I, CLAUDIA written and performed by Kristen Thomson, directed by Chris Abraham. Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman). Runs to May 6, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday and Sunday 2:30 pm. $19-$24, stu/srs $16-$20, Sunday pwyc-$15. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNNNN
growing up is hard to do, and i,
Claudia, written and performed by Kristen Thomson, demonstrates that perfectly.
Thomson creates four related characters in this remarkable piece: the preteen Claudia, who's forced to deal with puberty and her parents' divorce; her grandfather; her father's fiancee; and the immigrant school caretaker who stage-manages the story.
The choice of characters is striking, but so is Thomson's decision to portray them with masks, changing clothes and faces as she speaks. These transitions become unsettling episodes in themselves, two characters locked in one body. I'll never forget the riveting moment of seeing the tears in Thomson's eyes, the emotion welling up behind Claudia's fixed, chipmunk-cheeked mask.
Under Chris Abraham's immaculate direction, Thomson blends the humorous and the painful in a single sentence, and she's adept at shifting us from raucous laughter to pin-drop stillness. Thomson's rich characters -- in addition to the vivid Claudia, she forges subtle links between Claudia's widowed grandfather and his unseen son, and between Claudia and the giggly, pain-filled Leslie, her new stepmother -- grow in performance, painted through voices and physical and verbal rhythms.
And I, Claudia is Thomson's first script. Wow.