Review: SPIT

by Lynn on August 27, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Falstaff Family Centre, Stratford, Ont. Until Sept. 4, 2022.

www.herefornowtheatre.com

Written by Noelle Brown

Directed by Seana McKenna

Lighting and sound by Stephen Degenstein

Costumes and set by Bonnie Deakin

Cast: Fiona Mongillo

Seána O’Hanlon

Siobhan O’Malley

An interesting (odd?) play that looks like it’s going in one direction, and then veers in another direction. Well-acted and directed with conviction.

We are in Cork, Ireland. Jess (Siobhan O’Malley) and her younger sister, Nicole (Seána O’Hanlon) have just buried their mother, Betty. While they are checking their mother’s computer, they realize that Betty had been communicating with a young woman named Alana (Fiona Mongillo)—her daughter that she gave up for adoption when she was 18 because Betty wasn’t married. The news stuns Jess and Nicole.

Alana had reached out to Betty after all those years and connected with her. Now she wants to meet her two sisters. All Jess can think is that Alana’s interests are not above board and she wants to horn into any inheritance that might be available. Nicole is more trusting. The friction between Jess, as the older sister, and Nicole, as the younger, comes up. They disagree on what to do about Alana. Jess wants to ignore her.

The two sisters consult their Aunt Alice for more information. In a few wonderful phone messages with the lilting voice of Seana McKenna, we learn from the Aunt that Betty spent time in a “Mother and Baby Home”—also called a Magdalene Laundry, when she was 18. She had the baby and the child (Alana) was put up for adoption and adopted by a family in Canada. Alana appears and all she says she wants is to find out about her ‘new’ family and fill in the missing parts of her past.

Playwright Noelle Brown has a scene in which Alana sits at her computer looking up the definition of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid), the make-up of a cell that carries the genetic information that notes how a person is related to someone else.

When Alana appears it’s clear she doesn’t want anything from the sister except information about them, their lives and their shared mother. What they and the audience get in return is information on the horrifying existence of the “Mother and Baby Homes” run by the Catholic Church. Residential Schools were not enough horror, the Church also ran these homes for unwed mothers.

What would happen in Ireland, a predominantly Catholic country, would be that a family, father, boyfriend etc. would exile the pregnant girl and take her to the Mother and Baby Home, also called a Magdalene Laundry. The Laundries were started in the 18th Century (and not just in Ireland either). The last one closed in Ireland in 1998. Horrifying.

The unwed mother, or “fallen woman” would be taken to the Catholic Church that would take the young woman and put her to work in the laundry until she came to term. The baby would be taken away and put up for adoption. The mother would never be told who adopted her child, or when, or where the child was taken.  Often the young woman’s family would not take them back and the woman would stay in the laundry, working. In one facility 155 unmarked graves were found of young women who had died there, either through suicide or dying in childbirth or other means. Horrifying.

Alana told of her extreme efforts to find out who her birth mother was. The father was never listed on her birth certificate. She told of a report of the Laundries when the horrors were revealed. She told of going to a tribunal to testify of her situation. She was there for longer than an hour and only a few words of her testimony were used. It was a whitewash of the situation-Quelle surprise!

Other surprises are revealed in the play. So while Noelle Brown’s play looks like it might go in the direction of the drama between the three sisters for whatever reason—the mysterious sister who wants her share of inheritance– Brown’s intention seems to be to reveal the horrors of the Mother and Baby Homes. Interesting.

There have been films on this subject (Filomena for example). I saw a devastating play in Dublin about 10 years ago called Laundry that took place in an abandoned Catholic Church in which three people at a time interacted with characters, in very close quarters, illuminating the horrific lives these unwed mothers lived in those places. Stunning.

Spit (to get one’s DNA a person had to spit into a test tube so the saliva could be analyzed) as I said is a fascinating but odd play because the playwright seemed to be going in one direction with it but then went in another direction altogether.

What is not confusing is that director Seana McKenna and her talented cast have illuminated the concern and upset that Jess and Nicole experience when they learn of their mother’s secret past and the existence of their sister, Alana. As Jess, Siobhan O’Malley is stressed, irritable and unsettled first, at having to bury their mother, then dealing with her younger sister Nicole, who wants to continue her life as usual—a yoga practice—and then learning of Alana’s existence.

As Nicole, Seána O’Hanlon captures that irreverent attitude of the younger sister who just seems to push the buttons of the older sister. She is more forgiving of their mother and more easily accepting of Alana.

As Alana, Fiona Mongillo is confident without being arrogant. She has gone through a lot of soul searching and investigation about her background and is now at ease with every discovery. All the work has happened before the play. Alana’s tenacity to find the truth is impressive. Her calmness at retelling the horrors of the Laundries is needed to reflect fairly on a terrible situation.

Seana McKenna has directed with a sure hand that does not ‘intrude’ on the telling, but beautifully establishes the relationships of the three sisters.

Bonnie Deakin has costumed the sisters in contemporary clothes that are casual and not fussy. Her set has the requisite cross on the wall suggesting a Catholic home, and a shelf with photos and cards of condolences and other memorabilia.

Another play by Here for Now Theatre well worth checking out.

Here for Now Theatre presents:

Plays until: Sept. 4, 2022.

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

www.herefornowtheatre.com

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Live and in person at the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre, Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. Until Oct. 9. 2022.

Written by August Wilson

Directed by Philip Aikin

Set by Camellia Koo

Costumes by Laura Delchiaro

Lighting by Kevin Lamotte

Projections by Cameron Davis

Original music and sound by Miquelon Rodriguez

Cast: David Alan Anderson

Jason Cadieux

Nathanael Judah

Allan Louis

Monica Parks

Jeremiah Sparks

Sophia Walker

A gem of a play and production.

The Story. First some background. American playwright, August Wilson set himself a herculean task: to dramatize the African-American experience over the twentieth century in 10 plays, one play for every decade. The 10 plays collectively are called, The American Century Cycle. Gem of the Ocean is the first play in the series.

It’s 1904. We are in Pittsburgh’s Hill District—August Wilson’s home town and neighbourhood—1839 Wylie Ave. to be exact. This is where Aunt Ester Tyler lives. She is the revered matriarch of the neighbourhood. She is also the emotional, spiritual and historical center of the play and the production. She is the conduit for all the characters in the play to find their lost souls, their connection to their roots and their connection to their collected history, as once enslaved African-Americans. And each character has a deep story.

