It’s World Pride Week in Toronto and as far as I know Tamar Iveri isn’t in town. What is, is the Toronto premier of When the Sun Comes Out by Leslie Uyeda and Rachel Rose presented by Queer Innovative Theatre; a group of LGBTTIQQ2SA (WTF BBQ!) performers. Unsurprisingly the piece treats of same sex relationships. It’s a love triangle with a twist. Solana (Teiya Kasahara) is a foot loose wandering lesbian who has fallen in love with a married woman, Lilah (Stephanie Yelovich) who, unfortunately, lives in a dystopia where same sex relationships are a capital offence. Their relationship, and their lives, are threatened by Lilah’s jealous husband Javan (Keith Lam). But he too has a secret in his past. They also have a daughter who neither will give up making simple resolution of the relationship issues impossible.
The drama really breaks into three parts; musically, dramatically and emotionally. In the first part Solana sets the scene in a virtuoso and impassioned monologue that segues into an intimate scene of Solana and Leila expressing their deep mutual affection and physical attraction to each other. In the second part, the jealous and potentially violent Javad comes on the scene. It’s hard to describe what happens next without spoilers so if you are going tonight stop reading right now. It turns out that Javad too is queer. He was on the verge of leaving the country with his war buddy/lover when the latter was brutally killed for being what he was. (How Javad escaped the same fate is unclear). Anyway, the girls have a hold over him and when he can’t persuade then to any of the forms of mutual immolation that suggest themselves he is forced into a three way negotiation. This “negotiation” scene is perhaps the weakest element in the drama. It’s rather like listening to people negotiating a pre-nup to music. There are no good answers to any of the problems facing the trio and the piece ends with them, apparently, deciding to muddle through; realistic enough but not very operatic. Still, taken as a whole, this is a compact and effective piece.
Leslie Uyeda’s score is quite conventional but highly evocative. In places it’s lush; so much so that one would like to hear an orchestral version, in places effectively brooding, in others quite dramatic. The moods of the music fit the plot effectively and it’s inventive enough to sound like much more than a 1950’s film sound track without in any way taxing the listener. It’s also very singable in contrast to the obstacle course for singers that many modern composers seem to consider mandatory. It’s more in the tradition of Strauss or Britten (without sounding at all like either) than Birtwistle or Reimann (oe even Current!).
The performances are first class. Highlights for me included Teiya’s impassioned rendering of her initial prologue like aria. It’s a long, loud, tough sing and she brought it off without any sign of strain or fatigue. There were also some gorgeous duets between the two women. Teiya’s harder, more dramatic, sound blending beautifully with Stephanie’s lusher, more lyrical, voice. High praise too for Keith’s utterly convincing transformation from a rather terrifying bully to a broken man one had to feel sympathy for. Brilliant piano accompaniment throughout by Opera 5’s Maika’i Nash. There’s so much talent in this city!
There’s one more performance tonight. It’s at 8pm in the intimate, almost claustrophobic, Ernest Balmer Studio at the Distillery. There are a handful of tickets left ($15-$28) and you can get them here.