by Jennifer Pitt
Toronto – Presented by Company Kid Logic and starring Ava Markus, Robin Dunne, Imali Perera, Pat Kiely, and AmyMatysio, Repetitive Strain Injury is a play written by Robert Van Meenan, and centers around a couple just days away from getting married, and with the tagline “Sometimes Fate F*cks With You”, you know it’s going to be interesting, and probably not your nana’s kind of play.
I asked some of the cast what drew them to this play. Imali Perera, who has never worked with Van Meenan or any of the cast before, fell in love with the script when Amy emailed it to her, after a chance meeting at a barbecue. Acting the role of Pia, she feels her role is all about Pia’s journey: “Pia isn’t your cliché of a telemarketer based in South Asia….lets be clear about that. She has been on her own journey for a long time, as we ALL are, dependent on how open you are to the idea of Karma, and things happening for a reason. She finds Julie through a matter of cosmic aligning, and Julie helps Pia explore her own wants and needs…premeditated or not.” When asked how she felt about performing live on stage, she said “(It is) the beginning of the alphabet to the end; no edits, no cuts, no stop-starts. If you “corpse”, you and your scene partners better “uncorpse” because it’s LIVE. If you miss or jump a cue, you and your partner better figure it out in front of that live audience, and help each other out. Basically, be prepared to wear Depends!”
Amy Matysio has worked with writer Robert Van Meenan many times,and is adapting his last play, Burn, to a screenplay with Robin Dunne. She has crossed paths with all of the cast many times, and when she began looking at a play to produce in Toronto, this is the one that kept rising to the top. Asked about her character, Julie, Amy had this to say: “Described by Rob as a woman prone to extremes, the kind of gal whose version of peace is a constant state of flux. Julie is at that point where she is questioning a lot of choices in her life. When we open the play she and David are days away from getting married – adding an entire new level of anxiety to her current state of flux. When she meets a woman in a fateful encounter, her world is turned upside down. Julie is faced with the task of coming to terms with figuring out who she is and what she wants – in life and in her partnership with Dave (played by Pat Kiely).”
Having enjoyed a career split between stage and film/television for ten years, Amy started her career on the stage. “I find that I need the balance of both to feel creatively full. I love the immediate connection between actor and audience. Feeling a room full of people breathing is magic. I love the live experience, it keeps my instincts sharp and my mind physically connected to the text. There is nowhere to hide, and there is not second take.”
Robin Dunne, who plays Guy, loves the intimacy between the actors and the audience when performing live. He feels that it takes on a life of its own, and is never the same every night.
For Ava Markus, her role is all about breaking her character’s bad cycles: “Candice is a babe stuck in a loop. She keeps repeating the same patterns with men. But something’s gotta give. Expressive with her sexuality and navigating the world with an openness for connection, Candice (in the words of the playwright) is guilty of nothing more than biting off more than she can chew.” Though the cast is certainly not new to her, she has never worked with them before. In addition to the opportunity to play a role she never would have been previously cast in, Amy Matysio drew her to this project through her admiration for Amy, and her desire to work with her.
I asked her what some of the challenges were of being a producer and an actor in the same production: “For me, producing has become a highly addictive experience. I dive into the production in a variety of ways (wearing more hats than I ever thought possible), all of which increase my investment in the project, the people I’m working with, and the overall experience. Challenges come and go – but most of the challenges of a producer boil down to asking for what you want, maintaining communication and creating more hours in the day than there actually are. In the past three years, working as a Producer continues to challenge me to be clearer, more confident, more supportive, receptive and adaptable. With fellow producers Amy Matysio and Robin Dunne, this week is a transitional moment where the three of us swap out the PRODUCER/Actor role for the ACTOR/Producer role. In the past, I’ve had a lot of trouble making the switch – and this time – well, I still need to learn my lines. It’s a tricky thing. But on this production, we have back up! Our Co-Producer Derrick Chua is helping us with a lot of the remaining tasks leading up to Opening. Build a strong producing team! Share the work load! This eases the challenges.”
With this much talent and experience, Repetitive Strain Injury is bound to be a hit. With a limited engagement at the Factory Theatre in Toronto, running December 6 to 15 only, make sure to book your tickets ASAP – they won’t be available for long!