Review: MOMENT

by Lynn on November 11, 2014

in The Passionate Playgoer

At The SideMart Grocery 1362 Queen St. E.

Written by Deirdre Kinahan
Directed and sound by Christopher Stanton
Designed by Jackie Chau
Lighting by Nick Blais
Starring: Aviva Armour-Ostroff
Gordon Bolan
Deborah Drakeford
Ryan Hollyman
Janet Porter
Andre Sills
Bahareh Yaraghi

A cracker-jack production of a play bubbling with emotion and family angst.
The Story. The Lynch family has its challenges. Teresa Lynch, the matriarch, is forgetful, anxious and high strung. She has a complicated regimen of pills she needs to take. Keeping track of them is difficult for her. Her two daughters, Ciara and Niamh, try to help. Ciara, the youngest daughter, seems to be her favourite, perhaps because she visits frequently. Niamh, the older daughter, visits too, but not as regularly.

The family also has its secrets. There is an absent brother to the two sisters—Nial. Fifteen years before, in only a moment, Nial did something that sent him away to prison. The family has been experiencing the effects of that moment ever since. Now Nial is out of prison and is coming for a brief visit, with his new wife. Emotions are high. Teresa is anxious that everything be perfect for her returning son. Ciara is surprised but curious. She was young when Nial went away and not clear on why. Niamh is furious and agitated. She remembers everything about that moment.

The Production. Designer Jackie Chau has configured the space so that the audience sits around the playing area. There are framed family photos on the walls. In the centre of the room is a well-used dining room table with six chairs around it. Against one wall is a smaller table where endless cups of tea are prepared.

Niamh arrives, concerned about her mother. She’s been calling all morning and her mother hasn’t answered. To add to her angst, Niamh has arrived with Fin, a friend from the office. He wants to stay and support her. He obviously is sweet on her. Niamh just wants to be left to deal with her mother. Fin finally leaves. After several shouts through the house, Teresa appears, bright, cheerful and off-handed. Niamh is questioning. Teresa had been shopping. No she didn’t take her cell-phone with her. No need. Yes she took her pills, she thinks, but she hasn’t been keeping track regularly. Niamh becomes agitated which makes Teresa anxious.

Ciara arrives, calming, even-handed. Teresa is happy to see her and seems to defer to her at the expense of Niamh. We see how that affects Niamh. She’s wounded every time her mother defers to Ciara. Ciara’s good-natured husband, Dave, arrives with beer and a smile. Then Teresa reveals her bombshell-Nial is arriving shortly with his girlfriend—she doesn’t know that they married the day before.

Director Christopher Stanton has beautifully created that family dynamic before Nial arrives. The two daughters are watchful of their mother in different ways; Ciara is compassionate and comforting; Niamh is anxious and needy. Teresa is just trying to hold on, appear cheerful and normal. She handles Niamh’s outbursts with an off-handed barb. Ciara is always there, helping; Niamh is not. Because the audience is so close to the action, Stanton just makes us look and watch harder. His direction is nuanced and subtle.

Nial arrives with his wife Ruth. No one is in the house at the moment—Teresa needed more pills so they all went. Nial really does not want to be there, but Ruth insists on meeting his family. She knows his history. She is accepting of this man who seems re-habilitated. He is an artist now, on his way to Spain for a showing of his work. We sense his agitation and desire to leave. Ruth is a calming, loving influence.

Then the family arrives and the emotions are ramped up. Teresa is giddy with delight that Nial is there and to meet Ruth. Ciara is happy and welcoming. Dave is charming. Niamh is wary and building with anger. Fin arrives too so all these emotions are bubbling.

Stanton is meticulous in building on these complex emotions so that by the time the end of Act I arrives emotions are so fraught the Teresa loses it (literally), throws up and unfortunately Fin is in the way and gets the major brunt of Teresa being sick. (Too much information? I will explain in the comments).

Act II takes place in the family basement, fifteen years before. We see how that fateful moment happened. The audience then goes back to the dining room of the house and the present where all the hurts, accusations, recriminations that have been pent up for fifteen years erupt.

The acting company is superb. As Teresa, Deborah Drakeford has that tight smile and bright face of a person trying to hold in her anxiety. As she gets more and more on edge she becomes more and more compelling. This is a woman who has had to suppress a lot in fifteen years and as much as she loves her daughters, Nial is her favourite.

As Ciara, Aviva Armour-Ostroff has an easy confidence. Ciara takes care of her mother lovingly, with no angst. She watches carefully and subtly gives her sister looks that speak volumes about what is happening.

Janet Porter as Niamh is like a tightly coiled wire ready to snap. Her movements are quick, agitated, almost frantic. She holds on to her anger like a kid clutching her teddy bear. She has allowed that rage to fester and poison everything about her. Her inability to sustain a relationship is part of the fall out.

As Nial, Ryan Hollyman is affectionate with Ruth but ultimately unsettled, twitchy and so reluctant to be in that house where his world changed in a moment. He paid for what he did, reformed and now wants to move forward with his life.

Comment. Irish playwright, Dierdre Kinahan explores the themes of family and forgiveness in the face of horrific events in Moment, which she wrote in 2009. Interestingly she explores similar themes in her most recent play, Spinning, which I saw in Dublin in October. In it a man has just come out of prison for being responsible for a death. Kinahan explores the man’s obsession with his family, especially his child. And we see a parallel story of a woman trying to cope with the death of her daughter. Can the man be forgiven for what he did? In Moment Nial feels he has done his time and now wants to live his life without recriminations. If that means not seeing his family, so be it. Niamh, on the other hand, resents losing her childhood because of her brother’s crime. She can’t let go of her rage. Fascinating from both angles.

While the language does suggest the play takes place in Ireland (or England) the cast plays it without accent, suggesting of course, that the story is universal. The production is gripping and thought provoking.

About Teresa’s projectile vomiting….While the aim of the scene is to hurl on Fin’s pants, there was residual glop on two audience members sitting behind him—me and my colleague Glenn Sumi of NOW magazine. Glenn’s shoes were ‘anointed’ with whatever it was that was hurled—chicken soup we were told. I got a bit on my arm but more on my pants. I don’t think the estimable Deborah Drakeford was making a comment about critics. We just happened to be sitting there by chance. It made for some lively tweeting and laughs.

It’s a worthy production. See it, but be aware of the splatter zone.

Presented by ARC

First Performance: Nov. 6, 2014
Closes: Nov. 22, 2014
Cast: 7; 3 men, 4 women
Running Time: 2 hours approx.

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