The Harrowing of Brimstone McReedy
Written by Eric Woolfe. Originally directed by Dylan Trowbridge. Until Nov. 24 at Red Sandcastle Theatre, 922 Queen St. E. eldritchtheatre.ca
The arctic of “Brimstone McReedy” cut abysmal in its aboriginal premiere three years ago, aback it was nominated for two Dora Awards. But remounted by Eldritch Theatre for its 20th ceremony (or abominaversary, as they like to say) its accurateness seems to accept become hardly added lukewarm.
It’s a Faustian account set in the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897 and the aboriginal adjustment of Dawson City in the Yukon.
Eldritch aesthetic administrator Eric Woolfe writes and performs this abandoned piece, in which he pulls abecedarian assignment as hard-edged narrator, sleight-of-hand archimage and puppeteer. After affectation his tricks about the admirers as they book in, he sets himself up abaft a anatomy (designed by Melanie McNeill) that’s a mix of decrepit board bar and blackjack table, both adapted settings to get absent in a yarn.
Woolfe plays Brimstone McReedy, a wannabe con man who makes a baleful accord with a aphotic spirit to become a high-roller and receives three gifts: a candle that will admission him three wishes, a accursed accouter of cards to fool any cheating body they’re played adjoin and a simple alarm with a abstruse purpose.
With his amber three-piece clothing and a blister beyond his larboard eye, Woolfe’s McReedy is a agenda bluff from a ancient era with a cautionary account about greed, love, the Gold Rush and fate, and he tells his adventure in the third being with a amusing yet aggressive tone, application both handmade doll-like puppets — which amplify in their impressively alarming actualization — and a able aerial camera to accommodate a appearance of McReedy’s agenda swindles.
Even with the advice of the camera, in a amplitude as affectionate as the Red Sandcastle some illusions are too attenuate or quick to accept abounding effect. But for the best part, Woolfe’s abracadabra abilities are as arresting as his achievement style. Alike aback he makes a mistake, as he did in the Sunday matinee I saw, it becomes a affected achievement in itself, agenda spraying beyond the set. And his illusions acquisition anecdotal adherence in the story.
However, the adventure itself doesn’t accept the aforementioned adjustment the illusions do. Alike in a cadaverous folk tale, McReedy is a difficult hero to basis for, abnormally aback it comes to his admiration with a 16-year-old abecedarian actress, Epiphany Blackburn.
There are some 19th-century throwbacks that acreage abominably with a 2019 audience, including Epiphany’s age, her relationships with assorted con men and her assignment as a ballerina in a Dawson City hotel, but additionally a dream that McReedy describes featuring a “hoodoo priest,” “Chinamen” and “dark-skinned pirates.” That may reflect the era, but Woolfe never attempts abounding captivation in this world; if he acknowledges that the Santa Claus Parade acquired delays for admirers associates or a campanology cellphone, he can additionally draw absorption to McReedy’s politically incorrect ancestral analogue and the sexism that puts Epiphany in an unsafe, and ultimately devastating, position.
Celebrating 20 years of operation for an absolute theatre aggregation is no baby feat, and Eldritch Theatre has congenital a reliable afterward with its alloy of horror, puppetry, sci-fi and low-tech theatrics, a aberration in Toronto. But there’s still allowance to attending aback at accomplished hits and accumulate editing.
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