All relationships have their ups and downs; some days are good, and some can turn very ugly at the flick of a switch or sarcastic comment. Love can last for decades, but sometimes loses its flair in a matter of days. Soulpepper's The Anger in Ernest and Ernestine is the latest in their studio series, and displays the perils of immature love and the unfortunate outcomes that arise from rushed decisions.
Originally conceived in 1987 by Robert Morgan, Martha Ross and Leah Cherniak, Ernest and Ernestine was sparked by improvisation and later developed into a script. The production focuses on the two quirky characters of Ernest (Gregory Prest) and Ernestine (Raquel Duffy) who quickly fall in love and move in as a couple. Set in their tiny basement apartment taken over by the furnace, the two characters grapple with the struggles of co-habitiation despite their love for one another, which rapidly turns stale.
Just like stale love, the characters are completely drab. Their lives are uninteresting despite Prest and Duffy's attempts of creating unique characters with a common story. The concept behind the production is admirable but the approach and ineffective use of comedic timing makes the production flat. While there are funny moments throughout the play, they are minimal and inappropriately delivered. While borderline boring, this is precisely the point.
You cannot look at Ernest and Ernestine as people but rather ideas. The dullness of Ernest and the eccentric behaviour of Ernestine distracts and pushes you away. In doing so, director Leah Cherniak employs a distancing effect that provokes the audience to step away from the characters and analyze both monogamous relationships and infatuation as a whole. You can walk away from this production with laughter, or leave immersed in self-reflection – perplexed, angered and baffled by what you just saw.
Shannon Lea Doyle's scenic design is both fitting and colourfully crafted to fit the piece. The large furnace consumes the entire basement apartment accompanied by a miniature kitchenette and a hidden bedroom. The rest of the living space is dominated by the lowering staircase, which enters the cramped apartment, leaving virtually no room in this enclosed setting.
Whether you're a lover or a roommate, The Anger in Ernest and Ernestine undoubtedly leaves you with questions after the curtain has closed. Is love enough to keep two people together, or are there some things we just can't live with or without? You be the judge.
Soulpepper's The Anger in Ernest and Ernestine runs until Feb. 20 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. For more details visit www.soulpepper.ca.