Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Little Years

The current production of John Mighton's The Little Years is a beautiful production of a very tender play about aging, fame, and the seemingly tenuous connections we humans seem to frequently have with one another. A stellar cast led by Chick Reid and Irene Poole inject heightened emotional clarity into Mighton's poetic text with the aid of Chirs Abraham's spare, perfectly pitched direction. Actors are carefully arranged within stark white playing areas defined by a glistening white set by Julie Fox, complemented by her gorgeous sharply defined costumes, evocative lighting by Kimberly Purtell, and effective, emotionally jarring composition and sound design by Thomas Ryder Payne.

Reid makes the transition from lively nineteen fifties matriarch to ailing, embittered elderly mother with a kind of serene gracefulness marked by bittersweet moments of comically nasty insensitivity. Ari Cohen and Pamel Sinha match Reid's seamless movement from relative youth into later stages of life as their characters are rendered with a fine sense of nuance and layered dignity. When Cohen's character refers to himself as the Barry Manilow of the art world a comically chilling moment of clarity occurs for any of us whose antique LP collection included a few of Barry's emotionally charged pop tunes from our timeworn pasts.

There are moments when a couple of the wigs seem to cry out for a little more naturalism within an intimate theatre space, but this is a minor glitch in an otherwise beautifully realized play dependent upon the passage of time within the minds and bodies of a very distinct cast of characters.

Mighton's script plays with elements of mathematics and art as it deftly attests to the acclaimed playwright/mathematician's proficiency with both words and numbers as he skillfully sculpts a smouldeirng treatise on the fleeting nature of time, notoriety, and mere human existence. Clear measured delivery and sharp characterization from the entire cast creates a powerful metaphoric connection between science, emotional instability, and aesthetic beauty.

Standout performances by Bethany Jillard and Irene Poole create a climactic intensity that gives Mighton's final scenes a very moving and satisfying ending that journeys into the realm of hopeful 
redemption and elegiac grace.

On opening night Artistic Director Richard Rose announced the recent passing of David Freeman, whose  critically acclaimed play Creeps opened the inaugural Tarragon season forty two years ago. A toast was made in the lobby, and an enduring sense of Canadian theatre artists, as individuals to be celebrated for their tenacity and skill, connected well to Mighton's timeless message regarding the essence of life as a very delicate and puzzling experience to behold.


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