MKA: Elise Hearst's musing work is a small sketch of relationships, loss and awkwardness.
The MKA Pop-Up Theatre's newest work, She's A Little Finch by Elise Hearst, is a musing series of vignettes on the loss of one person.
The three scenes focus, respectively, on the arrival of the orphaned Josie at her uncle and aunt's house, on Josie's mother in a hotel room years before, and an acquaintance of Josie's mother.
More interested in character sketches than plot developments, She's A Little Finch revels in interpersonal peculiarity. There are several great lines and some interesting moments, including some really gloriously awkward exchanges, and a citrus-based domestic abuse scene that left the room smelling confusingly pleasant. But on the whole, this feels like an unfinished work. Like voyeurs watching an argument through a window, the audience has to piece together what has gone before, and is left with little sense of what will happen after. Plot-wise, it's a bit of a side-salad: fine for what it is, but not really a whole meal. (Full disclosure: I feel this way about Raymond Carver's short stories too.)
There is also the inevitable sense of confusion caused by re-using actors as different characters. Tom Dent, playing the deceased Nina's brother in the first scene, showed up in the second scene as her lover; it wasn't until the third scene that I decided to definitively rule out incest as a plotline. (It might have been more interesting if I hadn't.)
The work is staged in one of the spaces in the soon-to-be-redeveloped St Joseph's Technical School in Abbotsford, better known as the Sophia Mundi Steiner School. It makes effective use of the heritage room and adjoining spaces, and the set – consisting mostly of oranges strung from branches on the ceiling and what I can only describe as a credenza – is neat, simple and put to good use.
Despite its flaws, She's A Little Finch is extremely competently performed and directed, with Alexandria Steffensen and Dent both showing off their range as actors, and Kerith Manderson-Galvin perfectly capturing the random awkwardness of the tween Josie. (The titular finch, sadly, is purely symbolic.)
Rating: 3 stars
MKA: Theatre of New Writing
She's A Little Finch
Written by Elise Hearst
Director: Jacquelin Low
Set & Lighting Design: Michael Parry
Additional Lighting: Oren Gerassi
Sound design: Tom Barton and Diego Villalta
Costume consultant: Amy Butcher
Cast: Tom Dent, Kerith Manderson-Galvin, Alexandria Steffensen, Lauren Urquhart
MKA Pop-Up Theatre