The Playwright Project presents Drunk Enough to Say I Love You, a story of romance and politics at Toronto’s Downstage
Passionate, independent theatre, being introduced to a playwright and a new theatre space for the first time: it must be Playwright Project time again in Toronto! This year four plays written by Caryl Churchill are being mounted by four companies at The Downstage. I hope I can fit all four into my schedule.
So far I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy Drunk Enough to Say I Love You with my friend Ron, and I loved it. Let me tell you why.
When you turn right after walking downstairs to enter The Downstage, it’s like falling in to a rabbit whole. Everyone greeted us like we were old friends and I threatened to never leave after opening a cold, delicious beer. Hats off to the folks at Circlesnake Productions!
The room and performance space is relatively square. For Drunk Enough to Say I Love You there is seating on three sides of the stage. The set is simple: a comfortable looking couch on one side and a table in the corner. There’s a laptop and a New York Times on the table.
There are only two characters in Drunk Enough to Say I Love You, Sam (Claire Armstrong) and Guy (Caitlin Driscoll). There are two narratives going on simultaneously: one is the romantic relationship between the women, the other is a history of the United States’ international meddlings of the last 50 years or so.
I thought both women were fantastic and have extraordinary stage presence. Armstrong plays Sam as ultra-strong, in an intoxicating way. She is America; the stage, the audience, the world and Guy are hers. She has a bit of a Sigourney Weaver air about her. She makes it crystal clear that power is indeed the ultimate aphrodisiac. At least it is for Guy.
Guy is a bit of a mouse at first. Driscoll portrays Guy as being a student, while Sam is a professor. Guy gains strength as the play moves along, eventually becoming her own woman. It’s a wonderful transformation and remarkable that Driscoll can pull it off in such a short play.
The conversations between Sam and Guy are like people who have been together a long time and understand each other. They moved past completing each other’s sentences and simply stop before they are over. The modus operandi seems to be “Why waste time finishing something when we know the outcome?” They speak like a lot of people scan newspapers, scanning for keywords and familiar phrases.
And I think that might be one of the points Churchill is trying to make. The same thing happens over and over so often that… The US foreign policy seems to be not thinking things through to the…
One of the things I loved about Drunk Enough to Say I Love You was its intimacy and braveness. Both actors are exceptional. During the production I wasn’t in a theatre at all, but in the space that Armstrong and Driscoll created. The experience is very visceral and immediate. It sucks its audience in, in a fantastic, audacious way.
I loved that Drunk Enough to Say I Love You reminded me of political punk rock from the 80’s. It had me recalling a song by Dead Kennedys called Kinky Sex Makes The World Go ‘Round. The song involves the US “Secretary of War” contacting Margaret Thatcher. It is more or less phone sex, with Thatcher getting exciting as the Secretary sells the idea of going to war for economic reasons and to “cut down on excess population”. The play and the song definitely share the same attitude. Look for the mashup “Drunk Enough to have Kinky Sex” going viral on an internet near you!
As much as I loved the play, my friend Ron didn’t care for it. One of the things he didn’t like was that Guy and Sam are lesbians. I think that that was one of the integral parts of the play. Again, I’m guessing here, but I think that by having the relationship as same-sex, Churchill was saying that Western countries are all pretty much the same, the differences being wealth, power and stature.
There really is a world of fun at The Downstage. I can’t wait to visit again!