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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Theatre: Review - Marion Bridge @ Havana

Rebecca Husain, Jeanie Cloutier and Terri Anne Taylor,
 cast of Daniel MacIvor's poignant Marion Bridge.
Theatre of Infinity’s Marion Bridge is a play by Daniel MacIvor about the complex relationship of a family brought together through loss. We watch three sisters who couldn’t be more different from each other, not only cope with a dying mother, but also start to deal with who they have become themselves. Each search to sort out the loneliness that has come to rule her day-to-day life as well as not-so-forgotten family expectations. Whether through alcohol, religion or soap operas, each sister has found their own way of coping with their broken past and escaping the prisons they feel their lives have become.  
Headstrong failed actress Agnes, played by Terri Anne Taylor, is the black sheep who grudgingly returns home to Cape Breton from the Big Smoke. She holds a deep seated resentment towards her mother for making her put her child up for adoption when she was a teen.
Seeing this homecoming as a chance for a life do-over, Agnes manages to shake the family tree at its roots in the process.  

Taylor's best scene is an intimate card game with her despondent younger sister Louise (played by Rebecca Husain), which felt incredibly authentic and gave her character more wisdom and maturity than MacIvor's script would have led us to believe she possessed to that point.

The self-admittedly strange and boy-like Louise is sincerely and aptly played by Husain, who sustains a precarious balance between humor and tragedy with her character, and like her fellow cast mates, is riveting in her monologue.

Finally, Jeanie Cloutier commands her role as Theresa, or "Sister Theresa", as Agnes calls her. Theresa is actually waiting to enter a convent, asking God to deliver her from her beast of burden life.  The spinsterly elder sister seems to fit the name on the home-front, too, becoming her parent's custodian while trying to hold together a family poised on the brink of disintegration.   

The dying mother is never seen yet is ever-present. Because of her disease, she communicates by way of cryptic post-it notes, and as the story unfolds, it becomes evident she still manages to hold a great deal of sway over her daughters and their fortunes.  

While the play doesn't break new ground, this version comes at a fitting time for many people experiencing the same process of watching their parents age and die and taking notice of the growth and even rebirth it can bring.

Under veteran actress Susan Hogan's direction, the show moves steadily and makes good use of its talented cast.

As an odd aside, there are a set of keys which, though never talked about, somehow become like a character in the play itself. This is a play with umpteen entrances and exits by all actors through the set's front door and every time they did, the keys were removed or replaced. I had to wonder and marvel at the coordination of this continual persistent detail, having been backstage enough times to be fully aware of the chaos which can ensue because of a misplaced prop. It can be a real focus-breaker for actors.

This production does its best to make good use of Havana's shallow stage, its limited Technical capabilities and an obviously minuscule budget. But what the play lacks in production values, it makes up for in heart and spirit - quintessential small theatre.

Marion Bridge runs until February 19 at Havana Theatre @  1212 Commercial Drive.

Tickets can be purchased online at http://bizbooks.net/biz-marquee/marion-bridge-tickets

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