Scratch – Factory Theatre

By Dana Lacey

Anna and her parents

The first thing I should warn you about Factory Theatre’s Scratch: you will be itchy for most of it.

Don’t think so?

Kudos: maybe you’ve got stronger will power or are merely more mentally stable. I only know that for me, just typing the word LICE makes my scalp crawl with imaginary insect vampires.

That’s what Scratch is about: lice. I didn’t think to read the program before attending, or maybe I wouldn’t have gone for a night of discomfort. I dragged my roommate with me.  It didn’t take long to get the gist of things: Anna has a head full of creepy crawlers. Also her mother is dying, but her family keeps insisting “everything is okay.” The characters spend the entire play onstage, and simply sit in chairs until their cues. This helped the actors move from scene to scene seamlessly, but it sometimes made the conversations confusing. There was some great dialogue (the wife supports equal opportunity poverty by insisting “I’m also making us poor!”), but mostly I was bored and didn’t have a real clue what was going on. Possibly because the play never really went anywhere before ending, predictably, with death. And more lice.

Scratch is mostly autobiographical, written by author Charlotte Cobrein-Coleman when she was only 16, not long after watching her own mother die of cancer. This story is essentially HER story, and Scratch’s selfish, bratty and itchy protagonist Anna is her alter-ego.  Instead of sympathizing with Anna, I mostly found her annoying.  As the characters around her react and respond to Anna’s inability to address her grief–she is more concerned with the lice and finding a boy to “kiss her with tongue”–one line comes up again and again “If this were my story, it would be about…” and then share their own feelings.  My roommate said “That was the lamest part.”  He couldn’t summon up any sympathy for Cobrein-Coleman-Anna either, although we agreed her best friend (a tremendous performance by actress Monica Dottor) really stole the show. Actress Catherine Fitch (as the Aunt) did a great job playing the nervous overprotective aunt and grieving sister.

I think the point of Scratch is something to do with sharing your story in order to heal, or something equally inspirational and boring. I thought the most intriguing and genuine idea came from a minor character who railed against people who wear their grief like an accessory, like they’re part of some tragically exclusive club.

If anything, this play is worth seeing for a few laughs, but only if you’re in the mood for some soul-searching. And serious scalp-scratching.

Photo: Kevin Bundy, Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman, Mary Ann McDonald

Scratch is showing at Factory Theatre (12 Alexander Street) until November 2, 2008
– Show runs Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $26 Tuesday-Thursday, $30 Friday, $37 on Saturday and $20 in advance or PWYC on Sunday
– Special pricing Wednesday and Friday:  $20 for people under 30 on Wednesday, $10 Friday night rush (sold 10 minutes before the show at the door only)
– For tickets call 416-504-9971 or online