Rants In The Dark
Directed by Lyndee-Jane Rutherford (based on the book by Emily Writes adapted for the stage by Mel Dodge, Lyndee-Jane Rutherford and Bevin Linkhorn)
Circa Theatre; Circa One (January 19 – February 16) [Good Times Company]
Yes, due to bad holiday-planning I am very late to Rants In The Dark – but I saw the opening night of the preview-season last year. So I am glad to have had a wee break between seasons – because it was immediately noticeable how much work has gone in between takes; this is not quite an all-new show, the source material is still hilarious, heartbreaking, moving – and still the driver here, the show’s cast and crew working so well to serve the words and worlds of Emily Writes. But this is a slicker production. There have been major cuts and tweaks, it’s sharper, shorter, more impactful – and of course the lead role performed by Renee Lyons (a monster effort, packed with more monologues than is perhaps reasonable to expect from any one person) is now so well controlled, so honed, so completely owned.
So it was a joy to check in on Rants In The Dark Again. For this is – I’m quite certain – a case of theatrical alchemy.
This is a case of the right source material finding the right people to adapt it; the correct team of technical crew and actors on board too. How fitting that in a series of stories and blog posts about building a community, the adaptation of book to playscript and then from page to stage has built another community.
Bronwyn Turei is back in the fold, playing many roles – including a delightful approximation of Emily’s husband. And new to this season is Shortland Street’s Amelia Reid-Meredith, subbing for Emma Draper from the preview-run.
Alright, let’s do some Full Disclosure-Type Shit:
I know Emily. I know her very well. Well enough that when her son Eddie developed breathing problems – a core part of this show’s story – I was in the loop well before she ever wrote about it. We’re friends.
Normally I wouldn’t feel the need to admit that in any review-writing, here I’m clarifying it because I can confirm that Turei’s rendering of Emily’s husband is so close to note-perfect. Lyons’ ability to both live in character and break character to not only confide in the audience but to create a rapport is in itself impressive, but it’s also the very embodiment of the empathy Emily displays not just in her work but in her passionate support and understanding of mothers, of fathers, of young families. She’s found her network and her network has found her. And the Rants In The Dark play is the logical extension of this – it also manages, so well, to explain the hilarity and heartbreak in and of everyday life.
Yes, this is a play about motherhood, about the sisterhood of mothers, about parenting, about family and the pressure-cooker that exists – but it’s not just a set of words aimed squarely and only at parents. Here it all lives and breathes and struts its hour (and a half) on the stage – and I remember on first viewing thinking that Rants In The Dark had the ability, by its very existence and this depiction of Emily’s words, to go on to travel around the country, even the world.
I’m even more sure of that on second viewing – on seeing this developed, nurtured play. The extra production values, the hilarious Pinterest dream-like sequence, the way one person’s story is, in some sense, every person’s story, or a version of it, it’s all served up so lovingly. Joy and sorrow. Hand in hand. Helping one another – because to deny one would be to miss out on the other entirely.
And Amelia Reid-Meredith moves between roles – from playing smug yoga-pants-wearing/latte-sipping superior mothers to the wide-eyed, cape-wearing innocence of toddler Eddie – with deft skill and superb comic timing.
The three actors in this play work so hard, they have each other’s back – they are never in each other’s way but they are somehow deep inside the soul of each other as they share the stage, delivering from the page the words of love, anguish, commitment, community and the laughter and wisdom that comes from shared experience.
Rants In The Dark is a profoundly joyous experience – there are belly laughs – but the best bits I think is when you can hear a murmur from the audience. You can feel the nods, you hear acknowledgment of a point, whether wiping at an eye or stifling a guffaw, the audience moves and feels with the words, swept up and away due the efforts of the performers and the care from the writers and director.
So, yeah, of course, I was proud of my friend. And all she’s set up here, the world she created.
I’m mesmerised by the cast and crew and what they have done with her words. And I felt bonded to an audience.
The mother of all theatrical experiences then.
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