FALLEN ANGEL AND THE DEVIL CONCUBINE by the GroundWork Collective, directed by ahdri zhina mandiela (b current/Theatre Archipelago). At Theatre Centre (1087 Queen West). Runs to June 4. $25. See Continuing, page 184. 416-525-2994. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Neighbours aren't always the best of friends. But then, Lettie and Katie, who share a house in Toronto's Parkdale, aren't your typical neighbours. They're both squatters in a rundown house, and about all they seem to share is a common upbringing in the Caribbean, a sense of being uprooted and a determination that the other is a trespasser. The black Lettie ( Rhoma Spencer ) is a former domestic, while the white Katie ( John Blackwood ) was at one time a grand lady - if we believe her stories - whose family employed Lettie.
But truth is a flexible commodity in this household, where the two women bicker more often than they exchange pleasantries. Living in separate dishevelled spaces in Julia Tribe 's effective slat-lined set, atmospherically lit by Michelle Ramsay , the pair dwell in fantasies but for occasional moments when reality intrudes rudely into their lives.
Blackwood's imperious Katie has all the hauteur required, except, intentionally, when the character has a fearful or angry outbreak, while Spencer's bossy Lettie melts movingly into a painful childhood memory. Together, the actors' chemistry and their con-trasted but well-knit energies buoy the production under ahdri zhina mandiela 's direction.
If there's a problem with the show, it's the script by Jamaica's Groundwork Collective .
The narrative is spun out too long, the same impressions offered again and again, capped by sharply delivered revelations that could have come earlier and been more effective.
Still, the performers take us on a touching journey, beginning in comedy but moving to compassion, with portraits of two isolated women united by external dangers and internal pain. The house they share, as we discover, is both a prison and safe harbour for these women to whom both past and present have been far from kind.