Anatol is a hopeless romantic who is desperately in love, and he demands absolute loyalty from his lover . . . just like he does with the several other women he’s seeing. Based on the work of Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler, The Amorous Adventures of Anatol
is the story of a Viennese womanizer and his love life with a number of ladies, told through his sharing of his debauches with a psychologist friend. The 19th-century play is getting new life through Canadian theatrical duo Morris Panych and Ken MacDonald.
Panych explains that the two met in Victoria, at the Belfry Theatre, where MacDonald was resident designer at the time. “Ken and I both had other partners at the time,” he says. “We became friends through mutual friends of ours about a year later, and from there it developed into something more than a friendship; we found ourselves together most of the time. It was inevitable.” Eventually becoming partners professionally as well as romantically, leading up to their marriage in 2004, Panych and MacDonald have created a national career together working on countless, often award-winning, productions.
In addition to living together, how do they juggle the different careers and projects? Panych says, “Cooking breakfast and talking about a colour palette for a show may seem like either we’re really focused or we’re not; it’s a bit of both.” He explains that they have “quick shorthand” for what goes into everything, so a conversation about the show’s design could be only three words. They are then able to go off and work separately, touching base only when necessary. “I respond better to fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants bullshit. I think we both do,” Panych says. “There’s no magic; it's just work. But something excites us and that’s what keeps us going from project to project; we repeat ourselves with great regularity but always try to up the ante. The important thing is to stay engaged and interested. Like all things, there comes maturity, and the infatuation with theatre is replaced by a more pragmatic view of any project. It sounds unromantic and it is, but we’re in it for the long haul.” He adds, “When we chose our wedding rings, which were Haida designs, we chose the whale for a symbol because we were told it represented longevity. It isn’t always how you last; sometimes it’s how long.”
The Amorous Adventures of Anatol
, which opened Jan 9, is their latest collaboration. “It’s an odd construction. The play was originally assembled by Schnitzler out of vaudeville sketches he had written, so the story is not progressive, necessarily, or even a story, for that matter, but a series of vignettes about the character of Anatol and his various lovers.”
is transported from Vancouver for its Toronto run, with the title character played by hunky Stratford and Shaw festival star Mike Shara, who originated the role. “The piece is trying to show a man in the grips of an impossible quest, which is to be satisfied in love,” Panych explains. “For people who have gone through the exercise of looking for the ‘right one’ and have survived, the answer is clear: there is no real ‘right one’; relationships are what you make them. Ken and I came together in strange circumstances, neither one of us particularly suited to the other, but we made it work because a lasting relationship is about maturity and acceptance.” Maybe Anatol can take a lesson in love from this incredible couple. — Micheal Lyons
The Amorous Adventures of Anatol runs till Sun, Feb 10 at Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave. $27-53. tarragontheatre.com