It's been far too long since a performance has pulled me right into the action, and Late Company does just that and more. Despite the underlying sexual themes that run throughout, Tannahill's production is utterly relatable.
We all come to deal with grief at some point - it’s inevitable. The struggles that accompany these emotions are perfectly bundled in Jordan Tannahill's 75-minute display of pain, anxiety and ultimate closure.
Six months ago, Debora (Rosemary Dunsmore) and Michael Shaun-Hastings (Richard Greenblatt) lost their teenage son, Joel, to suicide. Joel was bullied in high school and decided to take his life as a means of escape from the torment and toughness brought upon by Curtis Dermont (Liam Sullivan) and his fellow peers. As a means of closure from the situation, Deb and Michael invite the Dermonts (John Cleland as Bill and Fiona Highet as Tamara) over for dinner in what can only be summed up as a bad idea from the start. Fill in the plot void by seeing this show before November comes to a close; I'll speak no more.
The performance is almost too real. The ensemble allows us to escape our lives, just for a moment, as we enter their private domain. There has never been a time when I've so desperately wanted to get out of my seat and physically beat up the characters due to their ignorance and hypocrisy. Yet, the next minute I would feel for the characters and want to get up and defend them. I had to hold back multiple times, as I came to analyze what completely captures the current Canadian domestic space. Director Peter Pasyk succeeds in harmonizing the intimacies of anguish and frustration that come about, as these two families battle out the respective loss and responsibility of their sons.
The entire cast of five gives phenomenal performances. Dunsmore perfectly highlights the pain of a mother filled with unconditional love, just as Highet exceeds in delivering an unbiased, supportive role. The gender binaries ultimately become emphasized and destroyed, as the dueling mother and father representations not only undo each other, but themselves as well. Cleland's performance as Bill is both raw and crushing, whereas Greenblatt portrays Michael as a genuine and understanding father figure who is both counteractive and compelling. Sullivan gives an unremorseful performance that highlights the performative aspects of masculinity, which becomes undone through the narrative's overarching theme of grief.
Just as the actors draw us in, Patrick Lavender's design brings about an intimate setting that immediately invites you to dinner. Five people sit for dinner, and yet six chairs are present. The absent placeholder for Joel draws the audience into that seat, which allows for our full participation in the events as they unfold. While this may not have been the intended approach, the outstanding set pieces transport us right into the dinning room, as well as the action.
This is an engaging production overall. To miss out on it is to abstain from the remount of one of 2013's top productions. November is almost over; don't waste any more time.
Late Company is presented by Why Not Theatre, and is part of The Theatre Centre's November Ticket that is running until Nov. 29. To purchase tickets, visit www.NovemberTicket.com.