Emotionally-charged play, Within the Glass, comes to the Tarragon stage in Toronto
At first glance, Darah and Michael lead the perfect life: the fancy house, the important jobs, the social status. The one thing they’re missing – the one thing they feel would make them complete – is a child to call their own. When a mix up at their fertility clinic causes one of their embryos to be successfully implanted into another woman, they come face to face with the other couple to decide what to do with the unborn child. Within the Glass not only chronicles their struggle with infertility, but also challenges the audience to reassess their ideas of what it means to be a parent. This emotionally charged work from Canadian playwright Anna Chatterton opened to a packed house Thursday night at the Tarragon Theatre, and it’s honestly one of the best written plays I’ve ever seen.
What was so powerful about this piece was the fact that it wasn’t one-sided or one-dimensional, but incorporated views and opinions from all sides of the issue. This wasn’t a story that preached absolute morals while militantly trying to get you to think one particular way.
On one hand, we have Darah (Philippa Domville) and Michael (Rick Roberts) who believe they’re the rightful parents of the child because it’s their DNA that was used to create it. On the other hand, we have Linda (Nicola Correia-Damude) who contests that the bond created by carrying a child to term is more important than genetics. Then we have her husband, Scott (Paul Braunstein), who wants no part of any of it, since it’s is not biologically his.
As the play progresses, we gain insight into the backstories and motivations of each character, who in turn try to convince one another of their viewpoint. Instead of simply having her characters preach their respective dogma verbatim to what you’d read in any textbook, Chatterton spins a narrative that focuses on the emotion and humanity of all sides, showing us that behind every moral debate there are living, breathing people caught in the middle.
Every single actor in this production was worthy of the boisterous standing ovation the ensemble received at the end of the night. They each brought something very unique and special to the performance.
I absolutely adored the way Domville transitioned seamlessly between the polar extremes of her character’s uptight business woman persona and the fragile husk of a woman who felt inadequate to the very core of her being because of her infertility.
For her part, Correia-Damude gave an equally compelling performance as a strong, liberal woman who relentlessly championed her ideals. She was fierce. She was strong. But most of all, she was convincing.
As for Braunstein, he exuded machismo marvellously. While his character didn’t represent the most popular or politically correct side of the right-to-life debate, you couldn’t help but see the issue through his eyes thanks to his powerful portrayal of a man feeling hopelessly lost amidst the bedlam of emotion that was taking place on stage.
And while at first I found Roberts’ performance to have only one note – playing the charming, sales-y finance type for the majority of the piece – it quickly became my favourite as the story reached its end. As his character saw everything he wanted in life disintegrate into nothing, Roberts gave a visceral, gut-wrenching performance that legitimately made my heart ache for him.
Within the Glass is a spectacularly written theatrical tour-de-force that tugs at your heartstrings, regardless of where you fall in the pro-life/right-to-choose debate. Maybe you’ll enjoy it for the raw emotion it exudes, or maybe you’ll love it for its sincere, realistic character development. I’m really not sure why you’ll enjoy this play. All I know is that it’s one you definitely shouldn’t miss.
- Within the Glass runs until February 14th at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace (30 Bridgman Avenue)
- Shows run Tuesday through Saturday at 8:00 PM and Sunday at 2:30 PM, with select Saturday showings January 16th, 23rd and 30th at 2:30 PM. See website for a full show schedule.
- Regular Tickets range from $28 to $60 with discounts available for seniors, students, groups and artsworkers. They can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 416-531-1827.
- Specially priced $15 rush tickets are also offered (subject to availability) in person at the Tarragon Theatre two hours prior to show time.
Photo Credit: Philippa Domville, Rick Roberts, Nicola Correia-Damude and Paul Braunstein in Within the Glass. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.