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For Zuppa Theatre Co., size matters 

This play on the scale of everyday life is thematically ordinary, visually extraordinary

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If you’re looking for a big ticket show chock-full of drama, romance, magic and exotic destinations…you might want to head next door to Neptune’s Fountain Hall.

Set in present-day Halifax, The Attaining Gigantick Dimensions follows Francis, a military translator coming home from Afghanistan after receiving news of a family crisis.

“The whole play takes place over a single week—the week of his return, leading up to the night of his welcome home party—and it’s about all of the little things that happen and how they relate to the big things that are happening in the lives of the characters,” says director Alex McLean.

Little things like buying a new shirt. Big things like international conflict and loss.

“It does the thing that you’re not supposed to do in theatre,” says McLean. “Theatre is supposed to be all of the really peak intense moments, like a play about the events leading up to the murder of a king and the war afterwards. It’s about the big crazy dramatic things, and this play is almost like all of the scenes that are edited out of that story.”

The plot may focus on the everyday, but that doesn’t mean the play is dull. “I think the story is ordinary but, visually, it’s not just ordinary,” says lighting designer Jessica Lewis. “The combination of video and set and lights makes for an unordinary visual experience.”

The sound, lighting, video and set designers have been toiling tirelessly and collaborating to create something exciting.

“In collaboration with our set designer, Katherine Jenkins-Ryan, we’ve created this little miniature version of the north end of Halifax. And in collaboration with video designer Vojin Vasovic, we’ve done a bunch of filming with black screens and green screens and have little miniature people who walk around the streets of Halifax,” explains McLean.

“So the play is very much about scale. There’s the tiny world of the miniature Halifax, there’s the world of the actors, and then there’s screens behind them where things are projected. The central theme of the play is about scale and size: the enormity of everyday events and, in some ways, the smallness of cosmic events.”

Or, as Vasovic puts it, “size matters.”

The show was written in collaboration with Cleveland-based playwright Mike Geither.

Zuppa doesn’t like to create plays around a script. “We usually get into a room and start playing around and the script kind of develops, and [Geither] was very excited by that kind of process.”

If you’ve seen Zuppa shows before, this one is unusual in its lack of music. “There’s a song that appears in the show that’s written by Jason Michael MacIsaac of The Heavy Blinkers, but in terms of songs in the show, that’s it,” says McLean.

But there are lots of sounds.

“We’re working with a sound designer, Brian Riley, so there’s a soundscape created for a number of scenes to try and envelop the theatre. The idea is to try and put everybody into the same environment so the show isn’t just something that’s happening on the stage, but it’s happening all around us,” he says.

Stewart Legere, a frequent collaborator with Zuppa, plays Martin, Francis’ mechanic best friend. “We’re so tuned now to need big drama for it to be interesting, to have giant things happen, and I feel like this show turns the volume down so everything operates at a way lower level than you’re used to,” he says. “But once your eyes and hearing adjust to it, then you see the giant leaps and ups and downs that happen just in ordinary life.”

Zuppa newbie Katie Dorian plays Robin, a teacher from the states. She’s quick to point out that “ordinary” doesn’t mean nothing happens. “It’s just that everything is really small, it’s not like big and glittery and sparkly but—when you get down into it—the things that you’ve never seen glitter before suddenly become sparkly. I feel like it’s made me pay attention to the little things in my life that I always skipped over.”

Zuppa founders Ben Stone and Susan Leblanc-Crawford are playing Francis his sister, Alice. And those are the only four characters. Or, rather, the only four actors.

The rest are projected.

So why should you chose this play over a big ticket spectacle?

“It’s cheaper,” says Vasovic, laughing.

But, in all seriousness, it’s just a different kind of experience. “You’re not going to come out bawling your eyes out, you’re not going to come out yelling and screaming about it but I feel like you would walk out of the theatre and walk down the street—and look,” says Dorian.

The Attaining Gigantick Dimensions runs April 12-21 (excluding April 15 and 16) at 8pm at the Scotiabank Studio Theatre.

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