While in line for The Many Loves of Irene Sloane, my Fringe buddy Jenna and I got to talking about being fans of long-running television series. When we love shows the most, we can’t help but speculate on what will happen next. When we love shows the least, we can’t help but speculate on how it could be improved. It’s part of being a fan. Every once in a while, something comes along that we’re willing to invest time, imagination, and emotion into. We essentially have a conversation with the artwork.
It turned out that Jenna and I were talking about a subject that was very relevant to the show we were about to see. We didn’t know what The Many Loves of Irene Sloane was about. We chose it because we’re fans of the playwright, Stewart Lemoine. and the company, Novus Actors.
The Many Loves of Irene Sloane begins at the first meeting of a brand-new book club for residents of a condo building. The trouble is, had read the book, save the meeting organizer and a friend of one of the residents. As luck would have it, the friend brought snacks (yay!) and an unpublished short story written by her grandmother. She had always liked it, but thought it was unfinished, and was interested in the book club members’ opinions.
As the book club characters read the manuscript, a second set of characters appear on stage to enact the story. The readers think Kristen’s grandmother’s story is fascinating, but in need of some refinements. As they make suggestions, the story characters perform the altered scenes. And when the readers begin to suggest the addition of other characters to move the story along, one by one, the readers join the story group. It’s a literal and effective dramatization of the idea of readers inserting themselves into a story.
This production is utterly charming. Besides the fun and clever Stewart Lemoine script, I loved the fact that all the actors (Mark Facundo, Jill Gamez, Stacey Grubb, Don MacCannell, Morgan McClelland, Sarah Rossman, Ed Picard, and Marissa Tordoff) are lawyers who were such big fans of Lemoine, they performed some of his earlier work at the last two Fringe festivals. This year, Lemoine wrote The Many Loves of Irene Sloane especially for them.
Sadly, I saw this show on its last night. I definitely would have recommended it as a fun and witty confection, but it was also about readers’ engagement with a piece of art, and it was performed by fans who have become producers of art. As the last show of my Fringe experience this year, The Many Loves of Irene Sloane was meta-appropriate.
Fringe 2018 show webpage: https://tickets.fringetheatre.ca/performances.php?eventId=601:2069