I just finished watching the show A Good Death by Cool Megs Productions at the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace for the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival. A Good Death is a drama written by Shelley M. Hobbs and directed by Elizabeth Saunders, about two people divided by a difficult decision. A woman, Adrienne, is in a coma after being struck by a car in a hit-and-run. Her close friend Ruth and her estranged mother Margaret want to be by her side, but have different ideas on what the next step should be.
There is no Adrienne that I could see. She was invisible to the audience, but her presence was the most important in the room. Adrienne guided the show, even if she was unconscious and unseen. Her friend Ruth called Adrienne’s mother, Margaret, because the doctors told her that Adrienne might not wake up. Margaret hadn’t seen Adrienne for over a decade, not since she ran away when she was seventeen. Ruth knew Adrienne as an adult, while Margaret clung to Adrienne’s past.
The performers, Laura Schutt as Ruth and Tracey Ferencz as Margaret, were a convincing match. Schutt as the progressive and loyal friend, who was trying to stay cool in the face of Margaret’s righteousness, and Ferencz as the religious and smug mother, trying to find control in a time of tragedy. Schutt and Ferencz butted heads throughout the show, but maintained their roles as sympathetic figures. You care about them, even when you don’t agree with them. Schutt could seem cold and unfeeling to Margaret, but she still proved that she was a dedicated friend to Ruth. Margaret sometimes seemed delusional and frustrating with her desire to put her faith above what was directly in front of her, but she she was determined to be a good mother at all costs. Both of them beautifully showed the strain of keeping it all together, in the face of such terrible stress.
The show’s creative team, made up of stage manager Meghan Maguire, lighting designer Jennifer Lennon, and sound designer Steven Lafond, added to the atmosphere of the show. During scene transitions, the lights would dim, and the stage would echo with disembodied voices. The voices belonged to Adrienne, Ruth, and Margaret, at different ages and times; they were memories that were rushed and incomplete, always interrupting one another. These fractions of memories created a connection among the three women.
A Good Death was a strong show from start to finish. From the second the play began, I felt like I was holding my breath, waiting for the tension to subside. The subject is difficult to endure, because it’s the kind of thing you’d rather not imagine, and that you hope you will never have to face. But with smart, sensitive writing by Hobbs, and powerful performances by Ferencz and Schutt, I couldn’t look away from the tragedy.
When the show ended, I was relieved that I had a moment to breathe again. The show was emotionally demanding, but the delivery made it worth the pain. You could plan ahead and bring a friend to hug after the show, it’s what I wish I had done. I would recommend that you (and your friend) see the A Good Death.
- A Good Death plays at the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace. (30 Bridgman Ave)
- Tickets are $12. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warning: Mature Language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible.
- Thursday June 30th, 10:30 pm
- Saturday July 2nd, 07:15 pm
- Monday July 4th, 04:45 pm
- Tuesday July 5th, 08:00 pm
- Wednesday July 6th, 03:45 pm
- Friday July 8th, 05:45 pm
- Sunday July 10th, 02:00 pm
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