Yichud (Seclusion) – Theatre Passe Muraille

By Megan Mooney

Yichud, presented by Theatre Passe Muraille, in association with Convergence Theatre, is a unique theatre experience.

The minute you walk into the building you’re in this show.  The theatre has been transformed into a synagogue (including announcements of community achievements and weddings on the hallway bulletin board) and the show is a Charedi (Ultra Orthodox) wedding.  The audience are guests at the wedding (okay, paying guests, but guests nonetheless).

I was welcomed to the wedding with a big hug from, who I can only assume is a long-lost cousin, then found my seat to enjoy the live music and chatter.  My theatre partner for this one donned the white satin yarmulke handed to him, and we settled down to watch the show.

Now, don’t worry, the show isn’t just watching the ceremony, these guests get a peak at the behind-the-scenes happenings at this wedding.  At it’s core, this is a show about relationships.  More specifically, about existing family relationships, and then the budding relationship between the bride and groom, who have not yet been alone together.

I found it hard to pin down what I thought of this production.  I really loved being enveloped by the show, and the live band and singing was wonderful.  I also loved the way they used the space, although since the audience were on either side of the stage area I often found myself watching the other half of the audience.  On balance, I enjoyed it.  I was glad to have gone.  But it also didn’t blow me away. 

I asked Mark what he thought and he said the same thing, that he was glad he went, but there was a mix of things he liked and things he didn’t.  He said “there are things that really really worked, and others that really really didn’t”  He loved the design and said it was “compelling in its simplicity”, and loved the idea of theatre as a whole experience. 

For both of us the live music made a really big impression.  We both loved it, and felt like it really fed the mood of the show.  In fact, Mark said “without the music, it probably would have been half the show it was.”

One thing that I really liked about the show is that it was left open.  It really did feel like we just watched a slice of these people’s lives, and we don’t know what’s going to happen next.  There wasn’t resolution, although it may have taken place at the wedding, the show wasn’t about an event.  The lives of these people will continue, and we won’t know the resolution to the challenges that were brought forward.  Mark liked that because it made it feel more realistic.  I’m not sure what I liked about it specifically, but I liked it.

So, now for the bits we didn’t like.  Although there were actors we loved, there were actors that just didn’t do it for us.  Interestingly, they weren’t the same actors.  I really enjoyed Manachem (Michael Rubenfeld), and Mark didn’t particularly.  Mark really enjoyed Ephraim (Jordon Pettle), and, although I didn’t dislike his performance, I also wasn’t blown away.  Mark’s general comment about the acting was that he’s tired of acting that “calls attention to itself”.  He likes things that feel natural, more natural rhythms in the speech, more natural pronunciation, basically something that feels spontaneous.

Although for me I don’t need that ‘natural’ feel all the time, for this show, where it seemed like we were supposed to feel like we were inside of a real event, it did seem a shame that the acting made it feel like a play, rather than an actual event.

But overall, we both agreed that it was an excellent theatre experience, especially because of the feeling of being a part of the show.

Yichud is playing until February 27, 2010 at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson)
– Showtimes are Tuesday to Saturday at 7:30, and matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2:30.  Pre-show wedding celebrations begin 15 minutes before the performance.
– Tiicket prices range from $30 – $35, with a PWYC matinee on Saturday Feb 20. (Student, Senior and group rates available, phone to enquire)
– Tickets are available from the box office at 416-504-7529, or through www.artsboxoffice.ca

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