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|Written by Heather Marie Scheerschmidt|
|Monday, 27 September 2010 00:00|
GCTC's The List is a slow and quiet play. The poetically constructed script, under the direction of Brian Quirt, is presented to reflect the experience of its narrator: with restraint and a feeling of isolation. This production requires a lot from its audience.
You are forced into the narrator's uneasy world, where she is uncomfortably on display. Brian Smith's set is an image of forced perspective, representing the narrator's forced perspective on what is right, what is important, how to be a good person. The play explores her forced perspective on being a mother, a spouse, a friend, a neighbour. Her sense of purpose is wrapped up in how well she accomplishes her daily tasks, how clean her house is, how white her teeth are, etc. The never-ending list of things to do has become a joyless approach to life that is in direct contrast to her neighbour Caroline.
The repetitive act of making lists turns into the need to relive and retell the story of her relationship to Caroline. We see the narrator question whether she is a good person. Did she choose not to help Caroline? Can she really be blamed for what happened to her? There is no sense of catharsis in this telling.
The narrator is lonely and keenly aware of her own isolation yet afraid and unable to connect to others. We know the presence of Caroline has unhinged her, and now that Caroline is gone, the lists that once provided order and a sense of purpose are no longer satisfying. The play reminds us of how messy life can become. That no matter how hard we try to force it to all makes sense, there is an inevitable chaos to it all. Caroline represents that chaos, the threat to the narrator's otherwise ordered existence.
There is more to life than the tasks on the list -- more to relationships than the planning of menus, the buying of gifts -- but it is difficult for the narrator to see this. Our heart goes out to her, and yet we are helpless to do anything but internalize the lesson that would free her: life requires a certain amount of chaos, of openness, of acceptance.
The language in the play is sparse, as is the production design. It is clean and precise, much like the narrator's world. Nonetheless, nothing about this production is easy. It is slow to begin, and some of the choices are hard to understand. There are changes in movement and changes in lighting that are seemingly unmotivated by the text. The original music by Sarah Hallman, while beautiful, feels tacked on and does not relate to the action on stage. But if you are able to let this character in, and you listen to the poetry of this text, you will be moved by this story.The List plays at the Great Canadian Theatre Company until October 3rd. Find tickets and more information here.
Tags: badass, brian quirt, can con, gctc, ottawa, review, sarah hallman, the list, theatre, tracey ferencz