Review: The Anger in Ernest & Ernestine (Coffeehouse Theatre/Off the Grid)

Kasey Dunn Andrew Gaboury

A story of domestic discontent took the stage at Toronto’s Sidemart Theatrical Grocery

Take your lover to see The Anger in Ernest & Ernestine at Toronto’s Sidemart Theatrical Grocery and use the given scenes as a means to talk about your post-honeymoon disappointment, built-up resentment and your annoyance with your better half’s morning routine. Domestic bliss becomes a hilarious domestic nightmare in this wonderfully staged play by Leah Cherniak, Robert Morgan and Martha Ross.

Ernest (Andrew Gaboury) and Ernestine (Kasey Dunn) play a young couple who can’t make their marriage or their furnace work. Their repeated failure to understand this essential machine parallels their failure to understand each other. They cannot take each other’s temperature.

Both characters were endearing, complete with Ernest’s obsession with wildlife and rules and Ernestine’s chaotic breakfasts and awesome hat. Our emotional attachment to this comic duo was earned by Gaboury’s and Dunn’s commitment and energy.

There is so much to disagree about after moving in with a sweetheart: where to place the box of tissue, what to call Ernest’s favourite piece of clothing (sweater or jacket?), what restaurant to go to, whether or not “Lassie’s a bitch” is sexist, how to control the furnace… There was no shortage of laughter among the audience.

My guests Jay and Dee were both impressed with the third actor/piano-player Stephan Ermel. In his little corner he was a prop: a widget, a socket wrench and a furnace. As a musician, he reinforced Ernest’s desire to be liberated from the confines of marriage with a Bruce Springsteen song on his guitar (later identified by Jay). But he was mostly playing piano. He echoed their states of mind, whether he was playing a cute love song for young lovebirds (beautifully sung by Dunn) or making a dream-like atmosphere when Ernest was imagining his artwork on the wall. Dee enjoyed his facial expressions. Efficient use of the musician!

Comic highlights include the joint effort in writing a letter of complaint (passionate delivery from the worked-up couple), the series of interesting sexual poses that Dee thought of as a collage of photos, and the crunching of cereal under Ernest and Ernestine’s dancing feet. Jay felt that they were crunching their childhood dreams as they were forced to enter the adult world of compromise.

A few scenes did seem long-winded and drawn-out. I wished Ernestine’s countdown to Ernest’s arrival on date night were shorter. I also thought the “look at the judges” scene was drawn out. My personal opinion is that ten minutes of this otherwise amazing production could have been easily shaved off.

But all in all, The Anger in Ernest & Ernestine was a light, well-executed romantic comedy that made me and my friends saying “that was gooood!” as we left the theatre. Dunn, Gaboury and Ermel are ones to watch!


 Photo supplied by the company