#fringebuzz with Irene Saharov and Donna Byrne of Love Potion

by Caleigh Crow

It’s Donna Byrne and Irene Saharov’s second FRINGE Festival in a row, and the second time I’ve had the happy occasion to interview the duo. Irene’s previous FRINGE offering, The Mediations of Guido Kowalski, marked many firsts for the author turned playwright. Having never produced a play before, she recruited experienced director Donna Byrne, marking the beginning of a fruitful partnership. The pair worked very well together last year, with Donna illuminating the inner workings of theatre for Irene.

The second time around, Irene has written another comedy to humor FRINGE audiences, and has Donna at the helm once more for Love Potion. As the idiom goes, don’t fix what ain’t broke. Irene says she “trusts Donna completely” and that the second time around is a lot easier on her nerves.

While last year’s Guido Kowalski is described as a philosophical farce, this year’s production has elements of physical comedy with a classic plot that seems almost Shakespearean – a scheming cousin, a love potion, a double date, and a host of entertaining characters.

The cast have been rehearsing with Irene, the playwright, in the room. The result is a collaborative rehearsal hall where the creative decisions are made in service of the story, and experimenting with the play is the norm. “We can slightly change the dialogue as we are going along.” Donna explains, ‘I’ll turn to Irene, and I want to be respectful of her writing, but she’s accommodated us by letting us change a sentence, a little tweaking here and there.”

“I don’t have a monopoly on good ideas,” Irene remarks. “Once you write it it’s one thing, and then you’re collaborating with a bunch of people and it becomes a group project,” Irene says. “Writing is very lonely. And then it’s fun.”

It’s not just the text that can be bent by the creative will of the group, but the staging is also fair game. The physical comedy sequences that Irene wrote have to work in the context of this FRINGE performance – and there are a myriad of variables that affect a production and in the case of Love Potion, its comedic choreography. We’re sitting in my basement rec room laughing and we’re trying different things, whatever works best we put into the play,” Irene says.

“I see the actors slipping into who they are and developing the characters,” Donna says. “They are working so seriously and it’s so hilarious, we’re sitting back here with tears in our eyes, my gut hurts after rehearsal.”

If a play can still make the cast and crew laugh after countless rehearsals, that’s a sign of great chemistry and an ability to keep things fresh. If you’re looking for an entertaining show, have a sip of the Love Potion. Donna says, “I know the audience will have a fun time, in this crazy world there’s so much going on and a lot of negativity, I think we need a break to just have fun, let loose, and enjoy the characters and the story.”

Love Potion is playing at Mission Santa Cruz at the St Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival from June 7 -17th. To purchase tickets, click here. For all our QDF #FRINGEBUZZ articles, click here.