HALF LIFE by John Mighton, directed by Daniel Brooks (Necessary Angel/ CanStage). At the Bluma Appel (27 Front East). To February 3. $20-$95. 416-368-3110. See Continuing, page 65. Rating: NNNN
LEO by Rosa Laborde, directed by Richard Rose (Tarragon, 30 Bridgman). To February 4. Pwyc-$32. 416-531-1827. See Continuing, page 65. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
If one of your new year's resolutions is to see more good theatre, you could do much worse than check out the remounts of two recent hits. If you missed them the first time, you have no excuse now.
John Mighton 's Half Life premiered nearly two years ago at the Tarragon Theatre, where it soon won a bunch of awards, all of them deserved.
Clara ( Carolyn Hetherington ) and Patrick ( Eric Peterson ) are two seniors who meet in a retirement home. She's living with Alzheimer's, he's secretive about his past as a code-breaker during the war. But the two form a special bond and come to feel that they may have known and loved each other 40 years earlier.
Whether or not they did is one of the enigmas Mighton offers up in his suggestive script, which explores the mysteries of the mind and soul in a way that's always fresh, frequently funny and never didactic.
Director Daniel Brooks creates a spare, dreamlike atmosphere that's perfect for a work that plays with time and space. Designer Dany Lyne 's bold use of theatrical curtains works on several levels, as does Richard Feren 's buzzing soundscape, which bores into the subconscious and often sounds like it's trying to tune into a clear frequency.
The original cast is superb, but special mention should go to Hetherington for her calm, graceful depiction of Clara that suggests a lifetime of charm in 90 minutes. Never has understatement been so moving.
A bit of that understatement would have improved Rosa Laborde 's Léo , which returns to the Tarragon Extra Space after last season's successful run.
Set against Chile's changing political landscape in the 1960s and 70s, Laborde's play ambitiously looks at the shifting friendships among three young Chileans: cynical poet Léo ( Salvatore Antonio ), political idealist Rodrigo ( Sergio Di Zio ) and Isolda ( Cara Pifko ), the privileged girl between them who's a bit of a kleptomaniac.
In childhood, the three openly share their secrets, but as they get older and the excitement of Salvador Allende's socialist victory morphs into discouragement and then fear, they're drawn apart by bigger secrets, most of them involving sex.
Laborde, like her title character, has a knack for poetic language, but she's less good at fashioning a suitable structure, relying on a clichéd bookend device to create dramatic intensity.
None of the characters is sufficiently fleshed out to make us care about their fates, but the actors tackle their roles with energy.
The most memorable element of director Richard Rose 's production is Graeme S. Thomson 's set, a raised triangular platform dividing the audience into three sections along the triangle's lines.
It reinforces the play's love triangle and lends the work intimacy, as does Marcelo Puente 's Latin American music, performed live. One note: if you don't like smoke, you probably shouldn't sit near the top or you'll be seeing blue.