Review: A Night Of Shanley (Half-Pint Theatre)

An intimate night of theatre at Unit 102 in Toronto

Once riding on the streetcar, I overheard two people.

“I like to be their friend,” said one to the other, “because I’m sensitive to their problems. But I usually sleep with them. Which is why I think I’m sensitive to them.” A pause. “But I really am nice,” the one insisted.

When I later rose to get off at my stop, I turned to get a look at the two talking. They were no more than 22 or 23-years old.

Though maybe a bit young to be characters in a John Patrick Shanley play, and definitely not dressed to be – each was in skinny pants, wearing leather jackets almost as tight – the self-analysis was quintessential Shanley.

I was reminded of that scene Wednesday, after attending A Night Of Shanley at Unit 102. It features two one-act plays by Shanley. The second of which is titled, Women Of Manhattan.

Women Of Manhattan follows the lives of three friends in New York City for a couple of days. One, Billie, played by Lauren Toffan, is married. Another, Judy, played by Alanna Stone, is a sexually frustrated – to use a constantly repeated term –“fag hag.” And the third, Rhonda Louise, played by Esther Vallins, is recently out of a relationship.

Much like that fella on the streetcar, aware of his own behavior and yet unsure of himself, these women are amusingly critical of who they are – the phrase “proud asshole” comes up a few times – and nearly desperate for a change.

Alanna Stone playing Judy was particularly good I thought, in a scene with Giovanni Spina as Duke, her character’s blind date.

The other work, Welcome To The Moon is almost quaint by comparison. It features two men – Stephen and Ronnie, played by Nick May and Jordan Mechano, respectively – confronting and, in the process, completely terrified by what they want most.

Both plays offer material that I found deeply relatable. The monologues in Women in Manhattan on the nature of loneliness, as for each it seems to be different in meaning, had me leaning forward. And while I had seen Welcome To The Moon a couple times before, the revival was nicely done. Its dark humor – one character’s pathetic attempts to commit suicide, for example – seem to always makes me smile.

A Night of Shanley is emotionally rich and thoughtful, in a wonderfully intimate space. I’d strongly recommend going before it closes at the end of this week.