Luminato review: The Full Light Of Day

Daniel Brooks's ambitious drama about a wealthy, corrupt Canadian family gets a handsome production, but its characters and narrative need finessing

THE FULL LIGHT OF DAY by Daniel Brooks (Electric Company Theatre/Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity/Canadian Stage/Luminato). At the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front East). Runs to June 13. $30-$111. Rating: NNN

Writer Daniel Brooks and director Kim Collier’s epic, multimedia look at a wealthy, corrupt Canadian family firmly belongs in a major arts festival like Luminato. Its themes are timely yet universal, the acting solid and the production an intriguing mix of theatre and film techniques. It’s too bad the piece doesn’t quite feel finished.

The two-hour-and-forty-minute show by Vancouver’s Electric Company Theatre is divided into two weighty acts.

The first introduces us to the members of a family whose money, it soon becomes clear, is dirty.

Husband Harold (Jim Mezon) has basically retired from his real estate development work, but he’s haunted by some unsavoury business transactions. Older son David (Dean Paul Gibson) has taken over and is an obnoxious boor, while younger son Joey (Jonathon Young) is nervous and directionless. The family’s only daughter, Jane (Jenny Young), is still grieving the death of her husband.

The calm centre of them all is matriarch Mary (Gabrielle Rose), a woman with a philosophical streak who’s somehow been kept in the dark about the making of the family fortune. 

But on the night of Mary’s birthday celebrations in Toronto, when Joey mysteriously fails to show up, she begins to think people are hiding things from her.

And so begins a soul-searching, stock-taking investigation into her life, which becomes key when, in the second act, she discovers she’s dying. 

In the interconnected stories and the themes of greed, sin and guilt, the play draws on everything from Greek tragedy and the Bible to modern soap operas. 

But the characters aren’t very well developed, and even narrative plot points – often seen from various perspectives – can be frustratingly vague. 

Things hinted at earlier in the play – for instance, David’s possible implication in Jane’s husband’s death – aren’t resolved. David’s wife, Sherry (Jillian Fargey), and Harold seem to have issues, but they’re never developed. And the two scenes bookending the play involving Harold and a neighbour named Hans (John Ng) fail to pay off. 

But under Collier’s direction, the handsome production is always watchable. Julie Fox’s set and Michael Walton’s lighting evoke everything from a tasteful penthouse to a dark city street and a pool at a northern Ontario getaway. 

And though Cameron Davis’s real-time video projections are often  too on-the-nose, for instance in the repeated image of a multi-branched tree (like a family, get it?), they also let us see close-ups of characters in key moments. 

The combining of film and theatre techniques has been done more effectively in previous Electric Company shows like Studies In Motion and Tear The Curtain!, or, of course, in works by Robert Lepage and Ex Machina

And it’s not like these fine actors need the close-ups. Gibson oozes appetite and entitlement, especially in the play’s grotesque second scene. Mezon’s Harold suggests a lifetime of swagger and entitlement, until his sins start catching up to him. Jonathon Young has a sharp scene as a minister whose impassioned sermon gives the show its title. And Vancouver actor Rose, who’s best known in Toronto for her film work, gives the production a necessary touch of grace. 

What The Full Light Of Day lacks is a sense of shared humanity, something found throughout Yasujirô Ozu’s Tokyo Story, which Brooks mentions in the program notes as his starting point for this play. It’s easy to judge people, especially venal one-percenters, but it’s much tougher to forgive their failings. Ozu does that, which makes his works enduring works of art. 


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