On This Day
Happiness Vs. Tribulations
By Byron Toben
The day in On This Day, the latest play by local playwright Alexandria Haber, is the birthday of 40ish Sarah (Leni Parker). On that day, lots of things unravel, from car mishaps to simmering relationships, to a mysterious interloper, to a discussion of Nature vs. human intervention.
What is not in the play is the song Happy Birthday, the most often voiced refrain in the history of the unfolding universe. There is a birthday cake with candles shared by the three women in the cast. (I guess real men don’t eat birthday cake, at least on stage).
One of the two men is Henry (Carlo Mestroni), Sarah’s long time partner, who has given her a friendship ring, which doesn’t have quite the ring of commitment that a wedding ring would have. This may relate to his wandering eye for 19-year-old gals.
One such nymph, Grace (Emelia Hellman) does appear out of the blue on the road as Henry drives self and Sarah to the countryside to a birthday party for Sarah hosted by their rural friends Celia (Stephanie Buxton) and Clive (Trevor Hays). Grace is rolled across their car window by accident or for reasons unknown.
In any event, as Grace seems discombobulated, the couple brings her along to the party. Clive is deep into natural local and organic foods and contemplating the milky way of stars which strikes the urban Henry as pretentious prattle and tensions ensue. Meanwhile, Sarah envies Celia’s seemingly more settled life, complete with two toddlers, while Celia longs for more urban excitement as she supposes Sarah has.
As the play winds toward a conclusion, the mystery of why Grace was standing in the oncoming traffic lane is partially addressed. Was Grace, also dissatisfied with life, the Hamlet of the Highway?
Fine ensemble acting by all five, further enhanced by Alain Goulem’s directorial touches, ranging from fingers and facial movements to seamless transitions against Amy Keith’s lakeside, with distant townhouse silhouettes in the background. Highly recommended.
And for Happy Birthday song deprived viewers, click to hear Kylie Minogue wishing all of us “yous” such happiness, (together with a nice wink and blown kiss).
On This Day continues at the Centaur until March 6
Tickets: 514 288-3161 or centaurtheatre.com
Images: Andrée Lanthier
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.