Aunt Ester is 285 years old. There are a lot of aspects to Gem of the Ocean that we take on faith and Aunt Ester and her long life and fraught history are a few of them. Aunt Ester has taken in a young woman named Black Mary to help her in the house, cleaning, cooking and taking care of things. Aunt Ester is a mentor on life for Black Mary.

Rutherford Selig is a travelling salesman of pots and pans. He is the only white character in the play. He deals often with Black Mary who buys goods from him and is not afraid to tell him when she thinks he is charging too much. She doesn’t accuse him of cheating her, but she does stand up if she feels she’s been charged too much. Selig is not a sleazy man. He’s respectful, especially to Aunt Ester. And he’s a good friend of the people he deals with—and I sense he deals with both Blacks and white people.

Solly Two Kings is a man who left his family in the South to come North to escape the ill-treatment of whites against African-Americans. He’s a righteous man who defends the underdog when he can. But then he hears from his sister in the South that she needs him to come and take her North because she’s afraid of what is happening there. He is about to set off but there is a hint of other trouble. 

Eli is an older gentleman who does odd jobs around the house and ensures Aunt Ester has her rest and only sees people when she is scheduled to see them.

Citizen Barlow is one such person who has come from Alabama so that Aunt Ester can cleans his soul. We find out he stole something, and there is an implication of a more serious crime. Citizen Barlow has been suffering from guilt and seeks help from Aunt Ester. She says he must go to the City of Bones, a mythical place of the dead—it’s a journey that requires he travel through time and space via Africa and the Atlantic Ocean to connect with his African ancestors who were saved from slavery because they died first.

Gem of the Ocean is deeply spiritual in its many references and connections to the past. But the character who shredded my heart is Caesar Wilks. By sheer will and determination Caesar made a success of his life. He is a successful businessman taking every disappointment and roadblock and finding a way to make it work for him.

He always dresses in a suit, tie and stylish hat, but he’s never flashy. He is also the local lawman and here is the problem. He is scrupulous about maintaining the law at all cost. He is known for having killed a young man who stole a loaf of bread and was trying to run away. The young man obviously needed the bread for food for his family. But that didn’t matter to Caesar. The young man broke the law and had to be punished.

He reminds me of Javer in Les Misérables—the lawman who hunted Jean Valjean because he stole a loaf of bread, and had absolutely no compassion about Jean Valjean’s crippling poverty. We learn that Caesar was not always this way.

His sister is Black Mary and she berates him for having changed from a caring man to one who is so blinkered that only upholding the law is the only way. She says she can’t recognize her brother anymore when she looks at this stubborn, unflinching, unforgiving man. I wondered what it was that twisted Caesar up so badly that he felt being encased in that smart suit would give him respect?

Caesar owned the local mill and treated his African-American workers with disrespect and disdain. He paid them less than what they deserved. He referred to them by the ‘N’ word and referred to himself as a Negro. That is so telling. No wonder there was unrest at the mill. The workers went on strike for better wages. This caused trouble in the district and it erupted into a violent situation that affected everybody.

Playwright August Wilson has written a taut, heart-squeezing play full of rich language and engrossing characters who care deeply for each other except for Caesar.  

The Production. Set designer, Camelia Koo has created a rustic, efficient set in which a long worn, wood table takes the focus of the space. The table is really made of a few square tables pushed together to take up the ‘whole room.’ There are pots, pans, pails, books and other useful tools under the table. There are simple wood chairs around the table. Aunt Ester (Monica Peters) dispenses wisdom around that table. Black Mary (Sophia Walker) cooks meals in a pot at that table. Guests are invited to sit around it and experience Aunt Ester’s hospitality.

These are hardworking, simple people and Laura Delchiaro’s clothes reflect that. The clothes are functional, aprons and long dresses for the women, work pants and shirts for the men, with thick shoes/boots.

Director Philip Akin has captured the throbbing heart of the play in this production and through his terrific cast. The relationships of the characters are detailed in their creations. The respect for most of the characters for each other is so vivid.

Rutherford Selig—nicely played by Jason Cadieux—always takes his hat off in reverence to Aunt Ester. As the center of the play Monica Parks plays Aunt Ester with a deliberate slow pace as befitting her considerable age. Monica Parks illuminates the well-earned wisdom of Aunt Ester and only later does she reveal a stunning bit of information about her past. It’s a performance that is regal in its bearing. Aunt Ester has seen the world change drastically in her 285 years. She knows the importance of compassion and generosity. She has shown that for Black Mary but she can also be a task master when it comes to Black Mary, until one day Black Mary just blew up. Sophia Walker as Black Mary stood up to Aunt Ester and itemized each complaint Aunt Ester had for Black Mary’s hard work. Black Mary wanted respect for what she had done not complaint. Aunt Ester paused and said calmly, “You took your time.” A wonderful scene between two gifted actors. Aunt Ester makes every moment into instruction for others to be the best they can be. She pushes Black Mary to stand up for what she believes in and stand her ground, even if she’s dealing with the revered matriarch of the house.

Solly Two Kings is played with quiet resolve by David Alan Anderson. He wears a long, worn coat and carries an imposing staff. He champions the underdog in his own way that might cause him some danger. He answers the call for help when his sister needs him and he sets out to go South to get her.

As Caesar, Allan Louis is meticulous as the fastidious lawman. He is fierce in his demand for respect and to uphold the law no matter what. That is his flaw and shreds my heart. Allan Louis plays him without a shred of sentimentality. There is no glint of wanting sympathy for this character. Allan Louis is fierce in his conviction that his way of doing things is right, without variation. Even when his sister berates him for his unbending attitude and is concerned for the loss of his better, younger, compassionate self, Caesar is unmoved.  

All the performances are stunning in their own way. As Eli, Jeremiah Sparks is stooped slightly, but moves with determination when he has to answer the door or do a chore. When Citizen Barlow (Nathanael Judah) comes to the door desperate to see Aunt Ester, Jeremiah Sparks as Eli is firm that no one sees Aunt Ester until Tuesday. These people are protective. But Citizen Barlow is consumed with guilt and needs to be cleansed. Nathanael Judah plays Citizen Barlow with a youthful worry, there is respect and a need to confess his ‘crime’ and get absolution of a sort.

