So hurray, I’ve made it to Montreal! Okay, I lost my bus tickets for fretful few hours, and everything I brought with me got well and truly soaked thanks to the adjoining Biblical rainfalls both here and back in Ottawa, but I made it! Met the gang at the Montreal Fringe box office, got me a shiny media lanyard, checked into my seriously palatial hostel (Montreal Central…friggin’ awesome)…all that was left was the one thing I came for, namely seeing a ton of shows! That has officially begun to change, as i found my first ever Montreal Fringe venue, the Freestanding Room, and headed in for not only my first, but one of my most anticipated shows of the festival.
Set in the cozy panelled room two stories up from Saint-Laurent, MY PLAYWRIGHT SISTER is a very unique show indeed. One would imagine, at first glance, that it was a straight-up sequel to Johanna Nutter’s much-lauded solo show MY PREGNANT BROTHER, detailing her history with her transgendered brother as he discovered his identity (having been born, physically, as a gal), and subsequently became pregnant. I saw the show originally at Ottawa’s UNDERCURRENTS festival years back, and thought it was pretty goddam wonderful. Turns out, however, that not everyone was as enamored with the show as me…like James Diamond, for very pertinent example, Johanna’s Brother who was pretty much appalled by what he saw and had no intention of leaving things as they were. To that end, he and Johanna have teamed up for this show, less a sequel than a revisit of not only the first play, but their storied and troubled relationship with one another.
To call this show intimate is like saying Batman works out a bit…it just doesn’t do the reality justice (Batman is too real, shut up). The audience are one and all invited eavesdroppers on a soul-baring conversation with very few punches pulled, in spite of the tremendous amount of love clearly evident between the two. James relives some clearly traumatic and painful events in his bumpy life, and Johanna revisits every contested word in her beloved script that, however unintentionally, has brought her Brother pain. It’s an at times maddening journey to witness…is it political correctness gone too far, sibling rivalry taken too personal, or artistic pride hoisted too high? My own loyalties fluctuated throughout the beautifully engaging story…I still love to see Johanna Nutter’s wonderful self on stage, and James has a devastatingly understated presence that feels like it grows and grows until the emotional finale. Director Jesse Strong deserves solid praise to, for managing to make this interpersonal battlefield audience-friendly.
I’m curious what this show would be like if you hadn’t already seen MY PREGNANT BROTHER…and you still have a chance to make a double-bill of it on the 15th and 20th if you’d care to treat yourself. This is some bold, risk-taking theatre, maybe TOO personal for some, but filled with enough truth to put any ten other plays to shame. It’s selling out, and with good reason…be one of the first to catch a rare kind of theatre experience. And remember…it’s a baby! Peace, love and soul,