asylum, Jennifer H. Capraru, is directing FORNES x 2, which features two plays, written nearly two decades apart, by “the greatest least-acknowledged female playwright of our time.
“Maria Irene Forné is kind of from the off-off-Broadway movement of the 1960s. She came up at the same time as playwrights like Edward Albee, and Sam Shepard, people like that,” Capraru said, adding that Fornés has won a number of Obie Awards, (off-Broadway awards), and was also nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
“She wrote the first play, The Successful Life of 3, in 1965 and the second play, Mud, was written about 20 years later. So I decided to link them, using the same three actors in both plays because both plays are about a kind of love triangle.”
Montreal-born Capraru, who has been working as a theatre director for more than 15 years, said she wanted to link the two plays by the Cuban-American playwright to expose a cycle of consumerism and poverty, which relates to the gentrification of Toronto’s Kensington Market, where Capraru has lived for the past 20 years.
“The first play is hilarious. It’s completely absurd, non-realistic. It’s like a vaudeville cartoon, it’s crazy and there’s the music and the costumes, the lighting – everything about it is super wacky,” Capraru said. “It draws on vaudeville, it draws on the Marx Brothers and that kind of comedy. It’s slapstick, like old Jewish comedies,” said Capraru, who is no stranger to directing Jewish-themed plays, such as My Mother’s Courage.
“We see these three characters who are kind of unconscious, not really awake, they don’t really take responsibility for their lives, they just have fun. The characters are called He, She and 3. So they don’t even have names.”
She said Mud – played by the same three-person cast made up by award-winning veteran actor Hardee T. Lineham, actor and filmmaker Michelle Latimer, and actor Jamie Robinson – is more about the need to escape.
“It’s about people living in poverty, people trying to better themselves and not being able to, being limited by poverty, being limited by disenfranchisement, being limited by a lack of education. And the two plays really relate to Kensington Market where I live,” she said.
“The first play is kind of about how the market is being gentrified by conspicuous consumerism. The second play is more about how the market began – as a place for immigrants to come through, especially our community, the Jewish community. They are the ones who created the market.”
Capraru, who is an activist with Friends of Kensington Market, a non-profit organization that recently fought off a plan to bring a Walmart into the neighbourhood, said there are currently three Jewish families who own a number of buildings in the area that are helping to stave off the gentrification of Kensington Market.
Capraru said the production will make references to the market “in the visual style of the two plays” and the play itself will be held deep in the heart of the market, at Augusta Avenue and Baldwin Street in an underground space with 10-foot ceilings.
FORNES x 2 examines consumerism, poverty and relationships, and human rights issues in general, which is the focus of much of Capraru’s work.
“I used to direct a lot of Jewish contemporary plays that are really asking who we are, focusing a lens on our humanity. And that is what these plays do as well,” she said.
In July, Capraru will be presenting a play about Osip Mandelshtam, one of the foremost Russian poets of the 20th century.
The play will be presented at the Anshei Minsk Synagogue in Toronto as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival.
FORNES x 2 runs May 30 to June 14.
For tickets or more information visit www.theatreasylum.com.