By Justin Enns
Red hair is associated with many things: Scots, sex drive and foxes (both the animal and the women). Often it has negative connotations too: devil-worship, for example.
Bearing in mind the latter, redheads do deserve sympathy. Unfortunately for Titus Firefox, the main character in the University of Calgary Drama department’s up-coming production of Johann Nestroy’s The Talisman, he was cursed with red hair.
How does Titus overcome his problem? In the form of a talisman, a black wig. With his new look, he has friends, a great job and women. This charade doesn’t last though.
"It’s a satire," says Jonathan Love, the Fine Arts grad-student who plays Titus. "Nothing is sacred. We poke fun of prejudice, we poke fun of politics, we poke fun of critics, we poke fun of farce itself."
Love is excited to act in one of the few farces that the department has put on, and part of that is because of the challenge a farce poses.
Director Barry Yzereef says that in farce you cannot let your guard down. "It’s like going to the bathroom in an airplane."
In other words, trying not to pee on the seat, especially when the plane hits some turbulence, is what’s going to be entertaining about the show.
Love compares The Talisman to Bugs Bunny cartoons and said the audience should think about Wile Coyote and the Roadrunner.
"It’s based on the timing and sort of the instant changes," Love says. "Ding, someone has an idea, the Coyote pulls the hammer up here, the Roadrunner spins around and all the sudden–boom–the cliff lands on him."
And to add to the Bugs Bunny motif, there’s also song and dance. It’s something like Rabbit of Seville.
To go along with the thievery of farce (the good, when-Hermes-steals-Apollo’s-cattle-type stealing; not the bad, when-the-University-steals-your-tuition-money-type stealing), Nestroy stole songs from Mozart, Rossini and even some Austrian drinking songs.
Finally, for all the active audience members, there’s a party at the end that everyone gets involved in.
The Canadian premiere of The Talisman, marking the 200th anniversary of Johann Nestroy, the "Austrian Shakespeare," runs from Feb. 21-Mar. 3 in the University Theatre.