Scott Sneddon is Senior Editor on SesayArts Magazine where he is also a critic and contributor.
Cara Gee is happy to be back in Toronto for the summer. The Canadian film, television, and stage actress who grew up in Aurora is midway through Soulpepper’s run of Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love – just extended to August 11 – in which she plays May, a woman trapped in a damaged and dangerous relationship.
Gee was attracting attention for arresting performances on the Toronto theatre scene in 2013, when her breakout moment arrived in the film Empire of Dirt. In this multi-award winning intergenerational drama, she played an indigenous woman reluctantly returning with her troubled 13-year-old daughter to the northern hometown that her younger, angrier, pregnant self had abandoned. Since then, the Ojibway actor’s television career has taken off – most notably on the award-winning sci-fi series The Expanse, whose fourth season premieres on Amazon in December. She plays the fan-favorite Camina Drummer, fierce captain of the massive spaceship Behemoth – and will do so for some time, with the show’s fifth season pick-up having just been announced. On top of all this, in 2020 she will appear in the star-studded film version of Jack London’s Call of the Wild with Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens and Karen Gillan.
So Gee is a busy woman with a penchant for strong, complex female roles – making the role of May right up her alley. Clocking in at just 1 hour and 20 minutes of dense verbal (and physical) violence, Fool for Love is a brutish and short theatrical experience. Channeling a similar focus, the busy Gee made time for a brief conversation with SesayArts about her return to the stage, the character of May, and the upside of a summer in Toronto.
SesayArts: Can you please speak to us about your character May, especially for those who might not be familiar with Fool for Love, and your approach to portraying her?
CG: In our production, May is a woman with a deep and mysterious connection to her abusive former lover, Eddie, who has just returned after a long absence to “take her back”. As the play unfolds, we learn more and more about the circumstances that have trapped the two in a cycle of violence.
SesayArts: Director Frank Cox-O’Connell describes the play as “two people who are performing open-heart surgery on themselves during a high-speed chase”. Do you agree with his analogy as far as your character is concerned?
CG: Definitely! May longs for love and tenderness, and she spends much of the play trying to remind Eddie that she has a heart and soul, and her own independent dreams and wishes. She is searching for the man who she had once shared a great connection with and to whom she feels inextricably tied. She is trying to understand her feelings.
SesayArts: Shepard’s work, especially his use of language, is astonishing; however, Fool for Love is not a play for the faint of heart. What attracted you to this play? Does performing it come with any challenges?
CG: I am very fortunate that this play happens to take place between shooting seasons of The Expanse (Amazon), a phenomenal political thriller set two hundred years in the future. I have long admired Frank [Cox-O’Connell], our director, and when he asked me to be in Fool For Love, the scheduling worked out beautifully, and I happily accepted. I knew this would be an amazing acting challenge, and I knew I would come out of the other side a better actor. I haven’t had an opportunity to be on stage in a long time, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to do it again!
SesayArts: How do you think the play speaks to contemporary Toronto audiences? And what should we pay particular attention in this production, in your view?
CG: This is truly an essay question, but in brief, the play is an examination of toxic masculinity. I’m not sure what we’re saying about it, but it’s up there on stage for you to examine. I’m actually very curious to see what our audience takes away.
SesayArts: Tell us something we will not find on your résumé.
CG: I recently moved to LA, and my favourite part of being back in Toronto for the summer is being able to bike again! The bike culture in LA is completely different and much less safe. I hope that Toronto keeps developing safe bike lanes, so we can enjoy more and more safe biking all season long.
News You Can Use
What: Fool for Love, by Sam Shepard; Set Design by Lorenzo Savoini | Costume Design by Shannon Lea Doyle | Lighting Design by Simon Rossiter | Sound Design and Composition by Andrew Penner | Directed by Frank Cox-O’Connell
Performed by Eion Bailey (Eddie), Cara Gee (May), Stuart Hughes (The Old Man), Alex McCooeye (Martin)
Who: Audiences 16 years of age and older (mature themes and language)
When: On stage until August 11, 2019; running time: 80 minutes (no intermission)
Where: Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane, Toronto, ON
Info and Tickets: Soulpepper.ca
©️ Scott Sneddon, Sesaya / SesayArts Magazine, 2019