When Citizen Barlow has to take his journey to the City of Bones Aunt Ester presents an origami boat made of a folded piece of paper. When we realize what that paper represents, besides the boat, it’s one of the many breath-taking moments of the production.  

Citizen Barlow stands at one end of the table and it then separates lengthwise into two pieces that are not straight edged, but have a kind of wave carved into the separating sections. Citizen Barlow then walks between the separated sections of the table as if Citizen Barlow is indeed crossing the Atlantic Ocean. One could also think of crossing the parted Red Sea to find sanctuary—August Wilson has loaded his plays with biblical suggestions.

The separation of that table is just one element of this masterful production that illuminates director Philip Akins’s vivid imagination and his ability to plum the depths of the play.  

August Wilson writes of migration, slavery, forced separation from loved ones, love and respect for ones’ fellows and generally kindness. The characters never feel sorry for themselves. They are driven by their stories and backgrounds but are never drowned by them. Caesar is another case, but he too just grabs your heart rather than turns us away.

Stunning play and production.

Comment. August Wilson’s plays are so quintessentially American and certainly when they chronicle the African-American experience through the 20th century. But there is a lot of wisdom for others to glean through his lyrical, mystical, beautiful work. Gem of the Ocean so worth a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake to see it at the Shaw Festival.

The Shaw Festival presents:

Plays until: Oct. 9, 2022

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes, (1 intermission)

www.shawfest.com

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Live and in person at the Amphatheatre, in High Park, Toronto, Ont., Canadian Stage presents, until Sept. 4, 2022.

www.canadianstage.com

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Anand Rajaram

Set, costumes and props by Shadowland Theatre

Lighting by Logan Raju Cracknell

Sound by Richard Feren

Music by: Serena Ryder, Kiran Ahluwalia Lacey Hill and Maryem Toller

Cast: Marty Adams

Maja Ardal

Astrid Atherly

Mairi Babb

Leigh Cameron

Belinda Corpuz

Shawn DeSouza-Coelho

Bren Eastcott

Ken Hall

Dylan Roberts

Paolo Santalucia

Eric Woolfe

Joyous! Whimsy on steroids.

The Story. There are some nasty doings between siblings in Shakespeare’s As You Like It about forgiveness and finding love in the oddest places. Orlando is the youngest son of the late Sir Rowland de Boys. Orlando’s older brother, Oliver was responsible for Orlando’s education as a gentleman. Oliver reneged on the responsibility and Orlando is furious.

Duke Frederick forced his brother Duke Senior out of ruling and away from the kingdom. Duke Senior went with some followers to the Forest of Arden where he found sanctuary, the bounty of the forest and a community of like-minded people to live together in harmony.

Rosalind lives in the palace even though Duke Frederick banished her father, Duke Senior. Her closest friend is her cousin Celia, Duke Frederick’s daughter. But then Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind as well. So she and Celia decide to leave the palace and seek Rosalind’s father in the Forest of Arden. For safety’s sake Rosalind disguises herself as a young man who will go by the name Ganymede.

Before they have to leave Rosalind sees Orlando in a wrestling match and is smitten. He sees her and the feelings are returned. When they meet again, it’s in the Forest of Arden where Orlando has fled for safety from his brother, and of course this time Rosalind is disguised as a young man. It seems that Orlando has been writing poems to Rosalind and sticking them on trees, although he was too shy to tell her how he felt. Rosalind finds the poems and offers to show Orlando how to woo his Rosalind, if ever he sees her again.

The Production. The Amphitheatre in High Park is the most magical setting for a romantic play like As You Like It. The audience sits on a hill that is terraced for easy sitting. The multi-leveled wood stage nestles at the bottom of the hill, and beyond that are old, lush trees that are beautiful as the sun sets and the moon rises.  

Director Anand Rajaram wanted to make the production equally accessible for Shakespeare devotees as for Shakespeare novices. To that end Shadowland Theatre has created a set of glorious colourful flowers that tower over the back of the space and the characters and create a world of beauty, colour and life. The costumes take on a neon dazzle as well. Many characters have collars ringed with what looks like flower petals that then make the characters look like they might be flowers themselves. It’s whimsy on steroids and it works a treat.

The language is a mix of Shakespeare’s words and often more colloquial language for easy comprehension.  The play has been cut to a swift 90 minutes without loosing any of the story or the ideas on love, family, community and forgiveness. And Rajaram has fiddled with some of the characters and speeches.

In Shakespeare’s original version of As You Like It Orlando has an old servant named Adam who follows him into the Forest of Arden. In Anand Rajaram’s version that character is now named Eve and is played by the quirky and wondrous Maja Ardal who instills such thoughtfulness and humour into her performance. She summons people to gather by blowing a Conch (sounds almost like a Shofar). Eve is a faithful servant/companion to Orlando and for this version, Anand Rajaram has given her the “Seven Ages of Man” speech to say (in the Shakespeare’s original play the melancholy Jacques says the speech). Here Maja Ardal illuminates the wisdom of age and experience into this speech that itemizes the seven ages of man from infancy to old age. Beautiful.  

Orlando is played with boyish verve by Paolo Santalucia. He is irate and wounded when he notes that his brother has kept him as an unschooled homebody. He is very shy and awkward when he sees Rosalind (Bren Eastcott). He knows he likes her but just can’t find the words to tell her properly. When he does meet her in the forest, he doesn’t recognize her because she’s dressed as a young boy. Here Santalucia has the confidence of a young man and stands up for his place in the world. He gives over to pretending to woo this young boy as if ‘he’ is Rosalind. As Rosalind, Bren Eastcott is a confident woman who knows her worth and place in the world and stands her ground. She also knows that her heart has been touched by Orlando and wants him in her life. The conversations between the two are gentle, caring and thoughtful. Beautifully done.

