POST-DEMOCRACY by Hannah Moscovitch (Tarragon Theatre). Runs to December 4 at the Tarragon Mainspace (30 Bridgman). $15-$55, limited $20 same-day rush. 416-531-1827, tarragontheatre.com. Rating: NNNN
It’s not often that you hear laughter, groans and open sobbing at the theatre. But Post-Democracy, Hannah Moscovitch’s efficient examination of the rich and ruthless, is so full of hot-button issues and triggering lines that it’s bound to elicit strong reactions, as it did at last night’s opening at the Tarragon. And isn’t that exactly what live theatre should be doing?
The hour-long show (how often have you heard that outside of the Fringe?) is set in a private hotel lounge in an unnamed Spanish-speaking city. Bill (Diego Matamoros), the CEO of a major company, has just received some bad news on his phone, and he’s considering temporarily handing over the reins of the corporation to Lee (Jesse LaVercombe), his fifth cousin and the current COO.
Along with Justine (Chantelle Han), Bill’s daughter and the CFO of the firm, and Shannon (Rachel Cairns), who works under Lee, they’re there to purchase a company for their massive portfolio. But a scandal in the company is just leaking, and another one – involving some in the room itself – has potential to erupt, forcing them to consider damage control.
Moscovitch has always been intrigued by the inequities in power, be they around gender, sex or race. (Hands up if you’d like another look at her play What A Young Wife Ought To Know after the Supreme Court overruling of Roe v. Wade.) Here, she offers up the privileged, mostly white and mostly male 1 per cent fucking over the poor – both literally and figuratively – and throwing millions of dollars around to clean things up.
With such a lean, mean script – the play begins almost like an homage to Pinter – it’s hard at first to connect to the characters. But Moscovitch provides you with just enough details to fill in who these people are; one scene in which Bill recounts missing key moments in his adopted daughter’s life, or one in which that same daughter, Justine, defends her laudable charity work to an embittered Lee, are worth at least a couple of hour-long episodes of a show like Succession.
And director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu’s production helps give us a rich sense of this world. Teresa Przybylski’s stark, minimalist, oh-so-tasteful set and expensive neutral-toned costumes show us more than any exposition could how wealthy these people are. And the way Tindyebwa Otu uses a piece of abstract art in the background (sensitively lit by Louise Guinand) gives the characters a bit more depth and mystery.
The cast is first-rate. What a treat to see Matamoros, recently returned from the Globe Theatre in London, UK, bring his understatement and gravitas to this captain of industry. Han’s Justine exudes frustration and anger as she recognizes how pervasive the bro culture is in her company. And Cairns is excellent at capturing the fearful, watchful demeanour of the lowest status person in the room.
I’m not sure about the description of Lee in Moscovitch’s play, but it was a brilliant bit of casting to have the wholesome-looking LaVercombe – the objectified title figure in Erin Shields’s Beautiful Man – play Lee. The way he delivers his line readings with false sincerity or tip-toes around some of the most offensive comments in the script (cue the aforementioned groans) is simply remarkable.
As is this play.