Review: Between The Sheets (Nightwood Theatre)

Recreating the familiarity of the often tense parent-teacher dynamic with Nightwood Theatre in Toronto.

Nightwood Theatre is keeping up their trend of excellence with Between The Sheets, a two-hander from brand new playwright Jordi Mand. The conflict of the story is based on a situation so well-worn it could easily be cliché, but the script has a superb rhythm and in the hands of virtuoso performers like Susan Coyne and Christine Horne it’s a gripping showdown.

Stunning sets seem to be a Nightwood trademark. Before the show even began I was fascinated with the level of detail given to reproducing a grade school classroom. The bell, the speaker for the intercom, the shelves with art supplies, the walls decorated with childlike paintings and the alphabet in cursive – it was all so real. Nightwood’s sets aren’t always (or even usually) naturalistic, but they are always evocative of the appropriate mood for the piece, and expertly done.

The premise is that it is parent-teacher night and a mother has showed up at the very end to confront her son’s teacher. Her issues extend far beyond teaching style and grades.

Like Kelly Wolf’s set, the conflict is familiar, easily recognizable. But also like the set, it is rendered so perfectly that you have to feel the emotion.

The set immediately made me feel torn between anxiety (because grade school was rather unpleasant for me) and the warm fuzziness I feel toward children now that I am an adult. Similarly, the women’s unfortunate situation was one that is far too common, but the passion they both exuded was powerful. It was impossible to maintain allegiance to one character over the other.

Marion, the mother, and Teresa, the teacher, hurt each other with their words in the play but the real hurt to each of them is from other sources: their bodies, men, social stigmas and expectations. The take away is that you can’t judge another person without really, truly, getting to know them. Unfortunately, in this case, the two women get to know each other by destroying each other’s lives.

Of course, I think Kelly Thorton could direct Susan Coyne and Christine Horne in a dramatic reading of the yellow pages and it would still be riveting. These women are masters of the stage.

 Details

Between The Sheets is playing at Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgeman Ave)
– Performances are on September 18th to October 7th, Tuesday to Saturday at 8 pm, Wednesday at 1:30 pm, Saturday & Sunday at 2:30 pm
– Tickets are Friday & Saturday 8pm $39; Saturday & Sunday Matinee 2:30 pm $30; Wednesday Student Matinees (please contact Rebecca Peirson to book at 416-944-1740 x8); Limited rush tickets available at the door for Friday night performances (on sale at 6pm) and Saturday matinee performances (on sale at 1pm) $13; PWYC are available at the door for Sunday matinee performances (on sale at 1pm)
– Tickets are available online, by phone at 416.531.1827 and at the box office

Photo of Christine Horne and Susan Coyne by John Lauener.