Anand Rajaram has created a striking world of such community in As You Like It. One scene in particular stands out. Orlando and Eve are hungry when they enter the Forest of Arden. Eve in particular is starving and close to perishing. In a lovely bit of humor, she lies down on the ground to rest just down from a tombstone that happens to be there. Orlando promises to come back with food. He happens on to the camp of Duke Senior and his loyal followers, about to tuck into a feast of game, fruit and vegetables all hunted or foraged in the Forest. He threatens the Duke and his followers with violence if they don’t give him the food first. One senses the angst and anger of the city has affected Orlando’s behaviour and sticks to him in the Forest. Duke Senior and his followers in turn have changed into a community of caring, giving, generous people in that Forest and invite Orlando to eat and take what he wants. Only then does he tell the assembled of Eve and they insist he get her so she can eat too. In this open-hearted production that scene just resonates.

The comedy work is also buoyant throughout. Special mention:  Marty Adams is devoted and a bit dim as Silvius. Silvius’ intended is a wonderfully lively Leigh Cameron as Phoebe; Eric Woolfe is hilarious and obstreperous as Touchstone, and Astrid Atherly as Celia is impish as Rosalind’s loyal cousin. The whole cast is fine.

Comment. This is the return to doing Shakespeare in High Park after being absent because of the pandemic. It’s a joyous return and gives a lovely, lively spin to the play. Something truly for everyone.

Canadian Stage Company presents:

Plays until: September 4, 2022.

Running time: 90 minutes, approx. (no intermission)

www.canadianstage.com

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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

www.herefornowtheatre.com

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)

www.herefornowtheatre.com

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Live and in person at the Five Points Theatre, Barrie, Ont. Produced by Theatre By the Bay. Plays until Aug. 21.

www.theatrebythebay.com

Written by Burke Campbell

Directed by Iain Moggach

Costumes by Sandra Roberts

Lighting by Za Hughes

Sound design and composer, Joshua Doerksen

Burke Campbell play, A Scandal for All Seasons, is a sex farce that tries too hard to be funny and often isn’t, but the production directed by Iain Moggach is bold.

The Story. The story takes place in Barrie, Ontario. Augusta Peacock and Doris Lester are two wealthy women ‘of a certain age’ who begin drinking fancy drinks in the morning and continue through the day. Augusta has just come out of mourning for her late husband Jeffrey. Doris has been married seven times and has arrived to commiserate.  

Both women seem unlikely as friends since neither trusts the other. But they do have a lot in common. They are rich and bored. They are eager to make a statement of their presence. They drink. And both women are sexually charged and frustrated in scratching that sexual itch until they focus on their recently elected young-stud Mayor, Biff Worthington. I believe the technical term to describe Augusta and Doris is ‘cougars’, as in they are like wild cats prowling for sexual gratification with younger men.

Biff is very earnest, committed to improving Barrie to its best potential and intensely naïve when he doesn’t recognize when August and Doris are putting the moves on him. Augusta and Doris plot to get Biff re-elected while also maneuvering to have him scratch where they itch.

The Production. The set is an interesting design for Augusta’s house. The large, multi-paned window at the back gives a hint at how huge Augusta’s house is. There are pillar formations as art-work that also suggest the size of the house. There is a couch with multiple pillows, but they look rather mis-matched suggesting that Augusta (Lynn Weintraub) does not have the greatest of taste. Her bar to one side is very well stocked so that’s where her focus is.

Augusta enters wearing a very frilly, long black dressing gown to suggest that she is in mourning. But when Doris (Elana Post) arrives to commiserate, Augusta announces she is through mourning and takes off the dressing gown to reveal a vibrant coloured form-fitting dress, accompanied by a lot of necklaces-pearls etc. Kudos to costume designer Sandra Roberts.

Doris is just as flashy if not more so with her ensemble: a slinky long tuxedo coat over slim tuxedo pants and dangerously high heels. She wears strategically placed designer jewelry (a sparkly Chanel brooch and a Gucci belt buckle). It’s the morning. Who is Doris dressing for? Augusta? Both women drink Augusta’s colourful concoctions which she confesses involves aphrodisiacs.

One day, while cycling Biff (Jonathon LeRose) falls off his bike right where Augusta lives and is taken in by Augusta to calm down from the shock of the fall and losing his water bottle. Biff wears spandex shorts, a tight t-shirt and his Mayor’s medallion around his neck—he will wear that medallion in every scene. We know from endless sex farces that both Augusta and Doris will compete with each other so that Biff is eventually topless and wearing a toga. And mindful of Augusta’s penchant for aphrodisiacs there will be an erection of prodigious proportions.

Iain Moggach is the inventive entrepreneurial artistic director of Theatre By the Bay. He has created shows that showcase the history of Barrie by having the audience travel around the harbor and various notable areas of the city and engaging electronically with historical characters in the city’s past. He has guided young actors to create their own shows. And with A Scandal for All Seasons he is producing and directing a sex farce that pokes affectionate fun at the politics and perhaps stodginess of the city of Barrie. His direction is irreverent and bold. His cast is mindful of how serious comedy (farce) is and they all give performances that don’t wink at the audience. Lynn Weintraub as Augusta is almost flaky in her endeavors to attract men. Elana Post as Doris is more a focused cougar with her sights clearly on ‘winning’ Biff as her sexual prize. Jonathon LeRose as Biff is eager, earnest and almost dim in his sexual naivety.

But A Scandal for All Seasons struggles to be funny because of Burke Campbell’s efforts to be provocative. Initially there is a hint of Oscar Wilde as Augusta tries to float some witty saying but it usually lacks the sharpness of wit to pull it off. The efforts at double entendres barely reach the double digits. The story continues to spiral out of control with more and more complications added that are less and less funny. And it all seems so predictable.

Comment. At two hours and 15 minutes with one intermission, A Scandal for All Seasons is too long and often labored in its efforts to be funny. It should be ruthlessly cut to 90 minutes with no intermission. Any joke or bit that seems like the character is standing and trying to be witty with no purpose to the scene, the character or the story should be cut. And there are a lot of those instances especially towards the end.

The actual Mayor of Barrie was sitting behind me on opening night. He seemed to have a good time. Or perhaps he was just being a good politician, happy he wasn’t seeking re-election.   

Theater By The Bay presents:

Plays until, Aug. 21, 2022.

