Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Blogging about Lally Katz's Stories

Last night, I saw Lally Katz’s new show, Stories I Want to Tell You in Person. This isn’t a review, but a few things I was thinking about after. The show opens tonight at Malthouse. I saw the final preview.

I first became aware of Lally Katz’s work through The Apocalypse Bear Trilogy, which was presented at the MTC in 2009. That show featured Brian Lipson, who went on to appear in Lally Katz’s A Golem Story at Malthouse in 2011. The Apocalypse Bear Trilogy was a Stuck Pigs Squealing production. Their latest show – night maybe – opens at Theatreworks this week. Brian Lipson’s in that one, too.

Last night, Brian was in the audience of Lally’s show. After the show, Lally said she was trying to figure out a way to mention Brian in the show, but she decided to stick to the script. A script about her life. A script about writing and being a writer. Mentioning Brian would have fit right in.

Ever since the Apocalypse Bear Trilogy, I’ve been keeping an eye out for Lally Katz’s work – which became really easy in 2011, when she had three mainstage productions. A Golem Story at Malthouse. Neighbourhood Watch at Belvoir. And, finally, Return to Earth at MTC, which featured Anne-Louise Sarks, who directs Katz’s current show. She was also in the audience last night and is mentioned in the show. In the dramatic finale.

Lally Katz on "the phone" to Marion Potts

If it feels like I’m obsessing too much over connections here, I probably am. But that’s part of what this show is about. It’s about how Lally creates theatre. It’s how she battles with her subconscious. It’s how she uses people in her life to create the characters in her stories. We travel from the Apocalypse Bear all the way through her career to last night, final preview at the Malthouse theatre.

Lally Katz is an engaging speaker. I’ve read interviews with her. There are great interviews of her online. I’ve heard her speak at the Wheeler Centre. Stories I Want To Tell You In Person is an extension of her chatting about her life, just in a room full of – mostly – strangers. Some of whom have seen the shows she’s mentioned. Some of whom have been in them. And some who have been written in as characters.

What I personally enjoyed about the show was the connections I had to the moments she discussed playwriting, and the honest moments of reflection she had when talking about her career. And she answered several questions I had about her career in the show, specifically - what happens the year after you have three mainstage productions on? The show is mostly about that year and what led her to making this show.

Theatre productions are so often defined by the fact they are ephemeral. They exist for that season, then disappear. This is the second season of this show, after it premiered at Belvoir earlier this year. But because of the way Katz talks about her last few years, just the mention of A Golem Story and Neighbourhood Watch and the Apocalypse Bear make them seem more alive. When Katz reflects honestly about the critical failure of MTC’s Return to Earth, the truth is buoyed by the fact that this was the production that made her the most money in her career.

And all that money led her to a psychic in New York, where she asked them about lifting a curse… a curse that seemed to doom her love life, while her career was going great. The psychic stories are a good hook for the press release, but the reason I enjoyed the show was because I’ve been watching Lally Katz’s career for a few years now – and this show proved why. She’s a great writer. And a wonderful presence on stage.

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