The saddest thing in Small Things isn’t any part of the story, it’s seeing celebrated Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor swap his exciting, unsettling, fantastical writing style for a bland, predictable assembling of dialogue. Last season’s Best Brothers got away with it thanks to its cast’s great comic work, but there’s nothing exceptional this time around.
The odd couple pairing of a prim retired school teacher and her informal, small town housekeeper – both coping with the loss of their husbands – doesn’t aim any higher than “well, that was okay.” A production that skirts darker notes for both characters, plays for laughs and features an oddly unfelt performance from the usually good Ellen Peterson only manages “okay” in a few scenes, usually when Alissa Watson is on stage with her grounded, genuine take as a single mother gamely navigating the waters of raising a transgender child. Barbara Gordon also finds some fun on the well-used path of a crusty old bitch learning to relax, but that’s not worth the price of admission; not buried in this much banality.
Life is sad and beautiful at the same time? Well, whodda thought?
Side note: Please turn off your smartphone in the theatre. The play’s emotional “reveal” scene was interrupted by a woman’s extended fight to shut Siri down; given the writing’s fragility, it really can’t take the competition.
By Daniel MacIvor
Prairie Theatre Exchange
Through Nov 2
Directed by Robert Metcalfe; with Barbara Gordon, Ellen Peterson, Alissa Watson; set design by Brian Perchaluk; costume design by Jamie Plummer; lighting design by Larry Isacoff; original music composed by Greg Lowe; stage managed by Karyn Kumhyr; assistant stage managed by Candace Maxwell.