Island Fringe Festival:
Life as a Pomegranate
Review by Sean McQuaid
Your nomadic natterer has lived in multiple small towns in multiple provinces. Shortly after moving to a remote northern Alberta village years ago, I was introducing myself to one of the locals during a supply run to High Prairie. Asked what I did for a living, I alluded briefly to my checkered past in the arts, academics and such. "Boy," said my new acquaintance, laughing, "are you ever in the wrong place!"
That experience helps me relate to Rosie Fudge, the heroine of actor/playwright Dawna J. Wightman's one-woman show Life as a Pomegranate. An aspiring actor whose promising career is hindered by a needy mother, Rosie gets married and moves to small town British Columbia, largely devoid of show biz opportunities. Rosie's artistic ambitions slowly wither as she submerges herself in the roles of wife and mother, yearning for a way to resume her craft and rediscover her bliss.
Wightman's impressions of being an artistic fish out of water in a small BC town feel real and familiar, and she builds a character you can root for in Rosie. Awkward, moody, anxious, self-critical verging on self-loathing, yet sweet and funny and idealistic and eternally bolstered by the "blue ball" of creativity she visualizes as the core of her being, Rosie struggles but you want her to succeed.
It's a frequently funny, sometimes painfully sad script, and all nine characters in it are played by Wightman, giving each of them his or her own voice, posture and mannerisms, ranging from charmingly, flamboyantly manic-depressive Rosie to her croaking mother, her loutish husband and vividly sketched supporting characters like amiable stoner Slow Moe or mean girl Sutton, a haughty ice sculpture of a woman who becomes Rosie's nemesis.
Her biggest external nemesis, that is. Rosie's often her own worst enemy, especially when her inner critic manifests vocally as a self-destructively wicked witch persona who could match Margaret Hamilton in terms of menacingly venomous glee.
Despite the confining close quarters of Marc's Lounge, Wightman's multi-role extravaganza is a very playful, versatile performance incorporating pantomime, song, dance, kazoo music and even finger puppetry, all of it done energetically and passionately.
As Wightman herself said in a 2012 interview with Cate McKim about this play, "When I act, I give all of me, every cell. No tricks. No shortcuts." That all-consuming zeal for her craft persists in Wightman's 2016 run, making Life as a Pomegranate perhaps the best-acted show of this year's Island Fringe Festival.