Review: Jitters – Soulpepper

By Adam Collier

Soulpepper is producing Jitters at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. (The run has been extended to July 31, 2010.)

Jitters begins with a scene of domestic revelation that is cut short – lights onstage brightening – after one character flubs an emotionally climatic line.

As it turns-out, what we have been watching is the rehearsal of another play (‘The Care And Tending Of Roses’). Jitters concentrates on the inter-personal trials of the company putting on that play.

As the opening sequence and its title suggest, Jitters is a comedy of errors and abrupt reversals.

Act Two, for example, is set moments before opening night, and revolves around actors the state they arrive in. Act Three is set the morning after opening, and one actor threatens to quit the show over the reviews.

Other than the first ten minutes or so, Act One is the least plot driven of the three. It is a dress rehearsal of ‘The Care And Tending of Roses’ that is interrupted, again and again and again, by the animosity between the actors and the personal demands they have on the director.

“That could’ve really been a one-act play,” a fellow playgoer mentioned to me at the first intermission (the night runs two and a half hours, including two 15 minute intermissions).

Some of the biggest laughs come from a feud between the star actor (“Jess” played by Diane D’Aquila) and the cynical character actor (“Patrick” played by C David Johnson). But “Phil” (played by Oliver Dennis) steals every scene he’s in.

In the last fifteen minutes or so of Act One, Jess, Patrick and Phil engage in a sequence that is the pinnacle of farce.

“It started-off slow, and I thought to myself ‘this isn’t going to be very good,’” another fellow theatergoer said to me of Act One. “But then it really picked-up.”

In return, I asked what the turning point was.

“Probably when the Phil character asks the director for a prompter,” he answered. That sequence, with “George” as the director (played by Kevin Bundy), occurs about a quarter of the way into the two hour show..

As a technical exercise in costumes, set design and lighting, Jitters is a terrific success. Costumes (by Patrick Clark) fit the piece nicely. The two sets (also by Mr. Clark) offer a careful use of a fairly compact stage. And Bonnie Beecher’s lighting design works seamlessly to establish the challenging dual reality of play-in-a-play.

For some in the audience, the writing provoked a laugh riot. Lines like Patrick’s “Where else can you be at the top of your field and still die broke and anonymous,” referring to the actor’s life in Canada, got a boisterous reception (one patron replied to the line “that’s right!”).

It always gives me joy to see others laughing, so that made the whole experience a lot more enjoyable. And I’d never discourage seeing a comedy. So I recommend this play.

Details

Jitters is playing at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (55 Mill Street, in the Distillery district)

– It is performed Monday to Saturday at 7:30PM