What A Young Wife Ought To Know is candid and intelligent

WHAT A YOUNG WIFE OUGHT TO KNOW by Hannah Moscovitch (Crows Theatre/2b Theatre Company). At Streetcar Crowsnest (345 Carlaw). Runs.

WHAT A YOUNG WIFE OUGHT TO KNOW by Hannah Moscovitch (Crows Theatre/2b Theatre Company). At Streetcar Crowsnest (345 Carlaw). Runs to April 7. $35-$50. 647-341-7390, crowstheatre.com. See listing. Rating: NNN

Hannah Moscovitchs What A Young Wife Ought To Know follows Sophie (Liisa Repo-Martell), a working-class wife and mother in 1920s Ottawa struggling with longing, guilt, harrowing pregnancies and an appalling dearth of resources or support regarding such essentials as contraception. The play is characterized by the intelligence, candour and energy youd expect from the playwright. It is also in this production from Halifaxs 2b Theatre Company at least tidy, contained and exercises a polemic no spectator is likely to contest.

Sophies marriage to an Irish stablehand (David Patrick Flemming) is at the centre of the play, but the more compelling relationship is that between Sophie and her sister Alma (Rebecca Parent), who dies early in the narrative but lingers on the periphery as a phantom or manifestation of conscience.

Sophie also has an intriguing relationship with the audience, to whom she poses questions about her plight as a woman denied ownership over her body. Under Christian Barrys direction, Sophie never breaches the boundary dividing the homey set from the vast unused zones of Streetcar Crowsnests Guloien Theatre.

Sophies queries read as rhetorical, a gesture toward communion, rather than a genuine petition. The soft focus created by Leigh Ann Vardys hazy lighting scheme the sepia hues of Andrew Culls set the occasional bursts of melodramatic posing presumably prompted in response to the emotional compaction of Moscovitchs narrative gallop these elements combine to imbue this production with the air of a heritage project, raising the question of whether the play can speak to the present without displaying a sense of superiority over the past.

The transitions between direct address and action are seamless: the moment when Sophie dons Almas dress is smart and elegant the tutorial on how to perform a DIY abortion is grimly arresting.

Numerous moments remind us of Moscovitchs tremendous talent, but there are works that better showcase her gift for portraying the complexities of desire and ambition, and for crafting vital, insightful narratives about female experience. In fact, one of them, Bunny (at the Tarragon until April 1) is happening right now just across the DVP.

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