Dressed as People – A Triptych of Uncanny Abduction
Created by Margo MacDonald, A.M. Dellamonica, Amal El-Mohtar, & Kelly Robson
Produced by Parry Riposte Productions (Ottawa/Toronto)
110 min / 14+ / Play / Drama
Warnings: mature language, violence, sexual content, mental health, firearms
The Ottawa Fringe’s presentation of Dressed as People – A Triptych of Uncanny Abduction is a world premiere, and aren’t we lucky to be the first ones to see it! It’s three monologues from three different time periods, all written by award-winning speculative fiction playwrights, performed by the much-lauded actor Margo MacDonald, and directed by the multi-talented Mary Ellis.
The first story, Skinless by Kelly Robson, is set in 1989 Edmonton and 1950s County Wicklow, Ireland. It’s a horror story for students of recent history, all the more so because of the recent revelations in Kamloops. In Edmonton, a very likeable professor, who is also a nun, is beginning a university lecture on Canadian literature. Somehow, she segues into telling her students a very personal story about her experiences as a young nun in a “Magdalene Laundry”—a home (actually a prison) for unwed pregnant women and girls run by the Catholic Church. (Note that there’s a trigger warning about this story: an audience member can skip it if they find it too distressing to hear about the abuse of girls and young women).
The story is truly horrifying: The vile family situation some girls were in prior to the Magdalene, the dreadful physical and mental abuse they suffer there, and how powerless Sister Susan is to do anything more than treat their wounds after they are strapped skinless or burnt with caustic laundry chemicals. And there’s something otherworldly about one of the girls…
The second story, The Shape of My Teeth by Amal El-Mohtar, is set on the edge of Mortimer Forest in England, in 1827. A young woman tries repeatedly to tell a story: “Once upon a time, there were two girls…” It’s a story about her and her best friend, Sophie. They loved each other so much that they wanted to live together forever, without men. They’d grown up playing near the Forest, and gradually learned about the “fair folk” there. But these are not Shakespeare’s charming fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The girls learned that the “fair folk” could cause great mischief, from souring milk to making girls disappear. It wasn’t church bells and prayer that kept these monsters away; it was amulets like iron and salt in your pockets and rowanberry bracelets. Girls were known to vanish in Mortimer Forest. But if one of the girls disappeared into the woods, the other girl would march in with an offering of wine and a true secret story to tell. Then, like Orpheus, she’d be able to retrieve her friend. And Sophie disappeared seven years ago. Can the narrator bring Sophie back? Does Sophie want to come back?
The third story, Repositioning by A. M. Dellamonica, is set in a basement apartment in present-day Vancouver. Is it a rom-com? A horror story? You be the judge! Erica Prince is a seasoned comedienne on the lesbian cruise-ship circuit. She’s making a demo tape for her agent. Her jokes aren’t all that funny; you can see why she’s stuck on cruise ships and usually gets the midnight show. She starts talking about a repositioning trip she was on in 2018—a trip in which a cruise ship is moved from one harbour to another, in this case, from Sydney, Australia to Vancouver via Honolulu. As usually happens, the trip was fully booked, but this time by heterosexuals, not lesbians. A tough crowd for Erica. One day, she wakes up in her cabin in wet clothes. Everything in the cabin is soaked with seawater. What happened? She can’t remember anything about the previous few days. She gets up, goes to do her show at the midnight cabaret, and has the shock of her life when a splendid, shockingly beautiful being walks into the cabaret, dressed as people. Her memories start flooding back…
Don’t miss this production! Three memorable stories for the price of one, all delivered by a master storyteller.
Dressed as People – A Triptych of Uncanny Abduction is screening at the Ottawa Fringe Festival until June 27, 2021. Tickets are pick-your-price from $12.50 to $47.50 (100% of which goes to the artists) plus a $2.50 surcharge. Visit ottawafringe.com for streaming information and the complete festival lineup. Read more reviews at apt613.ca/fringe. Shows are on-demand, however the festival’s ticketing platform can take up to 12 hours to email the streaming link. So although there’s no risk of online shows selling out, your best bet is to buy tickets early!