Thursday, March 28, 2013

This is Middle Age - This - Play Review

This - Canadian Stage at the Berkeley Street Theatre - Toronto, ON - ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Written by Melissa James Gibson, Directed by Matthew Jocelyn
Runs until April 13th 2013

This is about this and that. This is about a group of middle aged long-time friends; one who has just lost her husband and trying to move on while caring for an unseen 9 year old; a married couple with a newborn baby; and the token gay friend. This is when they have dinner party and a French Doctor-without-borders joins them and games get misinterpreted which leads to a series of events that start disassembling the group, the marriage, the friendships, all while the French interloper observes as an outsider.

The strong cast of five is stellar with the material. With Yanna McIntosh (everything, including Speaking in Tongues) and Jonathon Young (Tear the Curtain!, Studies in Motion) as the couple dealing with a new baby as well as a new development, while Alon Nashman (Scorched) is wonderfully nurturing and yet pointedly hilarious as Alan, the gay friend with a highly evolved memory. Christian Laurin's Jean Pierre may be the least developed character and is used more as a plot device, but Laurin's   reactions and his final diatribe is so spot on that it explains his existence.

Meanwhile, while it isn't quite as evident as first, since the ensemble works so well together, This becomes truly a piece for Laura Condlin as Jane, the widower being emotionally bounced around while trying to make it through the day as a mother, friend, person.

Matthew Jocelyn opens up the play on Astrid Janson's open set that strips the Berkeley Street Theatre to its bare bones and keeps the lights on the entire theatre while situating some of the audience members onto the stage area, with the actors moving in and out of the audience. While I appreciated the concept, I only wish the audience seating were brought into the stage a bit even more, and close up the performance space a little more to get this closeness effect I believe they were trying to achieve. Still, the bare stage with minimal props lets the drama unfold and reveal itself in the same simplicity as the set harks to.

Gibson's play is often funny between bouts of awkward situations presented as the mess of real life as it invades upon these middle aged friends. While the French character Jean Pierre sometimes feels shoehorned in to move certain plot points, and while the gay friend sometimes feels like the token gay friend in a sitcom, there are still many moments of truths that sear through the play, that ultimately is much ado about ... this... or that.

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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