Review: THE FULL LIGHT OF DAY (part of Luminato)

by Lynn on June 9, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Part of Luminato

Written by Daniel Brooks

Director, creator, dramaturg, Kim Collier

Set by Julie Fox

Lighting by Michael Walton

Costumes by Nancy Bryant

Sound by Brian Linds

Projection designer, Brian Johnson

Composer, Peter Allen

Cast: Henry Bolan

Nita Bowerman

Carlen Escarraga

Jillian Fargey

Dean Paul Gibson

William Ford Hopkins

Eponine Lee

Jim Mezon

John Ng

Gabrielle Rose

Stephanie Wong

Jenny Young

Jonathan Young

A dazzling technologically complex production by director/creator Kim Collier that overpowers and smothers this slight play by Daniel Brooks.

The Story. Harold is a real estate tycoon, having made his fortune building ugly buildings while mired in the murky world or payoffs and blackmail. He is devoted to his wife Mary who seems unaware of his dealings but finally has revelation. They have three children. David is their eldest son and runs the business. He is a boorish thug who indulges in excess of every kind. Jane is a young widow who seems lost. Joey, the youngest is a fragile minded man who does something so serious to avenge his father it threatens the family’s safety. His father reacts with a decision that is biblical in size.  A mysterious nemesis of Harold’s named Hans wafts into and out of the story, constantly bombarding Harold with how mendacious he and his dealings are. Harold tries to ignore him but is nonetheless rattled.

It’s about a dysfunctional, excessively rich family. Only the matriarch, Mary has enlightenment at the end of her life as she tries to right some wrongs.

The Production. Peter Allen’s delicate classical sounding piano music plays often giving the piece a lovely undercurrent. A huge, beautifully lush tree is projected on the stage curtain. The branches sway slightly. It’s a wonderful pastoral image that quickly dissolves into the garish world of tall buildings and little beauty.

When the production begins the dense looking stage curtain becomes see-through in Michael Walton’s lighting. A curtain is drawn across up stage and Mary (Gabrielle Rose) appears. Her name is projected on the curtain. The name of each member of the family: Mary, David, Joey, Jane etc. is projected on the curtain, with Harold (Jim Mezon) being the last. Each scene reveals their behaviour and attitudes. Sprinkled around any narrative are scenes and scenes and scenes of curtains going up, a frame lowering that sets off a scene in David’s (Dean Paul Gibson) sumptuous living room (and unfortunately cuts off a character—his young petulant daughter–sitting upstage on a couch and obscures her when she talks), then it rises, with projections of buildings each taller and uglier than the next. There are scenes with Joey (Jonathan Young) in a (real) car going to do mischief at a man’s house in defense of his father; a scene with Harold and Mary in another (real) car as they pass by his many buildings projected behind them. There are close up videographed scenes of characters on stage so we see them in ‘person’ on stage and in large video shots on the curtain.

Mary’s health deteriorates during the play and her last scenes in bed are then reflected large on the back wall. As Mary, Gabrielle Rose is radiant, regal, gracious and resolute in her desire to leave the world better than she found it. Her devoted husband Harold is played by Jim Mezon and it’s a performance full of power, self-absorption, arrogance, rage and a sense of loss at the end when he doesn’t get his way. In a sense it’s full of despair but right to the end Harold thinks all matters are about him. At the end he has a  confusing confession to make that we knew about him from the beginning

Dean Paul Gibson as David is fearless in his odiousness. It’s an overpowering, unapologetic performance. Anyone wanting to make a movie about Harvey Weinstein, Dean Paul Gibson is your man to play him. And he is just as quiet and understated when he plays other characters such as Harold’s confidant.

Jonathan Young plays Joey, the youngest son,  as a skittish man, perhaps on the autism spectrum, lively, innocent, awkward and loving in his own way.

And as Jane, the middle child, Jenny Young seems weighted down with ennui. She is the one with a closer connection to her mother and Mary trusts her with it. It’s a performance full of quiet confidence.

Good as the performances are, it’s Kim Collier’s relentless use of technology that keeps getting in the way of any clarity in the play. When Mary is sick at the end, Collier then simplifies matters because the scenes are in one room—no need to raise or lower frames, curtains, or project anything but her face on the back wall.

Comment. It is as if Kim Collier’s endlessly inventive, complex technological wizardry is at odds with Daniel Brooks’ play, a concern I’ve had with her previous work. Brooks wrote a program note explaining he wanted to write a “modern transposition of Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story but got bored after three days. Instead he “let himself go free” and continued to write using Ozu’s structure and details. The problem is that he never says that it’s a film he’s trying to transpose (it would be helpful) and he never explains what the basis of the film is (that too would be helpful, since his play seems so gossamer in detail).

Kim Collier’s extensive program note tries valiantly to explain the production but ultimately fails because the production fails. From her note: “Daniel’s characters in The Full Light of Day teeter on the edge of what feels like our current social, economic, political tipping point. It is a play written in this time, for this time. A modern tragedy where actions, over time and through generations, culminate in a mythic act of violence.”


The Full Light of Day is not a tragedy, modern or otherwise. No one, not even Harold has revelation that matters. He accepts he’s mendacious—we knew that from the beginning. He didn’t make a decision that he seems to regret. That would be the tragedy of Harold. Daniel Brooks’ characters don’t teeter on the edge of anything because they don’t have a sense of anything other than their own self-indulgent selves, except for Mary, who is enlightened at the end. But even that seems a bit muddy—where does that come from? Perhaps the answer is in all that time occupied with the distracting technology.

The Full Light of Day is a 90 minute play that could be about something significant that is bloated into two hours and forty minutes of self-indulgence.

The Electric Company Theatre, in association with the Banff Centre for the Arts and BMO, co-presented with Canadian Stage and Luminato:

Opened: June 7, 2019.

Closes: June 13, 2019.

Running Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes.


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