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Erin McDougall, Sandwiches are Beautiful

Erin McDougall is an educator, writer, proud Canadian and great lover of life. She has called Edmonton her home for the past nine years and is an alumna of the University of Alberta's Arts and Education faculties.  A dancer with U of A's Orchesis Modern Dance, she also teaches dance within Edmonton Public Schools and is a patron of the arts scene in Edmonton.  She is the author of the food blog, Sandwiches are Beautiful, where she shares her favorite homemade sandwich ideas and tips, plus stories of sandwich experiences from around Edmonton and throughout Canada.  


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Dinner & A Show - Packrat Louie and The Maggie Tree

Saturday April 19 , 2014

Packrat Louie is a fun restaurant name to say.

Part tongue-twister and part intriguing moniker, it doesn’t give anything away as to what to expect. Just like spring doesn’t remotely describe the mid-April snowstorms we’re presently experiencing, words like Packrat Louie or The Maggie Tree don’t have full meaning until experiences can be tacked onto them. 

I set out to add experiences to these words when I grabbed a good friend and we headed to Packrat Louie and The Maggie Tree’s new production of Monstrosities, playing next door at the Varscona Theatre. An ordinary chilly spring night then became an evening of fine-dining, rich, compelling theatre and inspiring conversation.

The name Packrat Louie peaks one’s interest to step through its heavy wooden doors to experience it firsthand. The quality of the food, such as the Herbed Goat Cheese Bruschetta - a lovely appetizer and perfectly sized for two people to enjoy - isn’t even hinted at by its name. Now though, when I think of a relaxed yet sophisticated atmosphere and good food, I think of Packrat Louie.

The bruschetta was excellent and as tempted as we were to try the prosciutto-wrapped prawns and the calamari, we knew we’d have to say no so we’d have room for the wood-fired pizza. Packrat Louie’s pizza is what I’ve heard described as designer pizza. It’s pizza that’s dressed up for a night on the town. I ordered the Carne, which was topped with pepperoni, spicy capicola, bacon and for something different (for me, anyway), a sprinkling of Anaheim pepper rings and red onions. My friend got the Pesto Chicken, which looked incredible with its colourful mix of spicy chicken, ricotta cheese, tomatoes and basil pesto. The great thing about this designer pizza is that it delivers some unique flavors and that classic pizza satisfaction, while still being relaxed enough to eat with your hands, if you so choose.

Our fine-dining complete and our designer pizza leftovers tucked away, we then headed a few steps next door to The Varscona Theatre to catch opening night of Monstrosities, the newest original production by The Maggie Tree.

Monstrosities is also a fun word to say. 

It conjures images of darkness, of the unknown, of confrontation and revelation. It is a title that is exciting and like the name of restaurant I had just been to for the first time, it peaked my interest to step into its world and witness it directly.

A show called Monstrosities suggests subject matter that is bold, ferocious, raw and jarring. And this is what it delivers within the powerhouse performances of Amber Borotsik, Vanessa Sabourin and Kristi Hansen, all of whom were also the co-writers of this work, along with playwright/dramaturg Jill Connell.  The production is directed by Sandra Nicolls and set against a simple but captivating set design by Tessa Stamp. The haunting sound design is the work of Aaron Macri, the lighting design and digital projections that flicker across the stage and upon the actors themselves are provided by T Erin Gruber, and it is stage managed by Anna Davidson.  The Maggie Tree is a company that dedicates itself to the growth and development of projects by women “for a sustained interest and visibility of women in theatre and the arts”. With its cast and crew of some of the strongest theatre artists within our own community, I’d say Monstrosities fulfills this mandate and then some.

It’s a production full of stunning, formidable images: Amber Borotsik, nearly translucent and bathed in white light, Vanessa Sabourin’s face and body contorting in a terrifying silent scream, Kristi Hansen moving fluidly through light and darkness.  It’s a challenging, thought-provoking show and it needs to be experienced to be understood.

It may leave you with more questions than answers, which means it’s a show that inspires conversation and discussion.  So grab a good friend, eat some good food and converse with them on words that are fun to say, that provoke intense images while not divulging too much and that lead to memorable evenings experienced firsthand.

The Maggie Tree’s Monstrosities runs until April 26, 2014 at The Varscona Theatre. Tickets available at Tix on the Square.