WHALE MUSIC by Anthony Minghella, directed by Rosemary Dunsmore (Seventh Stage Theatre). At Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman). To May 20. $17-$27, Sunday pwyc. 416-531-1827. See Continuing, page 79. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
In 1981 England, when new wave music topped the charts and Lady-turned-Princess Di still blushed, Anthony Minghella hadn't yet penned his famous films. He was busy writing Whale Music, a play that explores motherhood and female friendships and includes six deliciously witty roles for women.
It centres around young, single and pregnant Caroline (Mika Collins), who moves to the coast and lives with Stella (Melissa-Jane Shaw), a reclusive artist with a secret past. In the course of the play, Caroline's alienated mom (Jane Moffat), her childhood friend Fran (Rosa Laborde), her ex-lover/teacher, Kate (Katherine East), and Kate's friend D (Sascha Cole) unite to support her.
Candid girl talk, gleeful chatter and heartfelt exchanges pervade the script, and some of the actors make the most of this. We feel the acerbic Stella's ache for love. Laborde's Fran is so genuine she could be your best friend. And Cole, despite being born in 1984, totally brings the post-punk teen mentality to life.
Unfortunately, lead actor Collins strains to achieve a natural intimacy. The physicality of pregnancy limits her, and she looks uneasy in her scenes with East.
Director Rosemary Dunsmore expertly guides the actors through chaos and calm. She imaginatively creates the effect of labour by having the women simultaneously breathe resonantly during a darkened set change. I just wish she'd urged Dana Osborne to include more 80s details in her dull costumes or at least to remove the visible Canadian label from a pea jacket.
Still, Seventh Stage Theatre Company's first outing shows great passion and promise. They're even welcoming moms with babies to a May 16 matinee. You wouldn't have seen that in 1981.