It’s often noted that Salt Spring seems overly blessed with talented artists, but few events have showcased islanders’ prowess in the rock and pop music genres quite like the show currently on at ArtSpring.
Written and directed by Suzanne Rouger, Time Piece is in some ways like the ultimate rock playlist, except instead of listening to the songs at home with your headphones, you get to see it all performed live. Indeed, Good Company bills the production as a “thematic rock concert.” But the story Rouger has written to link those songs together is much more than just a theatrical device, and works as a complete and complex fictional world.
The story follows a soul named Elle (Shyla-Rae Lloyd-Walters) as she struggles to stay connected to her heart and her counterpart Guy (Dustin Bragg-Van Wyck) through various incarnations on Earth. Because time is an illusion and all the incarnations are happening simultaneously, Rouger has chosen not to depict the various time periods in a linear fashion. Instead, the action weaves in and out of the unique settings — including the Roman Empire, the Old West, the 1960s or so, and a bleak future where people are known by alphanumeric codes.
The souls’ journey toward understanding and love is satisfying, but the music brings real heart to the show. The opening number sets a thrilling expectation this will be an impressive performance. Stark drumbeats shift to the opening chords of Pink Floyd’s Time, and then Marcel Rouger, an incredibly versatile musician and singer, belts out the opening verse while playing electric guitar. I felt actual chills when tenor Dion Hackett, a member of the angelic choir, took over for the lighter verse.
Lloyd-Walters is the perfect choice to lead the production. She’s a pleasure to watch and to hear, with her rich, full tones balanced by clear sweet notes. From her opening vocals, audiences will be waiting to hear her next song. She particularly shines in the big numbers like Never Tear Us Apart (INXS) and The Chain (Fleetwood Mac).
Lloyd-Walter’s real gift for singing does not overpower her acting abilities, however. She gives Elle believable emotions the audience will be drawn into.
Bragg-Van Wyck makes for a very natural partner, with great ability to express different personalities in the different eras. Though perhaps more of an actor than a singer, he completely holds his own leading songs like Neil Young’s Old Man. On some songs where the range is a bit higher, he gets back-up through an excellent pairing with Bruce Grey.
The story has some light and silly moments in the first half. Metta Rose is a hilariously ecstatic joint smoker during one group song, Tom’s Petty’s You Don’t Know How It Feels. Personal Jesus (Depeche Mode) features more of the supporting cast, and although these members might not be the strongest singers, they pull off a very funny and complex step dance in their Western tavern (kudos to cast member and choreographer Rosita Larrain for this work).
The plot gets more serious after intermission, and the performers seem to get even deeper into the music at the same time, including a show-stopping rendition of Hallelujah. This is a piece that should be impressive and the cast completely delivers. Rouger and Hackett begin with simple vocals, and by the end the chorus has swelled the sound for a rich, moving performance that inspired sustained cheers on Saturday night.
Time Piece has its final run at ArtSpring starting tonight (Wednesday, Sept. 18) and ending Saturday, Sept. 21.
For more on this story, see the Sept. 18, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.