Actions Speak Louder Than Words
For most of us, it’s difficult to say what’s a more frightening prospect—crossing an ocean to lock one’s self into an arranged marriage or escaping to 1882 Winnipeg in search of all that makes the heart go pitter patter. It really is six of one and half a dozen of the other, isn’t it?
For Belle (Ginette Mohr), it’s the idea of entering into passionless wedlock for eternity that makes her weak in the knees. And as for Winnipeg, heck, she reckons there are likely a few eligible bachelors roaming The Red Lady Saloon that could generate that illusive spark she so desperately seeks.
Keystone Theatre’s salute to the art of silent film feels like real the thing. Harnessing physical theatre like a wild thoroughbred, the production forges a unique stage experience accented by flickering image projections and the odd burst of written dialogue to navigate the storyline.
It’s almost as if the company set out to prove that actions speak louder than words with a low budget, motion infused farce that boasts high end innovation due to smart composition and fluid scene transitions.
What’s most admirable about The Belle of Winnipeg is that it doesn’t echo with any of the Charlie Chaplin or Fatty Arbuckle hallmarks of the pre-talkie era. Faces painted cigarette white embrace the silent film aesthetic yet it’s the nostalgically rich ambiance prevailing in the piece that’s worth the price of admission.
Lip smacking highlights include female lead Ginette Mohr’s on the prowl Belle who promisingly pairs up with Adam Bradley’s here-to-save-the-day Hero. And with piano man David Atkinson’s flaming fingers striking each key like they’re the last songs he’ll ever churn out, it’s hard to imagine the show doing anything better.
Don’t forget, only once in a long spell does a creation come along capable of snubbing conventional theatre. Hurray for grassroots art, Keystone Theatre knows how to seed the foundation.
Review by Steven Berketo