Wow. It’s two days after I saw Perfect Pie at Arts Court and I’m still haunted by that story. Ottawa’s been blessed with some great theatre this season, but nothing has compared to this. Abandonment, betrayal, loss, anger, fear, compassion, friendship, forgiveness: distill these words down to their truest, rawest meaning and you approach what Perfect Pie was able to do.
The play starts with Patsy, the quintessential hardworking country girl, making pies and tape-recording a message to her friend who’s moved on to bigger things though we’re not sure quite what. The mystery of why this friend disappeared decades ago, never to visit or even write, got my attention right away which is a testament to Sheena Turcotte’s portrayal of Patsy. Within the first ten minutes I cared deeply about her and wanted to know what had happened in her past.
By the end of the night, I got my answer and almost regretted ever asking the question. The story of Patsy’s friend Marie is heartbreaking and made me cry. I’m not going to give away what happened between these two women but suffice to say it involved poverty, abuse, bullying, and the most distressing type of assault – the kind that drives a young woman to unthinkable ends.
Judith Thompson’s script is powerful on its own but in the hands of Cart Before the Horse Theatre, it absolutely pulsated on stage. Home movies projected onto sheets gave an intimate feeling, as if we were actually in someone’s home watching old friends interact. Meanwhile, the eerie soundtrack added a layer of magic to the otherwise normal looking kitchen set. Everything connected in perfect sync to present a realistic world.
Gabbie Lazarovitz was flawless as the perfectly-put-together, cool, sophisticated celebrity who returns to her small town roots. The moment she lost her composure was stunning and her relationship with Turcotte’s Patsy was nuanced, rich, and fascinating. These women are perfectly paired. The flashback scenes of these two growing up together were charming even as they delved deeper into darkness. For me, Erica Anderson as a young Patsy absolutely stole the show with her realistic adolescent attitudes, wide emotional range, and the deep, beautiful love she portrayed.
Interesting to note is the different interpretations of this play. Many reviews I’ve read have pinned Marie’s victimization on epilepsy and focused on the theme of mental illness. I personally didn’t think this was the central point of the story. My companion asked if any of this was real or if Francesca was a ghost conjured by Patsy to cope with the tragic death of her childhood friend. I admit, that could certainly be the case and would be intriguing to consider. No matter how you choose to take in Perfect Pie, it’s definitely something to check out.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. Is this a show about the lasting bonds of best friends, the pain and perils of being different, or something else entirely? Are you disappointed you missed Opening Night Pie (I’m sure it was delicious!)? What did you expect going into this show? Join the discussion and tell me what you think in the comments below.
Perfect Pie is presented by Cart Before the Horse Theatre as part of TACTICS. It runs now through March 19th at Arts Court. Visit their show page for show times and to purchase tickets.