My Pregnant Brother (Freestanding Productions) 2012 SummerWorks Review

My Pregnant Brother press photo

My Pregnant Brother (playing as part of the SummerWorks Festival) is already a phenomenon. This award-winning Canadian show has played almost everywhere: a boxcar in Northern Ontario, a teeny tiny playhouse in PEI, a major festival in Vancouver, and even internationally. But it started–and it is centred–in Montreal’s Plateau neighbourhood.

Johanna, our narrator, has lived her entire life between the mountain and the CPR tracks. She’s stayed mostly for other people. She’s bought their plane tickets, paid their rent, arranged for groceries and picked up the pieces of their lives. But one day, she decides she’s had enough: she can no longer be everything to everyone. So when her brother comes to her with a revelation–he’s pregnant–it threatens to destroy everything.

This autobiographical monologue is greatly augmented by the use of chalk: the narrator opens the piece by drawing a sort of hopscotch grid on the floor. Neat, tidy, compact, compartmentalized. But as she weaves her story, more lines appear–and as she pads back and forth across the stage, the lines begin to blur and merge and disappear. It beautifully complements the narrative, and it allows Johanna to make excellent use of an otherwise-sparse stage.

Many shows of this nature fall into the trap of making it all about the writer, as if the real victim of transphobia is their parents or siblings. Nutter doesn’t. She nimbly and gracefully avoids appropriating her brother’s pain while still producing a compelling piece of theatre, and her talent as an actor ensures that the audience understands. When she tells us of her joy, or works through her anguish, or rises like a phoenix, we feel it right along with her.

The only complaint, if any, is that it isn’t really about pregnant brothers at all. The play’s real themes–motherhood, longing, self-creation–jump out at us sideways. This is not necessarily a negative thing (the nature of this story forbids any sort of My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding-brand zaniness), but I had the impression that some people left disappointed.

I wasn’t. Sure, the story was about Nutter rather than her brother, but Nutter is a compelling actor, the story is a strong one, and the production is excellent. Don’t miss it.

Runtime: ~60 minutes.

Details

  • My Pregnant Brother plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille backspace, 16 Ryerson Avenue. (Northeast of Queen and Bathurst.)
  • Performance dates include: Sun. the 12th at 4:30 PM; Tue. the 14th at 7:00 PM; Wed. the 15th at 9:30 PM; Fri. the 17th at 4:30 PM; Sat. the 18th at 2:00 PM; Sun. the 19th at 9:30 PM.
  • All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at http://ticketwise.ca, By phone by calling the Lower Ossington Box Office at 416-915-6747, in person at the Lower Ossington Box Office (located at 100A Ossington Avenue) Mon. – Sun. 12PM-7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
  • Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.

Photo of Johanna Nutter by Pam Price.

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