CHRONIC by Linda Griffiths, directed by Simon Heath, with Caroline Gillis, Holly Lewis, J.D. Nicholsen, Eric Peterson, Graeme Somerville and Brooke Johnson. Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst). Runs to February 2, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday and February 1 at 2 pm. $22-$30, Sunday pwyc-$22. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNN
Feel your energy come and go? Achy in the morning? Mood shifts left, right and centre? Maybe it's something indefinable and long-term, like what's affecting Petra (Caroline Gillis), the central figure in Linda Griffiths's Chronic.For five years, the dot-com Web designer's been dealing with something that's changing her life and affecting her relationships with friends and colleagues. Griffiths, in writing that's sometimes sassy, frequently poetic and often funny, shows Petra's increasing isolation and frustration. Her most rewarding relationship isn't with boyfriend (J.D. Nicholsen), boss (Graeme Somerville), sometimes close workmate (Holly Lewis) or even doctor (Brooke Johnson), but rather with the personified virus (Eric Peterson) who's causing her ills.
Though director Simon Heath moves the action along smoothly, there are times when the show treads water. While this rhythm parallels the longeurs and up-and-down qualities of Petra's chronic-fatigue-syndrome-like ailment, the production loses dramatic momentum. The people and their relationships could be better fleshed out, too; this problem arises more from the writing than the performing.
While Gillis makes Petra a sympathetic, humanly confused figure who wants to fight but also shows her fear, it's Peterson -- sometimes seductive, sometimes repulsive -- who sparks the play. Wearing a Madonna-like headset and hiding behind a transparent screen of plastic netting, he becomes a quasi-lover who boogies, cajoles and taunts the humans. He's the play's most alluring draw, oozing a wide-eyed yet savvy charm that infects the characters and the audience .