Lisa Randall’s candid, funny and relatable ensemble drama performed by women over 50 could have another life on stage or even on television
THE SORAUREN BOOK CLUB by Lisa Randall (The Universe Over 50/Toronto Fringe Festival). Inside the Al Green Theater (750 Spadina Avenue). July 13 at 2 p.m., July 14 at 1:30 p.m., July 16 at 6:45 p.m. See listing. Valuation: NNNN
If, like me, you’ve missed out on live and in-person book clubs during the pandemic, Lisa Randall’s The Sorauren Book Club should satisfy that craving. The script and production are a bit rough around the edges, but the show has a lot of heart, lots of drama, and engaging characters. Oh yes, and there are some fascinating insights into Colm Tóibín’s The Testament Of Mary.
That’s the book in discussion as four women — some longtime friends, some just book club friends — sit down for snacks, wine and dessert, nominally to discuss literature but indirectly to share stories about their lives tell. As the women pair up to cut cakes, make tea, or bring out another bottle of vino, stories about children, parents, work emerge. When a fifth member, who had parted from the group a few months earlier, arrives, tempers boil. And then it gets really interesting.
Randall, who plays the warm-hearted, funny go-between Lucelle, has created characters we all know, like Priya (Jasmine Sawant), the focused presenter and co-founder of the club, and Charlene (Maria Syrgiannis), the jaunty person who never reads the book . Some of the most intriguing comments come from hostess Susan (Catherine Speiran), a devout woman who has serious problems with the way Tóibín approaches Christianity.
While director Christina Collins’ staging is awkward at times – all chairs are forward (probably for acoustic reasons) and intimate conversations seem forced – the staging really picks up speed in the second half. Syrgiannis and Tricia Williams are particularly powerful as two women pushing each other’s buttons.
With a little tweaking, I could see this crowd favorite being picked up by local theater groups. With a little work, it could even be turned into a television series, with the cast — all proudly and gloriously in their 50s — discussing a different book each week. Here is hope.