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Anita Hallewas reviews Marion Bridge, which was presented by the Revelstoke Theatre Company on January 14, 2011 at the Revelstoke Community Centre.
Revelstoke Theatre Company’s latest production, Daniel MacIvor’s Marion Bridge, may trigger some familiar feelings for audiences: regret, grief and family tribulations. This Canadian play, set on an east coast island town, sees three very different sisters unite to look after their dying mother. The coming together of this unlikely trio makes for interesting drama and life changing revelations. Marion Bridge is the place the three sisters nostalgically remember visiting when their family was still together, and perhaps more “normal.”
MacIvor intended all three sisters to be cast as women in their thirties. However, anyone who has been involved in amateur theatre, especially in smaller towns, knows how it is difficult and sometimes impossible to fill roles exactly as stated in the script. Instead director Lyn Kaulback’s somewhat risky artistic license pays off by casting three women whose ages would span three decades. With a running time of one-hour and 45 minutes and a cast of just three females, this dialogue focused play is a tough stretch for actors. However, all three ladies, two new to the Revelstoke boards, play their parts very effectively. The ladies, Suzie Cameron (Agnes), Monica Sia Embury (Theresa) and Sara Marie Joseph (Louise) were very well cast, their characters are convincing as they are diverse.
The play, almost exclusively set in a kitchen, revolves around the comings and goings of the women, their relationships with each other and their parents. The sickly mother – who is never actually seen – is incapable of speech and sends Post-it notes downstairs to her daughters as a form of communication. Although the reason all three women are together, she is almost irrelevant to the overall plot. Monologues are delivered convincingly as asides, drawing in the audience to each character’s story. Appropriate lighting of these monologues allows for full focus to be on each sister’s thoughts and feelings.
Use of a minimalist set is effective allowing for a good flow and fast transitions between scenes. Clever use of well-recorded sound effects adds comic lightness and a reminder to the audience that there is more to this story than just what we were seeing on stage ‘in the kitchen.’ You always know you are seeing good theatre when you believe in what is happening off stage, not just what is presented to you on stage.
MacIvor, originally from Cape Breton (incidentally where he has set the play), is considered one of Canada’s best known playwrights. He has been awarded the coveted Governor General’s Literary award for Drama and has produced a handful of feature films, one being an adaptation of Marion Bridge which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2002 and was awarded the CITY TV Best First Feature Film.
Many of MacIvor’s other scripts suggest a strong interest in family relationships, in particular dysfunctional ones. As the child growing up with an alcoholic father, MacIvor wanted to be a psychiatrist to better understand himself and his family relationships. It seems Marion Bridge was part of his life-long therapy; it is a very true reflection on family life, the dialogue between the three siblings is believable and audiences will find themselves quickly empathizing with one or more of the characters.
Kaulback and her cast give her audience something to think about with Marion Bridge. There are some very touching moments as well as well needed comic lightness.
This review first appeared in The Revelstoke Times Review.