“It’s like taking a calm bath.”
This is the surprising answer that actor Jackie Torrens gives when asked what it’s like to have to endure multiple, speedy costume changes to play several very different women in Neptune’s production of
“I just stand there and Dot [Dorothy Ward, Neptune’s wardrobe mistress] transforms me,” says Torrens. “I’ve been in lots of shows where I’ve been scrambling to do it myself, so it’s a real luxury.”
Torrens plays three of the 12 eccentric characters who open their seventh-story windows to find a man (referred to in the program only as “Man”) perched on the ledge. He’s obviously contemplating suicide, but this fact doesn’t seem to occur to many of the characters he meets. Instead, they launch into stories of their own crazy lives while Man struggles to glean wisdom and comfort from their ramblings.
Torrens does an amazing job of morphing from an air-headed party girl with a braying laugh to a religious spinster who has an original and hysterical view on miracles. But it is as the play’s most sympathetic character, a 100-year-old housebound lady, that Torrens really shines.
“I had two very feisty grandmas who lived to be 100,” she explains. “So I fell in love with this character and I’ve tried not to play her as some sort of cliche.”
Man is played by Toronto actor Tom Barnett, who says that he sees his role as sort of a sounding board for the troubled lives of the comic characters who interact with him on the ledge. He says Man’s journey is about finding out whether or not anyone in this odd collection of people has a viable way of life. And while Barnett declines to reveal the ending of the play, he does say that it has something to do with belief: “A leap of faith, if you will.”
Barnett believes that 7 Stories, which was written by Canadian playwright Morris Panych more than 20 years ago, still has plenty of appeal for today’s audiences.
“I think it’s as relevant today as it was when it was written because it deals in a really humorous way with the big questions that we all ask ourselves,” he says. “I mean, who hasn’t wondered about the meaning of life? That’s a question that has always been and always will be around.”