Like flies on the wall at one of the strangest parent teacher interviews you’ll ever attend, the Pi Theatre production of Jordi Mand’s Between The Sheets makes good use of its locale.
[pullquote]Director Richard Wolfe’s decision to move the play into a real grade three classroom is a brilliant one. With the audience lining the walls of the classroom on three sides it not only puts us closer to the action, it also creates a heightened agitation as we are surrounded by countless reminders of the real occupants of the room and the impact their story has on at least one of them.[/pullquote]Vancouver’s Pi Theatre moves out of the theatre and into a classroom of Admiral Seymour Elementary School in East Vancouver. While the setting makes perfect sense for the play’s story, for Pi Theatre Artistic Director Richard Wolfe it also made sense with the theatre company’s recent re-location to new offices in the area.
Arriving late for a parent teacher interview with her son’s grade three teacher at a local private school, the evening begins much like hundreds of other such meetings that day, an apparently concerned parent wanting to delve a little deeper into her son’s apparent lack of progress. There is an obvious awkwardness between the two women beyond the normally uneasy parent-teacher dynamic, and soon Mand drops the central bombshell that turns the evening into far deeper and sometimes stranger territory than just a son’s potential learning disorder.
In a lightning fast 60 minutes, Mand manages to cram a lot into her story, but not all of it rings true. Centrally are the two biggest questions of the night that remain unanswered: why would Marion confront the young teacher in the first place and not the other person involved, and even more importantly, why are these two women fighting over/about this person in the first place? (I am being deliberately unspecific in an effort to prevent any spoilers).
As parent and teacher respectively, the dynamic between Caitronia Murphy and Stephanie Moroz is at times astonishing. Even as they find themselves telling unbelievable secrets, they do so with commitment. There is wonderful ebb and flow to the play that keeps everything on edge and while Mand writes with many interruptions it is in those moments where the two women over-talk each other that allows for a more realistic portrayal.
Other motives aside, Director Richard Wolfe’s decision to move the play into a real grade three classroom is a brilliant one. With the audience lining the walls of the classroom on three sides it not only puts us closer to the action, it also creates a heightened agitation as we are surrounded by countless reminders of the real occupants of the room and the impact their story has on at least one of them.
Despite a couple of central questions that remain frustratingly unanswered, Between The Sheets remains a compelling piece of site-specific theatre, made even more compelling by the performances from Murphy and Moroz.
By Jordi Mand. Directed by Richard Wolfe. A Pi Theatre production. Between The Sheets continues at Admiral Seymour Elementary School through March 26, 2014. Visit http://pitheatre.com for tickets and information.
(And don’t forget to stop by the concession table as all proceeds, and they will also gladly take donations too, will help support the Admiral Seymour Elementary School noon-hour drama club.