Someone Else probes mid-life crises at the Berkeley Street Theatre
While it's billed as a black comedy, Kristen Thomson's Someone Else is much, much darker. It'd be more apt to describe the play as a look deep inside a black hole, where the resentment, jealousy, and dysfunction of an unhappy marriage is left to fester. The comedy that is found here, where numbness and heartbreak threaten to overtake, serves as a neutralizing force.
Thomson's play explores the challenges of long term relationships and the familial trappings of middle age. The narrative is fascinatingly unpredictable, giving the piece an entrancing off-kilter kind of feel. While it ruminates too long in certain scenes and focuses in on one side of the partnership, it's thrilling to watch the emotions brought to the surface. Director Chris Abraham draws out strong performances from his ensemble.
After 18 years of marriage, Cathy (Kristen Thomson), a stand up comedienne, and Peter (Tom Rooney), a doctor, are having trouble going through the motions of their tired relationship. When Peter begins to question how he has become such a dull, cautious person, he turns to one of his patients April (Bahia Watson), who represents the rebellious youth of his lost past. Charting the journey from young adulthood to middle age, Thomson's play offers a raw and honest perspective on the fragility of partnership.
The plot has a fractured and disjointed flow. The detours include scenes of Cathy's stand up, abrupt monologues, odd character introductions, and unexpected plot shifts. Rather than complicate a straight-forward storyline, the shifts in tone offer a refreshing unpredictability. In particular, Cathy's act, which builds to a fever pitch, is a definite highlight.
The play spends too much time treading water in some of these drawn out moments. In the most jarring plot reveal, Peter visits a young man named David (Damien Atkins), who suffered brain damage when Peter kicked through a window at a protest. Atkins musters a strong performance as the wheelchair-bound ghost from Peter's past, but the scene stops, starts, and inevitably stalls the play's climax.
But the real disappointment is that Cathy isn't afforded equal treatment. As a stand up comedienne channeling depression into performance, she's a much more complex and interesting character than Peter. But the main study here is of the husband.
Abraham does his best to showcase the ensemble. Rooney exhibits a clinical, detached presence, having checked out of his wife's patterns. It's an understated and quietly solid performance. Thomson is so natural that her opening scene could be mistook for improv. She's equally captivating when reaching wit's end.
Julie Fox's set is something of a non-space, with mountains of packed boxes anticipating the end of the marriage. There may not be clear method in the madness, but Someone Else is equal parts heartbreaking and entertaining.
Someone Else, written by Kristen Thomson and directed by Chris Abraham, runs at the Berkeley Street Theatre until February 2.
Photo by Guntar Kravis