Running time, 2 hours, 15 minutes (1 intermission).

www.theatrebythebay.com

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Live and in person at the Daniels Spectrum on Dundas St. E, Toronto, Ont. Last of three performances Aug. 13, at 9 pm.

www.summerworks.ca

Written and performed by Natasha Adiayana Morris

Directed by Amanda Nicholls

Musician/drums, Jeremy John

Musician/keys, Lenard Ishmael

Lighting by Sooji Kim

Costume, set consultant, Tinesha Richards

Have a question that you need answered? Leave it to the Doctor.

Join Dr. Bitter’s studio audience for another taping of ‘The ‘R’ Word,’ a live talk show that answers your relationship questions! During commercial breaks various relationship scenarios are played out between all too familiar relationship experiences from adolescence to adulthood.

This is a solo show infused with a live band, spoken word, comedy, and audience interaction. This new work questions the patterns of toxic relationships, journeying through pregnancy, abortion, sexual liberation, single motherhood, and more.

Half n Half focuses on experiences of Black characters as they navigate the world, but of course the stories will have resonance with all audiences. Writer/performer Natasha Adiayana Morris is and engaging and compelling performer, inhabiting many characters with clarity and economy.  

Piece of Mine presents:

The last of three performances, Aug. 13, 9 pm.

Running time: 60 minutes

www.summerworks.ca

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Live and in person at 4th Line Theatre, Millbrook, Ont. playing until Aug. 27, 2022. www.4thlinetheatre.on.ca

Written by Maja Ardal

Based on the novel of the same name by Janet Kellough

Directed by Kim Blackwell

Musical direction by Justin Hiscox

Set design by Mike Nott

Costume design by Korin Cormier

Choreography by Madison Sheward

Sound design by Esther Vincent

Cast: Kate Bemrose

Kaleigh E. Castell

Tavaree Daniel-Simms

Rylee Dixon

Kait Dueck

Justin Hiscox

Mark Hiscox

Conor Ling

Ian McGarrett

Megan Murphy

JD (Jack) Nicholson

Robert Winslow

And others

A fascinating story of shady land dealings, forgeries of deeds and money, and a Minister trying to find his faith again and the truth of a murder mystery. Always worth a trip to 4th Line Theatre at Winslow Farm in Millbrook, Ont.

The Story. September 15, 1853. Cobourg, Upper Canada (“Ontario” didn’t come into existence until 1867—Bless 4th Line Theatre for making me look that up). Thaddeus Lewis is a Methodist minister who has come to Cobourg to be one of their spiritual leaders. There is also a Baptist minister. Thaddeus Lewis has recently lost his wife and daughter and also his faith. He is struggling to believe in God and prays to him regularly for guidance. In the meantime, Thaddeus does his duty to the people of Cobourg. His 18-year-old granddaughter Martha comes to Cobourg to help him by tending his house. The smart, thoughtful Martha soon experiences the small-minded, gossipy people of the town and deals with it in a forthright manner. There are rumors of land transfers that were bogus until a shady person sold the land in question to the railroad and made a fortune. Ire was high. There was a mysterious murder. Thaddeus Lewis was also an amateur detective and helped out by investigating. Along with the railroad, there are plans to build a bridge that would cross Rice Lake and join Peterborough and Cobourg. Lots going on in the town.

The Production. As with all the productions at 4th Line Theatre Wishful Seeing is focused on real events in the area. The play is based on the novel of the same name by Janet Kellough. The gifted theatre creator/playwright/actor/director etc. Maja Ardal adapted the book and also incorporated her sense of whimsy and imagination into the story. When Ardal and Kim Blackwell, the equally gifted Managing Artistic Director of 4th Line Theatre, were in a boat on Rice Lake, the idea was formed to have Ardal adapt the book and Kim Blackwell to direct the show. Serendipity in the most magical of places.

Designer Mike Nott has created a wonderful set indicating several locations. There is the Globe Hotel Bar where the menfolk of the town gather to drink (often to excess), swap stories and gossip. Next to that is the Potts General Store with many shelves packed with jars of preserves, cans of goods and loads of other produce. The women of the town go there regularly to buy supplies (often on credit) and to spread the most unsupported gossip. At one point, Martha (a confident, forthright Kate Bemrose) tries to put things in perspective for the prissy women, regarding her grandfather, Thaddeus Lewis (Robert Winslow). (While there was a real minister named Thaddeus Lewis, he was not a fixture in Cobourg at the time. In fact, the real Thaddeus Lewis fought in the war of 1812 and travelled the land, preaching).

Next to the Potts General Store was the home of Thaddeus Lewis and his granddaughter Martha. There was a simple table and chairs and a bookshelf up from that full of books. Beside Thaddeus’ house is a makeshift jail. Scenes are played, as always with 4th Line Theatre, in the barn, on the upper level of the building beside it and in the meadows.

Blackwell has the menfolk of the town lean on the bar at the Globe Hotel and bellow their gossip as they get drunker and drunker. And at the Potts General Store the gossipy ladies of the town are straight-backed and prim as they let all manner of rumor fly without thought of the truth of the statements, and they seem quite pleased with themselves that they think they know dirt on their fellow townspeople.   

The cast is a mix of professional actors and local folks. The locals are committed to 4th Line Theatre and their acting is full of conviction and joy.      

Mixed in with this shady land transfer—family land was passed from one person to another with flimsy paperwork, then passed again with forged documents and sold to the railroad—is a murder. Who was the person killed? Who killed him? It turns out Ellen Howell (Kait Dueck) is arrested for the murder. Her husband George Howell (JD (Jack) Nicholsen) who has a questionable reputation for business, has disappeared and Ellen does not know where he is. It doesn’t look good for Ellen. But Thaddeus Lewis is on the case. He is also smitten with Ellen. He comes to her in jail to try and sort out the mystery of the murder and also to read to her from Jane Austen. At this point, Thaddeus is visited by the specter of his late wife Betsy (Kate Dueck) who is trying to guide him.

Robert Winslow imbues Thaddeus Lewis with a sturdy sense of duty, a courtliness even, mixed with Thaddeus’ guilt at having feelings for Ellen while grieving for his late wife Betsy.

Conor Ling plays lawyer Townsend Ashby with assurance but not arrogance and he tries to defend Ellen Howell.

