The grim reality of life often is alleviated by joyful imaginings and our quest to indulge in the fantastical. This is one of the main themes in Catherine-Anne Toupin’s play, Right Now, published by the French-Canadian writer in February 2016. Sitting through this theatrical work is akin to walking through a dream ballet sequence from one of those old time musicals, although this is a much darker romp. Dare to take a strong inhale of those smelling salts and be taken from the immediate and tragic reality to El Dorado where everything does perhaps work out in the end.
This play trips you up at every turn. You think you have a grip on what’s happening but as the play progresses and more and more questions and mind-bending episodes take place, you begin to flounder and understand that you are in the living within the confines of a disturbed mind, that of the character of Alice (Christina O’Neill). What we see on stage is her perception of her world with all its feelings of sadness. While Right Now is a hilariously comical piece, it has an underlying heart-wrenching story of debilitating grief at its core.
We meet Alice sharing a flat with her medico husband Ben (Dushan Phillips). They seemed well-heeled in their comfortably renovated home. There is a baby crying down the hallway that we never see – the nursery is off-stage. We are told that the couple have suffered the loss of this baby. Alice is feeling neglected. Ben is too busy to care. Boredom, confusion and grief smothers Alice until one day she opens her apartment door to be greeted by a neighbor, Juliette Gauche (Olga Makeeva). Ben and Alice’s family unit all of sudden becomes interesting, a little wild and unpredictable. The rest of the Gauche family arrives shortly after and they turn everything upside down from that moment on.
The Gauche family do not hold back from asking very personal questions. They remark on all manner of things with arresting candour that would put anyone ill at ease. They cajole Alice and Ben into divulging private details. The Gauches manage to ingratiate themselves creatively and cleverly into the lives on this young couple and play, among other things, the part of grief doctors to the rescue. All the pain Ben and Alice carry is brought out and challenged by Mr Gille and Mrs Juliette Gauche (Joe Petruzzi and Olga Makeeva) with the help over the over-excited-puppy-dog son Francois (Mark Wilson) who never has managed to measure up to his parents’ standards. But who is this trio and where do they come from? We are given some sort of answer at the play’s conclusion but, in any case, it is just worth enjoying the each scene of this play and let yourself be immersed in its very peculiar world.
Makeeva steals the show with her comic timing and portrayal of her character Juliette who is like Morticia Addams on speed. Juliette fusses, fights and flirts her way through life. She is a maternal figure one moment and then an ice-queen in the next. Makeeva is so engaging to watch at the best of times at Red Stitch but to see her play such a darkly thrill seeking character is truly a treat. Petruzzi’s character is equally as queer and inappropriate. Wilson is energetic in each scene and his cartoon-like character, Francois, is a real hoot for the audience. He manages to take exuberance to new heights.
Phillips and O’Neill have built genuine characters who we truly sympathise with. The trajectory of grief is articulated well by these two skilled actors. The trouble state of Alice’s mind is what we sit with all evening and O’Neill conveys her character with grace and subtlety.
Katy Maudlin’s direction is outstanding; the play has many amusing moments – a favourite being the tableaus of the Gauche family interspersed throughout the play which defines their strange and mercurial presence. This is a dark comic treat not to be missed.