by Lynn on May 20, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

l-r Melissa-Jane Shaw, Jonathon Young

The following reviews were broadcast on Friday, May 18, 2012 on CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, CIUT 89.5 FM. STOCKHOLM at the Tarragon Extra Space until June 3; HOME at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until June 20.

1) Good Friday Morning. It’s time for a little theatre from Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer.

Hi Lynn

What do you have for us today?

Two plays that I just realized sound sort of the same. And both are about people who are confined in some way.

The first is STOCKHOLM by British Playwright, Bryony Lavery at the Tarragon Extra Space. About an intensely passionate couple Todd and Kali who take their obsessions to a dangerous point.

And HOME by David Storey, also British, about two erudite, well dressed men of a certain age in a kind of facility, the truth of which we gradually find out.

2) What’s the story behind STOCKHOLM and how is the couple confined?

For Todd and Kali life seems good. They live in a designer house. They are intensely in love and lust with one another. Sex is good and often and sometimes rough and ready. They are planning to go on vacation in a few days, to Stockholm. We are told that logistics were difficult to plan this trip which I found strange since neither seems to work. They just play, enjoy, go to art films and cavort on the countertops. When things are good they are electric.

But we soon become aware of problems. Kali is inordinately jealous. She thinks Todd is cheating on her—she checks his cell phone for calls he received. She often goes haywire. She lashes out at Todd. He fights back. It’s compelling. And this seems like a recurring ritual.

3) Picking Stockholm as their vacation destination can’t just be an accident. Is the Stockholm syndrome involved.

I sure think it is. I love Bryony Lavery’s work—she calls her writing deceptive and she’s right. But we soon become aware that Todd and Kali’s relationship is like the Stockholm Syndrome.

In part it’s defined as: “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens and abuses, or intimidates the other.”

Yup, that sounds about right. Kali can be loving but she’s a loose canon. She’s the one who beats, threatens and abuses Todd, and he fights back.

Bryony Lavery’s writing is elegant, poetic and always provocative. She wrote a play called FROZEN about a pedophile a scholar doing a book on that kind of behaviour and the mother of a child who was abducted. Stunning. Ms Lavery was sitting behind me on opening night and I wanted to ask her where she had to go emotionally to write that play.

Same thing with STOCKHOLM. She has written a play about the Stockholm Syndrome but has re-imagined it in a different way involving two loving people, and it still makes sense.

In the beginning of the play both Kali and Todd address the audience and tell them the story in the third person—that could be a bit coy, but I think it sets up a certain distance that’s interesting. Then as we become embroiled in their lives, that third person reference almost disappears.

4) If Kali and Todd are cavorting on the countertops, what is the production like?

I think it’s terrific. This is a gripping, beautifully directed production by Kelly Straughan. With athletic movement that is part dance choreographed by Susie Burpee. Kali and Todd flip each other over countertops, against the fridge as they straddle components in that kitchen.

Very impressive. Kelly Straughan has directed her actors so that you never know when they will veer off being affectionate and intimate and segue into brutality.

The results are two terrific performances by Melissa-Jane Shaw as Kali and Jonathon Young as Todd. Melissa-Jane Shaw as Kali is at once charming and engaging in the physical aspect of the relationship, and almost possessed with rage as she becomes jealous of something both real and imagined.

And as Todd, Jonathon Young is easy going, affectionate and concerned when Kali attacks him, and just as combative when he’s defending himself.

This production of STOCKHOLM looks at the obsessive, compulsive behaviour of people in lust and love. And it doesn’t let you look away.

5) And how about HOME, is this one deceptive too?

It is. Two very nattily dressed gentleman, Jack and Harry and enjoying the spring weather outdoors in a kind of park. They sit on two chairs talking about this and that, who they know, commenting on the various characters passing by. They both are fastidiously dressed in a suit, tie and vest. Their shoes are shined.

Both enjoy life it seems; they are optimistic.They are both articulate, perhaps even formal in their speech. They are kindred spirits. But there are hints that where they are is not necessarily voluntary.

Jack speaks of a wife but there’s an edge. Someone brought him there. Was it the wife? Jack talks about a lot of people he knows, but no on visits him. Harry is vague about his family. There is something dark in his past. He is crushed when there are hints of what happened.

There are two women of a certain age, who enter the scene. Kathleen is a bit of a tease, everything has a sexual innuendo which entertains her mightily. There are hints that she might have attempted suicide and was therefore brought to this facility to get help.

Her friend Marjorie keeps telling Kathleen to lower
her skirt. She later tells someone that Kathleen will go after any man she can. Marjorie is a woman with a sharp tongue and edge. She is an angry, impatient woman who knows how to float a line that will embarrass or disadvantage a character if it means she gets the upper hand. She talks of going home soon. Kathleen doesn’t want to go home.

So home could mean the place where they are, or the place where they can’t be but want to or not.

6) So it sounds as if David Story in HOME is as deceptive a writer as Bryony Lavery in STOCKHOLM.

Exactly. Story’s dialogue is fragments of sentences which each man finishes, or at least replies to suggesting he knows what his friend is talking about.

“Well look at that then….”

Yes I know,

Who’d have thought…”

With these fragments we find out the story believe it or not. Storey is writing about desperate people reacting to their desperate situation is different ways. The men are trying to hang on and be normal by dressing impeccably and being dignified. But they are fragile emotionally.

The women are different—abrasive, common, vulgar and love to tease them. The play is both very funny and achingly poignant. There is a dash of mystery about this place that they are—or the kind of home they are in.

7) Does the production do justice to the play?

It does. Albert Schultz has directed a fastidious, funny, moving production. The story is revealed slowly. There is just as much information is the silences as in the fragmented dialogue. I love that.

You have a cast of masters when it comes to comedy, and can change on a dime to catch you up short in a poignant moment.

As Jack, Oliver Dennis, stiff upper lip and jovial hides his secrets. As Harry Michael Hanrahan radiates good will, but is quick to tears when his life story is revealed. Both of them together is like watching Olympic ping-pong.

The women are their match as well. Kathleen limps because her feet hurt and she’s afraid to take them off. Brenda Robins plays her as a flirt, easily corpsing into giggles at some innuendo. She is sort of browbeaten by Marjorie, beautifully played by Maria Vacratsis.

Marjorie is a bitter woman. She is quick with a barb—very observant for the signs of weakness and dangerous. Yet she has a gentle side too, but I would be careful of her.

The last character is Alfred, a former wrestler who is not right in the head. He keeps lifting the table and chairs as if he was pumping iron, and in a way he is….wrought iron. Alfred is mono-syllabic, and Andre Sills plays him as a lumbering teddy bear—rather endearing.

So STOCKHOLM and HOME. Both worth leaving home to see.

Thanks Lynn. That’s Lynn Slotkin our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can read Lynn’s blog at

STOCKHOLM plays at the Tarragon Extra Space until June 3.

TICKETS: 416-531-1827

HOME plays at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until June 20.

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1 Trevor May 30, 2012 at 5:29 am

Stockholm was too stylized, too choreographed, and too boxed-in with very little real human connection. More a dance piece than anything else, and by the end I couldn’t have cared one whit what happened to either character. Let them suffer in their own little world — it had no connection to my own and they both deserved their lots. and putting away groceries is BORING, no matter how you stage it. Only a 60 minute play but I was counting the minutes after a third of it. Jonathon Young, for all the hoo-rah surrounding him, was annoying vanilla and self-indulgent. Exactly the reason why theatre is dying — only self-congratulatory theatre types will see this play and convince themselves they enjoyed it.