Director Kim Blackwell does a neat trick here. Kate Dueck plays both Ellen and Betsy and in one scene she seems to play both women at the same time. As Ellen she is devoted to her husband and confident in her place as his wife. There is a tenderness too with Thaddeus Lewis. As Betsy, Kate Dueck has an ethereal quality and is quite haunting. Blackwell sets up the scene with Thaddeus holding Ellen’s hand while reading to her in prison. A few seconds later, Betsy appears as a ghost beside the prison. We are then aware that Kim Blackwell has created a neat trick of suggestion and whipped our imagination to believing we are looking at one actress playing two parts at the same time. Terrific.

Kim Blackwell is deft at using the whole sweep of Winslow Farm in telling the story of Wishful Seeing. In the distance characters holding strips of blue material undulate the material in the air as they suggest the appearance of water of the lake. Then a small row boat appears ‘in the water’ as George Howell rows his devoted wife Ellen in the boat.  Over yonder in the far meadow, workers build the bridge that will span Rice Lake.

Comment. As with all 4th Line Theatre productions, Wishful Seeing has a compelling story, quirky characters and the most magical setting for seeing theatre.

4th Line Theatre presents:

Plays until: Aug. 27, 2022

Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (1 intermission)

www.4thlinetheatre.on.ca

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Live and in person at 401 Richmond St. W. Toronto, Ont.  as part of SummerWorks, 2022. Only plays until Aug. 10, 2022.

www.summerworks.ca

Written, sound design and performed by Gloria Mok

Direction and dramaturgy by Theatre du Poulet, 2b, and Nightswimming

Food and preparation by Gloria Mok and her mother.

Long Distance Relationships for Mythical Times is an exquisite, elegant production using memory, myth and Chinese (Cantonese) cultural ceremony to tell the story. It is also the most wonderful, easy example of creating a community that I’ve seen in a long time.

The small group is taken to a room on the third floor of 401 Richmond St. W. that is laid out simply for about 12 guests with a tea cup and saucer and chopsticks laid neatly across a folded napkin all of which sit on a placemat. We are given our name card with its own holder to be placed in front of us so our fellow guests can clearly read our names.

There are two lazy-Susans on either end of the table with two tea pots: one has loose-leaf Jasmine tea and the other has hot water for topping up. Many of the people in the room know each other. Some don’t. But with such an intimate group, conversation is easy. We are all curious about our fellow guests and there is easy banter. This is all before Gloria Mok begins the play. If this isn’t community, I don’t know what is.

Gloria Mok is dressed in what I suppose is a traditional Chinese dress, ‘buttoned’ on the side. There are various props in front of her to tell her stories: a red bean, a curled root of some sort, a ‘stone’ ball, a fan, a box of sand, a computer, and a keyboard on which to play to support her stories. It is all simple and elegant.

She begins the production by lighting a stick of incense because that is a Chinese tradition. She tells an ancient story of a long-distance relationship of a couple that meet by accident, marry, have a child but are separated. They are allowed to meet one day a year. There is longing in the story.

Mok then tells of her parents who met in Hong Kong but were separated when her father went to Montreal for work and her mother remained in Hong Kong. Sending letters was expensive so they sent each other cassettes. Mok had a cassette of her parents talking which she played on her computer while drawing the delicate tape out of the cassette. It is an image that is so evocative and artful and again so full of longing.

Mok then talks of her own long distance relationship with her “apartner” her partner who is apart from her. Sometimes she visits him where he is across the country. Sometimes he visits her. Mok asks us to have a conversation, as if by phone with the person opposite and to remember seven things about them. It’s a fascinating exercise. The people at the table have their own stories of long distance.

And there is food. Each person was asked if they wished to partake of various items from dumplings, to bitter fruit to tea to walnut cookies. I urge you to check all of them. Mok and her Mother prepared the dumplings and the bitter fruit. Eating with your fellow participants is another ceremony of community and respectful of the efforts of Mok and her Mother,

Long Distance Relationships for Mythical Times is a beautiful creation of generosity, open-heartedness, love and sharing. Mok has us thinking about our own relationships, what is important, what is difficult and how we overcome what seems to be impossible. Stunning work.

SummerWorks presents:

Aug. 10 at 1:30 pm

Aug. 10 at 6:00 pm

At 401 Richmond St. W.

www.summerworks.ca

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Live and in person at the Factory Theatre (Studio and Courtyard), Toronto, Ont. Until Aug. 28, 2022.

www.factorytheatre.ca

Written by Gillian Clark

Directed by Mitchell Cushman

Set by Anahita Dehbonehie

Costumes by Nick Blais

Lighting by Jareth Li

Sound by Heidi Chan

Audio system design by Michael Laird

Cast: Katherine Cullen

Liz Der

Sébastien Heins

Amy Keating

Elena Reyes

Cheyenne Scott

Merlin Simard

Jeff Yung

A creative production of a confusing, sometimes incomprehensible play that needs judicious dramaturgy and editing.

The Story. From the Factory Theatre website:  “The fated collision of Greek mythology and GREASE mythology, unfolding in two locations at the same time. Welcome to New Troy, Canada, August 2009. The night of the annual Duck ‘ n’ Swing dance. Odysseus hatches a death-defying Prom-posal, Nestra and King Memnon rendezvous in the Outhouse for some old Summer Lovin’, and Cassandra feasts on raw hot dogs while sooth-sayin’ the world’s destruction.

An epic exploration of inheritance in the age of Climate Emergency, with two plays performed simultaneously by the same ensemble. Half the audience gathers outdoors around the campfire, and half cuts a rug in the dance hall, while the actors race back-and-forth—inhabiting both the teenagers of New Troy and their middle-aged parents. Then at intermission everyone switches, as the stakes of the 50/50 raffle continue to climb.”

Often when the play is so confused and confusing, so spare of a developed story or characters, it’s best to let the theatre website etc. try and explain.

The Production.  Director Mitchell Cushman and his stalwart cast have embraced the challenge of performing the two parts of Trojan Girls & The Outhouse of Atreus simultaneously in the Courtyard of the Factory Theatre and the Studio Theatre, with gusto and conviction. This trick is not new. Alan Ayckbourn carried this off nicely in 2000 in his plays: House and Garden. But for our purposes, one smiles at the ongoing chutzpah of Mitchell Cushman in his ever-increasing efforts in pushing the envelope to keep challenging himself and his audience in these ‘immersive’ endeavors.

