Friday, February 22, 2013


Pictured: Michelle Monteith in 'Little One'

JOHN COULBOURN, Special to TorSun
21 FEB 2013
R: 4/5

TORONTO - Apparently, playwright Hannah Moscovitch doesn’t collect broken characters so she can repair them or at least patch them up, in the way a collector of clocks, say, might collect broken timepieces with a view to restoring them. Instead, her menagerie of the damned — soldiers suffering from post-traumatic shock, abused children and the obsessed and obsessive adults they become — seems to have been assembled so she can document their wounds and examine the ways in which they have been inflicted.

And while the plays she makes with them may not always make for comfortable theatrical experiences in the conventional sense, they almost always make for compelling ones instead. 
And the two plays on offer in the Tarragon Theatre’s Extra Space in what is billed as A HANNAH MOSCOVITCH DOUBLE BILL  — an exploration of twisted sibling rivalry titled LITTLE ONE and a dissection of a dysfunctional modern marriage titled OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN — certainly fit the Moscovitch mold.

Linked somewhat nebulously by Asian immigrant women — the first an unseen mail-order bride from Vietnam, the second a Sri Lankan nanny —  and by the playwright, these two plays offer further proof of Moscovitch’s uncanny ability to dissect the human psyche with an almost clinical dispassion and lay bare the myriad ways in which it can be bent, folded and otherwise mutilated. Under the direction of Natasha Mytnowych, LITTLE ONE stars Michelle Monteith and Joe Cobden as adopted siblings, Claire and Aaron, growing up under the gathering shadow of Claire’s demons, while a troubled marriage plays out next door. A play of memory, told from the perspective of a grown Aaron, it is beautifully and precisely acted and simply but powerfully staged on Michael Gianfrancesco’s set, with a powerful assist from Kimberly Purtell’s lighting.

Gianfrancesco and Purtell also make a major contribution to the mood of OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN, as well, in which a mysterious Sati, a Sri Lankan nanny played by Elisa Moolecherry, finds herself drawn into the heart of a troubled marriage. Hired by Ilana (Niki Landau) and Ben (Gray Powell) to care for their infant daughter, Sati is soon caught up and swept away in the riptides that swirl beneath the surface of this ‘perfect’ marriage. Under the direction of Paul Lampert, who successfully transforms this tiny space into a mansion, it too features fine acting creating a triptych of emotional horror, painted with a kind of precise detail normally reserved for tranquil still life paintings.

But finally, with character and shapes given so much precedence over plot and resolution, Moscovitch’s efforts here emerge more as complex character studies than as plays — and after seeing two of them in one evening, don’t be surprised to find yourself longing for a bit of theatrical catharsis to wash away the tension and make the journey worthwhile.

The HANNAH MOSCOVITCH DOUBLE BILL continues through March 24, with In This World replacing Little One from March 19.  

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