A rare play that manages to offer both comfort and truth
Reviewed by Elizabeth Cobbe, Fri., Sept. 23, 2011
Marion BridgeHyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd, 479-7530
Running time: 2 hr.
In Daniel MacIvor's play Marion Bridge, three adult sisters have gathered at their childhood home in Nova Scotia to care for their mother in her final days. The three women are a curious, troubled bunch. Agnes (Rebecca Robinson), whose hand is rarely without a drink, fled their rural Canadian home to make her way as an actor in Toronto; she's brought her personal theatrics with her on this trip home. Theresa (Emily Erington) is a nun who farms with her convent; a sliver of doubt has entered her life. And then there's Louise (Kelsey Kling), who has all but retreated from adult life in favor of disappearing into the world of soap operas and serials.
Marion Bridge is a quiet sort of play. The even pace is well-suited to the story of a family trying to find itself even as its members lose their centers. In all, the show bears a weighty familiarity for anyone who has made a difficult journey home or has experienced the disappointment of arriving at adulthood and discovering less than what dreams have promised. The play doesn't reinvent the rules of Western theatre – in terms of convention, it's pretty typical – but it does present thoughtful, expertly drawn portraits of interesting characters. How many plays seek to portray the difficulties of religious life but come away as not much better than a clichéd shadow? MacIvor – and Erington, as Theresa – show in subtle, effective ways how doubt can rise through the cracks after years of constant devotion. Similarly, Agnes and Louise are flawed but earnest, each navigating the difficult waters of their mother's passing in her own way.
This run is a revival of Hyde Park Theatre's 2002 production, again directed by Ken Webster. Paul Davis again designed the set, a realistic and delightfully detailed look at the kitchen of the family home. The casting, which also remains the same from the earlier staging, is strong, with three capable actors who possess great technique. This current production feels stiff, as though the directorial hand were so strong as to rob the performances of their spontaneity. At times the actors have that look about them that can happen when a performer is more concerned with hitting her cue than she is with her intentions and circumstances.
Fortunately, they do not lose the sense of connection necessary to believe that these women are sisters. They fight, hug, mock, and make some terrible decisions, but at the end of the day, all three are and will always be sisters. It's a kind and gentle sort of message for a play, the kind that manages to offer both comfort and truth: a rare find indeed.