Trojan Girls is played out in the Courtyard of the Factory Theatre where the characters from certain Greek myths are in their teens. Set designer extraordinaire, Anahita Dehbonehie, has created an environment of walls full of graffiti, discarded junk, a large round structure that is used as a fire pit and the decorated levels of the Factory Theatre in the background. The audience sits in banked rows of seats facing the space and the theatre up at the back.

The cast wears head microphones and the audience wears headphones to hear them in an effort to block out the intense background noise of the traffic and people on the street. The cast is in the funky garb of hip youth (kudos to costume designer, Nick Blais.) Laid-back and bored Helen, aged 13 (a wonderful Katherine Cullen) is in a tight bright top, short skirt and thigh-high black suede boots. She thinks New Troy, Ontario is so provincial since she has just come from the bright lights of Calgary. Cassandra, who sees into the future (serious, concerned Amy Keating,) is in jean shorts, and layers of clothing. Menelaus as played by a convincing Sébastien Heins, is the eager and nerdy kid who is smitten by the unattainable Helen. Everything he wears is pristine and perfectly coordinated.  

Characters exit and enter at great speed dealing with each new character with precious little information to identify who they are, who they might become and what their story is. Odysseus (well played as trying to be macho by Jeff Yung), is fashioning a dangerous trick to convince Penelope (Cheyenne Scott) to go to the prom with him. Other characters profess love to ones who don’t care.  But again, because playwright, Gillian Clark does not seem interested in created a cohesive story around these characters, it’s hard to hang on to or care about any of them, aside from the fact that the actors playing them are so committed.

Lots of business is done around the burning fire pit to the extent that the audience is forced to breathe smoke for about a half an hour. I think this bit of business should be rethought as soon as possible.

When characters as teens exit, they then rush to the Studio Theatre, change costumes and perform The Outhouse of Atreus as the teens’ adult parents for the audience watching that play indoors. We are told that sometimes a character might be late in entering a scene, at which point the actor on stage will start to quietly count, with the audience joining in, until the character arrives. There is no making up dialogue wondering where the character is. We just wait and count. Interesting.

For The Outhouse of Atreus section of the play, again Anahita Dehbonehie has decorated the set (the Duck ‘n’ Swing Bar) in a toilet paper motif. There are artful formations of rolls of toilet paper attached to a wall with streams of toilet paper floating down in a beautiful design. Streams of paper hang from the fixtures. There is a large brown structure to one end of the stage. This is a moveable outhouse. At various times characters go in to meditate, ponder their lives, or relieve themselves.

In this play, Sébastien Heins is a confident, stylish King Memnon. He’s married to Penthesilea, a wonderfully sophisticated Liz Der. But King Memnon still has feelings for Nestra (Katherine Cullen) from another time who just appears.

Comment. One smiles at Gillian Clark’s obvious wink at the titles of the Greek plays: The Trojan Women by Euripidesand The House of Atreus by Aeschylus. But that’s all it is, is a wink, because her two iterations have nothing really to do with the original. She makes that point clear when she says not to expect a perfect adaptation. And while Trojan Girls depicts the characters as teens and the Outhouse of Atreus depicts their adult parents, they aren’t the parents in the actual Greek stories. Confusion abounds if one is familiar with the Greek stories, and even if one is not.  

It’s wishful thinking this epic is “ an exploration of inheritance in the age of Climate Emergency” as noted on the theatre website.  Gillian Clark has not crafted a story or characters detailed or cohesive enough to establish either a story of inheritance or anything approaching one about our climate emergency.

While Mitchell Cushman’s directorial imagination is prodigious in this production, I found at times that both parts of the production are flabby, especially The Outhouse of Atreus and could use some tightening. I can appreciate the boldness of having an actor and audience count until a delayed character makes an entrance from the other space, but in one scene in The Outhouse of Atreus a character was waiting for his partner to show up to sing a song for the celebrations of “The Duck ‘n’ Swing Dance and never showed up (deliberately) in spite of repeated calls out to the person. Confusing. Also in the same play, towards the end, the audience from the Courtyard is led into the Studio Theatre to see the conclusion. Three characters rush off stage into a fire to try and rescue one of their own. King Memnon (Sébastien Heins, now dashing in a flashy yellow costume) began quietly counting, as does the audience, waiting for the characters to reappear, which they do, coughing from the fire. Why? The characters are already in the Studio Theatre space doing one play (not the other play simultaneously in the Courtyard) so why are we counting? Is this a directorial conceit to engage the audience? How about rehearsing the changeover so there is no delay? As I said, ‘flabby.’ At three hours and 15 minutes, the play and the production should be judiciously? Ruthlessly edited. And rethought for cohesion.

Presented by Outside the March and Factory Theatre in association with Neworld Theatre.

Plays until: Aug. 28, 2022.

Running time: 3 hours, 15 minutes, (1 intermission)

www.factorytheatre.ca

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Live and in person at the Falstaff Family Centre, Stratford, Ont. Plays until Aug. 14, 2022.

www.herefornowtheatre.com

Written by Andrea Scott and Nick Green

Directed by Monique Lund with Associate director Tiffany Deriveau

Costume and set by Monique Lund

Lighting and sound by Stephen Degenstein

Cast: Jenni Burke

Robbie Towns

A blazingly intelligent play that challenges our perceptions of race, communication, friendship, respect and how we deal with uncomfortable situations and each other.   

The Story. Every Day She Rose by Andrea Scott and Nick Green is about two friends:  Mark who is white and gay and Cathy-Ann who is Black and straight, and their different perceptions on the Pride Parade in Toronto regarding the police presence in the parade and Black Lives Matter who did not want the police there.

Cathy-Ann and Mark are close friends and share Mark’s condo. They are preparing to go to the Pride Parade and are getting all costumed up in the pride colours. At a point in the parade they see that a contingent of police are marching in the parade and they are being stopped by a group from Black Lives Matter who protest their presence in the parade.

