HALF LIFE by John Mighton, directed by Daniel Brooks, with Laura de Carteret, Carolyn Hetherington, Diego Matamoros and Eric Peterson. Presented by Tarragon and Necessary Angel at the Tarragon (30 Bridgman). Runs to April 3, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $27-$33, Sunday pwyc-$15, stu/srs $18-$27. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Our lives are defined as much by what we forget as by what we remember, argues John Mighton in his tantalizing play Half Life . He makes his points in a roundabout fashion, using textual links and parallels and drawing some rich character portraits.
At the centre of his tale are Clara ( Carolyn Hetherington ) and Patrick ( Eric Peterson ), two residents of a seniors home who may have known each other briefly in the 40s but certainly in the present develop a powerful sexual and emotional relationship. Both are a bit cryptic in their conversation, Clara mentally wandering because of her Alzheimer's, Patrick guarded about his past as a military code-breaker.
Their increasing closeness evokes different reactions in their children, who might be teasingly flirting themselves. Anna ( Laura de Carteret ), an artist, doesn't mind her father's newfound love, but stuffy scientist Donald ( Diego Matamoros ) feels that his mother is desecrating her dead husband's memory.
Mighton's philosophy-tinged, dryly humorous script is filled with interrupted tales and scenes that begin and end in the middle of an exchange. This gives the play an open-ended feel that fits neatly with the floating memories that come and go for most of the characters. Director Daniel Brooks' s deliberate pacing has its own dreamlike quality, allowing the audience a subjective view of events past and present.
The cast is first rate, with Hetherington and Peterson anchoring the play in a magical fashion; she provides moments of grace for his touches of vinegar. Matamoros is the more sharply defined of the offspring, since Mighton's not given de Carteret much of an emotional backstory.
Barbara Gordon 's crotchety and sometimes sad Agnes contrasts well with the other two seniors, while Maggie Huculak gives Tammy, an attendant in the home, a range of unspoken motivations. Randy Hughson 's Reverend Hill, whose foot is frequently in his mouth, seems to be comic relief, but the character understands the human soul and the importance of aging in life's cycle.
Mighton likes to play with his audience, offering guessing games and tricks to keep us working at discovering the truth behind what we're watching. But guessing is part of the enigma of life, and the playwright, while he offers some enticing ideas, doesn't pretend to supply any unequivocal answers.