MEMORIAL by Steven Gallagher (Next Step). Factory Studio (125 Bathurst). See listing.
Times:January 4 at 5:15 pm, January 5 at 7 pm, January 6 at 9:30 pm, January 10 at 7:15 pm, January 11 and 13 at 5 pm, January 12 at 3 pm. $12-$15. 416-966-1062. Rating: NNNN
Playwright Steven Gallagher never takes the sentimental route in Memorial.
The play's central character, Dylan, is about to die but hardly with quiet dignity. He's in a flurry of activity, preparing for his wedding to lover Trevor, re-establishing his connection to sister Ruth and organizing his own memorial, which he plans to attend.
Moving back and forth between flashbacks and the present, the narrative concisely plays out, under D. Jeremy Smith's direction, the alternating closeness and tension among the characters. Mark Crawford captures Dylan's controlling nature from the start; what's powerful is the way both writer and actor show the neediness and charm beneath the acerbic Dylan's demanding qualities.
As Dylan's lover, fearful about the future, Pierre Simpson never loses our sympathy and has a chance to show Trevor's quiet wit, quite different from Dylan's more outrageous humour. Mary Francis Moore's Ruth is the most poignant of the three figures, a sister who wants to reclaim the bond she had with the little brother she protected when they were kids.
Lighting designer Michelle Ramsay does a fine job moving us from present to past and back again. The warm colours of memory and the affectionate comedy generated there stand in sharp contrast to the cool white light and sober nature of the characters' current situation.
By the play's end, Gallagher successfully reveals the trio's growing closeness without stepping into maudlin territory.
Like the best of ceremonies for those we've lost, Memorial evokes laughter and tears. It not only makes a fitting tribute but also strong theatre.