Review: GUILT (A Love Story)

by Lynn on February 16, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Tarragon Theatre, Toronto, Ont. Plays until March 3.

Written and performed by Diane Flacks

Directed by Alisa Palmer

Movement coach, Rebecca Harper

Set and costumes by Jung-Hye Kim

Lighting by Leigh Ann Vardy

Sound by Deanna H. Choi

Diane Flacks makes her exuberant entrance into the Tarragon Theatre from the audience carrying a small tray of glasses with tequila shots. She offers patrons a glass as she scurries down the side aisle of the theatre onto the stage, where she downs a glass herself. (The person next to me felt that it was unfair that all patrons were not offered the liquid refreshment, but I digress).

With graceful, sensual moves Flacks dances with abandon to rock/raucous music, flipping her long hair and swiveling her hips. She seems to be having a grand time. Wearing the roomy pant-suit and loose blouse designed by Jung-Hye Kim allow Diane Flacks to dance freely with exuberant big movements. She stands on stage in what seems a sort of sand-diamond playground with a chair and other props. She moves around the set with a natural ease, under the careful, sensitive direction of Alisa Palmer.

After Diane Flacks downs the tequila shot she says with breezy off-handedness that she had been drinking pretty heavily for a year, so much so that she went to her doctor to see about it. But she’s not ready to focus just yet why we are all gathered here.

With breathy enthusiasm Flacks talks about being Jewish and with it the attendant Jewish guilt. In a phone call to her “Bubbie” (grandmother) Flacks is chided about not calling for three days and as a holocaust survivor she deserves better from her granddaughter. Frankly, the “Jewish guilt” label is wearing thin.

Flacks riffs on Freud on guilt, women, being a lesbian until finally after what seems like an endless playful, upbeat stream of consciousness, she deals with the real reason for her guilt (and being Jewish has nothing to do with it). Diane Flacks is the reason for the end of her 20 year same-sex marriage because she fell in love with a much younger woman who was gorgeous and sleek—’a racehorse’ as Flacks describes her–who pursued Flacks and she could not resist. This resulted in the split of her family, upset for her two beloved boys and guilt at how it affected her former wife. Of course ‘blame’ is generally shared, although not equally. Flacks speaks of the annoyances of a long-term relationship: socks not picked up, other things that grate (“It’s not all my fault!”).

The tone of Guilt (A Love Story) changes here after the confession from what seems like forced frivolity and an effort to be irreverently funny, to being more thoughtful, introspective, but still seeing the humour even in a bad situation.

The most poignant, effective moments of the show are when Diane Flacks is still and calmly reflective, either sitting or standing. Her remembrance of the harrowing first year of her son’s life, when he was in hospital is particularly moving. At this she remembers other parents standing vigil over their sick child and she feels (rightfully) guilty that her child got better and theirs did not. There is a forgotten birthday, remembered with horror, humour and regret that is ‘fixed’ when everybody pitches in and tries their best.

Diane Flack is a perceptive, quirky observer of life, who knows how to put things into perspective with a humourous lens. Guilt (A Love Story) is a rollercoaster of pushed humour at the beginning of the show before settling into the more sobering, deeply moving and naturally funny aspects of her personal observations of guilt.     

Tarragon Theatre presents:

Plays until March 3, 2024.

Running time: 70 minutes (no intermission)

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