Review: The Thing Between Us (McGuffin Company)

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


7 thoughts on “Review: The Thing Between Us (McGuffin Company)”

  1. Did the reviewer think to question how sexist his second paragraph was before submitting to the editors?

    And shame on the editors for thinking that this passes for a review – poorly written, bland, few details, no thinking about the piece at all.

  2. Yup. That’s some pretty thoughtless sexism right there, gotta say.

    Recent research that women make up 17 percent of the people in movie crowd scenes, and yet viewers assume they are almost equally represented. I guess when a play is 100% women, it’s just overwhelming??

    I note that neither of the Mooney on Theatre reviews (admittedly written by a different reviewer) for recent productions of Twelve Angry Men or Glenn, (both plays featuring all male casts and male playwrights) made any comment about the shows being “overly masculine”.

    Food for thought.

  3. I agree with Chris, what exactly does, “Overly feminine” mean? How does a lack of male presence somehow lower a plays quality? How I understand the statement you would be interested in meeting some of the male characters alluded to but what makes men inherently interesting?

  4. Thanks for the feedback, all. I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that the (what I felt to be) feminine nature of the play lessened the quality of it in any way. As a female myself – people often assume I must be male based solely on my name, but such is not the case – I merely felt that many of the issues presented and relationships portrayed often felt very female-centric. I in no way intended the wording to sound sexist or to offend.

  5. Ms.Potter, you may have not intended this review to be sexist, but in fact, it is deeply so. If not a deliberate comment, then it is careless, thoughtless writing. I suggest you edit your review, and I encourage your editors to be more vigilant in the future.

  6. I appreciate the response Devon, though I do believe that as women we can still be guilty of bias against our own sex.

    I think until I read the words “with an all-male cast and a male playwright at the helm, the play did, at times, seem almost overly masculine” we have not achieved gender parity and it is fair to call out the disparity and recognize our entrenched behaviours.

    Thank you all.

  7. I am amused by the fact all the comments focus on something the reviewer said, and not what the McGuffin Company created. I actually believe Ms Potter was far too kind to the company and the artistic team. You are all narrowing your gaze to view one aspect of what “some reviewer saw” and not what YOU saw. That is disappointing, and we as theatre goers should be smart enough to use comment threads like these to engage in critical discussion and not just pick on someone for having the guts to say something they did not like about this show. I am surprised that Chris, Courtney Lancaster, Thomas, Levy and Vern Thiessen did not want to comment on what THEY saw in the backspace at Passe Muraille. Does this mean you all did not actually pay for a ticket and see the show? If that is the case, shame on your for not actually supporting the arts in Canada. I have no problem with people disagreeing with reviewers. Frankly, I dislike reviewers and think they do more damage to art than support art. But if you’re going to ride your high horse in here, you better have evidence from the show to support your argument, otherwise you are just an annoying internet troll.

    Now, for what I saw.

    This SHOW was awful, bland and poorly written, (to use Chris’s words from the first comment). Reading the bios of the actors, I expected professionalism and care given to their portrayal of Lawrence’s characters. This was not so. Scenes seemed to go on forever, even after many of the pivotal plot points, the characters just seemed to circle back through their dialogue and repeat phrases and lines. Either the script is unfinished and Alison Lawrence needs to learn to revise and edit, or the actors did not respect audiences enough to learn their lines and perform something that was worth the ticket price. Actually, Arron Willis and McGuffin is lucky that they did not have an act break, because I was so offended by their lack of professionalism that I was settled to leave before Act 2 and demand my money back. We cannot be passive audiences anymore. We must demand more from our theatre professionals. Its true, as a male I was not engaged by the female-centic nature of this story. But thats fine, some art will be able to speak to me and some art will not. I understand this fact. However, lets get past that and look at the set for instance. What does a white cube and two sided stairway mean and how does that further the message of the playwright? Aspects like the astroturf, the phone being off stage, and the leaves on the ground all aided in further confusing me than supporting the action on stage. Also, casting was a huge problem with this performance. Now, I’m not talking about critiquing the tiny detailed choices made by these actors. At the end of the day, its impossible to know what choices were made by the cast or made by the director or perhaps a mixture of the two. My concern lies within their over-all unpolished performance. I do not care what day of the performance run you see a play, if a theatre company takes your money then their product should be worth the ticket price. Its that simple. I would suggest Arron Willis to re-examine how he casts shows and consider some of the emerging talent Toronto has to offer to habitat his worlds.

    On one final note, I have had the unlucky fortune of seeing three of my grandparents suffer dementia. It is an awful feeling when they look into your eyes and have no idea who you are or have any memories of you in their life. But even in all my personal experiences, struggles, tears and pain, none of my grandparents barked at me, the way Randi Helmers barked and growled at Linda in the hospital scene when she was upset. This is SO offensive and I demand that Lawrence remove this from the play, or Willis to instruct his actors to not make insensitive choices like this. Shame on you. I am not against theatre being controversial, but if people can get uppity about a reviewer saying a play is overly feminine, then I can get uppity argue this play is terrible insensitive to the issue of dementia.

    By all means fire back at me and tell me why I’m wrong. I promise to read and consider any further comments with care and respect. But don’t bother talking to me if you didn’t see the show and cant bring forth evidence like I have just done. If you didn’t sit in the dark for 90 min to support the arts in Canada, then you forfeit your right to comment on it. Thanks, I guess.

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