McGuffin Company’s The Thing Between Us is Raw, Believable Theatre
Playing now at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace is The Thing Between Us, by playwright Alison Lawrence. Presented by the McGuffin Company, the show explores relationships, boundaries, love and forgiveness. It looks at how far one woman is willing to go for someone she’s been bound to in her life, someone she’s been told she’s supposed to love. The play explores some interesting themes and relationships, and the audience is taken on quite the journey with the characters, from early childhood right through to the hardest parts of adulthood.
With an all-female cast and a female playwright at the helm, the play did, at times, seem almost overly feminine. The few male characters referenced were a welcome addition to the storyline, and both my date and I would have loved to have seen how different it might have been had one or two of them actually been onstage with the women.
Aaron Willis’ directing allowed the women lots of freedom on the stage. He used the tiny space incredibly well, utilizing levels and allowing the simple white staircase onstage to serve as a multitude of different settings. My favourite element of the show was a scene which takes place outside, in which a great lighting state was complimented very effectively by flashlights held by the performers. It truly felt as if we had snuck out in the middle of the night with the girls, and were really in on their secret-sharing.
There was a believable chemistry between Linda (Emily Hurson) and Shannon (Mary Francis Moore) as they navigated through what started as a forced friendship, became a sisterly bond, and ended as a relationship full of confusion, strained love, disappointment and betrayal. Both Hurson & Moore portrayed their characters from childhood up, and while I felt the show stayed in the early part of their lives for a little bit too long, they both made strong choices when it came to playing girls so young. Their physicality and voices changed throughout the many parts of their characters’ lives, and I appreciated how much work must have gone into finding those subtle differences for each period of time.
The script flowed well, and though there seemed to be a bit of repetition in the latter part of some scenes, I wonder if that was more due to opening night kinks than actual repetition in the script itself. Lawrence’s writing is eloquent and unique, and even when the characters were young children, their vocabularies were impressive. I wonder if a few scenes could have been shortened or cut without taking away from the overall story; the show is advertised as running 75 minutes with no intermission but was actually slightly over 90 minutes.
The relationships and breakdowns between the women were raw and believable. No doubt many of the audience members could relate to the storyline, and might have a Shannon of their own in their lives – someone who is constantly dependent, constantly in need of love, and yet constantly unreliable and hurtful. As Linda and her mother (Randi Helmers) struggled to set boundaries and cope with the ups and downs of having Shannon in their lives, we watched as she stumbled again and again, desperate for love, desperate to love, yet failing in even the simplest of matters. It was difficult to sympathize with Shannon as she continually mistreated the women who constantly loved and forgave her, but I suppose that’s often the case in life as well.
The show explores difficult subject matter in a simple way, and is funny as often as it is poignant. Hurson especially has great comedic timing, and her reactions to some of the more awkward moments in the show were laugh-out-loud funny. (There was also a particularly hilarious description of where babies come from, in the outdoor scene mentioned above, that is worth listening for). The show will make you laugh, make you squirm – not only because of the uncomfortable seats in the backspace, though they are that – make you wonder and make you think.
- The Thing Between Us is playing until October 19th at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Avenue)
- Shows run Wednesday to Saturday at 7:30PM, with matinees at 2PM on Saturday & Sundays
- Tickets are $30 for evening performances, $22.50 for advanced matinee tickets, with discounts available for Arts Workers & Seniors
- Tickets can be purchased online, or by phone at 416-504-7529. Some Pay-What-You-Can tickets may be available at the door 3 hours prior to performances