Review: Mockingbird Close (Inpulse Theatre)

Photo of Mockingbird CloseMockingbird Close is a quick-witted dark comedy playing at the Red Sandcastle Theatre in Toronto

It never matters how much people care or love or even feel about another person, memories are always full of holes that get eaten away by preferred fictions. Eroding memory in the face of tragedy is the core of INpulse Theatre’s Mockingbird Close playing at Red Sandcastle Theatre.

There is no closure to be found in this show, just an uneasy, reflection on the nature of community, family, and what we want to be true.

Iris (Tiana Leonty) and her husband, Hank (David MacInnis), discover their son’s room empty, the window open, and nothing else out of place. They set out to recreate the events leading up to the moment of realization and the night is spent looking for answers on their neighbour’s doorsteps.

Trevor Schmidt’s script doesn’t rewrite any tropes—this 1950’s style suburbia is brimming with affairs, class-obsessed families, potential murderers, and a resident witch— the delivery elevates the familiar to something darkly comedic and touching.

Leonty and MacInnis are given tons of material to work their magic onstage. Together, they play the entire neighbourhood over the course of less than an hour and they never miss a beat.

One time, MacInnis delivers a shrinking, hilarious, and disturbing performance as Sidney Blackwell, an old man who may or may not have an unhealthy interest in the missing boy and who may or may not have left his sick wife to starve to death. Against the heavy realism of Leonty’s worried mother figure, it borders on absurd without ever losing itself.

Leonty basks in the larger figures, particularly as the snooty wife from next door, but it’s when she fades, slowly, out of the larger than life beings and back into the role of a grieving mother that truly hit home. Yes, the stereotypes are larger-than-life but the stark contrast Leonty embodies as she sheds these alternate skins that leave the story emotionally grounded.

I give a lot of credit to director Ryan F. Hughes for not running away with the ‘big-ness’ the play suggests. Hank and Iris felt to me like distinct individuals in a world where people serve as themes and obstacles and stand-ins for ideas.

In the same vein, the language is lyrical, not direct, but still wonderfully cutting—if you’re listening.

There is a lot that goes on in the play. You have to keep your ears opened throughout the show because much of the comedy comes in fast-paced dialogue. Leonty and MacInnis rush through descriptive language that hide sharp barbs meant to insult their respective characters, the environment, and, of course, shift the audience’s perception of what happened that fateful night.

Early on, there is a biting moment where Hank comments that Iris smells of alcohol when he comes home from work and she bites back viciously that he smells of perfume. It’s done in a sharp back and forth that demonstrates the dialogue at its best.

As much as I loved the little detailed throwaway lines that Hank and Iris toss at each other as they look for blame, there are a few that I definitely missed. Also, because the play is stylized in direction but also in its actual text, I, personally, find it repetitive at times.

That said, I think the show leaves a mark. I enjoyed watching the performance but fell in love with it on reflection as I walked home. It’s haunting because even in the most humorous moments, Mockingbird Close is about the fact that, although memory erodes over time, its really the people who fail and don’t realize their mistakes until its too late.

Details

  • Mockingbird Close plays until September 16, 2017 at the Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen Street East).
  • Shows run Wednesdays to Saturdays at 8 pm. Matinees are Sunday September 10 and Saturday September 16 at 2 pm.
  • Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for artsworkers and seniors.
  • Tickets can be purchased at the Red Sandcastle Theatre box office one hour before the show or online here.

Photo of Tiana Leonty and David MacInnis courtesy INPulse Theatre.

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