D&T Productions presents their debut production of Marion Bridge at Toronto’s re-branded Theatre Machine
Set in Nova Scotia, Marion Bridge is the life-affirming story of what happens when a woman returns home to be with her sisters while their mother is on her deathbed. Written by Daniel MacIvor, this is one of the first plays to be mounted by D&T Productions at Toronto’s re-branded The Theatre Machine.
What I found exceptional about Marion Bridge is the writing and acting. Together, they make for a play that almost anyone can relate to.
Born in Sydney NS, Daniel MacIvor is one of Canada’s best known playwrights. His writing makes characters seem real, with audiences unable to do much of anything, other than understand and build relationships with his creations.
Marion Bridge introduces us to Agnes (Kirstin Rae Hinton), Theresa (Deanna Palazzo) and Louise (Tanya Sand). None of the sisters seem particularly well-adjusted to their lives in Marion Bridge, much less Toronto, or anywhere for that matter.
The play begins with Agnes onstage alone, recounting her recurring dream of drowning. In the dream she is swimming in the surf. Seeing a family picnicking on the beach, she waves. Then she drowns. And if you listen to her sister Theresa, Agnes really is drowning: she is an alcoholic.
Like all three actors, Hinton has a strong stage presence, reminding me of Jane Fonda at times. Her mannerisms, tone and cadence all match MacIvor’s words. There are many moments when it isn’t Hinton onstage at all: it is Agnes, a failed Toronto actress visiting her sick mother in the Maritimes.
Next we meet the responsible sister, Theresa. Both a nun and a farmer, Theresa is the “alpha female”, the one “running the show”. She uses words to paint vivid pictures of the farm, telling us about being elbow deep in the earth and how machinery has replaced beasts of burden.
Machinery, especially vehicles, is an undercurrent of Marion Bridge, which leads us to the third sister, Louise.
While Agnes is immersed in the bottle and Theresa committed to the Lord, Louise is almost entirely lost to daytime television. Sand does a great job of bringing Louise to life. She initially portrays the tomboy as a disinterested, lost soul, but slowly builds layer upon layer of foibles and complexities. She even entices her sisters into her televised “stories”.
Sand delivers a compelling monologue about highway driving. Even though it seemed somewhat out of place while watching it, it is a standout scene in the play. In retrospect, I think the “simple” sister may have figured out life with her words.
But then again maybe it was Agnes, or Theresa, or… Go see Marion Bridge and figure it out for yourself. Then drop me a line and let me know what you think!
Director Shari Hollett and stage manager Madeline Redican have done a great job of allowing the writing and acting to shine. The stage is minimal, with a simple wooden table and three folding chairs placed in front of an artificial window. Actors come and go from either side of the stage, taking full advantage of the cozy Unit 102 Theatre.
While this production of Marion Bridge is created by a company comprised mainly of women, it is by no means the theatrical equivalent of a “chick flick”. In fact, I think men outnumbered women in the audience the night I attended. The audience was comprised of several generations, too. A doll belonging to a young girl occupied the seat beside me, with her father to her right and a few grandfathers sprinkled throughout the audience.
All-in-all it was a satisfying evening of theatre. I recommend heading over to Queen and Dufferin to check it out!
- Marion Bridge is playing until October 19 at The Theatre Machine (376 Dufferin Street)
- Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 8 pm, with an additional matinee on Sunday October 19th at 2 pm
- Tickets are $15.50 + HST in advance or $18 at the door
- Tickets are available online, or in person
Photo of Kirstin Rae Hinton, Deanna Palazzo and Tanya Sand by Madison Redican.