Concord Floral at St. Lawrence Centre, Toronto: Review

Concord Floral at Bluma Appel Theatre at St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in Toronto
Concord Floral at Bluma Appel Theatre in Toronto

Remember your teen years? The uncertainty and desire for acceptance? Canadian Stage’s Concord Floral puts those years under a microscope amidst a riveting teen thriller.

Concord Floral is modeled after a greenhouse in Vaughan, Ontario. A group of teens have appropriated the greenhouse for their hangout where they engage in typical teen behaviour: experimenting with drugs and having casual sex. But something happens one night: two girls are hanging out at the greenhouse smoking a joint when one of them drops her iPhone. She discovers that her phone has fallen inside a dead body on the ground and subsequently receives phone calls from her phone.

Concord Floral at Bluma Appel Theatre at St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in Toronto
Concord Floral at Bluma Appel Theatre in Toronto, photo credit Erin Brubacher

As the story unravels about the girl’s disappearance, we are exposed to the vulnerable experiences of youth as they progress through their teen years. Girls strive to carve out an identity through their clothing. A gay student seeks an appropriate partner; however, the end result is far from ideal. a student is bullied for being unpopular. A girl fantasizes about her classmates while masturbating. Regular teenage stuff.

The cast features a wonderful ensemble of teen performers who are all under 21. Particular praise goes to Ofa Gasesepe as Rosa and Jovana Miladinovic as Nearly Wild, the two teens who discover the body. Franco Pang is also splendid as Just Joey, conveying the sensitivity and loneliness of a gay youth exploring his sexuality.

Jessica Munk as Bobbie in Canadian Stage's Concord Floral, photo credit Erin Brubacher
Jessica Munk as Bobbie in Canadian Stage’s Concord Floral, photo credit Erin Brubacher

Written by Jordan Tannahill, the play won the 2015 Dora Award for Outstanding New Play. Concord Floral reverberates with dialogue that you would hear out of a typical teen’s mouth while on the subway, at the mall or around the dinner table.

Playwright Jordan Tannahill took inspiration for Concord Floral from Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, in which youth occupy a villa near Florence to escape the plaque. Youth reclaiming space as their own is not a new phenomenon. Think of the outdoor space at your high school where the stoners congregated.

Tannahill has created an innovative stage, meant to replicate a greenhouse field. The audience is seated right on stage, sitting in bleacher-style seating, reminiscent of high school.

Vocalist Eleanor Hart provides some soaring operatic solos to help create an eerie mood while Christopher Willes’s compositions are fear-inducing and unsettling.

Directed by Erin Brubacher and Cara Spooner, Concord Floral is both a stark glimpse into the inner world of teens and a wildly entertaining thriller.

Note: The lower and middle section seats have backs while the seats in the back ten rows are metal benches with thin seat cushions. Avoid the bench seating if at all possible as it is hard on the back and butt.

Concord Floral is being performed at the Bluma Appel Theatre at St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts from Sept. 27 to Oct. 16, 2016. The performance runs for 80 minutes with no intermission. Tickets are from $39 to $79 and are available online, by calling 416-368-3110 or in person at the Berkeley Street box office.