Review: Title and Deed

by Lynn on December 5, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Artscape, 180 Shaw Street, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Will Eno
Directed by Stewart Arnott
Starring: Christopher Stanton

An ache of a play about missing home with a heart-squeezing performance by Christopher Stanton.

One more worthy play crowded into the ridiculous schedule of the last few weeks, when about 15 shows opened in one week. NUTS!

The Story. A man has come from another place? country? planet? we’re not really sure. He gives us few but subtle clues. He is here alone and he is lonely for home. He had a place to stay but had to leave. He is so lonely it could crush him if he stood still. He speaks to us in a kind of intelligent stream of consciousness, flitting from one subject to another and they are tenuously connected. He speaks of language and how words are strange if you think about it. We take words for granted but when we think about them, they are strange. “Horse”—strange word when you think about it. He talks of a woman he was close to but who isn’t with him. And when he isn’t shifting from one subject to another, I guess in an effort to forget how lonely he is, he comes back to that very subject—home, loneliness, solitude.

The Production. When we file into the room, our narrator is already there, pacing. He is smartly dressed in a crisp shirt, jacket, neat pants and shined brown leather shoes. A small semi-circle of chairs placed on various rugs await us. There are a few lamps around the room which our narrator will turn on and off during the performance for appropriate effect. I love this activity that director Stewart Arnott has Christopher Stanton, the Narrator, engage in. Again it keeps him so busy talking and turning lights on and off, that the poor man will be distracted, albeit momentarily, from his crushing loneliness.

I can’t think of a better actor to play this quirky, awkward, sweetly-sad Narrator than Christopher Stanton. “Otherworldly” but definitely of our world seems to be his stock and trade. He has a quick smile and an equally quick look of concern, loss and anguish. The Narrator tries so hard to fit in but by his own account, he doesn’t even though we would consider him one of us. It is this thinking of being apart that makes Stanton’s performance so heartfelt and engaging. Wonderful work.

Comment. Title and Deed—what a wonderful title for a play about exile and loneliness. To have a title and deed to someplace means you have roots, a place to have/build a home, and our narrator has no such possession here. Writer Will Eno has such a malleable facility with language. It looks like he writes on water, in which the words will dissolve away before we have a chance to note them properly. But there is also an elegant sturdiness, compelling us to listen hard and think deeper to what our narrator is saying to us. We don’t know how or why he is here. But it does make us think of refugees escaping a horrible place; immigrants choosing someplace better; people expelled from their homes. Again, is our narrator from our earth or some other place? We listen hard to understand and be compassionate. It still can’t ease our Narrator’s sense of loneliness and that is sobering for both of us. Compelling theatre does that.

Bonnie Anderson and Nightfall Theatrics Presents:

Runs to Dec. 6, 2015.
Cast: 1 gifted actor.
Running Time: 1 hour.

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