by Lynn on October 4, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Theatre, Toronto, Ont. Plays until Oct. 8, 2022.

Written by Olivier Choinière

Translated and adapted by Bobby Theodore

Directed by Brendan Healy

Set by Julie Fox

Lighting by Kimberly Purtell

Sound by Richard Feren

Costumes by Ming Wong

Cast: Finley Burke

Rosemary Dunsmore

Matthew Edison

Jonathan Goad

Michelle Monteith

Amy Rutherford

Maja Vujicic

A blistering play, given an exquisite production.

The Story. A family dinner from Hell, and we’ve all had them. Elizabeth is the matriarch. Her three children and two grandchildren are at her apartment for dinner. Conversations between the siblings and Elizabeth and her children are scattered, quiet and pointed. Information is quietly revealed. So is simmering animosity and anger. The simmering will turn to boiling and verge on explosive. You can’t turn away.

The Production. Elizabeth (Rosemary Dunsmore) is at one end of the rectangular table and her three children are seated with her son James (Matthew Edison) to her left, Daniel (Jonathan Goad) at the other end of the table and Melissa (Michelle Monteith) to Daniel’s left. Elizabeth’s two grandchildren: Tyler (Finley Burke) and Olivia  (Maja Vujicic) are in another room just off the dining room watching television. Elizabeth and James are in quiet conversation as is Daniel and Melissa.

It’s to the great credit of director Brendan Healy and his gifted cast that no conversation is louder than the others, unless it’s planned. The audience must decide whom to listen to, or fluctuate between the conversations.  And is often the case with various conversations going on, a person in this conversation might catch something in another conversation and engage there. We learn that Elizabeth is angry and frustrated with the politics going around in her world. James is a trained lawyer who was always working on ‘projects’ but is unemployed and is trying to explain the situation to his mother. Elizabeth quietly harps at him and he quietly pushes back. As Elizabeth, Rosemary Dunsmore is quietly relentless in her irritation with her world and James. As James, Matthew Edison is determined in his efforts to be calm yet try and stand his ground. It’s a matter of two people wanting to let loose at the other, but not wanting to for fear of causing a scene.

Daniel and Melissa engage and they have issues about various things.  Also, Daniel is there with his son Tyler and Melissa is there with her daughter Olivia. Daniel and Melissa are either separated or divorced from their partners.  Occasionally Olivia cries out in the other room at something Tyler did, and Daniel is up out of his seat going in the tv room to check on things, usually to blame Tyler for the problem.

As Daniel, Jonathan Goad is imposing and his fuse is short. Tyler is his main focus and Daniel’s anger and accusations at his teenaged son are relentless. Is it misplaced anger that Daniel is separated/divorced and he’s not happy with his son’s behaviour. Jonathan Goad, with his fine performance has us wondering. Finley Burke as Tyler carries on Daniel’s anger. Tyler is watchful and menacing. Tyler’s focus is his younger cousin Olivia. Maja Vujicic plays Olivia with as much cunning as Tyler. Olivia knows that she can cry out and her uncle Daniel will come running to reprimand Tyler. The quietest of the group is Melissa. Michelle Monteith realizes Michelle’s fragile nature. She is protective of Olivia but would not and could not stand up for herself or her daughter.  

The dining room scene is first played out with both Tyler and Olivia in the television room just off the dining room. Then the set revolves and we see the scene in the TV room play out between Tyler and Olivia that lead up to her scream. In the meantime, the whole dining room scene is ‘re-played’ only very quietly so that Tyler and Olivia have their chance.

The anger in the dining room and TV room rises stealthily. More information is revealed. We get the sense that this evening might be an intervention of sorts for James. The emotions just bubble and bubble and we know it will boil over.

Act II introduces Suzie (Amy Rutherford), a ‘take-no-prisoners-kind of person- who is James’ partner. She takes no prisoners, but she does take over. Amy Rutherford plays Suzie with a fearless confidence that overpowers anything anyone can offer in that room. It’s a performance that exudes confidence and power. There’s an almost desperation in the way Suzie controls the room. It’s interesting to watch Matthew Edison as James, remain silent and smiling as he eats his food, while Suzie takes over. She wants James to marry her and he’s quiet, smiling and eating. This is a poem of passive-aggression. Stunning.  

Olivier Choinière has written a bristling, angry play of power, disappointment in various guises, in language that grabs you—kudos to translator Bobby Theodore. Brendan Healy has directed this with the utmost care and balance.

At the beginning of both Acts Olivia stands off from the action and peers out, almost shivering with some kind of premonition of doom perhaps. Is Olivia the prescient one who knows that doom might be a future factor? Fascinating to chew on that one.

Comment. Good people of Canadian Stage, I want a printed programme when I go to the theatre. Yes, truly, I know about theatres trying to save money after this devastating pandemic and two-year closure of theatres. I am aware of the digital thingies that can be downloaded to our phones and devices and the QR codes etc. I want a printed programme when I go to the theatre. I can’t turn on my phone to check the cast list during the show after downloading the QR code. I can’t make notes without the programme to check facts. I want a printed programme. I keep them for research and an historical record of what I see and review. When I print the on-line programme with the sliding scale of print size etc. it comes out so small even a magnifying glass is useless. Am I a techno-cretin. You becha! Hence the printed programme, eh? You printed and distribute your spiffy brochure of the Canadian Stage season at the performances. Please put that brochure on line and save the printing and print the programme instead. Thank you.

Canadian Stage presents:

Plays until: Oct. 8, 2022.

Running Time: 90 minutes (no intermission)

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brian Stein October 8, 2022 at 10:57 pm

Just saw the final performance. I believe you’ve flipped the actors and their roles. Matthew Edison plays Daniel and Jonathan Goad plays James.


2 Lynn October 9, 2022 at 8:57 am

Not according to the press release and the program. Best, Lynn


3 Harold Povilaitis October 9, 2022 at 2:40 pm

Thank you, Lynn, for this excellent review of a terrific production. And YES, I heartily endorse your request for a return to PRINTED House Programs at Canadian Stage !


4 Lynn October 9, 2022 at 3:44 pm

Always a pleasure, Harold!!