Marine Life tackles big issues with heart and soul

Rosa Labordé's environmental comedy is buoyed up by urgent facts and deeply felt performances

MARINE LIFE by Rosa Labordé (Aluna/Tarragon, 30 Bridgman). Runs to December 17. $22-$60. 416-531-1827, See listing. Rating: NNNN

Eco activism goes romantic comedy in Rosa Labordé’s delightful Marine Life, a show that tackles big issues with lots of heart and soul.

At the centre is Sylvia (Nicola Correia-Damude), an environmental activist who, in the first scene, is literally hooked into a meet-cute with lawyer Rupert (Matthew Edison).

Despite Rupert’s overtures, Sylvia has no time for romance. She’s busy preparing a presentation about how microplastics are killing marine life and upsetting the eco-system. And besides, her needy brother John (Justin Rutledge), who’s living with mental health issues, is jealous of anyone who takes her away from him.

Many of the play’s early scenes help fill in the details about the characters’ lives, dropping hints about why the siblings’ bond is so close.

Labordé writes dialogue that crackles with wit, and the scenes (she also directs) blend smoothly into each other, aided by Trevor Schwellnus’s haunting projections and lighting on his set comprised of cool blues and what seems like a cloud constructed of plastic takeout trays.

There’s a nice recycle/reuse philosophy to the set as well, with a simple table representing everything from an aquarium to a boat to a commemorative park bench.

Correia-Damude handles both the comic and dramatic moments well, and she has lots of chemistry with Edison, who’s charming in a role that could use a bit more edge, and Rutledge, who gets to show off his musical chops in a couple of scenes.

The play deals with one of the most pressing issues of our time, but Labordé is never didactic. Just wait for the final line of dialogue, which gets a big wave of laughter because it’s been so cleverly and carefully set up.

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