by Lynn on September 20, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Tarragon Theatre Workspace, Toronto, Ont.

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

NOTE: I reviewed this in Dec. 2015 when it played at another venue with the same gifted actor and director. I’m revising the review here to reflect the new location and the depth of the performance.

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

The Story
. A man has come by airplane from another place? country? we’re not really sure. He gives us few but subtle clues. He is here alone and he is missing home. The interrogation at customs (“Business or Pleasure?”) is matter-of-fact and not welcoming. Our Narrator 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. “Horse”—strange word. 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 Workspace of the Tarragon Theatre there are chairs around several rugs on the floor. There are also chairs up on risers facing the playing area. There are several lamps around the space; some standing, some on tables. Our Narrator is there in the shadows, pacing. He is dressed in a dark jacket, a black vest and shirt, neat dark pants and brown leather boots (it seems).

Our Narrator turns some of the lamps 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. It also suggests an impishness in our Narrator, that perhaps he is feeling welcomed in our presence to he can ‘play’ and have fun. The collaboration between actor and director is tight and so effective.

I said when I first reviewed this in December, 2015, “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.” I feel that again and more. He paces back and forth in the space and sometimes around it. In the subtlest of reactions he edits himself, trying to express clearly how he is feeling and where that comes from. It’s not a stammering, jerking performance, but one of a character trying to convey the impossible. He incorporates those people in the riser section as he seems to look every person in the room right in the eyes.

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 again.

. When Title and Deed first played two years ago it opened at a time when there was a flurry of openings, many double and triple booked. The show got little attention, which was a shame. But through determination and tenacity Christopher Stanton, Stewart Arnott and their team made another production happen. Lucky us to see it again, or for the first time.

Will Eno plays with words, he has a malleable facility with them. His characters make the words sound delicious. They tumble out of their mouths; they flow, they flip and curve over each other. And those words make us aware of them for their own sake. This is so evident in The Realistic Joneses, Middletown and Title and Deed.

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. Our narrator has no such possession here. Eno’s words have an elegant sturdiness, compelling us to listen hard and think deeper to what our narrator is saying. We don’t know how or why he is here. But certainly in light of recent events it makes us think of refugees escaping a horrible place; immigrants choosing someplace better; people expelled from their homes. 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.

This piece and certainly Christopher Stanton’s performance had particular impact yesterday. I saw it after attending the joyous, heartfelt, moving memorial for Jon Kaplan. The sense of loss, whether for home or the absent of a cherished someone, the yearning ache of it all bubbled up and I wept all the way home.

Nightfall Theatrics Presents:

Closes: Oct. 8, 2017.
Cast: 1 gifted actor.
Running Time: 65 minutes.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.