Review: THE CODE

by Lynn on December 10, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Young People’s Theatre, in the Studio, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Rachel Aberle

Directed by Patrick McDonald

Costume and Sound by Elizabeth Wellwood

Set by Ruth Bruhn

Cast: Elizabeth Barrett

Nathan Kay

Mason Temple

Writer Rachel Aberle puts us right in the world and mind of today’s teens in this gripping play about how simple ideas can be misinterpreted and then spread by a lack of thought and the speed of the internet. The production is terrific.

The Story. “The Code” refers to the dress code for young women for an upcoming dance at a high school. It seems that a young woman was sexually assaulted by a young man because she was dressed provocatively according to the school administration. So for the dance the school has decreed how a young woman should dress.

Moira, about 17 takes exception to this. She feels the school administration should focus on the young man’s behaviour and not how a young woman dresses. Moira proves her point by saying the young woman was dressed in a floor length dress that was not revealing. She holds a rally to gain support. The school reacts by cancelling the dance. The student body turn on Moira because of this cancellation.

Her two friends, Simon and Connor, support her in her indignation at the turn of events. Simon is secretly in love with Moira. For Moira, Simon is her best friend and that’s it, even though they go on a ‘date.’ Connor urges Simon to tell Moira how he feels. Simon, awkward at the best of times, musters the gumption and tells Moira. In the kindest of ways, Moira says she doesn’t feel that way about him and she’s sorry he misinterpreted her friendship. Simon is hurt and embarrassed at his admission to her and does something terrible by social media—he posts a doctored video of Moira speaking to the student body at the rally. It goes viral. Moira can’t stop it or offer the truth. She is bombarded by bullying remarks. She feels her life is over. When she leans the truth from Simon she reacts in a blunt, honest way. She is given solace by Connor, but makes sure their friendship is understood to be ‘friendship’ and nothing more.

This info does not reveal the whole play, but focuses on how important these details are.

The Production. Ruth Bruhn’s set is very simple: a back wall suggesting the school with a structure or two to sit or stand on. The costumes for the three characters are typical of high school students: hoodies, jeans, t-shirts.

There is an easy rapport between the actors: Elizabeth Barrett as a forthright Moira, Nathan Kay as the awkward Simon in puppy-love with Moira and Mason Temple as Connor, thoughtful, intelligent and knows how to weigh the arguments. It’s directed by Patrick McDonald with his usual clear vision and efficient staging to guide the actors to do justice to their parts and the story. The revelations and results are swift and you get the breathless sensation at how fast a rumour travels with a click of ‘send’, changes, twists on itself and ruins reputations until trying to stop and correct the inaccuracies are futile.

Rachel Aberle has written a compact, taut play that creates that fragile world of today’s teenager. It seems to be a world where pausing to think before hitting ‘send’ is getting rarer and rarer. I was shaken by how swift Simon reacted to Moira’s revelation—that she did not like him in the way he liked her—resulted in his recklessly sending a damning e-mail into the internet. Simon’s seeming lack of conscience at someone he cared about came so fast and believably so, that it was and is unsettling. Aberle has created a balance in the three characters. Moira and Connor are responsible and pause to think, and while Simon may be decent deep down, he does a reckless thing and almost ruins a person’s life. These are totally believable events and Aberle captures them beautifully. The language is captivating, articulate and appropriate.

Comment. I love being unsettled and unbalanced by this play. I love seeing these plays in a student audience the ages of the characters in the play. I love how these young people  react instantly to something they agree with or are upended by in the play and the air is a hiss of their whispering to each other. They can’t contain themselves. Wonderful. And their comments are interesting too.

What a play! Typical of the good works from Green Thumb Theatre, and bravo to Young People’s Theatre for continuing to being them here with their bracing plays and productions.

Green Thumb Theatre Presents:

Began: Nov. 27, 2018.

Closes: Dec. 14, 2018.

Running Time: 55 minutes.

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