The miracles of Niagara’s arts community continue unabated. Where else in Canada can one take a short drive to a downtown core in search of itself and be captivated for a couple of hours by the world première production of a play that bravely tackles the emergence of a lesbian from a twenty-year relationship with the ever-so-horny boy-next door?
She’s Mine is a work that totally redefines the meaning of “Keeping up with the Joneses.” Stephanie Jones is the troubled mother/wife Sara whose marriage is on the rocks even as her libido is unexpectedly rekindled by Ann (Vicki Jenkins)—a semi-closeted guidance counsellor working in a Catholic school (Why does she remain and risk eternal/paternal/collegial damnation? “I love the club,” she replies unabashedly.). Jones is also the playwright. Mary is Sara’s 15-year-old daughter, trying to pull up her slipping grades, ward off the not entirely unwelcome attentions of Luke (Geoffrey Haney) and take care of baby brother Joey when mom’s at work and her father, Joe, (Jason Cadieux—convincing as the sex-deprived spouse who refuses to believe that his personal property could ever leave him for another woman) sucks back beers watching the not coincidentally titled Lost on TV. Genevieve Jones—yes, Stephanie’s real-life daughter—takes on this demanding/rewarding role and, once she finds her rhythm after a couple of scenes, delivers a first-class performance that is a credit to herself, her family and her alma mater.
Stop the presses.
Frequent readers of these pages will recall a less than satisfactory report when the chamber trio, Triptych, came to town (cross-reference below). Fair is fair. Seeing both Genevieve and Heaney dig deep into everything that was asked of them (Heaney also plays a young seminarian and flirts briefly with the leather crowd in the dream sequence) and producing performances that actors many years their senior could only envy, has restored my faith in the school of performing and fine arts at Brock University—if there’s something in the water only known to the drama class, then let’s share that magical potion with every student in the place and make everyone proud whether attending lectures or performing in public. With a surfeit of theatre troupes in the region, here’s to more of the same incubation for the next generation of talent. If this keeps up, one civic arts centre may not be enough!
Family members working together shows a high degree of mutual courage and understanding that, in this instance, also seeps into the script. Being straight herself, Stephanie wisely sought the special insights and experience of Sky Gilbert, who, quite literally, wrote the book on all things queer. The only moment missed was the first meeting between Sara and Ann (with trouble at home, Mary’s interview with her guidance counsellor eventually brought the two women together for the first time). Perhaps being so close to the play and having to imagine how it must have felt to repress sexual feelings for decades, the first eye-to-eye contact came off “just so” rather than the unbelievably exciting flash of unspoken recognition that is so much deeper than the trite expression of “gaydar.” (In novel form look no further than E.M. Forster’s Maurice or Thomas Mann’s exquisite Death in Venice.)
Much later, Sara’s soliloquy and ode to the body beautiful that had just been hers was a magnificently honest description of the deep humanity and primal knowledge that is enough to “wreck the home” and begin life again. That was unforgettable. Merci mille fois.
Director Monica Dufault is clearly at one with the concept/content and has kept the pace moving steadily forward thanks also in large measure to Pat Rocco’s ever-efficient set and costume design—the human Madonna was a gamble that paid off in spades; employing Mozart’s “Lacrymosa” from the Requiem after the death of an angel might be revisited as the music’s power on its own swamps the emotional impact of Joe’s night of terror and disbelief.
As the troupe gets even more comfortable in their collective skin, this venture in the theatre of ourselves may well become the catalyst for familial truth and honesty far beyond the singular issue of sexuality. JWR