by Lynn on July 23, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person as part of the Here for Now Theatre Summer Festival at the Falstaff Family Centre, 35 Waterloo St. N, Stratford, Ont. until July 31, 2022.

Written by Deanna Kruger

Directed by Rebecca Cuthbertson

Costumes and set by Bonnie Deakin

Lighting and sound by Stephen Degenstein

Cast: Martha Farrell

Kristin Gauthier

A gentle play about loss, grieving and a symbolic birthday photograph and its implications.

The Story. Trish is going through a hard time. She is nearing her 47th birthday. Her father always noted each birthday with a photograph, posed in a certain way, before a specific backdrop as he always did with the previous 46 photographs. But her father has recently died and Trish is having a hard time coping. She spends time at her father’s apartment, ostensibly to begin cleaning it out. Her younger sister Maddy has arrived from out of town to help her in the clearing. They are close but there obviously are issues between the sisters, as there often are in families. Secrets are revealed. Trish was not just close to her father; it almost seems inordinately close to him. Maddy did not have that same relationship. In fact, while Maddy was in Trish’s birthday photograph from the time Trish was eight years old and Maddy was 14 months old, Maddy never had the a photograph taken on her birthday. A bit of sibling jealousy there. And it goes deep.

Playwright Deanna Kruger carefully reveals the secrets and hurts between the sisters and the family, as well as the deep love.

The Production. Bonnie Deakin has designed a simple set of the late father’s apartment. Boxes of stuff are everywhere. A sofa has a rumpled blanket on it. Trish (Kristin Gauthier) has been sleeping there on that sofa. There are some boxes ready to be filled. There is a desk and a bookshelf with some books.

The production begins with Trish making a phone call to someone apologizing for bad behaviour  and hoping the person will meet her on their favourite park bench. She stays on that part bench for some time. The time on the bench is broken up with a clever lighting cue—kudos to director Rebecca Cuthbertson and lighting director Stephen Degenstein. In keeping with the photograph motif, the lighting cue to end a scene is a gentle flash of light as if a flash photo has being taken. This is followed by regular lighting that gently comes up to illuminate the new scene.

Considering the real story of the play as it unfolds, that first scene with Trish asking that someone to forgive her and meet her on the bench seems out of place. We find out who she is waiting for three quarters through the play and the person seems less than central to the story, although the person matters to Trish.  Structurally I think Deanna Kruger might reconsider that beginning and create another scene that is more in keeping with the whole play.

The layers of Forty-Seven are slowly peeled away as both Trish and Maddy (Martha Farrell) deal with each other, establish what must have been a set way each sister always dealt with each other, and have to acknowledge that both are different people now with their own new set of issues. Both Kristin Gauthier as Trish and Martha Farrell as Maddy are confident, compelling actors. Gauthier illuminates the emotional fragility of Trish and Farrell reveals that Maddy is not as in control as she might appear. There are little grievances between the sisters that come bubbling up over Maddy’s stay. But there is kindness and generosity.

There is a wonderful scene that speaks volumes about the ills of old age and in particular, Trish and Maddy’s father. I give credit to both Deanne Kruger and director Rebecca Cuthbertson for this telling scene. Trish has a small shopping bag full of prescription drugs in which she takes each vial of pills from the shopping bag, looks at the label and then puts the vial in a bigger garbage bag. They are her father’s various prescriptions. There must be 20 of them. Trish asks if Maddy needs a tube of  antiseptic cream because the prescription is still good. With very little dialogue, and just the sorting of those many vials of pills we get a clear sense of the pharmaceutical life of a frail senior citizen.

If I do have a concern-quibble, it’s that the pace seemed almost too slow. At one hour and 20 minutes, time could have been shaved, with a slightly quicker pace, that would not have destroyed the delicacy of the piece.

Comment. Deanne Kruger has written an interesting family drama of sisters coping in different ways with the death of their father, as well as dealing with their own difficulties. Trish obviously has issues and has had them for a long time. One wonders, was there no help for her? Was she so stuck that she couldn’t get any help for herself? Stuff to keep you thinking.

Here for Now Theatre Presents:

Plays until: July 31, 2022.

Running Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes (no intermission).

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