Marion Bridge: much emotional baggage makes for a dreary drama

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Marion Bridge by Daniel MacIvor; director: Chantale Plante; a production of the  Ottawa Little Theatre

Carrying a lifetime’s worth of baggage, three sisters of a very dysfunctional family are brought together by imminent death. As their mother lies dying, each of the three reveals her insecurities, resentments, memories and false memories and periodic hostility towards the others and their parents.

Each sister is deeply flawed and hides from the world in her own way. Agnes fled from her Cape Breton home to an unsuccessful acting career in Toronto. Her other escape is alcohol — her mother’s choice towards oblivion, too. Meanwhile, the ‘good’ middle sister, Theresa, now having a crisis of faith, chose the nun’s veil and farming as her escape route, while youngest sibling, Louise — the only child still living at home — sinks into daytime television soap operas and love of automobiles.

Playwright Daniel MacIvor adds several more layers of misery to the family’s problems in his 1998 domestic drama. Their father, now aphasic, left home for a much younger partner, who now has a young man (supposedly her cousin) living in the basement. Agnes reconnects with the father of their illegitimate daughter and then contacts the girl, adopted as a baby, thinking in terms of her child being part of her future.

It’s all a bit much and the weight of the emotional baggage turns Marion Bridge into a very dreary drama. The three lengthy monologues delivered by each of the sisters, rather than adding depth, increase the weight and drags the wheels of any dramatic flow to a grinding halt.

The Ottawa Little Theatre production, as directed by Chantale Plante attempts to mask the depressing content with original music (rather than having the sisters singing) and weird, pretentious and distracting inter-scene lighting effects.

It is hard to understand the popularity of Marion Bridge as either a stage play or its movie adaptation when the content is as cliché-ridden as the soap operas that consume one of the character’s days. It is equally hard to understand the significance of the final add-on trip to Marion Bridge or why it apparently disposes of all that emotional baggage.

Only quality acting saves Marion Bridge from being a complete bore. All three members of the cast in the OLT production have a clear understanding of their characterizations, with the strongest and most credible performance of the three coming from Jennifer Scrivens as the ‘strange’ youngest sibling, Louise.

The Ottawa Little Theatre production of Marion Bridge continues to April 2.

Director: Chantale Plante

Set: Robin Riddihough

Lighting: Graham Price

Sound: Bradford MacKinlay

Costumes: Jeanne Gauthier

 

Cast”

Agnes…………………………………………Amanda Jonz

Theresa………………………………………..Cathy Nobleman

Louise…………………………………………Jennifer Scrivens


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