'Post Democracy' by Hannah Moscovitch

Tarragon Theatre

Mike Meehan. L-R: Chantelle Han and Jesse LaVercombe

Joe Szekeres

‘Post Democracy’ becomes a scalding commentary not only on corporate greed, but also on any gigantic ‘business’ conglomeration. The four-member ensemble is bona fide primo quality.

Oh, that Hannah Moscovitch.

She is one astute person.

Last week in Montréal, I saw her terrific ‘Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes’ at the Centaur where the audience is an uncomfortable witness to power struggles within higher academia. ‘Post Democracy’ shifts that power struggle to the big business corporate world elite where the stakes are raised even higher.

We are in a foreign country in a modern hotel where Spanish is spoken but it’s never made clear which country. John Gzowski’s selection of Spanish song selections at the top of the show finely underscored that fact. Teresa Przybylski’s clever set design intrigued me. A huge tarp covered the entire stage and three set pieces. When the lights go down for a few seconds and then come up, that tarp magically has been pulled to the front of the playing space with the utmost silence. Incredible!

Pryzbylski’s sparse but neatly decorated set allows for our full attention on the one-hour production and the characters. The projection of a large art wall on the back wall becomes a focal point. Some of the characters also step through the artwork. For some of the characters, the art is confusing, but Diego Matamoros’s Bill admires it very much. This stepping forward from the confusion of the artwork is nicely juxtaposed with stepping into the confusion of the volatile situation of the text.

The hotel appears modern as there are doors which open automatically as characters enter and exit the room. There is a trolley alcohol cart just upstage off centre with a comfortable red chaise lounge next to it. An ottoman is also located downstage right. Louise Guinand’s lighting design sharply focuses and highlights the intensity of each scene.

The scene opens with CEO executive Bill (Diego Matamoros) and the COO – Chief Operating Officer- Lee (Jesse LaVercombe) who also happens to be Bill’s fifth cousin. They are in town visiting and hopefully purchasing the company Systema in the city. Pressure is on to complete the deal. A major sex scandal rocks the company and the plans for buying have been thrown to the wind. There is a scandal Lee has taken sexual advantage of a young girl whom he thought was a hooker and of the age of consent. There is suspicion the girl is a minor and that he has hurt her physically.

We also learn that Bill will have to step down from his position as CEO for health concerns. Bill’s plan is to make Lee interim CEO of the company which does not sit well with Bill’s daughter, Justine (Chantelle Han) who is CFO – Chief Financial Officer. We also learn Bill and his wife adopted Justine many years ago. We also meet Shannon (Rachel Cairns) assistant to Lee who has been carrying on a rather illicit tryst with Lee for some time.

Hmmm…in a democratic world where people work hard to attain goals, in Moscovitch’s story it appears that family takes care of family in the business. Quite ironic to say the least regarding what democracy entails. Moscovitich’s script scathingly reveals what business has come to in the corporate elite world of the twenty-first century where ‘family’ looks out for ‘family’ and to hell with anyone else. That’s nothing new as this was also common in the twentieth century.

What makes ‘Post Democracy’ a bull’s eye hit?

Director Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu’s vision of the story becomes a game of chess moves which becomes fascinating to watch. The four characters assume vantage points on the stage to try and check or ‘check mate’ each other in sharing and declaring their actions and why or why not they should or should not be believed.

The cast remains riveting throughout.

Diego Matamoros gives a finely nuanced performance of a man who strives to maintain his professional composure for the sake of the company. When he finally does reveal what he feels internally, the explosion is truly felt. It appears initially that Jesse LaVercombe’s alluring Lee is the corporate lothario with the open shirt and tight-fitting Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce pants. His drunken seduction with assistant Rachel, while comical at first, becomes infuriating to watch. They are corporate business professionals who have been entrusted to complete high-stakes deals worth a lot of money and instead succumb to animalistic, sexual desires highly inappropriate while on the proverbial company time. LaVercombe judiciously never ventures into disgusting behaviour to watch, but his performance rings credibly real.

Chantelle Han’s performance resonates deeply. Her Justine is one who wants to make a difference. Justine’s charity work is most noteworthy, and I was silently applauding when she and Bill make a deal with Lee that hits him extremely hard near the end of the play. Lee knows this deal is the only way he and everyone are going to be able to move forward out of this mess. Rachel Cairns’ Shannon becomes believably real when a horrible truth from her past becomes evident in a confrontational scene between her and Justine. It’s understandable what happens to Shannon in the final scene between Lee and Bill.

Final Comments: As a retired Ontario educator, I couldn’t help but nod my head in agreement with equating how our current provincial education system is a big corporate elite ‘business’ model as well. Truth be told, education has always been a business.

The machinations of Queen’s Park, school boards and schools scarily reflect the power play, the tricks, and the pitting of people against people from Moscovitch’s world.

‘Post Democracy’ remains another must-see this fall.

Running Time: approximately one hour with no intermission.

‘Post Democracy’ runs until December 4 in the Mainspace at Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Avenue, Toronto. For tickets: tarragontheatre.com or call (416) 531-1827.

POST DEMOCRACY by Hannah Moscovitch
Directed by Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu
Set and Costume Design: Teresa Przybylski
Lighting Design: Louise Guinand
Sound Design: John Gzowski
Intimacy Director: Lisa Karen Cox
Stage Manager: Sandy Plunkett

Performers: Rachel Cairns, Chantelle Han, Jesse LaVercombe, Diego Matamoros

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