Here we have a performance of substance from Kathi Langston as an aging actress coping with the encroachment of Alzheimer’s and life in a nursing home. Megan Piercey Monafu’s script seems less a cohesive play than a series of snapshots — but perhaps, given the dramatic situation, this was the right route to pursue.
We see all that happens through Mabel’s clouded prism as she moves in and out of reality and struggles with her encroaching illness and the contained existence it has now imposed on her. Langston’s nuanced, unsentimentalized performance shows how important even the minutiae of that existence have become to someone like Mabel — the feel and texture of an old theatrical costume that she once wore in her days as an actress, the simple act of writing herself another note in order to bolster an increasingly unreliable memory, the fierceness with which she asserts what independence she has left against the busybody nursing home employee who has entered her room unbidden.
The staging of the play doesn’t always work. When Mabel places a heavy desk on her bed and then stands on top of it, maybe the intent was to depict an old woman committing a delusional act, but that seems questionable; the moment seems more like an unnecessary dramatic contrivance. And anyway, at this point we don’t need such a silly bit of business to convince us of the resilience of the human spirit. Kathi Langston has been doing that for us for nearly ah hour.
Fresh from their April performance at the Ottawa Theatre School, Pierre Brault and his merry band of student actors have done a truly great job of tightening the rhythm, introducing explosive energy and a lot of flowing physicality that brings us into the well oiled mechanics of this ferocious satire of socialism under Stalin where a whole society wants to benefit from the dilemma of poor Semyon who is out of a job and sees no other solution but to kill himself. Some very good performances but this is an ensemble piece that gets all its momentum from group action…and they got it!!
Bravo! The Suicide plays at Café Alt and it lasts 90 minutes. It’s a full length play but time slips by quickly.
The Suicide plays at CAFÉ ALT
by Nikolai Erdman
directed by Pierre Brault
Adapted and translated by Eilen Thalenberg & Alan Richardson
Drew Moore as Semyon Semionovitch Podsekalnikov
Victoria Luloff as Masha
Dyna Ibrahm as Sarafima
Mitchel Rose as Alexander
James Smith as Aristarkh
Nicholas Fournier as Victor
Jonah Alingham as Yegor
Hannah Gibson as Margarita
CaitlinCorbett as Cleo
Katherine Glover is a writer, an actress and an excellent story teller and it was all of these qualities that came together in her solo performance, Dead Wrong, telling of the incident involving her rape, the way that event left its marks on her mind, and how she testified against her rapist at his trial.
The play moves in three directions at once but all the threads connect beautifully because the writing is so clear, the dialogue is pared down to the essential, and the performance presents each line as though it were of vital importance. Nothing is superfluous in this finely written and beautifully acted piece.
What struck me for the most part were the various movements of this performance.
First she shows us the way trauma works as it affects the rape victim: nightmares, loss of appetite, fears of all sorts that well up in her mind and prevent her from living a normal peaceful life. The text breaks down all the symptoms of trauma, how they keep returning to her mind, how they transform her behaviour and mainly, how they are always there lurking somewhere in the very depth of her subconscious, already ready to leap out at the slightest moment of weakness. Her "clinical" sense of observation was very precise.
Then there is the trial involving the testimony, the questions by the prosecutor, and the whole experience lived by the victim again.
In a third portion of the play, which becomes more scientifically oriented, the author/performer explains the question of the reliability of of witness testimony and how under stress, the witness can often be misled in identification of a criminal if the right questions are not asked by the police or the lawyers. That was also fascinating.
The consequences of these three situations, build up a narrative that had the audience electrified on the spot, and kept me spellbound for the whole hour.
Nothing is resolved, but that was to be expected. The play in fact reveals a profoundly disturbing human experience as well as a serious weakness in the judicial system.
This is excellent theatre with a pedagogical side that succeeds in making its point. Everyone should see this. It plays at Academic Hall at Ottawa University.
This is as gripping a piece of theatre as you are likely to encounter anywhere in Ottawa this year. It’s a solo piece, but there are times when you feel that the bare stage is occupied by the many ghosts who haunt its central character, a young woman tormented by the knowledge that she has sent the wrong person to prison for a brutal assault against her.
Katherine Glover’s play — provocative, unsettling and always dramatically arresting — raises important questions about the machinery of justice in our society and how it had grievously malfunctioned. The theme is a familiar one these days, but here it’s more than just a retread. Glover, a Minnesota journalist, was inspired by actual events in writing a play which owes much of its impact to the unexpected but always dramatically valid turns it takes. Glover’s own performance as the victim — rueful, troubled, unsparing in her own self-knowledge — glistens with psychological truth.
A winner in every way.
Written and performed by Katherine Glover
Directed by Nancy Donoval
At the Academic Hall