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|Written by Wayne Current|
|Friday, 26 February 2010 00:00|
It's wonderful to see the National Arts Centre produce another play by a living Canadian playwright, this time in partnership with Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre. The importance of telling our own stories cannot be understated. If Canadian theatre practitioners don't present and celebrate our own work, then who will? It's always enjoyable when an audience sees itself reflected on stage, whether it is through the characters, setting, or themes of the play.Joanna McClelland Glass's new play Mrs. Dexter and her Daily is set in the kitchen of an expensive home in a well-to-do neighbourhood in Toronto. The two-act play is essentially two monologues, which tells the story of two women (an upper class homeowner and her live-out maid) who never connect with each other despite spending considerable time in the same building. The two characters are never together onstage and that heightens their isolation. As the plot unfolds it becomes apparent that, despite their different backgrounds, both women have much in common. Both have suffered from failed marriages, have strained relationships with their children, and are currently facing economic challenges. They also both possess a wonderful sense of humour and are militantly independent.
Nicola Cavendish (Peggy Randall) puts in a very strong performance as Edythe Dexter's maid. Peggy dishes the dirt on her employer, complains about her various physical ailments, and busies herself with trying to complete a list of seemingly endless activities. Fiona Reid is equally compelling as the alcoholic, newly divorced intellectual Edythe Dexter. Reid demonstrates a great deal of depth in her performance and portrays a range of emotions with subtlety.I would have loved to see these two strong female characters played by skilled actresses interact with each other; unfortunately Glass's script does not allow for this. Both monologues seem to last a little longer than they should, and, as a consequence, the play drags in places. Also, the structure of the play is inconsistent. In the second monologue, Edythe addresses neighbours, talks to her children by phone, or waxes poetically to herself as she gets progressively more inebriated. In Edythe's case the audience is clearly "a fly on the wall" observing the action; however, this is in contradiction to the first monologue where Peggy directly addresses the audience for the majority of the performance.
It's also worth noting that because the play's themes (mortality, failed marriages, estranged family, fears connected to retirement) are told through characters who are well past middle age, the play will probably appeal less to younger audiences.
It is always a delight to see a new Canadian work on the stage. The cast for this one is very strong indeed, and it is great to see talented actresses playing strong female characters. I'm sure Mrs. Dexter and her Daily will resonate with many in the community.
Mrs. Dexter and her Daily plays at the National Arts Centre until March 6. Tickets are available through the NAC's website.
Tags: can con, drama, fiona reid, foundation, joanna mcclelland glass, mrs dextre and her daily, nac, nicola cavendish, ottawa, review, theatre, toronto, vancouver