by Lynn on August 14, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Falstaff Family Centre, Stratford, Ont. as part of the Here for Now Theatre summer season until Aug. 21, 2022

Written by Ellen Denny

Directed by Jan Alexandra Smith

Lighting and sound designer, Stephen Degenstein

Costume and set designer, Monique Lund

Cast: Emma Cuzzocrea

Sara-Jeanne Hosie

Max Lindsay (musician)

Tenaj Williams

And interesting play about finding one’s place in the world, coping with stunning obstacles and dealing with heart-fluttering temptation. Sometimes intriguing, sometimes predictable, but yes, interesting and messy.

The Story. At 42 Mrs. David Dunham just wants to write in a house of her own—she is upping Virginia Woolf’s room of one’s own, and raising it by a few more rooms to a house. She’s been a mother to 12 year old Lucy and a wife to husband David and now she wants time to herself to write. She’s written an earlier book that was mildly successful. Now she wants to continue writing.

But then David suffers a debilitating stroke and Mrs. David Dunham becomes a single mom to Lucy and a full-time caregiver to David. She is inundated with doctor’s appointments, visits to the hospital, needing to be there for therapy and dealing with a moody, angry daughter.

Then Mrs. David Dunham accidentally meets Len, a firefighter working at the fire hall next to her writing house and there is an attraction and a distraction when she doesn’t need either.

The Production. The set is two white chairs that are used in various ways and the ledge at the back that is used for ‘perching’ so Mrs. David Dunham (Sara-Jeanne Hosie) can write in her laptop computer. I love that playwright Ellen Denny instantly establishes that our heroine does not have her own identity, but is identified as Mrs. David Dunham, the wife of David who is a university professor. Late in the play we learn that her name is Johanna. One senses Johanna’s urgency to write and get a sense of herself as soon as possible, to combat the nay-sayers about buying the house in which to write. The tumble of words and the way Sara-Jeanne Hosie as Johanna says them clearly conveys that urgency. Hosie almost seems to be holding her breath as she prepares her plans and is determined to write.

But there are interruptions. Her daughter Lucy (a confident Emma Cuzzocrea) is forthright, a bit demanding and self-centered. She is eager to go to Stratford to see King Lear. Her mother has the tickets and they are going together. But then David Dunham has a stroke and all bets are off. Except Lucy doesn’t seem to clue in to that. She doesn’t seem to understand the seriousness of a stroke and doesn’t understand why they can’t go to Stratford, even if her father is in the hospital, and why her mother has hesitated to change the tickets. I found Lucy’s behaviour so odd and selfish I did wonder how old this kid was? We find out later that she’s 12-years-old. I thought that surely a girl that old, one who says she’s mature for her age, would know better. A glitch in the writing? Just a spoiled kid? Hmm.

Lucy is also experiencing a sexual awakening when she sees Len (a compelling Tenaj Williams), the firefighter, next door taking some sun, having a smoke, and stretching his muscles in the process. Director Jan Alexandra Smith illuminates Len’s robust sexual confidence with that physical stretching business. To complicate matters further, Johanna accidentally meets Len when she nearly runs him over as she parks her car in the writing-house driveway. And there is an attraction there as well. Len is 27, married and seemingly bored. Johanna is 42, artistically and emotionally frustrated and tied up with caring for her daughter and sick husband. Emotions are high; complications are many; the situation is messy and perhaps even predictable.

Playwright Ellen Denny has a facility with language and a laugh line. I thought at times the story bordered too close to obvious, but still she teases the audience with the story.

Director Jan Alexandra Smith directs with economy but at times I thought the stage business of having characters moving chairs seemed almost like obvious choreography which dragged out a scene.

Max Lindsay on the vibraphone provides subtle music as the audience files in. But then continues playing as an underscore for the first several speeches. I found the music unnecessary and annoying until his playing became louder and deliberate and then characters looked at him and he stopped playing. A deliberate joke to the production. My point is still the music is unnecessary. It adds a distraction from the words, which should be the bedrock of the production.   

Comment. Take Care creates an intriguing story of trying to find one’s artistic and individual life. Many will recognize themselves in Johanna’s story, either in her frustration, her humour, her pluck and her determination in getting through.

Here for Now Theatre presents:

Plays until: Aug. 21, 2022.

Running Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes. (no intermission)

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