By Courtney Leigh Church, Sept. 15, 2018
A 2017 nominee for the Governor General’s Award for Drama, Anna Chatterton’s “Within the Glass” offers its audience a seat at the table of an intimate, yet alienating, dinner conversation about assisted pregnancy gone wrong.
The play opens in the home of a suburban couple, Darah and Michael (Niki Landau and Jeff Culbert), as they anxiously await the arrival of their guests, Linda and Scott (Francesca Ranalli and Tyler Lionel Parr). This is no ordinary dinner date, however. Following an unfortunate mix up at a fertility clinic, Linda has been impregnated with the embryo meant for Darah. Having spent the last three months attempting to resolve the situation through legal channels to no avail, the couples now meet face to face to decide the fate of the foetus Linda carries.
The conversation that follows poses multiple ethical conundrums at rapid speed.
“Within the Glass” invites you to question how we define motherhood and fatherhood and what role genetics play within families. The play considers the pro-life versus pro-choice debate, the perceived legitimacy or illegitimacy of adoptive parents, and the legal and social parameters surrounding surrogate pregnancy. Underscoring all these questions are issues of social class, masculinity, and the occasional debate over meat consumption and vegetarianism. Though the topics at hand are serious and complex, Charlotte Gowdy’s direction allows ample room for humour.
As the play begins Darah and Michael pace their sitting room and wait for Scott and Linda to arrive. The tension is palpable, yet it’s hard not to laugh as Darah adjusts furniture by the millimetre and fusses over throw pillows while Michael slyly pours himself a drink. Peppered throughout, small moments of levity carry the weight of the play.
Landau’s Darah and Culbert’s Michael capture the spirit of a once enamoured couple gone cold, frustrated by failed cycles of various fertility treatments. Landau nails the classy, corporate Darah who is unaccustomed to failure; despite her arrogance, though, the pain of infertility strikes an empathetic chord. Michael’s character is flatter – more comedic than complex – yet Culbert shines in the more serious moments the couple shares.
photo: Michael Everett.
Ranalli’s Linda steals the show as the crafty performance artist who, unbeknownst to her husband, has her own plans for the baby inside her. Like Michael, Scott’s character is less developed than his wife, but Parr does the poet’s quips and semantic quibbles due diligence. Their characters are all the more convincing thanks to Rebecca Wolsley’s costume design; Linda’s whimsical and woodsy attire paired with Scott’s plaid shirt and wool coat unsettle the otherwise pristine environment.
Troubadour Theatre Collective prides itself on creating experiential theatre in spaces not intended for performance and this production is no exception. The pop-up theatre works splendidly in the former Novack’s space.
Janice Johnson’s set design is impeccable. The large floor-to-ceiling windows are curtained and exposed brick adds to the high-class urban life Darah and Michael appear to be leading. Walking up to the set from the ground floor is like entering an immaculately staged sitting room in an upscale furniture store; cold and calculated, this is the perfect setting to reflect the present state of Darah and Michael’s relationship.
The play does not offer any clear answers to the many questions it poses. Instead, it holds scientific progress and ethical uncertainty to the light and we are tasked with recognizing the humanity that remains within the confines of the glass. Thought provoking, heart-wrenching, and surprisingly funny, “Within the Glass” is a must see.
Within the Glass
Troubadour Theatre Collective
211 King St., London
Purchase tickets online
Tickets also available at the door