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|Written by Innika La Fontaine|
|Friday, 19 February 2010 00:00|
There is nothing quite like a death in the family to bring long-seperated relatives back together again.
When one such family reunites to discuss shared memories in Shelagh Stephenson's The Memory of Water, they come to realize that what they always believed to be 'truth' in their lives may not be as simple as they thought. The bold black comedy about loss, loathing, and love debuted at Ottawa Little Theatre this month.
The award-winning play follows the story of three sisters who gather at their mother's coast-side home to arrange her funeral. They learn that despite family synchronicities of time and place, unifying experiences rarely produce unified memories.
As the sisters bicker, laugh, cry, drink, and smoke marijuana, family secrets float to the surface: a five-year love affair; an adopted child; failed romances; and substance abuse are just some of the many surprises and secrets that flood out in heart-aching moments of emotion.
There is a pleasing sense of veracity to the script and the performances. The British accents are well executed, making the typical British humour all the more funny. The characters are well cast and the performances strong.
If you have siblings, the family dynamic played out on the stage may resonate with your own: the eldest, Teresa (Jane Morris), is highly strung and has assumed the role of keeping the family together at a young age; Mary (Venetia Lawless), the over-achieving middle child is resented for her success and special treatment; and Catherine (Linda Webster), the youngest, feels invisible and constantly vies for attention and affection.
The plot moves you through the stages of grief: shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger, depression and loneliness, and acceptance. While the story seems to centre on Mary, the history of her two siblings is incorporated briefly, and, unfortionately, sometimes feel like an awkward addition to the plot. The sporadic references to water -- linking the storyline to the play's title -- aren't explored enough for clarity.
The Memory of Water takes a difficult situation and makes it palatable to watch. It is heart-warming, funny, and up-front. If you want a memory of water, let this be it.
The Memory of Water runs until March 6 at Ottawa Little Theatre.
Tags: comedy, death, foundation, ottawa, ottawa little theatre, review, shelagh stephenson, the memory of water, theatre