Kate Hurman is one of Ottawa’s theatre treasures who is not on stage as much as she should be. Here, Director John P. Kelly has given her Geraldine Aron’s juicy monologue where she can show us the great variety of her talents. The play is written in the form of a diary, where a certain Angela Kennedy Lipsky, an Amercian living in the UK, tells us the whole trajectory of her post-marriage life. It begins at the beginning, with the sudden announcement by her ex-husband that he wants to leave. “Round Head” as she so affectionately calls him, quickly packs his bag and clumps down the stairs of their London flat, making a quick getaway to join his “Rosy” from Argentina, leaving Angela more than stunned.
The play is constructed as a series of brief sketches all dealing with moments of her life after he leaves. There is no obvious narrative thread, except for the passage of time. Her life is a series of ups and downs that make no attempt to understand the real evolution of her feelings that change from one experience to the next, except that her hesitation to get on with the divorce always leaves us feeling she is still rather ambiguous about it all. However, since this is a play, the rather episodic structure prevents the work from becoming too maudlin, as it propels us forward from playfulness to anger, from sarcasm to sadness, from honest efforts to make contacts, to moments of utter lonliness until the twist at the end which took time coming. Mostly, she tries to meet new people, deal with her shrink, her ex and engage in any number of activities that are in themselves, little adventures that amuse the public. Thus she has lots of chance to change moods, slip into multiple characters with a great variety of accents and show us her virtuosity as an actress who, alone on stage, easily held our interest for almost two hours, which was no small feat. It is an admirable performance and she should be congratulated.
Under John Kelly’s deft direction, Hurman is always believable even when the play presents uncomfortable situations in a perfectly ironic light, such as her first sexual encounter which was both funny and rather disturbing, if one has the guts to empathize with her, which was almost unavoidable because that is part of the appeal of this kind of show, especially if one is a woman of Angela’s middle aged or plus persuasion. For theatrical reasons, the author obviously did not want to drive away her public by having her character end up in the psychiatric ward of a local hospital with a nervous breakdown, but all the ingredients were there. Frankly, I could not laugh comfortably watching brave Angela, hanging on as her ex plays on her emotions while the next generation of bimbos makes her appearance. You could see moments of rage lighting up Kate’s face at that point, a most natural and totally healthy reaction, but the playwright did not let her character go there. I wonder why she was not allowed to give in to her fantasys and go after him with a shotgun? Clear, cleansing anger would have been much more fun. Instead, she swallows her state of victimization and wallows in it for most of the evening, even if she puts on a funny face and makes jokes.
Underlying it all therefore, is pain, and that is what I felt during most of the evening. This play is not my cup of tea, but that did not take away from Kate Hurman’s performance, which was very good and Kelly’s staging, very sensitive. Added to it is the perfect musical accompaniment that made us laugh as much as the script, as well as the visual effects, the appropriate lighting by David Magladry and the simple props that did not get in the way, including Dexter the dog, who luckily, was stuffed! Live animals often upstage people and Angela already had enough trouble with Round Head lurking around in her head. One thing was clear: the audience loved it, and that is a good sign.
My Brilliant Divorce plays at the Gladstone until May 17. Presented by SevenThirty Productions and Pat Moylan.
Written by Geraldine Aron`
Directed by John P. Kelly and featuring Kate Hurman as Angela
Lighting design by David Magladry
Sound design by Steven Lafond
Projection design by Fiona Currie and Wardrobe design by Patrice-Ann Forbes.
Presented by SevenThirty Productions and Pat Moylan.