at Presentation House Theatre, North Vancouver
to June 18
Tickets $16/$12

Three little words: I am yours. Are they blessing or curse? The ultimate desideratum or the ultimate nightmare? In I Am Yours they mean all these things to characters who so intensely desire to be loved and possessed by another. Be careful what you wish for, warns Judith Thompson.

No one else in Canada writes like Thompson. Her characters wear their psyches on their sleeves in plays like I Am Yours, The Crackwalker and Lion in the Streets, where ecstasy and terror are never far below the surface, often manifesting themselves in powerfully disturbing metaphors of the natural world.

In this play the character Mack (Nigel Vonas) recalls his cleanliness-obsessed mother breaking open a kitchen wall when he was a child to reveal a gigantic hive swarming with thousands of bees that pursued and stung him. The terrifyingly monstrous lurks even in the most sanitized, domesticated corners of our lives. And nowhere more than in love.

Mack’s marriage to Dee (Robin Mooney) is in trouble, perhaps because of her severe emotional distress. She has nightmares of lions and sharks banging against cage doors. Driven by these subterranean forces, she doesn’t know whether to love Mack or hate him, cage him or drive him away.

One night Dee “lets her animal out” and has sex with the emotionally volatile and possibly deranged superintendent of her building, Toilane (Jeffrey Fisher). Things really heat up when Dee gets pregnant and has to decide whether to tell Mack, abort or keep the baby—another terrifying animal behind a wall—or concede it to Toi and his persistent mother Pegs (Joan Bryans), who feels that she’s waging class warfare.

Dee’s waking nightmare also provides a chance for her ugly duckling sister Mercy (Heather Cant) to gain some leverage. Thin, pretty Dee, Daddy’s favorite, always had it easy. Plain, love-starved Mercy with her excess “poundage” has had to settle for pathetic fantasies, predatory older men and a husband who prefers watching The Brady Bunch to having sex with her. “If you’re a woman and you’re born ugly,” says Mercy, “you might as well be born dead.”

Though often horrific and disturbing, the play is not entirely a downer. Thompson’s characters show a kind of courage in managing to cope with their acute hyper-consciousness of the Dark Side. And there’s a good deal of grotesque humour in the characters’ skewed perceptions, such as Toi’s obsession with the length of Dee’s feet.

This difficult material is handled smartly by a largely non-professional company (the only Equity actor in the cast, Angelo Renai, plays small roles). The acting is very strong across the board but Fisher’s Toilane and Cant’s Mercy are standouts. Director Maryth Gilroy effectively knits together Thompson’s overly fragmented script with the help of Anne Nicole Meeson’s efficient set, Erin Harris’ sharply focused lighting, and especially Ian Alexander Martin’s fractured hard-rock soundtrack.

Definitely worth catching before it closes on Saturday.

Jerry Wasserman


last updated: Thursday, June 16, 2005 1:30 PM
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