Bitter no more

Three dumped women turn heartbreak into hilarious theatre


BITTERGIRL written and performed by Annabel Griffiths, Alison Lawrence and Mary Francis Moore, directed by Michael Waller. Presented by bittergirl co-op at the Tim Sims Playhouse (56 Blue Jays Way). Opens tonight (Thursday, November 9) and runs to December 2, Thursday-Friday 9 pm, Saturday 10:30 pm. $15. 343-0011. Rating: NNNNN


Let’s get one thing clear. anna- bel Griffiths, Alison Lawrence and Mary Francis Moore aren’t bitter, and they don’t hate men. Really. “In fact, we love men,” says Moore. “Um, quite often.”

Never mind that they’re writing and performing a show called bittergirl — about three women who’ve been dumped by different guys.

Never mind that some friends are starting to refer to them, collectively, as “the bittergirls.” Truth is, the trio’s having a blast dredging up their own — and others’ — painful experiences of heartbreak. They’re getting the last laugh, and sharing it with an audience.

“When you can laugh about a breakup, when you can tell it as a story, then you know you’re ready to move on,” says Lawrence.

“You might never get over someone,” adds Moore. “But where once that person was your life, now he or she’s an anecdote. Now you can talk about them at a cocktail party without breaking down in tears.”

It’s early evening and we’re sitting in a cozy Bloor West pool bar/restaurant sharing a bottle of cabernet sauvignon. I can’t think of a more entertaining, or unbitter, bunch of folks. Lawrence has a zany energy — her smile is hypnotic — Moore has a deadpan wit and Griffiths radiates warmth.

Think Sex And The City with a tinier wardrobe budget. Also keep in mind that bittergirl was conceived before the HBO show. My point? These women are fabulous. What idiot would dare dump them?

Turns out quite a few, at least if you believe the play, a hit at the 1999 Rhubarb! Festival and a success earlier this year in a production in London, England.

The show, underscored with those lovin’-and-hurtin’ girl-group songs from the 60s, follows three women named A, B and C as they deal with the emotional and psychological fallout of being dumped.

A (Moore) is an urban professional whose life plan collapses when her significant other walks. B (Griffiths) is a dreamer who becomes paralyzed after her boyfriend leaves to follow an unlikely career. And C (Lawrence) is a young mom who’s put her husband through school when he suddenly has a mid-life crisis.

After A, B and C get dumped — by D (Stephen Reich, who plays all the guys) — they go through the various awkward post-breakup moments. Seeing the ex with someone else. Getting drunk and phoning the ex to tell him a bit of news. Having — oops — reunion sex with the ex.

Autobiographical? Yes and no.

“We’ve put some of our vulnerable parts in there, sure,” says Griffiths. “But you layer it and layer it.”

“Also, because there are three of us, we can hedge our bets,” adds Lawrence. “We can give the most devastating thing that happened to us to someone else to play.”

What makes the play so hilarious is its universality. Female, male, straight, gay, dumper or dumpee, we’ve all been part of the breakup equation.

“One man saw the show and was laughing uncontrollably,” says Griffiths. “He’d done some of the same things that the guys do in the play. Afterwards he phoned some of his exes to apologize.”

Working with a male director (Michael Waller), stage manager (J.P. Robichaud) and actor (Reich) was a conscious decision, even if it meant gender-war arguments during rehearsals.

“Sometimes the guys say things and we look at them and shake our heads,” says Moore. “For instance, with the reunion sex scene, Michael believes — or believed, until we set him straight — that you call the ex to get together to have a drink with the intention of sleeping with him that night. All the guys agreed with him. Sorry! You sit down to have a drink and connect emotionally to figure out where it went wrong.”

Still, all three admit that women aren’t blameless in the breakup sweepstakes. Lawrence recalls dumping someone on Valentine’s Day without realizing what day it was. And Moore admits she’s sometimes been the “guy” in a relationship, rolling over and going to sleep or getting up to make a sandwich.

Do the bittergirls have any advice for dumpers-to-be?

“Don’t do it by fax or e-mail,” warns Lawrence.

“Do it quickly and honestly,” adds Moore. “Don’t make promises you won’t keep. Don’t say you want to be friends, because nine times out of 10 you don’t.”

If you’re the dumpee, on the other hand, Lawrence advises you to “pick up your dignity, wrap it around you like a cloak and get the hell out of there.”

And, of course, go see bittergirl.

glenns@nowtoronto.com

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