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Back to the future at Centaur

April, 2009

Centaur Theatre has another in a string of hits in this, its 40th year, with the fascinating Age of Arousal. This piece, written by Linda Griffiths of Maggie and Pierre fame, is loosely based on George Gissing’s 1893 novel, The Odd Women. Beneath its exposition of Victorian era hypocrisy and somewhat overshadowed by the bravura performances of five outstanding local women actors (and one more-than-token man) are the age-old building blocks of money and sex. Marx and Freud are friends of theatre.

The production makes frequent use of interior monologues — clued by quick lighting changes — to highlight what the actors think, often the opposite of their spoken text.

Victorian England was a cradle of the women’s suffragette movement and the concept of the “new woman.” George Bernard Shaw’s two plays of 1893 were prohibited from production until 1902, but mirrored Gissing’s themes by discussing the emergence of “manly women and womanly men” in The Philanderer and of the economic causes of women’s plight in Mrs. Warren’s Profession.

In Age, boisterously directed by Sarah Stanley, two women Mary (Clare Coulter, fresh from Buried Child at the Segal) and Rhoda (Alison Darcy, star of A Doll’s House at the Segal) run a secretarial school, funded by Mary’s lectures on women’s rights, and teach down-and-out ladies employable skills. Their business partnership is buttressed by their close personal relationship as odd women (Vicspeak for lesbians).

Fireworks ensue when they take on three sisters, definitely not Chekov’s Trio, who are intimidated by the high tech machines of the day — Remington typewriters!

The amazing Leni Parker, winner of MECCA awards, wins the house with her portrayal of Virginia, the boozy sister. Equally impressive are Diana Fajrajsl as Alice, the suffering sister and Gemma James-Smith as Monica, the naïve sister.

The one male, Julian Casey, plays a bounder, but with redeeming actions. In the play, Rhoda predicts that their goals will be achieved within 30 years — by 1915.

Alas, votes for women in 1893 were allowed only in New Zealand. England and Canada joined the move in 1918.

Age of Arousal continues until April 19. Info: 514-288-3161.



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