Monday, April 22, 2024

The Gift

The one-man show explores the role of destiny in our lives

The Gift, written and directed by Ron Ulrich, is advertised as “a transformative theatrical experience.” 

Just what that means for a one-man show is hard to say.

The Gift is a play that explores the idea of destiny vs chance and the influence that each does or doesn’t have over our lives. It explores this question in a supremely entertaining, engaging and awe-inspiring way,” says Ulrich.

A show destined to be

This awe-inspiring show began with a simple phone call. At the tail end of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ulrich received a call from Robert Lamar. Lamar is a well-loved Nova Scotian performer and actor with whom Ulrich has a long history, having worked with Lamar on numerous projects. Upon hearing Lamar’s intriguing idea, he knew he had to be a part of it. 

Although Ulrich, a theatre veteran, is a seasoned director, directing a one-man play comes with its own unique challenges.

“When directing one person, your task is to steer the project so that that one actor becomes as multifaceted and extraordinarily variable as if you’ve got a hundred people on the stage. You want someone who’s going to be exciting and vibrant and brilliant,” says Ulrich. 

He believes Lamar is the perfect man for the job. But another important factor in the show, Ulrich explains, is the audience itself. 

“One of the key elements of The Gift is that there are several experiments done throughout the course of the show that tend to either prove or disprove the concept of destiny being a controlling factor in all of our lives. And it’s easy for me to talk about that, it’s easy for the actor to talk about that, but to prove this, it makes more sense to engage the audience.”

That is why The Gift employs the involvement of its audience, who will determine the final outcome of the show.

Enthusiastic audience; magical show

As audience members take their seats before the show begins, the energy is incredibly lively and warm. Strangers become friends as each person chats with their neighbour. These audience members seem like the perfect eager participants for the show they are about to experience, as they audibly wonder about what they are getting themselves into.

The set before them is just as intriguing as the premise, with the stage made to look like an abandoned attic, complete with rugs, trunks, white sheets covering desks, chalkboards and paintings. The brilliance of the set becomes unsurprising when you learn the set designers and prop builders were formerly of Cirque du Soleil. Their work transforms the space, making you forget you are seated in St. Andrew’s Church.

Then the lights go down and a spotlight comes up on the lone actor, sitting on a stool. This is the man who will guide the audience through the 90-minute showcase which attempts to prove the existence of destiny.

The story unfolds as Lamar recounts the experiences that brought him to his grandfather’s attic and the curious things he discovered there—things he claims have “changed his life forever.” The actor relates stories of family secrets, conflicts and coincidences that might be so much more.

As the evening progresses, it becomes clear it is essentially a magic show. Although the beginning seems to drag on, and there are a few moments where certain tricks don’t go quite as planned, audience members are enjoying themselves nonetheless. 

There are exclamations from the crowd as Lamar achieves his impossible coincidences, and participants whisper “That was fun!” as they make their way back to their seats.

 “I hope The Gift instills awe, and wonder and just: wow,” says Ulrich. “That’s what I want people to feel when they come out: wow.”

As people exit the theatre, that is exactly what happens. People chatter excitedly to their friends; they can’t believe the magic they have witnessed.

Cecile Webber is one of them.

“I’m astounded,” she says. “When it started, I wondered what was going on, then to watch it all unfold from there, to have things align with stories he told us previously… I loved it!”

Was it enough to convince her of the existence of destiny? She says it was.

“I’ve always sort of thought we have a path to follow, so I was never against that thought, but this is really amazing to me. It’s not a trick I don’t think! It can’t be a trick. We were all here to see it.”

The Gift is running until mid-February at St. Andrew’s Church, so make sure to get tickets and witness destiny for yourself.


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