Here we go! Third show in three days and I’m feeling funky! Time for some raucous, out-of-nowhere indie theatre from some hard-working art punks. Maybe at a bar or something, get the blood pumping. And Moscovitch! Gotta be Hannah Moscovitch…
So yeah, it’s time for LITTLE ONE by Hannah Moscovitch at Live! On Elgin, which is now a terribly convenient jaunt down the street from where I live. Ta very much, Little One! I do appreciate a short commute. I arrived just before the house curtain opened, got myself a pint of ale (lager?), immediately staked out what must have been the worst seat in the house because why the Hell not, and perused the program. And holy moley, wotta nice program! I’m serious. Glossy, colour, cast and crew pictures, full-colour ads..? You’ve raised my expectations, little one, this is some swanky bizness! My Otter woulda LOVED these programs, no fooling!
It was a pretty swell crowd, near to full for opening of this most indie of productions, produced by Director Lydia Talajic (manning the ticket table) and associate Amanda Logan (of Toasted Theatre fame, also present slinging tasty drinks at the bar). I’ll admit to rather raging curiosity as to what the show would bring…independant productions from established playwrights by young practitioners are a relatively rare beast in Ottawa (or, I suppose, most places), but a welcome one. Plus I’ve been a fan of Sam Dietrich for a while now, and Lydia Riding is likewise the goods, and everyone knows that Hannah Moscovitch is the bee’s knees, having recently rocked the GCTC stage with her WHAT A YOUNG WIFE OUGHT TO KNOW. So music up, lights down, and let’s see what there was to see…
The story, Ottawa-based for you homers out there, follows siblings Aaron (Dietrich) and Claire (Riding) through what can modestly be described as a challenging childhood together. Brought into Aaron’s family when she was 4 and he was 6, we soon learn Claire has been subject to unknown trauma previously, which has given her a very ‘different’ was of looking at life. She can be a little thoughtless, and prying, and maybe a little too hands-on at times, and you really don’t want to let her near the knives. Aaron, who would love to just keep playing with his Ninja Turtles ™ and hang out at hockey practice, finds his little sister’s mental stability increasingly turned into his job to monitor. And how do their dumpy IT neighbour and his mail-order bride figure into all this? And what about the cat??
The show follows Aaron and Claire along through their teens, and quickly proves itself terribly skilled at being a viciously, subtly creepy psychological thriller, as well as an examination of family roles and mental illness. Sam Dietrich and Lydia Riding are both goddamn wonderful in their roles, evoking empathy and anger in equal doses, each of their actions occasionally frustrating or heartbreaking, their fractured relationship always engrossing and impossible to look away from. Sam Makes Aaron, essentially the straight man of the show, into a deep and human character, a good brother slowly crumbling under the weight of a responsibility he’s simply not mature enough to bear. And Lydia Riding is creepy as all get out as the damaged, voyeuristic Claire, but never dropping into caricature. Despite Claire’s obvious troubles, Riding always maintains sympathy, and humanity.
There’s also some good sound design from Phil Caunter (always almost on the verge of drowning out the actors, but never quite going there. I don’t know if that was intentional or not of if I just imagined it, but I found it meshed perfectly with the tone of the play). Tristan-Olivier Brieding handled the light design, and did an impressively great job in the space…eeriness prevailed, and nothing was ever lost. Lydia Talajic has put together a solid team, and they put on a helluva show.
This was a great piece of theatre, and I really hope Ottawa packs the joint for the next 2 nights of its very short run. Indie shows like this I could use a LOT more of in this town. These crazy kids* are making me feel lazy as Hell, and I need a lot more of that. Peace, love and soul,
*Sorry for calling you ‘kids’…I’m getting older, and have begun calling pretty much everyone kid. It’s a true joy.