ORANGEVILLE – Hold on to what’s important, learn to appreciate life’s small pleasures and never take yourself too seriously.
Those are but a few of the lessons for the characters in Where You Are by Kristen Da Silva.
The play, now enjoying its world premiere at Theatre Orangeville, opens with sisters Suzanne (played by Debra Hale) and Glenda (Melanie Janzen) sitting on the porch of their shared home on Manitoulin Island.
While the retirees’ conversation does cover topics such as church and town gossip, these are far from your typical “older adult” exchanges.
The barbs fly freely, complete with a series of humorous “you look like” insults commonly employed by stand-up comedians.
No topic seems off limits for the women; certainly not the physical attributes of younger neighbour Patrick (Jeff Hanson).
Still reeling after being left by his fiance on their wedding day, Patrick gets dragged into awkward conversations and roped into completing household chores for the two single women (Glenda is a widow, while Suzanne prefers casual relationships).
A visit from Suzanne’s daughter Beth (Da Silva), while welcome, immediately highlights a strained mother-daughter relationship, with Glenda reminding her sibling not to be judgmental (more easily said than done, it seems).
The sisters are keeping an important secret from Beth, though it quickly becomes clear that Beth, too, hasn’t exactly been forthright with life-altering news.
Intermingled hilarious and heartfelt scenes follow, highlighted by the sisters’ “medicinal” experimentation, a wild wedding and candid conversations about love and mortality.
Hanson and Da Silva, whose characters have much in common (recent heartbreak, similar professions, etc.), display great chemistry in scenes suggesting a budding romance amid excessive meddling from Glenda and Suzanne.
There is an unmistakable authenticity in the younger players’ performances. Hanson excels in his everyman portrayal, matched by Da Silva’s empathetic depiction of a woman thrust into a series of uncomfortable situations.
Debra Hale is wonderful as Suzanne, expertly traversing boundaries faced by parents of both young children (mothering versus “smothering”) and adults (guidance versus meddling).
Janzen steals the show on multiple occasions. Admittedly, her character is provided with a lot of the play’s comedic material, but it’s her near-perfect delivery that produces big laughs.
Yet Janzen’s performance is far from one-dimensional; she is equally enthralling in the play’s more serious and sombre moments.
The actors seem to have received great direction from artistic director David Nairn and the set and lighting design, by Beckie Morris and Wendy Lundgren respectively, are fantastic.
The script from Da Silva, who’s regarded by many in the performing arts community as a rising star, starts out slowly but quickly gains steam, with stellar character development and witty and heartfelt dialogue.
Da Silva delivers an experience that often feels less like a stage production than a welcome and long overdue visit with four dear friends.
Where You Are is a first-class production that provides a contemplative yet very funny look at love, loss, relationships and life.
It plays five shows a week until May 19. For tickets call 1-800-424-1295 or visit theatreorangeville.ca.