By Lois Ann Dort
Last week the Mulgrave Road Theatre brought their latest show, Small Things by Daniel MacIvor, home to the Chedabucto Place Performance Centre in Guysborough. Local audiences were not disappointed.
Small Things, a story that focuses on three women from as many generations living in a small town, is a throw-your-head-back in laughter comedy but it also has a serious side. MacIvor’s work, which has been staged by the MRT previously, has a way of making you think after the performance, when the belly laughs have receded, about some of life’s bigger questions. Small Things is no exception.
Contemporary issues are front and centre in Small Things from the legalization of marijuana to the rights of transgender individuals. And it is all wrapped up in a family drama; centred around women and the roles they play as parents, providers and partners.
Small Things brings together a cast that features well-known faces from other MRT productions; Stephanie MacDonald who performed to acclaim in Watching Glory Die; Heather Rankin who helped bring the MRT production of MacIvor’s BINGO to life; and Jenny Munday, former Artistic Director of Mulgrave Road Theatre from 1989 to 1992. Together they created a memorable experience for theatre-goers.
The first thing people will tell you about this play, is how much it made them laugh. And it was not only one character landing the lines; they all had their moments in the comedy spotlight. But if you had to single out one actor as a comedian it would be Heather Rankin. She delivered her comedic lines with impeccable timing and what was perhaps most impressive was her ability to create a comic atmosphere with her facial expressions and body language alone.
Along with laughter, Small Things also addressed the often strained but loving relationships between mothers and their adult daughters. Is there anything more intimate and personal than helping another woman put on her earrings? Through this action, the love that existed between mother and child could be felt, in spite of their difficulties.
On more than one occasion it was what was not said that clearly demonstrated the bond between characters in the play. When the wealthy, elderly employer treats her housekeeper Birdy to an evening of classical music, her feelings for this new, unexpected friend are revealed as she watches Birdy transported by the beauty and sadness of the music. Although both widows, it is only the music that cemented a connection between the two women; an unintended example of the power of art.
Perhaps it was because these powerful, emotionally charged scenes conveyed so much meaning, that the sole monologue in the play felt so unwanted. The monologue delivered by Munday on the serious business of mortality short-changed the audience; underestimating their ability to understand the themes of the play, believing instead that it had to be spelled out for them in this aside.
This scene in the play also served to disconnect the audience from the work, pulling them up and out of the action that had gripped their attention up to that point. Thankfully it was but a brief interruption before the cast was reunited and continued to relay life’s truths through dialogue and action.