Theatre: “Urban Tales”

On Friday night, I went with a friend to watch Northern Light Theatre’s Urban Tales 9: Night Nurses in an Insane Asylum at the Third Space. Four separate playwrights wrote anecdotes for each of the four characters, which were then edited together to form one coherent play. From the program:

“On a dark and stormy Halloween night, an electrical storm unleashes the inmates, and perhaps a few ghosts, to terrorize Dorothy, Midge, Betty Ann and Vivian.”

This was my first Urban Tales experience, so unfortunately I don’t have any past productions to compare this one to, but what I did not expect was a glorified reading. Yes, there were costumed actresses, sound and music effects, and lighting design, but the actors for the most part read from the script! Each actor even had their own music stand, which made for quite the awkward commute between the very-small stage and an additional stand set up just in front of the stage to showcase the individual monologues.

That said, Annette Christie, who played Dorothy, was by far the standout for me, as she had to voice her lines entirely in the stereotypically “giggly girl” nasal, and provided many comedic moments with her doe-eyed delivery. There was also some interesting work with a projector that flashed a variety of images onto a makeshift curtain screen just to the right of the stage. An image of a catatonic patient with vacant eyes was particularly spooky, and did much to set the mood for that scene. In addition, the sound technician has to be singled out – the necessary timing involved with inserting a *lightning flash* here, and a *creepy howl* there seemed more taxing than in other productions I’ve seen. In all, although I jumped a few times, and my imagination was exercised, Urban Tales 9 pales in comparison with Marty Chan’s The Bone House, my benchmark for chilling theatre.

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