Jerome, the Historical Spectacle - Unlimited mystery

 

Jerome, the Historical Spectacle
Written by Ami McKay
Produced by Theatre Western
Produced by Sarah Farrant and Steve Morrow
Directed by Alene Degian
Cast: Jonas Trottier as Jerome, Caity Austin as Tattooed Burlesque Singer/Madeline/Mary, Michael Blair as Celestin/Mr. Meechi/Father Richard/Orion/Crippled Man, Sara Oliviera as Isobel/Mermaid, Adam Bornstein as Snake Charmer/Dr. Sanders/Pirate, Racehl Phillips as The Bearded lady/Lizette/Lady, Waylon Skinner as Giant Man/Henry/Pirate/Fisherman/Man, Monika Thiede as Sybil the Two Headed Oracle/Mrs. Nice/Civil War Bride/Woman, Meran Glass as Sybil the Two Headed Oracle/Mrs.  Good/Mrs. Kravitz/Woman, Blake Johnston as The Amphibious Man/Judge Albertson/Professor Slate/Man
McManus Studio in the Grand Theatre
November 22-24, 8:00 p.m.
Matinee Saturday Nov. 24th at 2:00p.m.

What do you get when you trust a carny? Thrills and chills, suspense, trickery, magic – and sometimes, a family. What you don’t get are answers. Celestin Trahan lied to me.

At the beginning of Jerome, the Historical Spectacle, Trahan promised answers to the mystery of Jerome; a legless, mute man washed up on the shores of Nova Scotia in the mid-nineteenth century. Rescued, and taken into the home of Isobel and her daughter Madeline, Jerome recovers, yet remains a mystery. A man with no known past, Jerome becomes the focal point of the imagination of multitudes, and a mirror to both the ugliness and the beauty of the human spirit. 

Caity Austen shone in her roles as Isobel’s daughter and the tattooed, side show burlesque singer. Having her play both roles was a perfect use of form mirroring content (the duality of human nature, the meaning of ‘truth’, the juxtaposition of innocence vs. carnality, etc.). Austen has a lovely voice. 

Solid performances were also delivered by the rest of the cast. Although their parts were smaller, I particularly liked Rachel Phillips as Lizette, and Blake Johnston as Professor Slate.   

Period costumes, hair and make-up accurately portrayed the times well – all contributing to a sense of the mores of post-Victorian Nova Scotia. I found the scene changes a little long, but costume changes amazingly quick. The staging of the scene that takes place both inside and outside of Isobel’s house was a little awkward. It was difficult for people on the far right side of the theatre to see the actors outside of the door. 

Original compositions for the show perfectly reflected the dark themes running through the story. Composer Dylan Timmins did a great job of creating the kind of disturbing, unnatural, and unnerving mood that keeps us spellbound but on edge in the dark and creepy atmosphere of the Carnival Freak Show. The band was tight and executed the jangled, jaunty, yet slightly sinister music with intentional flaws only. 

Until towards the end of the play, the scene changes/merges between Jerome’s life as it progressed and snippets of carnival life, seemed gratuitous and confusing. The reason for the attempted employment of the dual ‘story lines’ became clearer in the latter part of the play, but it just didn’t work. Isobel’s dream scene also seemed pointless and disjointed. The scene that included the voices of many of those whose imaginations were captured by the story of Jerome was incomprehensible and a little heavy-handed.

Celestin may have left me as one more of those who will never know the secret of who Jerome really was – but the mystery is the magic. Jerome, the Historical Spectacle, like a Carnival, may at times make you feel a little sick, but the thrills and chills are quirky good fun.

4

Jamie-Lee Wilson is a mild mannered Project Manager by day and crime fighter by night (if you consider teenage children who spend their time watching reality T.V. and eating Kraft dinner and wieners a crime). She grew up in Toronto where she attended York University. Jamie moved to London in search of cheaper parking.