ANGER IN ERNEST AND ERNESTINE by Robert Morgan, Martha Ross and Leah Cherniak (Barzotti Woodworking/Pivotal(Arts)). At Unit 102 Theatre (376 Dufferin). To November 24. $20-$25, Monday $10. theanger25.eventbrite.com. See listings. Rating: NNNN
For their 25th anniversary production of the classic comic two-hander The Anger In Ernest And Ernestine, Barzotti Woodworking and Pivotal(Arts) have hired the play's co-writer and original star Robert Morgan to direct. That was a smart move, resulting in an intimate and energetic revival of a show that has never gone out of fashion.
Newlyweds Ernest (Daniel Stolfi) and Ernestine (Jennifer De Lucia) have just moved into their basement apartment, and soon their habits - he's the Felix to her Oscar - begin to grate. Gradually, they're as heated and ready to burst as the dwelling's temperamental furnace. After some makeup sex and talking around issues, they're forced to confront some deep truths about themselves.
The show's been produced around the world and translated into several languages, and no wonder; anyone can relate to their conflicts, many of which go beyond language (at one point the two grunt like animals). The piece is filled with winning episodes, like a series of breakfasts that get progressively more hysterical and a letter-writing scene that's surely one of the funniest bits in Canadian theatre.
Wearing costumes (designed by Glenn Davidson) that tell you much about their characters, real-life couple Stolfi and De Lucia prove fearless clowns, acknowledging audience laughter and expertly using their bodies and the timbre of their voices to hint at layers of tension.
Morgan employs a bright red curtain, suggesting an old vaudeville-style performance, that works nicely to bridge scenes and create a formal distance between their setting and the characters' "real selves," revealed in a series of stand-up-like confessions.
And the small theatre's main entrance provides a clever way for the characters to enter and exit, often with a great big dramatic door slam that adds to the show's fun.