Tarragon continues its Lies, Sex, and What Comes Next season with their world premiere of Diane Flacks’ Waiting Room. This piece, directed by Richard Greenblatt, gives the audience a look into what it’s like waiting for news on your sick child at Sick Kids’ Hospital. Chrisse (Michelle Monteith) and Jeremy (Jordan Pettle) are new parents, but their baby daughter is recovering from a vicious brain tumor and doesn’t seem to be getting better, and their patience is beginning to wear thin with their doctor Andre Malloy (Ari Cohen). However, little do they know that Andre is having some medical issues himself, and is about to explore a groundbreaking new way to treat himself.
The first thing to note about Waiting Room, is that it is written in an extremely powerful way. Flacks was able to create very real characters with an extremely devastating, yet driven, plot looming behind them, all of which is beautifully acted out by the entire ensemble. By the end of the show, there was not a dry eye in the house. Special mention should go to Ari Cohen, Jenny Young, and Warona Setshwaelo for their amazing portrayals of medical professionals. I don’t want to even begin to imagine how long it took for them to perfect the medical jargon with the confidence in which they did. It was almost as if they had been plucked right from Sick Kids’ then placed on stage. This was balanced out beautifully by the performances of Michelle Monteith and Jordan Pettle. These two gave such a powerful and emotional performance. They were able to connect with audience members on a very deep and intimate level, creating a roller coaster of emotions for all of us. Jane Spidell, who acted as the grounder for this piece, rounded out the ensemble. With her amazing performance, as a cynical, yet reality-based woman, who has been a part of the Sick Kids’ community for several years, she gave the audience much needed and well-earned emotional relief.
In a piece like this, where the cast is putting on such powerful performances, it can sometimes be easy to overlook the production elements, yet this is not one of those cases. Set and costume designer, Kelly Wolf, captured the appearance of a hospital waiting room beautifully, from the swinging doors to the Purell dispenser on the wall. There is a time and place for minimalistic set design, and Wolf knew that this was not it. The large grey walls of her set also proved useful for projection. Assistant projection designers Cameron Davis and Kaitlin Hickey created a chance for the audience to see some of the smaller details that the characters on stage were experiencing. Using several projectors, they would display brain scans, news articles, porn searches (no, really!) and other important information that the audience might not get a chance to pick up on. Overall, this proved to be an incredibly effective and useful tool for the show.
Waiting Room is an amazing piece of theatre that tells a very devastating story. I cannot recommend this play enough. My only warning though, is to make sure you bring an ample amount of tissues, because you will be bawling by the end.
Waiting Room runs to Feb. 15, 2014 at Tarragon Theatre's Mainspace. Tickets can be purchased through Patron Services at 416.531.1827 or by visiting www.tarragontheatre.com.
photo by: Cylla Von Tiedemann