Bahareh Yaraghi (left), Deborah Drakeford and Brendan McMurtry-Howlett earn lots of buzz for Bea.
BEA by Mick Gordon (Actors Repertory Company). At the Factory Studio (125 Bathurst). To May 26. Pwyc $30. 416-504-9971. See listings. Rating: NNNN
On the surface, Mick Gordon's Bea seems like an issue play. The title character (Bahareh Yaraghi) is a woman in her late 20s who's been confined to her bed, suffering from an unnamed degenerative disease for nearly a decade. Now she wants to die, but needs her mother (Deborah Drakeford) to help her do it.
That's not a spoiler - it's revealed early on. What's surprising is how non-didactic Gordon's script is about euthanasia and how effectively he - and director Aleksandar Luka?c - catapult us into Bea's world and the worlds of those around her.
This excellent Actors Repertory Company production opens with a startling image: the immobile Bea leaps out of bed and athletically flings herself all over her room, doing pull-ups and prancing about, all to some raucous rock.
It gradually becomes clear that we're inside Bea's mind and imagination - at least part of the time. When the chatty Ray (Brendan McMurtry-Howlett) arrives to interview for the job of her caregiver, she teases and flirts with him in a series of breezy stream-of-consciousness outbursts before her stern mother, a lawyer, dispenses her rules.
Performed on Andy Moro's simple but evocative set, the play essentially consists of the three of them engaging in a game of push and pull as they figure out how best to meet Bea's needs.
Some moments feel manufactured, particularly when the mother repeatedly enters the bedroom to witness compromising scenes between the two. But others are inspired, as when Ray enacts a passage from A Streetcar Named Desire, which leads to a tender moment of sexual exploration.
And one of the most moving scenes features Bea watching her mother and Ray dance during a celebration, which becomes a moment of release for everyone.
The actors are clear and focused. McMurtry-Howlett's Ray is charming, growing in confidence just as Drakeford's tightly wound mother learns to allow herself to let go of years of control and anger.
Special mention must go to Yaraghi, who invests her physically and emotionally taxing role with intelligence and empathy, giving dignity, humour and a sense of mystery to her character.