Melissa-Jane Shaw, Jonathon Young Photo credit: Karim Romero
If Pat Benatar lost the synthesizer and got approximately 7000x more gritty, STOCKHOLM is a play she would have written in her hey-day.
Fortunately for us Bryony Lavery is that gritty. She's also astute, creative, dark and not afraid to go balls-to-the-wall.
Lavery's play STOCKHOLM got its North American premiere last night in a co-pro between Seventh Stage Theatre Productions and Nightwood Theatre, and it sure packed a wallop.
Set in the interior design-perfected home of the stylish and trendy couple, Todd (Jonathon Young) and Kali (Melissa-Jane Shaw), STOCKHOLM provides a glimpse into the intensity of love and vulnerability, and all of the baggage that goes along with it.
And then some.
Here's how it goes:
Todd loves Kali and Kali loves Todd. They live together, laugh together, have loads of hot sex together and take vacations together (like their upcoming one to Stockholm). All is well.
All SEEMS well until Kali's jealousy of any affection Todd has for a female (this includes his own Mother) rears it's ugly head, and when her attempts to control his behaviour (calling his seemingly pleasant Mom the c-word, scouring his phone for illicit texts and phone calls, not letting him leave the house), aren't enough to reassure her of his devotion, she flies into a rage and tries to beat the living sh*t out of him. Todd, in his efforts to protect himself, and finally in his own anger, becomes physically violent himself, and even though he's "too intelligent" to behave like this, he returns to the battlefield after Kali's heartfelt apology reels him back in. He can't stop himself even though he knows better.
The story is told through intense physical movement and dance, and both Young and Shaw do a stand-up job in maintaining difficult emotions through rigorous dance that ultimately ends in the delivery of dialogue. They never seemed winded, they were always in control, and, both actors delivered great performances where I utterly believed them, thus loving and hating their characters simultaneously.
Kudos to Fight Director, Casey Hudecki and Choreographer, Susie Burpee for creating effective physical sequences that the actors could master, and obviously Director Kelly Straughan lives up to her reputation with this slick show.
The set-design (by Lindsay C. Walker) is fab - it's pretty to look at and allows for an otherwise ordinary kitchen to be transformed from a cooking venue, to a love den, to war's ground zero.
Since this blog is about informing the public of theatre and encouraging them to go, I highly enoucourage to you to see STOCKHOLM. It's exciting and is ideal for both theatre junkies and theatre newbies - the production is tight and it will give you heaps to chat about afterwards. But most importantly, its a play that uses the convetions of theatre to tell the story. The smaller confines of the Tarragon Extra Space enhance the building tension, and the choreography is so tightly woven with the text, that its impossible to imagine one without the other. A clever idea when discussing relationship's co-dependence.
I leave you with words that could be from either Todd or Kali, but they're instead from the wise and semi-gritty Ms. Benatar:
"I'm trapped by your love, and I'm chained to your side...Love is a battlefield." - Pat Benatar
STOCKHOLM is on now 'til June 3 at the Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman Ave).
For tix, call: 416-531-1827 or click here.
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