Review: LUNGS

by Lynn on January 3, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following review was broadcast on Friday, January 2, 2015, CIUT FRIDAY MORNING 89.5 fm: Lungs at Tarragon Theatre, Extraspace until January 25, 2015.

 The host was Phil Taylor


Good Friday morning, the second day of the New Year. It’s our first theatre fix for 2015 and Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer is here to tell us what she’s seen this past week—what she’s looking forward too.  What’s up with you this week?


Happy New Year, Phil. Tarragon Theatre is remounting its wonderful production of Lungs that I originally reviewed here in March 2014. The opening night was New Year’s Eve.


Briefly, what’s it about?


The play was written by British writer, Duncan Macmillan. It’s about a couple, known simple as M and W—obviously standing for Man and Woman. Much of the play has the two debating whether or not to have a baby.  He brings it up while they are in the checkout line at IKEA and this freaks her out.  She begins the fretting over the world, pollution, carbon foot-print and he also joins in.

He’s a musician…he might have to get a real job. She’s a PHD student. She worries. He says it will be ok. Her musings are a rush of stream of consciousness. He listens attentively. They fret over whose parent to tell first with the news of a baby.

In half-sentences and even fragments Duncan Macmillan tells the story of a loving, frustrating, caring, deeply moving relationship of two people who love each other.


You loved it the first time. How do they shape up with this second showing.


Beautifully.  Imagine any situation when two people have to be in synch in order to perform perfectly and that’s how Brendan Gall as M and Lesley Faulkner as W are in Lungs. They are masterful. Last time I described  Faulkner as W  like a hummingbird of kinetic energy and gushing dialogue and a constant effort to balance all the options of W.

The problem with W is that she can seem neurotic with her worries and flitting from one subject to another. But Faulkner has such a vulnerability that you hang on for her.  Brendan Gall plays M with a quiet charm. He listens so intently that he makes us listen too. His reactions are of the moment. He is always supportive of W, always wanting to accommodate and encourage her.

Both Faulkner and Gall are perfectly in tuned. They have to get that split-second timing down perfectly; the reactions must be true and all the minute details of the performances down pat.

Again it’s directed by Weyni Mengesha who has such an exquisite sense of the detail of the piece. And Macmillan doesn’t make it easy either.


How so?


Playwright Duncan Macmillan is very specific that Lungs be played on a bare stage with no scenery, no furniture, no props, no mime, no costume changes when the scenes change, and no light or sound cues to indicate a change in time and place.  After that there are no stage directions at all.  The actors and director are on their own for this journey. The words give them context.

Designer Ken Mackenzie has designed a simple playing space that has a bare wood stage with two walls of wood  that meet upstage. So the playing area is the outline of a wood box. That’s it. Simple pants and shirt for him and jeans and top for her.

To suggest a change in scene or time, there is a shift in tone, perhaps a second between one scene and another. You are never in doubt that time is passing or that scenes are shifting.

As I said the last time I saw Lungs, in 75 minutes Macmillan paints a detailed picture in small, perfect strokes of a relationship that is built on tiny moments of trust, confusion, anger, hurt, disappointment, understanding and always love.


Ok. This being the beginning of the New Year, what are you looking forward to that’s coming up?


There’s the Next Stage Festival of one act plays coming up at Factory Theatre, beginning Jan. 7 and running until Jan. 18.

The Diane Flacks play Waiting Room opens at the Tarragon Theatre.

The Broadway-bound musical, The Heart of Robin Hood opens at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.

HER2 from Nightwood opens this month at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. On Jan. 9, before their opening, I will have Diane D’Aquila, who stars in the play and Maja Ardal who wrote it, as guests on the show.

Chekhov’s The Seagull opens at Canadian Stage later this month, directed by Chris Abraham.  We’ll have Chris and one of his actors on the show Jan. 16. So lots to look forward to this month.


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

 Lungs plays at Tarragon Extraspace until Jan. 25, 2015.

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