Auerbach shines in 'Jewel', the year's final Harvest Stage production
BY DENNY SCOTT
There are two kinds of one-actor shows: those with a single actor playing a single character and telling the story through their eyes or those with one actor portraying any number of characters.
Both require a specific skill set, and each is undoubtedly at least as challenging as being part of a multi-actor performance. Rebecca Auerbach’s performance in the Blyth Festival’s last show of the 2021 season, Jewel, could make me believe that telling an entire story through the lens of a single character and doing it well might be one of the truest challenges of theatre.
Playing the Marjorie Clifford, the main character, Auerbach brings the audience through Clifford’s childhood, using the lens of Valentine’s Days, until she meets her husband, then fast-forwards to a later Valentine’s Day after tragedy struck.
The bulk of the play takes place in a single evening, focusing on how Auerbach’s Clifford is coping with the aforementioned tragedy, and runs the emotional gamut from comedy to despair and, finally, to hopefulness and each emotion is expertly portrayed by Auerbach.
Without getting too deep into the story, Auerbach shows her skill at playing characters of all ages by reliving Valentine’s Days when Clifford was much younger. She also shows she’s clearly comfortable with all manners of content from the benign recollections of a first dance to more racier scenes later in the play.
Of course Auerbach’s skill is served well by the play, penned by Joan MacLeod, which tells a tale that spreads not only (nearly) the breadth of the entire Canadian nation but also tells a story that’s so close to home: a partner wondering about the safety of their spouse when they’re far away.
The play, presented by JD Nicholsen in his directorial debut, revels in the fact that it is told in the past, being set primarily in the 1980s and the years before it through flashbacks. It wouldn’t work in modernity, but it makes the time period appealing through the eyes of Clifford, sitting in her mobile home kitchenette.
One especially happy moment was, after a cloud-covered period throughout the play, the sun broke through just as Auerbach’s Clifford came to the end of her character arc, giving her the perfect chance to look towards the warmth and light of the sun.
The play shouldn’t be missed and, through the happiness of youth, the heartbreak of tragedy and the determination of carrying on, serves as a suitable farewell to what is hopefully the first and last Blyth Festival season that will be held entirely outdoors. It also shows that the Harvest Stage can be used for everything from comedy to tragedy when given the right play with the right artists.
Jewel will continue to run through Sunday, Oct. 3 with shows this evening, Sept. 30, at 5 p.m., Friday, Oct. 1 and Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Oct. 3. For more information, visit blythfestival.com.