by Sasha Singer-Wilson
By Jordan Tannahill
Directed by Katrina Dunn
Every so often you meet a play, (or read a book, or hear a song), that brings you to your knees. This is Late Company. Written by creative powerhouse Jordan Tannahill, the story is remarkably contemporary. As we reckon with the powerful tragedies of Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons and Jamie Hubley (whose 2011 suicide was the jumping off point for the play), we are forced to question our complacency regarding the young people in our communities and all that they face. How can we support the next generation? In programming Late Company as their season opener, Touchstone Theatre grants us the opportunity to engage with the transcendental power of storytelling. It’s messy, it’s painful, it’s funny and, slowly, sorrow is spun to healing right before our eyes.
Late Company explores restorative justice, cyber bullying, and the ever-changing complexities of parenthood in the 21st century. The parents of bullied son Joel, who has committed suicide a year earlier, have his teenage tormentor Curtis and his parents over for dinner. Tannahill writes profoundly compelling characters that live in the slippery grey-zone of believability. Late Company twists and turns with dexterous mastery—just when you think you know where things are going, the story lurches in another direction.
Touchstone’s Artistic Director Katrina Dunn helms this moving production and she commands a strong ensemble. The standout is Kerry Sandomirsky, who plays grieving mother Debora with equal parts ferocity and vulnerability. Her anguish is palpable. Even when she covers it up with sarcasm, her broken heart sits on the dinner table beside the wine and salad. As her husband and Joel’s politician father, Michael, Michael Kopsa is commanding and charismatic. Daniel Doheny brings awkwardness and heart to Curtis, and his final turn at the end of the play is sure to leave you breathless. As Curtis’ parents, Katharine Venour and Gerry Mackay embody empathy, shame and righteousness. At certain points it feels as though the actors are playing to a bigger space than we are in. Realism in an intimate venue like the Vancity Culture Lab begs for almost cinematic simplicity. Much is asked of the ensemble—they swing from faith, to doubt, to rage, to agony and back to faith again, and the performances are impressive.
Pam Johnson’s set has gorgeous attention to detail—Debora is a metalwork artist and her work decorates the space. Adrian Muir’s lighting design is exquisite one minute and somewhat heavy-handed the next. Similarly, Scott Zechner’s sound design is perceptive and moody, but over-the-top lighting shifts and sound cues during the emotionally charged climaxes of the play end up muddying the emotional intensity.
I commend Touchstone for bringing this important play to Vancouver, and have no doubt that Late Company will have life across the country for years to come. I encourage you to book your tickets quickly and if you have a teenager in your life, consider bringing them with you. Late Company is sure to crack open meaningful conversations that are difficult to have. Bring a tissue. You’re going to need it.
Late Company plays at Vancity Culture Lab at The Cultch until November 30th. For tickets click here.
Sasha Singer-Wilson is a Vancouver based and Toronto bred writer, performer and producer. She makes theatrical things with the blood projects and literary things with these five minutes. She’s in her first year of the joint Creative Writing/Theatre MFA in Playwriting at UBC and has a serious crush on the mountains.