Life feels hectic sometimes - there’s always something to worry about, to dwell on or to panic over. With all of this hitting at us constantly, it’s always a good idea to practice some self-care and recharge where we can. By Grand Central Station, the newest artistic premiere at Prairie Theatre Exchange (PTE), provides exactly that opportunity in a wonderfully life-affirming way.
For one spellbinding hour, you can soak up an emotion-filled experience that is a recharge for your soul. Inspired directly from the 1945 novel By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart, written more as an emotional expression than a story. I hadn’t heard of the book before this play introduced me to it, and I already have it on my to-purchase list next time I drop by McNally Robinson. It’s gorgeous prose, and easy to understand why it was the inspiration for this theatrical piece.
Don’t go in expecting soliloquies and snappy dialogue during this PTE performance. In fact, there are no spoken words other than voice recordings or song lyrics. But it is still theatre, and it is eloquently done. The expressions and emotions throughout this piece from every single performer onstage are as moving as any monologue you could hope for.
This performance is a celebration of Winnipeg’s local arts scene, featuring some of the city’s most talented musicians, songwriters and dancers on the same stage. Heavy Bell, the Winnipeg musician duo of Matt Peters (of Royal Canoe fame) and Tom Keenan, have brought their album to the PTE stage in a live performance. The production for this album was over yen years in the making, and the quality of the composition is worth the wait. Quoting directly from Smart’s novel, Heavy Bell takes the author’s text to another level with incredible musical scoring. These musicians, as any Winnipeg music fan already knows, are dripping with talent – but By Grand Central Station is an absolute masterclass.
That musicality comes to life on PTE’s stage in a bold way. In addition to Peters and Keenan, another six talented musicians provide live musical accompaniment with brass, voice and strings. This group plays with a level of intimacy that will instantly draw you in. The string section in particular plucks at your heartstrings, with melodies jumping from energetic to melancholic with expert skill.
Just as skilled are dancers Carol-Ann Bohrn (who you can watch in our very own TW commercial) and Alexandra Garrido, who admirably take on the entire choreography of the performance. It’s contemporary dance at its best and most beautiful. These are accomplished performers, who easily convey emotions with their facial expressions as well as their movements. Bohrn and Garrido play the roles of two people falling in love, and the stream of feelings that accompany that particular roller coaster. Everything from a telling sideways glance to full-body spasms tell the story nonverbally, with the audience instantly understanding the complexity of emotions at play.
Helping to bring all these separate pieces together is the lighting, which is nothing short of extraordinary. The use of shadows and dim lighting will have you feeling like there is nobody else in the world but those onstage, and helps guide you through the music and emotion being performed.
By Grand Central Station showcases some of the best talent Winnipeg’s arts scene has to offer, and makes for a life-affirming night out. And don’t miss out on the chance to continue your support for local Winnipeg artists by purchasing a CD or record of Heavy Bell’s album after the show.
Performance runs until March 29, with tickets available online at www.pte.mb.ca.