'Spit' by Noelle Brown
Presented by Here for Now Theatre at Falstaff Family Centre, Stratford, Ontario
Cover artwork by Marion Adler
An enthralling production of genuine and honest emotions that cut deep to the heart.
Only four more productions remain of playwright Noelle Brown’s extraordinary riveting work performed by three tremendously talented artists and directed with uber dignity and compassion by Seana McKenna.
I’m still in astonishment at what I’ve just seen.
Sisters Nicole (Seána O’Hanlon) and Jessica (Siobhan O’Malley) have just returned from their mother’s funeral. This is Nicole’s home in Cork, Ireland. They are doing their best to keep their emotions in check with each other as it has been an exhausting day. Eldest Nicole starts sweeping the floor to help her pass a few minutes while Jessica removes her black dress to reveal she wears yoga clothes and proceeds to do some yoga to help her relax. Jessica puts on ethereal-sounding music much to Nicole’s chagrin who then brings out a dust buster to drown out the music.
We are then introduced to Alannah (Fiona Mongillo) who begins speaking to the audience about some of the discoveries she has made concerning DNA and all it entails. It’s not made clear to me whether Alannah is giving a lecture or a presentation.
As the plot unfolds, Nicole and Jessica learn Alannah is their half-sister. Before their mother passed away, she had been communicating via email with Alannah who found her birth mother through one of those DNA test kits where one simply ‘spits’ (thus the name of the title) into a tube and sends it away for analysis.
Depending on whether there is a match somewhere and people make the connection, lives can be forever changed depending on the outcome.
This performance opened my eyes wide to an important issue to me.
Before the performance begins, make sure you read the important historical information in the programme about Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland. I am ashamed to say I had no contextual knowledge of these horrible institutions and the Catholic Church’s involvement in these homes where many young women were horribly mistreated in surrendering their babies for adoption. It is here where Nicole and Jessica learn about their mother giving birth to Alannah in one of these homes. A few telephone voice messages from their Aunt Alice (I thought I recognized Seana McKenna’s voice) concluded all that Nicole and Jessica needed to know about Alannah and why she was at Nicole’s home.
Before the production began Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time after Time’ played, and I wondered what the connection between the song is and what I was about to see.
Trust me it does make complete sense.
I made a few quick notes in my book on Bonnie Deakin’s realistic-looking living room. When O’Hanlon and O’Malley entered the scene and I watched both magnetically capture the tension of the moment at the top of the show, I closed my notebook, put it down and just watched, experienced, and breathed in the very human element of the moment.
Absolutely captivating and a joy to watch three skilled actors who were always in complete emotional control. They never ventured into histrionic or uncontrollable weeping or unbearable shouting but simply let the words of the dialogue speak for themselves.
And these words cut deep into the heart.
The fluid and natural pacing of the scenes are seamless. I cared about these three women, and I listened to and heard their stories told with passionate conviction.
Final Comments: I’m staying at an Air BnB here in Stratford and was telling the homeowner about this production. I think I may have encouraged her to see this production. She then proceeded to tell me about the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland that were run by Catholic orders. Again, I am ashamed to say that I had no knowledge about these horrible atrocities and I’m going to have to learn more about them.
I’ve been reading some reviews posted that are calling productions CRITIC’S PICK.
I’m calling ‘Spit’ one of my picks. See it before it closes.
The production runs approximately one hour with no intermission.
‘Spit’ runs to Sunday, September 4 at the Falstaff Family Centre in Stratford, 35 Waterloo Street. For tickets, visit www.herefornowtheatre.com or call 519.272.HFNT(4368).
‘SPIT’ by Noelle Brown
Director – Seana McKenna
Stage Manager – Patrice Bowler
Lighting and Sound Designer – Stephen Degenstein
Costume and Set Designer – Bonnie Deakin
Nicole – Seána O’Hanlon
Jessica – Siobhan O’Malley
Alannah – Fiona Mongillo