Family drama unfolds in Sharon Pollock’s play at the Young Centre
By Crystal Wood
Soulpepper’s current production of Doc, playing at the Young Centre until September 18, feels at once very familiar and very unique.
It’s familiar because it’s a family drama that deals with unhappy people, hiding their secrets and battling their demons. (I’ve read more than one comparison to Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night.) But it’s unique because playwright Sharon Pollock uses subtle writing and interesting time shifts to tell this nearly universal story in a new way.
For example, although the play is called Doc, it’s really more about the doc’s wife, as seen through her daughter. The doctor, Ev, played by R.H. Thomson, has a quiet presence (perhaps to illustrate the fact that he’s never around for his family), and serves more as a catalyst for the surrounding drama than the focus of the play itself.
That focus turns to Bob, Ev’s wife, a “doctor’s wife,” which in this world is a very specific job of putting on appearances and attending IODE meetings that slowly drives Bob to drink and depression. It’s a very sad look at what happens when your life strays from the “manual of life,” as my friend Nicole called it – the idea that by doing certain things, your life will work out a certain way. We both really enjoyed Jane Spidell as Bob. She goes from flirtatious and vibrant to a sobbing pile on the floor in just over two hours. It’s pretty powerful stuff.
I also thought it was interesting that daughter Katie/Catherine is played by two people (Hannah Gross and Carmen Grant) but son Robbie is never seen at all. I suppose it all adds to the fractured family element here. Derek Boyes is excellent as Ev’s best friend, who is a more consistent figure in Ev’s household than Ev is. All of the actors, in fact, are strong, although Carmen Grant’s adult Catherine isn’t given as much to do as the others.
The sets for Doc were quite interesting; the reflective backdrops make the whole play feel like we are inside of a memory. But the rest of the stage is quite bare, leaving the focus on the story and the performances.
Doc isn’t a happy play, but it’s an important play, and I do think you will feel happier for having seen it.
– Playing at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (55 Mill Street in the Distillery District)
– Tickets range from $22-$75. A limited number of rush tickets may be available one hour before the show. For more information on tickets, call 416-866-8666 or visit www.soulpepper.ca
– Playing until September 18. Showtimes are Monday to Saturday at 8pm, and Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm.
Photo of R.H. Thomson, Derek Boyes and Jane Spidell by Cylla von Tiedemann