After a rather dark day in Canadian Theatre, and one in which I made much less progress at writing my own upcoming piece than I should have, a night out with some rock-solid theatre was exactly what my poor withered soul needed. Thank goodness that out past the blustery snow a-falling, such a piece of theatre was waiting for me at the Gladstone. Specifically with the Three Sisters Theatre Company and their new production of Daniel MacIvor’s MARION BRIDGE.
Directed by local hero Bronwyn Steinberg, the show follows a trio of sisters from out East, forced (in various states of willingness) to reunite after an undisclosed span of time to visit their rapidly ailing Mother. Agnes (Robin Guy) is the toughest fit of the bunch, very reluctantly back from her new home in Toronto and bringing the chip on her shoulder and ever-present flask along with her. She clashes immediately with calm and collected Theresa (Shawna Pasini), who found God long ago but still can’t shake the role of family peacemaker. And odd sister out Louise (Cindy Beaton) only seems to want to obsess over her various teevee shows, or attend mysterious ‘prayer meetings’. Time passes, simmering feuds come bubbling to the surface, and Mother’s hieroglyphic notes start piling up as the sisters try and make sense of who they are, and what the Hell happens next.
It all adds up to a terrific Goddamn show, anchored by three very strong performances from the ‘sisters’. Robin Guy (also wearing the Producer hat on this show) is a fierce and vulnerable Agnes, utterly likeable even when she’s being a belligerent drunk. Shawna Pasini’s quietly distressed Theresa simmers wonderfully, in what is maybe the toughest of the three roles to tackle. And if Cindy Beaton doesn’t charm the Hell out of you with her stoically earnest Louise, then I don’t know what kind of monster you are, but not the cool Godzilla kind, that’s for damned sure. Probably a Ghoulie or some such lame business.
Bronwyn keeps MacIvor’s strong script moving fluidly and with down-home (and back East) charm to spare, never delving into sentimentality, though occasionally dipping a toe lovingly in the waters. A sweet set from designer Andrea Steinwand puts the icing on the cake, and caps off a strong and achingly heart piece that you really need to make time to see. Ignoring that it’s an all-too rare instance of a play spotlighting the lives of women almost completely removed from their relationships with men (although you shouldn’t actually ignore that, because it’s TREMENDOUSLY IMPORTANT), this is just a beautiful and funny story, told exceptionally well, that begs to be shared. So come and do that. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid (and Winston)
PS: There’s a pretty sweet Maritime-themed art exchibit n in the Gladstone lobby for the duration of the show run, plus some Rum’n’Coke drink specials at the bar. Y’know, for a well rounded evening out. 🙂