Mourning After the Night Before, produced by Mad River Theatre, was one of my top picks for the Toronto Fringe Festival. I was intrigued by its use of drowning as a metaphor in all the characters’ lives.
The production wholeheartedly delivers on its theme. Each character is drowning in some kind of grief. Everyone is suffering a loss. But on this stage, drowning means something different for everyone.
The script’s lexicon is saturated with water metaphors: a drop in the ocean, just on the surface, dive in. There are a few too many water puns for me, and I feel that this halts the flow of natural speech, but I appreciate the thematic consistency.
The lighting is minimalistic in the best way (lighting design by Brandon Gonçalves). The audience sits in almost total darkness while the only lights in the theatre shine directly onto the speakers.
Scenes float in the spotlight surrounded by murky blackness. Characters walk on and off stage like ghosts, delivering their lines to each other, to the audience, or sometimes to no one at all. The characters talk and talk to each other and about each other, but ultimately this is a play about their relationships to themselves.
The frequent monologues enforce the idea that the characters are more concerned with understanding their own lives than the lives of the people around them. Conversations between characters feel like a means to an end as everyone on stage turns inward.
Like the title suggests, time is difficult to keep track of. While the overall storyline is delivered chronologically, some scenes seem to be displaced in time. This is a deliberate choice. The audience is not meant to understand everything at once.
I really like how this keeps the audience feeling lost, but I wish it was a bit more polished. With no easily-defined timeline and a lot of withheld information, some of the play was a little hard to follow.
As the plot goes on, the characters become more frantic and less coherent; lost in their mourning. Lucy (Mary Wall) and Drew (Dave Martin) really help steer the production into more cohesive waters with their passionate and steadfast performances.
I really appreciate that the actors directed the audience to websites for help and support at the end of the play, but a trigger warning at the beginning might have been more appropriate. The play ends quite abruptly, and I was left with too many questions, but overall I found the whole performance original, insightful, and moving.
This review is based on the Wednesday July 3rd preview performance of the production.
- Mourning After the Night Before plays at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse. (79 St. George St.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: mature language; sexual content; not recommended for children.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Wednesday July 3rd, 9:45 pm
- Friday July 5th, 4:15 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 4:45 pm
- Monday July 8th, 7:45 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 2:45 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 10:15 pm
- Sunday July 14th, 5:45 pm
Photo of Abby Gillam, Ryan Helgason, and Lauren Helgason by Chloe Whitehorn