Canadian Stage presents THIS, an un-romantic comedy by acclaimed Canadian playwright, Melissa James Gibson, from March 18 to April 13 (opening and media night: March 21). Directed by Canadian Stage's Artistic & General Director Matthew Jocelyn, and featuring Laura Condlln, Christian Laurin, Yanna McIntosh, Alon Nashman and Jonathon Young, the play is an honest portrait of a group of 30-something friends navigating their way through death, parenthood, love and adultery. THIS marks the first time New York-based Gibson's work has been presented in Toronto.
"THIS is a searingly truthful and humourous look at what it is like to be an adult in 2013," said Jocelyn. "Melissa has written a play about the stuff life is made of with sensitivity, intelligence and grace. We're creating a production that walks the fine line between presence and absence of theatrical convention, as we try to investigate the subjective experience of the word 'this'. We're delighted to bring together this remarkable cast to explore the world created by Melissa James Gibson, a kind of modern-day Chekhov."
THIS centres on a moment in the life of Jane (Condlln) and those closest to her. Jane's husband died over a year ago and his ashes are still sitting on top of her fridge. Struggling to raise her young daughter alone, she isn't really okay. Her friends, married couple Marrell (a jazz singer played by McIntosh) and Tom (Young) try to cheer her up with party games and blind dates, but they are desperate for fun themselves, juggling a new baby and a relationship strained to the breaking point. Their wine-drinking, wisecracking friend Alan (Nashman) also tries to help, while a sexy (and French) Doctor-Without-Borders named Jean-Pierre (Laurin) incites temptation and perspective.
With set and costume designer Astrid Janson, Jocelyn brings the Berkeley Street Theatre space (once a pump room in a gas pumping station) as close to its original state as possible, exposing long-covered doors, windows and brickwork. The simple set, with lighting and sound design by Jason Hand and Richard Feren respectively, underscores this stripped-bare performance mode. Uncovered windows mean alternate lighting cues will be used during matinee and evening performances.
Collaborating with the cast, Janson has created a wardrobe of outfits for each character to choose from, with multiple options to mix and match before each show. In approaching the design, Janson did not present costume sketches or concepts to the cast or creative team, but established a series of contemporary, realistic costume elements through a workshop period with performers.
Every Thursday evening, live jazz music from Alex Coleman or Nathan Hiltz will be played in the lobby of the Berkeley Street Theatre before the show. On Saturday, April 6 during the 2 p.m. performance, Canadian Stage will offer on-site childcare, featuring a mask making workshop and costume party for children aged two to 12, giving 30-something theatregoers a babysitting option. Childcare provided by Improv Care is free with a ticket to the performance. Space is limited, and will be booked on a first-come-first-served basis.
THIS will be on stage at the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street). Performances run Monday through Saturday at 8 p.m. with matinees on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m. The performance runs 105 minutes with no intermission. Tickets from $22 to $49 are available online, by phone at 416.368.3110 or in person at the box office. For details visit www.canadianstage.com.
Free pre-show chats will be held before select performances. Speakers include Andrea Syrtash (OWN's The Life Project), director Matthew Jocelyn and Geoff MacDonald (Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto). Post-show talkbacks with the cast and creative team will be held following Wednesday matinees and Thursday evening performances. For a schedule and additional details, visit https://www.canadianstage.com/beyondthestage.
Jane Laura Condlln
Jean-Pierre Christian Laurin
Marrell Yanna McIntosh
Alan Alon Nashman
Tom Jonathon Young
Written by Melissa James Gibson
Director Matthew Jocelyn
Set and Costumes Astrid Janson
Original Music by Lyon Smith
Lighting Designer Jason Hand
Sound Designer Richard Feren
Stage Manager Sandy Plunkett
Assistant Stage Manager Kristen Kitcher