THE COUNTRY
by Martin Crimp
The Mentors' Project
Performance Works
Granville Island
February 22-March 6
$22/$20
604 257-0366
www.festivalboxoffice.ca

Although first produced at London’s Royal Court in 2000, this play feels like it could have been written any time between about 1960 and 1978. That’s when its cousins first appeared: Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker, Edward Albee’s The American Dream, and Sam Shepard’s Buried Child. In all those plays and The Country, a repressed and dysfunctional family unit/home, which stands in for the larger society, is shaken up by a mysterious intruder. The Country also shares with these other plays, but especially The Caretaker, a semi-absurdist style in which dialogue is clipped, rhythmic, and repetitious, or surreally off the wall, and often punctuated by long, Pinteresque pauses. Tension underlying the dialogue and behaviour hints at a subtext deeper and richer than the often banal surface conversations and action.

Richard, a doctor (Eric Schneider), and his wife Corinne (Gabrielle Rose) have recently moved to the English countryside from the city. He’s having some problems with his practice. Both are obviously having problems with their marriage. Corinne seems right on the edge of hysteria. When she asks him to kiss her, he says he already has, or changes the subject. Hmmm… Their faux pastoral life, the ironies of which are heavily underlined by repeated references to Virgil’s poetry, is interrupted by the arrival of Rebecca (Nicole Leroux), an aggressive young woman involved with Richard in ways I won’t reveal, who threatens to take over their home, if not their lives. Complications ensue, but in the play’s final image Corinne speaks of a stone that has devoured her heart. Nothing much seems to have changed.

A chilly little play, The Country didn’t really show or tell me much that I hadn’t seen or heard before, but the first-rate cast makes it worthwhile. Tom Kerr’s production clips along nicely, capturing the rhythms of banality and bad marriage in the dialogue between Richard and Corinne. With his somewhat mannered acting style, Schneider is right at home in this devious doctor. Rose, one of the best actors around, is always a treat to watch, especially when she lets Corinne’s rage come out from under the English repression. The intruder is generally the most problematic character in these plays and Rebecca is no exception. What brings her there? What keeps her there? What are her motivations? None of it is very clear except that she is one angry, hostile, manipulative young thang. I’d have liked to see Leroux try to moderate the ice queen just a little, to make her even minimally sympathetic. But empathy for the characters is never a high priority in this genre.

This country is worth a visit but you definitely wouldn’t want to live there.

Jerry Wasserman

 
 
                       
 
 
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