Jitters. We all get them. Whether it's the sparkle of a first date or the anxiety of an unexpected surprise, many of us can relate to the tummy-rumbling feeling that significant moments bring. We laugh, cry and try to control our emotions but some things just won't settle. If we look to the bright side, our inner tensions have the power to bring out the best in us. Soulpepper's revival of David French's "love letter to the theatre" does just that.
Jitters is a homegrown farcical romp. Set in the 1970s, David French delves into the backstage and onstage realities faced by all in the nuclear theatre family. From zany actors trying to make a living as an 'artist' to the directors and stage managers that shape the show into fruition, everyone experiences the powerful jitters that bring us to our knees. Nothing is left untouched or unexplored in this romping three hours of anticipation, excitement and time-ticking turmoil.
The show is all about life in the theatre family. We open to the rehearsal of The Care and Treatment of Roses, an ambitious new Canadian play written by Robert (Mike Ross). Conflict quickly arises between Broadway starlet Jessica (Diane D'Aquila) and the leading Canadian-based, Patrick (Geordie Johnson), breaking the illusion and propelling us right into reality. Fuelled by Phil's (Oliver Dennis) inability to remember his lines and direction, the inner anxieties and fears are quickly featured in the most comical and powerfully written way possible.
Jitters then jumps between the onstage and backstage feuds of this theatre family as they quarrel with the opportunity to make it to Broadway. The diverse sub-plots between the play's director, George (Kevin Bundy), stage manager Nick (Jordan Pettle) and budding young actor Tom (Alex Furber) are so complex that they cannot simply be summed up in one linear plot. If you've been part of any production, Jitters sends you right back into the backstage drama that only theatre artists can have the pleasure and agony of experiencing.
From the front-of-house manager, Susi (Sophia Walker) to the assistant stage manager Peggy (Sarah Wilson), all performers succeed in providing a truly relevant and gut-wrenching performance. Diane D'Aquila portrays an archetypal diva trying to make a comeback, powerfully taking the stage and demanding attention at all times. Oliver Dennis' neurotic and comical anxiety fuels the tensions faced between the wings and green room as we eagerly await for his return. Mike Ross delves into the playwright's vulnerability, both emotionally and physically as he rips off his pants and slips a little too much.
The production's design is a standalone reason for success. Patrick Clark's set and costume design transports audiences into the smoke-filled theatre life of the 1970s. All elements are harmonized and send us back in time with chic and glamorous detail. Accompanied by Bonnie Beecher's lighting design, the experience is all-too-real.
Jitters is a celebration of life in the theatre. Although slightly predictable, there is never one moment during this production that disengages you from the comical realities faced. Audiences will feel for the characters, laugh at their insecurities, and empathize with their woes in this revival that continues to live on with actors and audiences worldwide.
Jitters runs at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until April 22. For more information, visit soulpepper.ca.