Two newlyweds move into their first apartment, and find out that living together might not be everything they had dreamed. Vacant House Theatre presents their first site-specific work.
Should you see it?
Ernest and Ernestine are deliriously happy when they move into their tiny basement apartment. Sure, they might disagree on things, but they keep that to themselves – for now. Slowly, their anger starts to take over as tensions build. It’s a charming tale, alternately touching, hilarious and absurd. I think Leah Cherniak, Robert Morgan and Martha Ross’s script can rightfully be called a modern Canadian theatre classic.
Vacant House Theatre took pains to find an actual basement for this performance, and found their home at the Ottawa Backpackers’ Inn. It feels a little like going to a family gathering and seeing your cousins put on a surprisingly professional play – and I absolutely mean that in a good way. Audience members (only up to about 12) are given tea as they wait in the hostel’s kitchen to be lead into the basement-laundry-room-turned-theatre. Ernest and Ernestine started a few minutes late on Sunday; one of the backpackers had put his clothes in the wash shortly before showtime.
It’s an odd, intimate experience. You are literally inches away from the performers, especially if you opt to sit on the floor rather than the sofa. The basement is the perfect setting to represent the claustrophobia that Ernest and Ernestine feel. Despite the lack of space, David Whiteley’s direction packs in more action than you would think possible. As some points, I feared for my safety!
However, these actors clearly know what they’re doing. Patrick Kelly is fun as Ernest, balancing a chipper attitude and neat-freakish tendencies that contrast with Karina Milech’s frenzied messiness. Nick Fournier and Alexis Scott throw themselves into the roles of Ernest and Ernestine’s seething Angers, growing more and more present as tensions mount between the main characters. Scott is particularly great at connecting with the audience. Of course, in a space like this, it’s hard not to feel like you’re involved in the production.
The Anger in Ernest and Ernestine is a delightful play about the difficulty of being in love with your polar opposite. The small audience may feel awkward at first, but once you relax into the atmosphere, Vacant House Theatre has produced a unique experience that makes me excited to see what they do next.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d like to hear what you think. What did you think of the venue? Did you enjoy The Anger in Ernest and Ernestine? Let me know in the comments below!
The Anger in Ernest and Ernestine runs April 11-13 and 25-27 at the Ottawa Backpackers’ Inn. For more information, check out our preview article. All photos taken by David Whiteley.