The first offering in the Coal Mine Theatre’s 7th season is The Antipodes by Annie Baker. Directed by one of Coal Mine Theatre’s founding members Ted Dykstra, this play is the perfect foray back to live theatre. The Antipodes is a captivating story about a team of writers who are brainstorming story ideas and (as the title implies) the dualistic nature of the creative process. The audience only knows their mandate: it has to be about something monstrous. And in this chaotic world we live in, they have plenty of material to draw from.
The intimate nature of the Coal Mine Theatre’s playing space is the perfect setting for this play. The audience literally sits at one end of the set; flies on the wall to the creative process of the characters. I loved being able to walk through the set and get a quick glance before getting to my seat. An impressive detail are the mirrors along the back wall which allow us to view the reactions of the actors even if they’re not directly facing the audience. This show is staged beautifully and makes the audience members feel a part of the play itself.
The Antipodes features a truly ensemble cast comprised of Simon Bracken, Joshua Browne, Ari Cohen, Sarah Dodd, Colin A. Doyle, Murray Furrow, Joseph Zita, Nadeem Phillip and Kelsey Verzotti. The play allows you to get a really good idea of who each character is through the stories they tell. Each character got a moment to shine, where all of our attention was on them, and each actor truly shone in those moments. I loved how Verzotti’s Sarah would pop in with her bubbly personality and change the whole dynamic of the room (and help with the fast-paced scene changes which were mind-blowing). Zita’s Brian mystified me, going from a quiet observer to voodoo style shaman over the course of the show, all with a powerful performance. Cohen’s Sandy had me in stitches talking about his friend Jerry and all of the things he taught him. I was rapt with every story, and all of the performances are outstanding.
I was intrigued when I first read what The Antipodes was about especially coming off of 2 years where most of us have been absorbing far more media than we’re used to makes this play even more poignant than when it was first published in 2018. Particularly at the beginning of the pandemic I saw a lot of posts talking about how when the world was shut down, we all turned to the arts and story-telling. How many of us binged show after show, movie after movie, broken up by the occasional book or two? Telling stories connects us, preserves our culture and history, and helps us through the times where we feel isolated and alone. While this play may ask where does story-telling fit into a world of chaos and difficulty, I think we all know that the answer is that that is when story-telling is actually the most necessary. When the world is chaos and we don’t know what’s coming next or who to believe, we turn to stories for solace and comfort. We need our stories, and story-tellers, to remind us of what we have, that we’re not alone in the world, and to give us hope for the future. The Antipodes does just that.
The Antipodes runs from now until May 15th at the Coal Mine Theatre at 1454 Danforth Ave. For tickets you can visit their website at CMT (coalminetheatre.com)
Photo taken from https://www.coalminetheatre.com/season-7