The Wide Night Collective‘s production of British playwright Chloe Moss‘s play This Wide Night, playing at the Factory Theatre Mainspace, is a compassionate examination of life for former prisoners living on the outside. How can two women recently out of prison find ways to live happily in very difficult circumstances? The exploration of the answers to this question makes for wonderful theatre.
This Wide Night opens with Marie (Maggie Blake) on the floor of her studio apartment, sitting cross-legged as she watches the television, when her solitude is interrupted by the sound of an insistent knocking on her door. Lorraine (Kristen Thomson) is there, Marie’s former cellmate who has just been released from prison and who has come to live with her as they had discussed. Soon enough, it becomes apparent that neither of the two prison friends is who they hoped they were. What will become of them?
Marie, the younger of the two, seems at first to be reasonably well established but her sense of security is wanting. Lorraine, 50 and with a longer history in the system, is looking for someone to love, whether her old friend Lorraine or her long-separated son Ben. Their friendship worked in the confines of prison, but as Lorraine’s stay lengthens, it becomes apparent that the dynamics of the two women’s life on the outside work rather differently from what they were used to on the inside.
The efforts of Marie and Lorraine, separately and together, to figure out their complicated lives and their challenging futures makes This Wide Night a very compelling social drama. The play’s realism is convincing, doubtless because of the exceptional skill of Moss as a dramatist, reinforced by the assistance of Elizabeth Fry Toronto, the local branch of the national federation of organizations representing the interests of women and girls in the Canadian justice system. Their own descriptions of the lives that they have lived and are living feel very true.
The actors do a wonderful job with this material. With Marie, Blake does a great job of giving life to a character who is driven by the desire to avoid fear, who puts up as good a front as she can. Thomson’s Lorraine is convincing as a woman who has experienced too much grief and simply wants to feel something positive, like the hopes of feeling something good with her long-separated son, or the physical pleasures of beach sand between her feet on a legally impossible vacation outside city boundaries. The two actors interact wonderfully, making their old friendship in prison feel very realistic.
This Wide Night‘s direction (led by Kelli Fox) and stage design was also very effective. I liked the minimalistic set design: the apartment where all the action occurs takes up just half of the stage and is outlined with the occasional piece of furniture and the odd wall, but it still does a great job of evoking a dingy studio apartment. The use of the eerie strains of Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” to mark scene changes was a nice touch. What a strange new world these two women lived in.
This Wide Night is wonderful drama depicting the lives of two women at its most challenging time. Besides doing a great job of humanizing women caught up in the criminal justice system, This Wide Night introduces its audience to two unforgettable characters. This play is a definite must-see.
- This Wide Night is playing at the Factory Theatre (100 Ossington Ave.)
- Show Times: Friday August 9, 3:00 pm; Saturday August 10, 8:00 pm; Sunday August 11, 12:30 pm; Monday August 12, 8:00 pm; Tuesday August 13, 12:30 pm; Thursday August 15, 3:00 pm; Saturday August 17, 5:30 pm.
- This Wide Night is 75 minutes long and features mature language.
- All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at http://summerworks.ca, By phone by calling the Lower Ossington Box Office at 416-915-6747, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth (located at 100A Ossington Avenue, first floor) Aug. 6-18 10AM-7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
- Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.
Photograph by Elizabeth Beddall.