My sister and I attended the opening night of Playing with Fire: The Theo Fleury Story and there are two words to describe our thoughts after seeing the show: riveting and captivating! You do not have to be a hockey buff to be drawn into this heartbreaking and inspiring story.
Shaun Smyth is a theatrical genius who demonstrates a wide range of emotions during this one-man show directed by Ron Jenkins. He provides a captivating performance and exhibits ridiculous endurance considering the entire show is staged on a simulated ice rink.
Yes, an ice rink. And he skates. The entire time. While delivering his lines. Seriously.
It is like you are literally up close and personal at a hockey game with just one player. Man, does he ever tell a story, Theo’s story.
Because the setting is so perfectly matched, I was drawn in to every single word he said. From Theo’s rough upbringing in Russell, Manitoba to his wild and crazy teenage years in Winnipeg when his career began, to the behind-the-scenes details of an NHL hockey star.
The rawness with which Shaun depicts Theo’s character is nothing short of amazing. There was no sugar coating in this story whatsoever, and that’s why it was so easy to want more. It felt so real.
Through anger, addiction and shame, we watched how Theo dealt with many aspects of his life including the molestation he endured from Graham James, the sketchy situations he found himself in when he took the partying to another level and the failed relationships he had with numerous women.
We wanted to see how he turned it all around, and after intermission we believed he could make a comeback and achieve success. We needed him to.
This play wasn’t all about hockey stats and how the game was played, although we did get some insight about coaching styles and the NHL lifestyle. The way this play is written and directed ensures that it is about the man himself. A man whose love for hockey helped him through some tough times in life and also added to those tough times in his life.
After seeing the show I asked my sister Lisa her thoughts and I couldn’t have said it any better myself:
“It was magical, he took the audience on a journey and I felt so involved in his story. I was upset when it was intermission, I didn’t want the story to end! His endurance is crazy – changing shirts, skating and talking through the entire 2 hours. It was a well deserved standing ovation.”
We caught up with Shaun after his performance and I just had to ask him how he kept up his endurance during the show. His response: “Lots of cardio!” Very down to earth man but it was hard not to call him Theo! That just goes to show how true he was to his character.
After meeting Shaun we just had to meet the director Ron Jenkins and we had a lil fun. He was hilarious and so freakin lovable! Well, see for yourself:
Both my sister and I have roots in the theatre, my sis more recently (her last role at PTE was in The Vertical Hour). I haven’t done any formal acting in almost 20 years but an opening night out a PTE was bound to have us bump into some notable folks in the industry! It was great to see Rainbow Stage and MTC alum, but it was fantastic to see Frank Adamson. The man who directed me in my first lead role in a play (Journey to Freedom).
For those who haven’t been to Prairie Theatre Exchange in the last 3 years, you’ll note that they have a new look! The lounge area has an upscale modern vibe where you can enjoy a glass of wine or other beverage before the show and during intermission. It’s the perfect area to chill and chat!
Overall, a fabulous night of theatre and talent. I urge you to grab tickets for Playing With Fire before it ends on March 15, 2015.