Cathy-Ann is sympathetic to Black Lives Matter and its political concerns. Mark is happy the police have a presence in the parade because he thinks of the 2016 massacre in Orlando, Florida and believes the men were killed in Orlando because they were gay. Cathy-Ann counters by saying gently they were Latino and that’s why they were killed. Obviously these two friends have different perspectives on some thorny issues.

The Production.  The production is fascinating.  Monique Lund has created a simple design for Mark’s condo. There is a couch with some cushions with dogs on them. Some storage boxes are beside the couch that hold a laptop, some notebooks, etc.  that will be used during the production. I love that economy of design.

To be scrupulously fair Every Day She Rose is co-directed by Monique Lund who is white, with Associate director, Tiffany Deriveau, who is Black. They each bring their own sensibilities to the play but also collaborate in realizing the subtle and nuanced moments in the play and the characters.

Mark (Robbie Towns) wears torn shorts and a flashy t-shirt, and is  flamboyant in his body language and voice.  He is excited about going to the parade and seeing Justin Trudeau who will be marching in the parade.  Cathy-Ann (Jenni Burke) is comfortably dressed in a flowing colourful dress with a Pride scarf wrapped around her hair.  Kudos to Monique Lund who also designed the costumes.

Cathy-Ann is more serious and thoughtful than Mark. Mark tends to tease and joke.  They are comfortable with each other. They banter like friends who are used to flipping smart talk back and forth.

Mark describes seeing Justin Trudeau and screaming his name several times. Cathy-Ann looks at him with crinkled eyebrows. Mark continues describing how they negotiated various sections of the parade until they came to that section with the police marching and how they were stopped by a contingent of Black Lives Matter who don’t want the police in the parade at all. That’s when Cathy-Ann expresses that she supports Black Lives Matter in this regard. Mark on the other hand is happy they are there for protection and cites the Orlando massacre. Both don’t like what is happening and want to go home.

Mark and Cathy-Ann are close friends but it’s obvious from their different perceptions of the police and Black Lives Matter there are cracks in that relationship. Earlier in the apartment he calls her “girlfriend” with a lilt in his voice as if he was Black. She tells him not to call her that (“in that way” is implied). He does again as a joke.  I thought that was really telling. He’s not listening to her request, or if he is he is not respecting her enough to stop calling her “girlfriend” and in the way he is saying it.

As they continue their conversation about race Cathy-Ann says that when she sees a group of racially different people she just sees “people”. But she wants Mark to see her as a Black woman first because that’s how she perceives herself. Certainly something to think about.

With every shift in perception of the characters we are given so much to parse, weigh, consider and reflect upon not only from the characters’ point of view but from ours. And then the playwrights weigh in as well.

As the characters in the play wrangle, the “actors,” Jenni Burke and Robbie Towns, step out of the set and ‘the play’ and then take on the personas of the playwrights Andrea Scott and Nick Green, respectively, who then discuss the scene and how it’s working or not. This shift is noted when either actor hits a bell on the table. There also might be a shift in lighting. I loved that bell-dinging as the scene-change signal. However, the bell-dinging isn’t consistent for the whole show. I thought that odd.

The ’playwright’s personalities are very different from the characters of Cathy-Ann and Mark but their skin colour is not. Andrea Scott is Black and Nick Green is white.

In their easy conversation Robbie Towns as Nick, is more subdued, thoughtful and very eager to accommodate Andrea’s ideas, very often seeing her point of view. I don’t get the sense there is animosity or overt power-tripping from him.  Initially I find that refreshing but then wonder if that’s because he has the confidence of being white.

Jennie Burke as Andrea, illuminates Andrea’s watchfulness, her subtle and contained reactions, as if she is preparing for Nick to ‘take over.’ In fact there is a scene in which that does happen and if I have quibble with the production, it’s this scene. Both playwrights decide to review the structure of the play. They each have a different coloured pad of post-it notes. Each playwright notes a scene on the pad and then takes the post-it note and places it on a ‘white board’. In turn each scene is discussed and noted and the post-it notes form a vertical formation of notes.  The audience sees how each playwright makes her/his note and places it on the white board. But then Nick thinks he has a better idea and takes the white board and turns it away from the audience and starts fiddling with the form of the post-it notes and removing some of them. Andrea looks behind the board with an ever-growing look of concern (disdain?) at what Nick is doing and takes each note he is ‘discarding’ and eventually puts the post-it note on her face. Then Nick turns the board around for us to see what he has done. The board is now a short horizontal line of post-its, mainly his. Andrea notes that it is now a linear story. It’s also obvious Nick has in fact taken over and reformed the story to his way of thinking.

My concern is that the audience is taken out of this equation by having Nick turn the white board away from the audience and Andrea, leaving her to peak at what he is planning and the audience to have to wait for him to turn the board around. I think having the audience see what he is doing—removing her post-it notes– along with Andrea seeing it with the audience, is a more powerful statement. The way that Monique Lund and Tiffany Deriveau have staged that scene weakens the scene.

This play is not only an examination of different perspectives involving race etc. it’s also an observation in play-writing when one playwright is Black and one is white. At one point the character of Andrea says that she was eager to collaborate with Nick but not if it meant she was just tagging along and he was really the lead writer. The character of Nick says that he didn’t want that either.

The ‘playwrights’ discuss how these two different characters could be friends; how they met; the back stories. They check the script on their laptops. It’s all heightened theatricality.

At one point Nick asks Andrea something along the lines of how she copes with disappointment in the work etc. She says something like, “every day you rise”—you get up and try again. Beautiful. And how telling that the title now focuses on her with Every Day She Rose.

It’s also interesting to note that at times the clear lines between the characters ‘in the play’ and the ‘characters’ of the playwrights of the play get intentionally blurry in their attitudes and politics. Conflict resolution between the character varies greatly.

Comment. I love the play and found this production intriguing.  I loved the perception of race relations both writers have. I love the boldness of the creation and the fact that the focus is on such thorny issues. I loved that both writers seemed to have written for both characters rather than Nick writing only for Mark (white) and Andrea writing only for Cathy-Ann (Black). Loved that melding. I loved that the play gets us thinking about our perceptions of race, skin colour, Black Lives Matter, the police, communication, friendship and respect.

Here for Now Theatre presents:

Plays until: Aug. 14, 2022.

Running Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes (no intermission).

www.herefornowtheatre.com

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