Join four local actors as they show us two very different characters in this double-bill of one-act plays. First meet Hannah, a bag lady living in the Toronto subways, who has a shocking and terrible collection of secrets. Then befriend Stanley, a friendly, slightly-alcoholic bloke whose life hasn’t always turned out the way he hoped but he sure has some stories to tell!
Endings is an evening of two one-act shows loosely linked by the theme of “life stories”. The first, Mind the Gap, is a humanizing look at a Torontonian ‘bag lady’. As she sleeps in the subway, we see her past via a scene from a mental hospital. Jodi Morden plays the energetic, determined, younger version of our protagonist and brings a spirited sense of fun to the stage. Hannah is almost instantly likeable thanks to Morden’s charming acting, which makes Beverley Wolfe’s portrayal of the current day Hannah all the more tragic.
Now, Wolfe reveals that Hannah has lived through some of the most dark, twisted, and horrible events imaginable. It is truly through no fault of her own that she ended up living on the streets and yet she remains positive and friendly, welcoming newcomers and interacting cheerfully – if oddly – with passersby. What is heartbreaking is how seldom she is treated with the respect and love she deserves.
Beverley Wolfe has written a masterpiece. The ending of Mind the Gap is disturbing and frightful, the character development is engaging and realistic, Wolfe’s portrayal of Hannah was alarmingly convincing, and the subtle commentary on society’s treatment of its destitute punches you right in the heart. This play moved me deeply and is a must-see.
Sadly, the next play of the night, Last Orders, was not as polished and gripping as its predecessor. In this play, Stanley Cooper tells us tales of growing up in England over the past two decades. As he speaks, his past comes alive through scenes starring Doug Phillips (also the writer), Cameron Rufelds, and Wolfe. We see bar fights, gambling, unemployment, friendships, and much more.
I really enjoyed Phillips style of storytelling but I had a hard time finding a moral or theme to follow. This show was little more than a dramatization of some guy’s life and I didn’t know enough about him, beyond a rough caricature of a middle-aged Londoner, to care. Last Orders tried to build toward an emotional climax but it was done so slowly and subtly as to be ineffective.
That said, Last Orders is fun to watch. The show is worth seeing because of the versatile and quirky characters that all three actors bring to life on the stage, and because of the casual charisma of Phillips’ writing. It balances the darkness of Mind the Gap well with light, comedic, relatable anecdotes told over some drinks. The only problem is that it leaves the audience empty
But that’s just my opinion and I’d like to hear what you think. Did Mind the Gap leave you feeling grateful for your own blessings, or disgusted at Hannah’s misfortunes? Did Stanley connect with you on an emotional level, or did you need a pint after seeing that show? Which was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.
Endings runs at The Avalon until Sunday, August 30th.