I had the pleasure of attending another world premiere of a work by an emerging female playwright last night: Nightwood Theatre’s production of Jordi Mand’s Between the Sheets, a two-hander directed by Kelly Thornton, and starring Susan Coyne and Christine Horne, onstage at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space. Don’t let the short running time (approx. 1 hour) fool you – there is a lot going on in this hour in the classroom during parent/teacher interview night. And the stakes are huge.
Kelly Wolf’s set took me back to the first day of school, and I found myself walking past a perfectly rendered third grade classroom as I found a seat. Along the top of the green chalkboard are four printed cardboard trees, each set in different seasons, starting with Fall. Above the chalkboard, students’ paintings are taped up all along the wall. There is a large clock with big numbers and hands. A cubby with books and craft supplies. Small desks, with colourful duotangs set on top and blue chairs in front of them, dot the light blue floor in groups of three, miniature islands – smaller worlds within this small world. And in the background, the sound of rhythmic clapping, perhaps skipping too. Schoolyard games.
As the lights go down and come back up on this microcosm of life, we see Teresa, the young grade three teacher tidying up and preparing to leave following an evening of meetings with parents when Marion, the mom of a student named Alex, appears unexpectedly at her classroom door. A discussion of Alex’s social and academic progress turns to accusations of infidelity, as Marion accuses Teresa of having an affair with her husband Curtis. The intense battle of words that follows has both women fighting for their lives – riveting and heart-wrenching, with unexpected flashes of humour, and even compassion and understanding. In the end, as both are left to pick up the pieces of the evening’s revelations, Teresa is alone once more, the ticking of the clock becoming louder as it echos throughout the empty classroom.
Outstanding performances from both Coyne and Horne, with Horne’s Teresa showing surprising guts and strength beneath the sweet and fragile exterior, and Coyne bringing lovely layers to Marion – from imperious corporate lioness to exhausted, frustrated and confused wife and mother. Nice work, ladies! And I was very happy to bump into both of them as I was leaving so I could tell them so.
Also want to give a shout out to Nightwood’s 10,000 Women campaign in support of women’s voices in the arts, a fundraiser that the company is launching with this production. The aim is to get 10,000 donations of $10, with each donor offering the name of a woman in their life that they want to honour – the names will appear in print at the end of the campaign. For more info – and to donate – check out this page: http://www.nightwoodtheatre.net/index.php/support/10000_women
Between the Sheets runs at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space until October 7, with a post-show talkback – parenting and relationship expert Sara Dimerman with moderator Diane Flacks – coming up tomorrow night (Thurs, Sept 27): http://www.nightwoodtheatre.net/index.php/whats_on/between_the_sheets#tab4
For more info and reservations, please visit the Nightwood Theatre website: http://www.nightwoodtheatre.net/index.php/whats_on/between_the_sheets#tab1