Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review: (Vancouver) Communion

Photo by Tim Matheson
Stunning production gets under your skin
The actors, the design, the direction, the script

by David C. Jones

“It’s the question” we are told from the beginning. We want comfort and clarity and certainty but how do we achieve it. We can clasp to our career, our religion, our relationships, or to booze and pills. We make choices but often lose confidence with them. We want advice and permission.

Daniel MacIvor is a renowned Canadian playwright, who explores morality and mortality, defensiveness and neediness and wraps it in dripping sarcasm.

This 2010 tale is told in three scenes and it concerns three women whose lives intersect. Leda is a recovering alcoholic with terminal cancer who is seeing a cool as cucumber psychotherapist named Carolyn who is helping her reconnect her former drug addict, now very devout, daughter named Annie.

Sounds like a laugh riot, right? But laugh we do. The humour is sarcastic, cutting and an oasis in the raw and riveting drama. Twitchy Leda rages at Carolyn “I'm not here to talk about the weather, not at these prices!” and “What, are you wearing your sarcastic filter?”. Annie is blindly firm and in her redeemed beliefs she uses naïve declarative statements like “women shouldn’t be doctors” garnering a guffaw.

The production is stylish and modern. There is a raised platform that has an outline of grid around and above it, suggesting women are in a cage. The whole thing is fitted with LED lights that change colour to help indicate setting and mood. There are some fun little adjustments created by set and lighting designer John Webber.

Peggy Lee composed the soundtrack and the costumes by Pam Johnson cap the crisp and powerful production.

What dynamic actresses they are and how wonderful for them that Mr. MacIvor has written not only such rich and raw dialogue but each character has an involving and satisfying arc.

Diane Brown as Leda finds the pain and sadness and deftly covers it with a caustic tongue. She is so beaten and sick in her first scene it is a shock when the character suddenly stands revealing Ms. Brown’s statuesque proportions.  Kerry Sandomirsky brings a warm professionalism to her therapist but you can see the conflicts just under the surface revealing she might not be the best at her job. Marci Nestman as the many layered Annie mines them all: convicted criminal, former drug addict, religious zealot and it is to her credit that you can see all of them swirling around in her in an intoxicating blend.

How wonderful it is to have Roy Surette back in Vancouver to direct this Ruby Slippers / Pacific Theatre co-production; he has helped craft a painfully heartfelt, rivetingly funny and emotionally raw show that gets under your skin.

Open the door, it’s pretty stunning. 

Communion runs to November 9

In this Culture Vulture video about the upcoming EXCEPT IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT OF WAR you can win tickets to see another show playing in Vancouver!

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