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THE ONTARION

ARTS & CULTURE

160.10

7

FoodStuffs drinks BoozeStuffs

NICOLE ELSASSER

Emma Alter

Vicki Sullivan and Nick Nahwegahbow in the School of English and Theatre Studies’ production of Kevin Kerr’s Unity (1918).

A Play of Remembrance DUNCAN DAY-MYRON Last week, the George Luscombe Theatre was reimagined as the small prairie town of Unity, Saskatchewan for a run of Kevin Kerr’s GovernorGeneral’s Award winning 2002 play, Unity (1918). The play seeks to chronicle the arrival and spread of the Spanish Flu in Canada from the vantage point of a group of townspeople, as they discuss the end of the war and prepare for and deal with the deadly virus. The play was put on by students in two performance courses in the theatre studies program under the direction of Alan Filewod, with technical production handled by another three courses under the supervision of Pat Flood (design), Paul Ord (technical director) and Denis Huneault-Joff re (costume supervisor), counting as a full credit course for all students involved. Despite these heavy themes, the play was surprisingly humourous, with the occasional slapstick physical humour, mostly between young lovers Sissy, played by Tanya Jarmai, and Michael, played by Ryan Reeve, to black gallows humour: farting corpses, a corpse falling out of a wheelbarrow, and a severed head in a bag, all played for a laugh. “It’s pretty grim humour. I can see how you could push the humour farther, but I’m not sure you need to. You don’t want to do it at the expense of what the play is about,” said director Alan Filewad. “But [Kerr] really sets it up that way; it almost gets grotesque at moments.” Like the best episode of MASH, the conflation of humour and tragedy not only made sure neither element took too much control of the production, but kept the viewer empathic as it, in a way, made the characters seem more genuine. No situation is met with uniform tragedy. “I think the trick was to enjoy the humour of the play, and not pretend it’s not there, since it so obviously is, but never forget that this is a real issue,” continued Filewod. “But we could never pretend it wasn’t. That kind of kept the perspective for us.” Filewod is of course referring to this year’s H1N1 pandemic, which added special resonance to an already topical play, coming mere days after Remembrance Day.

The panic that the characters faced regarding Spanish Flu appropriately reflects the worry that many people have about H1N1, although on a more severe scale. “Obviously with the H1N1 and the image of the mask and the topical-ness of it, it made it hard to resist,” said Filewod. The final moments of the play are somewhat curious. The protagonist ends up passing from the flu after nursing many of the other characters. After being laid to rest in a coffin, the characters shed their black funeral clothes and break into song. The lyrics to the songs are included in the text of the play, but without music or stage direction. “It’s a real puzzle to deal with. But what’s clear to us is that with that song he takes us out of the world of the characters and into the world of the performers. So it becomes a kind of epilogue, which is why we went into that contemporary moment with a contemporary sound,” said Filewod. The actors were uniformly strong. The two strongest performances were also the two strongest characters. Vicki Sullivan’s Beatrice, a young woman who ends up a nurse figure for many of the other characters succumbing to the encroaching flu; and Victoria Carr’s Sunna, an Icelandic expat and the town’s mortician are two examples. Both characters must deal with heavy burdens, taking care of the dying and the dead, and while they do so in stride, the actors perfectly expressed the characters’ frustration and conflict with their situations. The two actors who played the women operating the town’s telephone and telegraph station were also noteworthy. While their roles didn’t have the same dramatic gravity as most of the other performances, they played an important role as the link between the town and the outside world, including both the war and the flu. This relationship provided many moments of alternating absurdity and despair. Overall, it was a positive experience with consistent performances, and an interesting and unique story which sheds light on a situation which is often not commemorated with Remembrance Day.

In the land of university students who, with respect to their booze drinking habits, operate on a ‘if it’s there, I am going to drink it quickly’ philosophy, the thought of having, and maintaining, a well stocked bar seems absurd. And if not absurd than a little pretentious. I felt this way until I, like many others before and after, became swept up in Mad Men fever. Suddenly, in the style of Don Draper and Roger Sterling, it seems absolutely necessary for me to have all the tools at my disposal to make an Old Fashioned, Fizzes, and other semi-unappreciated alcoholic beverages. While this originally seemed like an ambitious and exorbitantly expensive undertaking, if regarded as a process, with the bulk of the bar assembled piece by piece over time, it can be very doable. To start, one needs a place to keep all of their cocktail fixings. It is

by no means unheard of for a decent antique liquor cabinet to be found at a second hand store or flea market but assuming a gem like that will take time to find, a small table with a rimmed tray resting on top to keep the bottles from falling off, should suit purposes in the mean time. As you acquire spirits, they can be stored either inside the cabinet or on the top of the small table. With the exception of vermouth, as it is a fortified wine, spirits are not meant to be chilled. When serving up a cocktail, a room temperature spirit is generally shaken with ice which dilutes the potency of the liquor just slightly to take off any unpleasant or overly alcoholic edge. If the spirit is already chilled, the ice will not dilute it enough and the drink may taste slightly off. As far as the actual booze goes, experts recommend that it makes the most sense to start with rye and gin because they are the main component in the majority of cocktails. However, everyone has their favourite spirit so it might make more sense for you to begin with that. Eventually, any respectable bar should have the following:

THE ESSENTIALS: SPIRITS: gin, rye, vodka, rum, tequila, sweet and dry vermouth, bitters (Angostura is versatile and easy to find) FROM THE KITCHEN: lemons, limes, fresh herbs (like mint), olives, egg whites (if you’re feeling adventurous), and lots of ice FOR MIX: club soda, tonic water, ginger ale, and cola GEAR: cocktail shaker, a bar spoon, a jigger or measuring shot glass, a wire strainer, a juicer or handheld citrus reamer, a cutting board and knife for preparing garnishes, and a muddler GLASSWARE: highball glasses and lowball glasses (both of which can be easily found at Value Village or Good Will) With this list in mind, you could certainly assemble a bar in your home that may not be up to Mad Men standards, but will easily be the envy of your roommates. Now go forth and indulge your taste for a strong drink.

RAMOSGINFIZZ OLDFASHIONED VODKAGIMLET INGREDIENTS:  oz gin ½ oz fresh squeezed lemon juice ½ oz fresh squeezed lime juice  egg white oz heavy cream (whipping cream)  teaspoons of superfine sugar ½ teaspoon orange flower water Splash of club soda DIRECTIONS: Rapidly shake the gin, lemon juice, lime juice, egg white, cream, sugar, and orange flower water with ice. Strain into a highball glass with no ice. Top the glass with club soda.

INGREDIENTS:  oz rye or bourbon  dashes of aromatic bitters  teaspoon of sugar  maraschino cherries  slices of orange Splash of club soda

INGREDIENTS:  oz vodka / oz lime juice - lime slices

DIRECTIONS: Muddle 1 each of the cherry and orange slice. Add the sugar and the bitters and a splash of soda in an Old Fashioned or lowball glass. Take the orange rind out of the glass and add the whisky and ice; stir. Garnish with the remaining cherry and orange slice.

DIRECTIONS: Pour vodka and lime juice into a shaker, shake and strain into a lowball glass. Add 3 to 4 slices of lime.

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November 19th 2009  

The Ontarion`s 10th issue.