Tomson Highway’s “The (Post) Mistress” a Stellar Experience

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by Lorraine Payette, written August 18, 2013
photos by Jay Kopinski and Lorraine Payette

(GANANOQUE, ONTARIO) Gananoque’s Thousand Islands Playhouse welcomes you to Lovely, Ontario, population about 3,000. A hard working town, more of a village really, with a mine, a mill, an A&P, a post office…

And a (Post) Mistress. Do come in to see her and be absorbed into a world so complete, so fulfilling you will believe you have lived there all your life.

Marie-Louise Faucon runs her post office with precision, joy and an intimate knowledge of everyone and everything around her. The hub of the town, this tiny office sees everyone almost every day, bringing the news from everywhere. And what news! From the infinite highs of dramatic love affairs to the depths of sadness at the death of a loved one, all passions great and small, she knows all, sees all through her astounding gift.

Faucon can sense the contents of every letter that passes through her hands and, with that ability, she also comes to know everything about the writers and the recipients. But that knowledge is sacred to her, and she makes sure every envelope is properly stamped, post mark in place, and delivered where it must be.

Tomson Highway has created a masterful piece of theatre, using his own special sense of story and form to create the world of Marie-Louise Foucan. A one woman show, it brings out a wide variety of characters – from those we consider to be good to those whom we would love to see get their come-uppance. Yet we are shown that in the end, they are all people, all threads in the amazing tapestry of life.

The music is astounding, the pieces never what one would expect from musical theatre. Using only two musicians playing piano, tenor saxophone and bassoon, a full range of sound and depth of emotion is created, adding unseen characters to the play. The vocal range needed is huge, the control immense, but Martha Irving (who plays Marie-Louise) glides through them with an ease and lightness born of hard work and tremendous hours of study. The play is very high energy, yet she carries it flawlessly through from beginning to end, and we are left feeling sorry that it is time to go and rejoin a world outside the theatre and her special realm.

“The music is sheer genius,” said Lawrence Andersen. “Who would have thought you could do so much with only three instruments? And Martha Irving’s voice is wonderful.”

“This is our third visit to the Thousand Islands Playhouse this season,” said Rudi Wycliffe of Kingston. “This is not the first Tomson Highway show I’ve seen, and he’s very clever. His music is very evocative. He’s adapted French music, Brazilian music, blues, jazz, I think it’s really amazing and I like the whole concept.”

“It’s extremely original and the actress is extremely good,” said Joan Hogwood. “It’s very, very good and I’m enjoying it tremendously. She’s extremely good and talented, and I hope the show has a long run.”

“I think she’s tremendous,” said Ronald Hogwood. “We’ve been here about four times now, and we’ve enjoyed every one of them.”

“She performs very well,” said Ming Heaford. “A one person show is very good for a small theatre like this, and we’re really enjoying it.”

“The show is wonderful,” said Philip Riley, Toronto. “The lady has a lot of talent and a wonderful voice. It’s very humourous, and we’re enjoying it thoroughly.

“She’s got a very remarkable voice,” said Trish Riley. “Her voice is very strong and really enhances the show.”

“The show is well written, and she’s doing a wonderful job,” said Lois Creed of Dexter, NY. “The music is very different, and very good. It’s well worth the trip to see a play like this.”

“Andrew Lamb (director) is on the Rideau Islands and Lakes Theatre School (RILTS) Advisory Board and often does free workshops for us,” said Rachel Marks of RILTS via e-mail. “He invited me and some of the students to the dress rehearsal of ‘The (Post) Mistress’ – we loved it!!”

“The (Post) Mistress” runs from August 16 – September 14. Show times are Tuesday through Sunday 8:00 pm, with matinees on Friday and Saturday at 2:30 pm (starting the Friday after opening night). Tickets are $32 for adults, $30 for seniors age 65+, $16 for students. Group tickets are available at $26 – $28 each including GST. This show is highly recommended for people of all ages. For more information, please go to http://www.1000islandsplayhouse.com or contact the box office at 613-382-7020.

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