Friday, January 11, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Someone Else

Kristen Thomson
(photo credit: Guntar Kravis / cropped) 
The Shadows of Middle Age
by Greg Bunker

Head check! Crow's Theatre’s Someone Else is a black comedy that has you in fits of laughter, asking “Did that just happen?!” one moment, then, “Did that just happen?!” in horror the next. It’s a deep, dark rollercoaster ride well worth the admission.

The story begins with comedian Cathy (Kristen Thomson, of I, Claudia fame, and also the playwright) and her doctor husband Peter (Tim Rooney), whose 18-year marriage is on the rocks. Cathy’s feelings of discontent have come to a head and, suspecting Peter of having an affair, Cathy turns to marriage counselling for help. She sees their lives diverging; their marriage is emptying out before her, and Cathy’s struggling to stop it, or at least understand it. Peter, however, appears unconcerned. 

Damien Atkins performs a truly remarkable feat of physical acting.

It takes the drama and inspiration of a young patient, April (Bahia Watson), to re-invigorate and re-engage him with his life, for better or worse.  We see that things first get worse, with visceral anger building between him and his wife, followed by scathing sarcasm in Cathy’s stand-up routines. Their 14-year-old daughter, Vanessa (Nina Taylor), also runs into trouble with her best friend, and her mother’s counsel provides some insight into how Cathy values intimate relationships even as she questions her marriage. The natural, honest script and direction (Chris Abraham) guides us through twists and turns that make wriggling out of the rabbit hole an entertaining, if sometimes scary, sequence to behold.

The impassioned performance of Thomson from sarcastic comedian to paranoid partner grabs hold of the audience and never lets go. Tom Rooney (Peter) and Bahia Watson (April) are superb together as a twosome that only they can understand. And as a childhood trauma victim (David), Damien Atkins performs a truly remarkable feat of physical acting. Finally, the stage set (Julie Fox), lighting (Kimberly Purtell), and sound (Thomas Ryder Payne) work brilliantly together to enhance the fluidity, atmosphere, and choreography (Susie Burpee) of the theatre, making for a top-notch production.

Greg Bunker
The only distraction—and this is minor—is late in the play when motor scooter-bound David sits on stage for what seems like the entire scene before the audience has any clue who he is or if he is, indeed, important. On the other hand, this scene, among others, makes me wonder how much more I may glean from a second viewing of the play. While David’s role wasn’t obvious in his first scene, the play is of such a high calibre that it is hard to believe that his presence wasn’t a hint at the true depth of the conversation unfolding before him.

Someone Else is a fantastic, complex play that delves into the dimly lit corners of middle-age: the messiness of regret and atonement with one’s past. Even more important, it examines that critical moment when one realizes that change is not only inevitable, but potentially destructive. And therein lies the opportunity to rise again, in the words of David, like a phoenix.

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