Theatre Preview: Apple a theatrical treat

By Katherine Fletcher

The apple is one naughty fruit. Ever since John Milton deemed the apple as the forbidden fruit in Paradise Lost, the round, red fruit has found notoriety in popular culture. In Snow White the jealous queen attempts to destroy the titular heroine with a poisoned apple. In the opening credits to Desperate Housewives the four main characters, smiling coyly, catch apples in their hands. The expression “rotten apple” refers to a bad individual among several good ones, often spoiling the group. The apple’s associations with poison and temptation may be why award-winning playwright Vern Thiessen named his latest play after the fruit. Thiessen’s Apple is the latest production from the Blacklist Theatre Project.

An exploration into the human heart and psyche, Apple tells the story of Andy, a troubled man who’s lost his job and whose marriage is in crisis. One day, he meets a mysterious young woman named Sam, with whom he connects instantly. But when his wife, Evelyn, develops breast cancer, Andy is forced to make a choice: take care of his sick wife, or run away with a woman he barely knows.

Founded in 2000, the Blacklist Theatre Project’s mandate is to put on shows demonstrating strong social and political themes while remaining artistically challenging. The theatre company’s goal is to create a vibrant environment for its artists as well as for its patrons.

“We’re very careful about what we choose,” says Trevor Leigh, co-director of Apple and Blacklist co-founder.

Before the company was founded, Leigh worked with fellow Blacklist co-founders Susan Bristow, Terry Middleton and Kate Newby in Sage Theatre’s 1998 production of Lion on the Street, garnering several Betty Mitchell awards. Leigh notes he and the other artists in the production shared the same artistic vision.

“We all liked working together,” he says. “We had similar passions. We felt those passions were not being met [in Calgary].”

Unlike theatre companies such as Alberta Theatre Projects and Theatre Calgary, Blacklist produces only two shows per season. For Leigh believes the fewer shows are beneficial to both the artists and the audience.

“There’s a pressure that you have to come up with five plays,” explains Leigh. “You have to think about the audience. Coming up with five plays is difficult. We do a show that we think is important.”

With Blacklist basking in its recent success at the 2005 Betty Mitchell awards for last year’s production of Glenn, and armed with a script from a Governor General’s Award-winning playwright, there’s sure to be nothing rotten about Apple. Tempting, maybe.

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