Mermaid Parade’s This Wide Night in Toronto offers a moving story and brilliant performances about two female ex-prisoners
Honest, humorous, and heartbreaking is just what This Wide Night is all about. Presented by Mermaid Parade in a storefront on Queen Street East, home of The Red Sandcastle Theatre, it provides the most authentic atmosphere to set this powerful drama.
Combining well-developed characters, and raw and moving performances, This Wide Night reminded me not only of the constant struggle of ex-offenders to re-build a life of their own again but how great writing and great acting is sometimes all you need to tell a story.
Recently released from prison, Lorraine, played by Astrid Van Wieren, seeks refuge from the only person she knows – her once cellmate Marie. Although it is not revealed what crimes they have committed until mid-way in the show, nor is it really relevant, the heart of this story lies in the deep friendship the two have made and their inability to re-integrate into a society that has left them isolated, fending for themselves.
This story is much too real and the actors do incredible work to make it that much more real. No one can truly understand or appreciate the hard work of a theatre actor until you have experienced it yourself. Both actors were deeply and emotionally invested in their characters, right up to their impeccable British dialects, coached by Paolo Bugliari-Goggia.
Astrid Van Wieren’s portrayal of the fearful Lorraine, the older-aged cellmate, hoping to reconnect with her estranged son she lost twenty years ago, is funny, endearing, and raw. Claire Burns in the role of Marie, shows the vulnerability, isolation and naivety of a person destined to return to life on the streets. Both actors create strong, believable characters reminding us of their humanity and society’s inhumanity in taking the proper measures to ensure successful re-integration.
Director Jon Michaelson’s vision of the overall piece was brilliant. His choice in this specific venue as the setting for this dramatic piece was clever. The small, impoverished-looking apartment added to the intimate relationship between the characters and I simply felt like a fly on the wall. Set designer Lindsay Ann Black captured the reality of Marie’s world. For me, the set acted very much like a cell block, in which the women once inhabited, but now a place to re-establish their friendship.
I knew little about the playwright Chloe Moss, and little about this particular text, but it inspires me to know that in its own unique way it is giving voice to a marginalized group of women whose stories are not always heard.
This Wide Night presented by Mermaid Parade is truly a poignant narrative and powerful piece of theatre. It challenges us to look at others without judgement, but with compassion as Lorraine and Marie find with one other.
–This Wide Night is playing at The Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen Street East-near Queen and Logan) from March 1st to March 17th, Thursday through Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2:30pm, with an additional show on Monday, March 12th at 8pm.
-Tickets cost $20 for Adults, $15 for students/Arts Workers/Seniors/Under-Employed. Sunday matinees and Monday performances are Pay what you can.
Photograph of Claire Burns and Astrid Van Wieren by Virgina Macdonald