By Deborah Rankin
On This Day, playing at the Centaur Theatre until March 6th, is a witty, slice-of-life comedy about marriage, friendship, lifestyles, and what happens when a chance event intervenes in the certainties of everyday life.
Written by Alexandria Haber and directed by Alain Goulem, Montreal's own thespian power couple, the play has an aura of cosmopolitan familiarity that makes it immediately relateable to the audience. This makes for good entertainment with lots of laughs as the characters muddle their way through self-justifications and rhetorical questioning about the meaning of their lives.
A successful 40-something woman Sarah (Leni Parker) and her longtime commitment-phobic partner Henry (Carlo Mestroni) are driving to the birthday dinner of Sarah's best friend Celia (Stephanie Buxton), a bored nouveau homesteader who is living off the grid with her organic fanatic husband Clive (Trevor Hayes), and their children.
En route, Henry and Sarah hit a bump in the road, in more ways than one. Suddenly, a young woman named Grace (Emelia Hellman) appears seemingly out of thin air. Henry believes they have hit her and insists on taking her to the hospital. However, his over-solicitous concern for this total stranger really begins to get on Sarah's nerves, for Grace doesn't seem to have a scratch on her.
Tired of waiting around in the emergency room (Haber's father is a doctor), with a home-cooked dinner made from freshly-slaughtered grain-fed chickens waiting for them, and more than one good bottle of wine to uncork, Sarah persuades Henry to hit the road again, this time with Grace along for the ride.
Meanwhile, Celia and Clive have been re-playing their own version of non-communication. Celia positively oozes angst-ridden concern about the dearth of good schools and cultural resources in the boonies, with each basket of laundry that she dutifully fluffs and folds. Clive is predictably tone-deaf to her needs, extolling the virtues of living off the land and breathing fresh country air.
From the moment the visitors arrive, the sparks begin to fly. It's pretty clear from the get-go that Henry resents the hell out of Clive for all of his hypocritical hype about going green, knowing full-well where the money came from to retrofit Clive's properties and re-set the family's lifestyle. The women console each other for the emotional deficits in their lives, while the strange young woman mouths philosophical non sequiturs in-between gobbling up mouthfuls of food.
Certain commentators have noted religious allusions to this play. But, it works just as well as a realistic narrative. The ensemble cast play off each other well, with the actors delivering their lines, that are both clever and smart, on cue. The set is under-whelming, plain and rustic in appearance, spare on props. But, then, simplicity is the message that is being both defended and contested.
Last Night at the Gayete
The Centaur Theatre's - season is drawing to a close with its final production of Last Night at the Gayety, a musical comedy by Bowser & Blue which runs until May 22nd.