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Jenny Young as Frieda & Jonathan Wilson as Heinrich  Photo: Kaufmann Photography
Jenny Young as Frieda & Jonathan Wilson as Heinrich Photo: Kaufmann Photography

Theatre Review: "The Clockmaker" at 1000 Islands Playhouse

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The Clockmaker is running in the Firehall at the 1000 Islands Playhouse through September 8. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at the opening night and has this review.

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Stephen Massicotte, author of the award-winning play THE CLOCKMAKER, has become one of my favorite contemporary playwrights.  If you’ve seen either of his earlier plays, MARY’S WEDDING or THE OXFORD ROOF CLIMBER’S REBELLION, you can understand why.  This time THE CLOCKMAKER tackles some heavy questions with both insight and humor.

This romantic mystery begins with the Kafkaesque interrogation of clockmaker Heinrich Mann by the rather threatening Pierre, whose function remains obscure till near the end of the play.  Heinrich is then asked to repair a smashed clock by the mysterious Frieda and we begin to learn of her abusive husband Adolphus. Threaded through the complex unraveling of the story is the pervasive way smells trigger memory and the idea that what we remember is a choice.

The physical production is remarkably effective in all respects.  Robin Fisher’s set stretches across the center of the Firehall with enclosed doorways at each end.  The floor features a large clock face with an arrangement of cogs and wheels overhead.  I love the clever design of the file cabinets.

Michael Walton’s lighting using tightly focused beams in contrast with a realistic glow is terrific, especially the subtle lights under the stage floor.  I can’t say enough about Todd Charlton’s wonderful sound.  The typing is particularly haunting and the never distracting music choices excellent.

This is an extremely strong and balanced cast.  Gordon Bolan does a good job as the oddly threatening Pierre, especially in the opening and final scenes.  As Adolphus, Brett Christopher alternates believably between vulnerable sentimentality and brutality, not an easy task to accomplish.

The excellent Jenny Young gives a splendid performance as Frieda in both her incarnations and no, I’m not going to explain that.  Her memory of the innocence of her meeting with Adolphus is particularly affecting.

As Heinrich Mann, Jonathan Wilson gives a wonderfully layered performance.  From his initial timidity and subtly funny difficulty with his chair, through his growing attraction to Frieda to his final very human choice, we follow and most importantly care about his burgeoning growth.

Director Kathryn MacKay has pulled all the elements together unto a stunning production.  Her staging is fluid, making use of the aisles.  I like the decision to use Pierre to subtly control the action with the table movement.  She and her excellent cast have created powerful characters that live.

THE CLOCKMAKER has left me with an unanswerable question: is it possible to have both peace and memories?  Perhaps, as Heinrich says, “It is easier to start over – in all things.”  Playwright Massicotte has given us yet another fascinating play.

On a scale of one to five the 1000 Islands Playhouse/Firehall Theatre production of THE CLOCKMAKER gets five dalmations.  For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.

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