In an intimate setting of forty seats, I attended the opening night of Letters to St. Rita, written and directed by Michael Ripley. The community-feel and support of this small venue aided in the feeling of sitting in the kitchen or office with Frank (Stephen Jackson) and Sonja (Nicole Maroon).
In Letters to St.Rita, Ripley gives us two very human characters in a story that is easily believable. Ripley displays the relationship of Frank and Sonja in four short scenes, depicting various points of their relationship. The scenes are appropriately titled: The End, The Beginning, The Middle and The Now. In these short scenes, we can see how different these characters are, and how their relationship began, as well as how it destroyed their distinctive personalities. The chemistry between Jackson and Maroon is very honest – a salute to them for completely sucking me into the story.
While there is no direct mention of St. Rita, there is always the element of a letter in each scene. The letter serves as the key element for Frank and Sonja’s relationship, by focusing on each person’s respective career path.
Another aspect that I enjoyed about this production is how the set, sound, lighting and costume designs are simple, but quite effective. The stage features a table, a few chairs, children’s toys, coffee and some banker’s boxes. Due to the simple lighting and subtle background noises (especially in the final scene), it is easy to imagine the audience as a voyeur to these points of the couple’s lives. The lighting design is simple and beautiful, setting the mood and allowing the audience to immerse themselves in each scene. The costume changes are quick and subtle, but each costume perfectly accents its respective scene.
Letters to St. Rita is quick, to the point, heartfelt and absolutely honest. Ripley shows us that we can never predict how our lives will go, and we can never predict how our relationships are going to turn out. The key is to never give up on any dreams, and always be true to your heart.
Letters to St. Rita is on from February 25th until March 7th at 8pm and March 2nd at 2pm at The Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen Street East in Toronto).