Fresh off performances at Montreal’s Wildside Festival and the New York International Fringe Festival, Daniel Arnold and Marisa Smith return to Vancouver’s Firehall Arts Centre and New Westminster’s Anvil Centre for encore presentations of Little One.
Originally seen as part of the 2014 Vancouver Fringe Festival, the psychological thriller has garnered impressive critical reviews during their recent tour, something that Arnold hopes will bring in a larger audience locally.
“New York is a curated fringe so it was really nice to have been chose in the first place,” he says. “But then to be positively reviewed in the New York Times and Time Out New York was awesome.”
Called “a gorgeously creepy, darkly funny two-hander” by the Times and “made with precision and care” by Time Out, Little One is a suspenseful psycho-drama about two siblings by Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch. In the darkly funny story, six-year old Aaron must learn to love his new step-sister Claire when she joins the family; problem is, Claire is a bit of a monster.
“Aaron is the good one and basically has to care for his younger sister, making sacrifices to make her life better,” explains Arnold. “She has major behavioral and psychological problems, and it is fascinating to delve into these polar opposite characters that live together.”
Narrated by the now adult versions of the two children, Arnold and Smith play them largely in flashback.
“We get to play five, eight, twelve, fourteen year-old versions of these two characters. It is really kind of fun to perform as these younger versions,” says Arnold.
A play that Smith read some six months before deciding to mount the first production at the Vancouver Fringe, she admits it took some time for it fully form in her mind.
“When you read it, it reads a little dark, but then I got Daniel to read it out loud with me and we were still a little hesitant, but we were both really interested in how Hannah has structured this really great play.”
First attracted to it as a mystery thriller, Arnold quickly found the psychology behind the words to be most exciting. “It is a stage mystery, but it relies on a deep and complex psychology that is really fascinating,” he says.
Ironically perhaps, Arnold comes from his own blended family with both a half-brother and step-brother.
“I do draw on my relationships with my brothers,” says Arnold. “My step-brother joined our family when I was five years old, so that is quite similar to relationship between Aaron and Claire.”
That is where the familial similarities end though, especially given the nature of Moscovitch’s play that is at times as twisted as it is funny.
“I do remember one review saying they had to recheck the program, because they thought it was our story,” says Arnold. “I guess that sort of made sense since the Fringe can be filled with personal stories, but we really are nice, normal people.”
Helping to separate themselves from the characters they play, including the fact that the two are married, the duo are planning talk backs after each show. Given the nature of the piece, there are also planned panel discussions that will include social workers and possibly a psychologist during the show’s run at both venues.