TWO LETTERS… And Counting!
Guernica Editions, Spring 2013
$25.00 Canada, $25.00 US
Read more from the Essential Drama Series
Although he has won plaudits and awards for work in film, television, and on stage, Tony Nardi’s most recent headlines have been earned by his TWO LETTERS … And Counting!. Two Letters is based on two actual letters sent to “middle-men” of the Canadian cultural scene: a film/television producer and two theatre critics. Letter One articulates an actor/writer’s struggle with cultural stereotypes in Canadian theatre/film/TV. Letter Two challenges misconceptions about commedia dell’arte by present-day theatre critics and directors. It explores a history of an ‘actor-less’ theatre culture in Canada at the hands of ‘director’s theatre,’ in which, increasingly, a tradition of over-trained actors and under-trained directors is encouraged. “…And Counting!” (Letter Three) is a postmortem of Two Letters, and a journey into the present state of theatre, culture (and funding).
Nardi uses dramatic acid to burn the rust off truth, and to blister complacency until it turns into awareness. He takes no prisoners … The questions that troubled him so deeply have to do, not just with identity and cultural stereotyping, but also with the nature of storytelling. To see Nardi in action is a bit like witnessing spontaneous combustion in a cave at night; at first, there is the scent of sulphur; then, a vague crackling in the air; then a flash of light, and the play of shadow on the walls; above all, there is surprise. Joe Fiorito, The Toronto Star
… [U]n virulent plaidoyer contre la complaisance du milieu théâtral, l’ignorance de la critique, l’incompétence des metteurs en scène et j’en passe … la performance oscille constamment entre la narration et le pamphlet. Et ça frappe fort. À toute allure, comme s’il était maître d’oeuvre d’un véritable bombardement, Nardi attaque de toutes parts. Des prises de parole de ce genre-là, on n’ose même pas en rêver dans le milieu francophone québécois. Pourtant, la situation est bien peu différente … Ceux qui ne voient pas de théâtre dans la série de lettres qu’il lit, ou plutôt qu’il performe depuis plusieurs mois entre Toronto et Montréal doivent être sourds ou aveugles. Passons vite sur les qualités de présence et la fougue du comédien, car ce serait oublier l’essentiel. Ce qui compte, c’est que Tony Nardi dit des choses importantes, que personne d’autre que lui n’ose dire avec autant de passion. Philippe Couture, Le Devoir
Tony Nardi’s “letters” is the clearest most powerful statement ever made in Canada of the actor’s art in modern times. Nardi’s letters are a scream into the mouthless void of the destruction and desolation row of the Canadian Cultural agenda, one which has reduced the actor’s role to that of corporatist marionette in the pocket of petty bureaucrats and the letters are an act of intellectual and cultural and perhaps even spiritual, terrorism. They curdle the blood much in the same way that Antonin Artaud’s manifesto, The Theatre and Its Cruelty, predicted the holocaust and the Nazi and Fascist approach of a new and controlled barbarism, never seen before. Nick Mancuso (actor/writer)
… [A] sweeping cultural critique, a cri de coeur that is perhaps the first extended work of its kind to attempt to decolonize the Canadian imagination … surely one of the strangest and most provocative pieces of theatre ever staged in this country … Nardi doesn’t just bite the hand that feeds him; he chews it up and then spits it out.
Michael Posner, Globe and Mail
… [T]here is far more theatricality in his presentation than in many plays, because the actor knows exactly how to dramatize his material … a representation of what it means to be in the authentic present, something every actor needs to know. This is a stunning model of period acting, and it is created without fanfare, without absurd artifice, and with such convincing intensity that it absorbs us in its surging current. In England, Italy, Germany, et cetera, Two Letters would be front-page news on the arts or culture page. Not so in Canada, of course. Keith Garebian (poet/theatre critic)
“Recorded in one take in front of a live audience, Nardi reads his letter with a flurry of passion and conviction. It’s a breathless performance that will cause outrage and hopefully evoke change.” Robin Smith, Hot Docs/ The Bloor Cinema