by Lynn on March 4, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

At House House Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Collectively created by Suzanne Khuri, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Banuta Rubess and Maureen White.
Directed by Chelsea Dab Hilke
Designed by Elizabeth Kantor
Lighting by Joseph Patrick
Sound and Video Programming by Jeremy Hutton
Starring: Claudia Carino
Lesley Robertson
Amaka Umeh
Melissa Williams

The story is powerful but the set seems to have overwhelmed everything.

The Story. Marianne Bachmeier had a terrible life. By the time she was a teenager she had been raped twice, the second time when she was pregnant with her daughter, Anna. She left Anna in the care of a friend while she, Marianne, drove around the neighbourhood looking for work, one presumes.

Anna was strangled by a man in a hotel. He said that Anna had flirted with him and therefore egged him on. Anna was seven when he killed her. During the trial Marianne Bachmeier went into the courtroom and shot the alleged killer seven times. One might apply the title of the play to that moment of vindication.

The Production. Elizabeth Kantor has designed a set of white laundry hanging on the line. Two lines of white laundry (undies, shirts, blouses, shorts, pants etc) are hanging on lines that run the full depth of the side of the stage. The two lines meet upstage. In front of the meeting of the lines of laundry is a white refrigerator. Interspersed with the laundry are white tables, also along the side.

The four performers—Claudia Carino, Lesley Robertson, Amaka Umeh, and Melissa Williams—wear black pants and tops. They are a lively ensemble giving voice to the various vignettes of the story.

Because the playing space is so deep and seems overpowered by the lines of laundry, I get the sense that director Chelsea Dab Hilke is held captive by the set design. Often scenes are staged way upstage by the refrigerator, as if the space has to be used. Often scenes take place both upstage and downstage at the same time. Focus is pulled. Where do we look?

The play is about abuse to women, rape, social injustice, the struggle to survive for a single mother and her daughter. Pretty serious stuff. Yet occasionally I think the director allowed the tone of the piece to veer into the silly. At one point the cast went into the audience to sound out various people; one was given a publicity head shot of one of the actresses; another chatted up some men. Odd.

Comment. The writing collective of Suzanne Khuri, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Banuta Rubess and Maureen White have written a sobering, gripping yet poetic play, snippets of two sad lives; Marianne Bachmeier and Anna, her daughter. Bachmeier perhaps was driven mad by an unjust legal system so she took matters into her own hands and shot the man who murdered her daughter. One is heartsick for Anna, seven years old, and murdered by a man who said she flirted with him.

The play is about so many things but especially the inequity in women’s rights. Does the designer, Elizabeth Kantor really think that white hanging laundry is represented of that theme? I wish the play had a better production.

Hart House Theatre Presents:

Began: Feb. 27, 2015
Closes: March 7, 2015
Cast: 4 women
Running Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

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