precision & grief
John Tannahill’s Late Company explores layers of grief and denial in a complex entertaining and heartbreaking manner. A plausibly implausible dinner party begins, late, and the guests have come to grieve everything from the window treatment to the allergenic taste of a pescatorean entrée amid complex layers of teen angst leading to intense tragedy and misidentification. Without lapsing into too many spoiler alerts this beautifully written, finely crafted work takes the dinner party formula for acerbic theatre and turns it inside out, exposing all of the niceties and formal endearments for precisely what they are, and are not. There is even a pun’ish laundry joke that provokes a hearty half embarrassed laughter from an audience on the edge of their comfortable seats.
A politician and a sculptor, played respectively by Richard Greenblatt and Rosemary Dunsmore, are the perfect mortified match as they craft lives out of particular social poses that quickly crumble under the weight of some of society’s ugliest phobias. There is an especially fabulous scene where Dunsmore, the sculptor, describes her work as portraiture – of the very biting kind. The idea of oblique, revelatory portraits looms large in a seventy-five minute play where people’s foggy exterior facades hide their most intimate and hidden interior facades. It is a game of internal/external mirror shifting and re-shifting as conversation moves in and out of explosivity and polite dinner repartee.
The entire ensemble, under the very precise direction of Peter Pasyk, is brilliant as they enter an arena of fear and misdirected self-hatred. The dining room table treads that fine line between IKEA and fine upper middle class wood and metal functional furnishing, much like the commingling of popular and highbrow references that delineate class and culture throughout the script. It is Rosemary Dunsmore’s performance however that takes the central emotional thematics of precise and focused grief and elevates it to a complex balanced level of self-restraint and devastating emotional outburst. She is well supported by a cast that allows for every beat to loom large as they carefully choose their words and modes of denial. Richard Greenblatt, Fiona Highet, John Cleland, and Liam Sullivan (as the sullen teen object of disaffection and ultimate catharsis) give very strong layered performances. And yet there are times when one longs for a bit of Albee - in the script and the direction - at his uncontrollable best when the likes of George and Martha just go – like wolves – for the jugular. But unlike Albee’s drawing room dramaturgical war fare there is nothing faintly absurdist, flirting with naturalism, at the end of the dinner party in Late Company. No phantom baby, no mythological biographical fixations, just very real people trying to talk to each other about the unbearable lightness – and darkness - of being queer in an unspeakably homophobic world.
LATE COMPANY RUNS AT THE THEATRE CENTRE UNTIL NOVEMBER 29TH