Review: True (Criminal Theatre in association with Aluna Theatre)

True - Criminal Theatre

True takes a down-to-earth look at living with Alzheimer’s playing for a limited time at Citizenry Cafe in Toronto

Rosa Labordé’s play True opened tonight at Citizenry Café, a perfect venue for the piece. Not surprising. Labordé wrote the play specifically for the venue. It’s easy to see why, it’s a beautiful space.

True was a hit at this year’s Fringe Festival. This production is a remount with the original cast of incredibly talented actors who work really well together and make it all look easy with Labordé’s direction. If you missed seeing it during Fringe – as I did – go see it now. It’s wonderful.

I don’t often read much about a play before I go see it but I had read reviews in July so I read a couple of recent articles as well. For various reasons the story sounded like one that I would relate to, pretty much anything about Alzheimer’s and aging parents is something I relate to.

Based on the reviews I read True also sounded intimidating. Riveting, drama, parallels with King Lear – those all sound like serious theatre stuff. And it’s a small venue which can often feel intimidating. I have to admit that I was a bit anxious when I arrived. (It’s massive progress though, six years ago I just wouldn’t have gone. I missed a lot of really amazing theatre!)

There was absolutely no need for me to be anxious. True is a fabulous play. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s touching, sometimes sad, sometimes frightening, and sometimes there’s singing, basically it’s true to life.

Three sisters, Ingrid Rae Doucet as Cece, Sabrina Grdevich as Marie, and Shannon Taylor as Anita and Marie’s husband – Scott McCord as Franco – run a cafe and a boutique. One evening their estranged father, Roy ( Layne Coleman), shows up wearing his pajamas and a blazer, carrying a letter that says he has Alzheimer’s and that his daughters have to take care of him.

How do you take care of a parent who never took care of you? And if that parent doesn’t remember the things that caused the estrangement…

True works on so many levels: it’s a story of an imperfect family, it raises interesting questions without offering easy answers, it looks at relationships within a family and how they change over time, it’s terrific theatre.

Labordé’s dialogue is perfect. Within about 30 seconds of the first exchange between Marie and Franco I felt as if I knew what kind of relationship they had. The sisters sound like sisters. Watching them I felt as if I was eavesdropping on family conversations.

If you’ve ever dealt with someone with dementia you’ll recognize Roy’s meandering mind, it’s here one minute and gone the next. At times it’s as if he’s his own Groundhog Day; the conversation seems to be going in a straight line and then suddenly it’s as if someone threw a switch and he’s back at the beginning again with no memory of the seven other times he asked the question.

Franco finds it fascinating. He wants to know what it feels like to have Alzheimer’s but, of course, Roy can’t tell him. Franco is searching. He thinks there may be sister universes — change one thing and everything changes. He sees that Roy is in his own universe where he only remembers being a good father. If his daughters just remember that as well then did the bad things ever happen. Can you remake the past?

This is a short run and it’s a small venue so get your tickets as soon as you can; some performances are already sold out. True is a play that’s worth seeing.


  • True is playing at Citizenry Café (982 Queen St West) until September 13th.
  • Performances are at 8 pm
  • Tickets are $24.00
  • Tickets are available online and at the door

Photo of Ingrid Doucet, Shannon Taylor, Layne Coleman, Sabrina Grdevich, and Scott McCord