Former U of O student presents Mrs. Dally Has a Lover at A.C.T. studio

Sabrina Nemis | Fulcrum Staff

The sounds of sex begin from behind a couch and shortly after climax, a naked man steps out and crosses the stage. Mrs. Dally Has a Lover is starting, and I think I found him.

A.C.T. studio hides behind Lorenzo’s Pizza on Montreal Road in the city’s east end. Old-fashioned clothing hangs on a line over the ticket counter, leading back to a door with “STAGE” posted above it. It’s the first weekend in January, and I’m buying my ticket from a woman whose hands flutter between the tickets, coins, and coat check. Then I’m led into the living room of an apartment circa 1960.

Actors stand so close to the audience that the barrier between stage and seats is nothing more than a mental construct. Director Claudia Jurt uses the physical proximity to create a performance filled with moments that feel close, raw, and truthful.

Sounding like a high school counsellor’s cautionary tale, Jurt transferred out of Carleton University, dropped out of the University of Ottawa, and left behind a successful casting career to devote herself to her school, Acting for Film and Television. Mrs. Dally Has a Lover was presented throughout January at the studio’s brand new 50-person theatre.

Rather than finish the last year of her theatre arts degree, Jurt started her company by giving acting lessons to children. Now she also works with adults in her intensive classes. Along with mentor Michèle Lonsdale Smith, she teaches and directs her actors to reveal themselves.

Mrs. Dally Has a Lover is Daniel Krantz’s first performance. The actor plays Frankie, a young man having an affair with an older woman. Frankie swings from the rafters, tells his lover about dating other girls, and tries unsuccessfully to calm the worries of a lonely, aging housewife. Krantz portrays him with a mixture of youthful self-consciousness and arrogance.

Actress Geneviève Sirois studied in New York at a conservatory program based on the work of Lee Strasberg. She says A.C.T. uses similar techniques, but has a different approach.

“We’re looking at the truth, the most truthful work possible, and the only way to get to that is by putting aside the ego,” says Sirois.

Mrs. Dally asks questions that might be better left unasked—Do you think I’m beautiful?—while clinging to a relationship that can’t ever be anything but doomed. Sirois’ portrayal of Mrs. Dally brings a sense of both strength and longing for something to hang onto and depend on. Each beautiful moment in her life is past or passing away.

“I know what loneliness is,” Jurt says.

In her own life, Jurt makes good use of beautiful moments. She moves forward, constantly trying to create the kind of art she loves.

Daniel Krantz and Geneviève Sirois are students at her school, and they auditioned for the A.C.T. production after working on Mrs. Dally Has a Lover in class. Although the failing relationship of Frankie and Mrs. Dally keep the characters always just on the brink of true emotional connection, Krantz and Sirois are friendly and affectionate.

“I went to a serious school, hard to get in and all that stuff, and people were a little bit older than he is now, but I haven’t met very many people who are as committed and professional as Dan,” Sirois says. “I couldn’t have had a better partner.”

Students who are interested in working on being more truthful and revealing actors can go to the A.C.T. website for more information. Jurt says she loves having U of O students at the studio.

In the next year, Jurt will be working on Rosy and David, a film being produced by Wink Films, her production company. She will continue to teach, to learn, to create, and to build a community of artists. If you want to be involved in the arts community, she says, “There’s always a place you can go.”