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Theatre Orangeville presented opening night of Too Close to Home

March 19, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Life is full of twists and turns that we could never predict. Look at the play, Too Close to Home: Margaret’s daughter, Julie, arrives suddenly with her son, Connor, and terrible news about the immediate implosion of her marriage; there are more shocking details about her husband’s recent past; later in the play, Margaret herself, has a very surprising revelation in her own life.

The saddest surprise and twist of all was that the play, opening last Thursday and meant to run until March 29, was cancelled immediately after opening night, due to the closure of the Opera House caused by the Corona virus sweeping the world.

At least we had the chance to see the show and go to the opening night reception, always such a good time at the theatre.

From an elegantly Victorian-garbed Aunt Marsh (in Little Women, here for the Christmas production in December, 2019) to Margaret, a modern, got-it-together widow in her sixties, Mary Pitt was just terrific, the way she took on and, yet, tried to comfort and appease her extremely upset daughter, Julie. Their own, old arguments intruded into the present angst and they batted both back and forth, in theatre’s version of realistic, just like the real thing but not over much: there’s still an audience watching. 

It was all very skillfully written by Alison Lawrence.

Ms. Lawrence bounces Julie between furiously shouting, as she suffers from the injustice and disloyalty of her husband’s past year. Bit by bit, all became revealed of his gambling addiction’s eating away everything they had and the news their son subsequently discovered of the new girlfriend and her pregnancy.

On the other side of her emotional swing, Julie was crazy elated when she got a job and sold the family house for more than asking price. 

Julie was profoundly delivered by Emily Oriold, who told the Citizen later at the reception, “I don’t want people to like Julie. She’s terrible but she’s in a lot of pain. All the damage her husband has caused – she’s crazy with pain. People shouldn’t like her.”

She added the comment, “It’s fun to play a character the audience isn’t going to like. I didn’t want to play a happy Polly-Anna sort of person.”

Struggling with being in the middle of all this, was Julie’s son, Margaret’s grandson  Conner, with John Daniel in the role. His father’s behaviour was also news to him and, at 16 years old, he reckoned he should be part of the decision-making, while his mother neglected to consult him about any of it, including selling their home.

Readers will likely recall John Daniel in his fine performance of Puck in Theatre Orangeville’s unique (as one may truly say) production of Midsummer’s Night Dream last summer, on the theatre platform at Island Lake.

He also gave a fine performance in Too Close to Home, understated with a teenaged boy’s stoicism, while still yearning for someone to hear him.

That happened too, in a very tender scene with the fourth person in the story, Bruce. Bruce was the neighbour and friend to Margaret. Bruce, formerly in the advertising business, had come to live in this small town to get away from the city and all its failings. A handy person as well, he took on renovating the attic into a bedroom suite for Connor, whom he hired to help him. However, all the action took place in the open plan kitchen/living room set, where, finally, Bruce was the one who showed young Connor the respect and attention for which he longed.

Brian Young, welcomed for the first time to Theatre Orangeville, played the role of Bruce, mentor to Connor and something else to Margaret. We eventually learned, he wanted to be more than just a friend to her. 

This was the twist in Margaret’s life, to think that she could still be involved romantically and with a man a decade younger than herself. Firstly, she had to deal with her own inhibitions on the matter, wondering at his sincerity. Secondly, she had to face Julie’s outrage at their age difference, her mother’s widowhood (“don’t you miss him?”) after eight years, the surprise they were both feeling at this turn in emotions. 

Bruce was the perfect balance to Julie’s excesses, to keep the play on an even keel and Mr. Young held Bruce as measured and kind.

During rehearsal, the director of the feast, David Nairn, asked the right questions and waited patiently for the actors themselves to answer them. Each of these four actors were convincing in their characters. We could just sit back and believe it.

The set was wonderful, Beckie Morris making magic of what could be a normal place, lots of white paint to hold the traumas and a blue print wallpaper – or painting – that was exactly right.

As always, with Theatre Orangeville productions, the lighting, designed by Wendy Lungren created life in the scene. All of it, tight, smart – perfect.

It is a great pity this premiere of Too Close to Home was nipped in its opening night but, in this writer’s opinion, that it has been produced on this stage, will necessarily see it produced again. The first Opening Night, though, will always have been at Theatre Orangeville.

The Opera House is closed for at least the next three weeks, pending evaluations of how things are at that time. For more information, check out the website at www.theatreorangeville.ca



         

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