The Fitting Room: the pieces don’t fit

Collectivus Theatre is presenting The Fitting Room at the Havana Theatre.

Kelly Vanderswan as Amy, the mom, and Ciaran Volke as Henry in Ellery Lamm’s The Fitting Room. (Photo by Victoria Simpson)

Ellery Lamm, who wrote The Fitting Room, shows promise as a playwright, but that promise hasn’t ripened yet.

In this script, she presents a parallel set of crises. In the first, Henry, who’s 13, has dared his friend Noah to stand on the ice in the middle of a hockey pond. The ice broke, Noah drowned and, with his mom, Henry is buying a suit for Noah’s funeral. In the second storyline, Cleo, who’s in high school, is negotiating her first lesbian crush. She’s sweet on Hanna, Noah’s older sister.

Annoyingly, Lamm gives these watershed moments a kind of implicit emotional equivalency. Largely, that’s because she never convincingly plumbs the depths of feeling that a death like Noah’s would provoke. Henry is sorry, his mother is tense, and Hanna is kind of angry, but everybody gets off easy. Where’s the shock? Why aren’t they all ruined?

In the parallel storyline, Cleo bops along, coming out to her valley-girl best friend Sophie in a broadly comic scene. Cleo takes up a whole lot of time detailing the minutiae of her attraction to Hanna—which is inconveniently interrupted by Noah’s death. But Cleo presses on with her flirtation. That’s right: she’s so fucking self-involved that she keeps flirting with the dead boy’s sister.

I suppose you could argue that a teenager might be sufficiently solipsistic to turn “wanting to help” into an opportunity for getting kissed. But part of the playwright’s job in an essentially naturalistic play is to see the bigger — more realistic — picture, and, realistically, Hanna would be flattened by grief. Romance and sex might get tangled up in that but, if they did, it would be a shit show.

Rather than going for depth, however, playwright Lamm delivers mild lessons in forgiveness and positive thinking. In a twist, she even introduces a character who delivers a literal sermon at the end.

But I did say that Lamm shows promise. She does some interesting things formally. She sets most of the action in a fitting room in a mall, for instance. And she plays with time: Henry launches into a flashback while his mom stays in the present. There’s a fair bit of humour in the queer storyline — mostly built around other characters’ obliviousness to Cleo’s identity. That dialogue can be sly and, although it’s mild, Lamm’s approach is fundamentally compassionate, which is a very good quality in playwriting.

In the cast, Charlotte Thompson, who’s playing Cleo, applies nicely understated spin to the moments of coming-out awkwardness and Amber Landry delivers the most thoroughly naturalistic performance of the evening.

Still, the play is unresolved stylistically. Comedy and tragedy can co-exist, but only if both are thoroughly explored.

THE FITTING ROOM By Ellery Lamm. Directed by Anna Mare Anderson. Produced by Collectivus Theatre. At the Havana Theatre on Tuesday, May 14. Continues until May 18.Tickets.


NEVER MISS A REVIEW: To get links to my reviews plus the best of international theatre coverage, sign upfor FRESH SHEET, my free weekly e-newsletter.

And, if you want to keep independent criticism alive in Vancouver, check out my Patreon page. Newspapers are dying and arts journalism is often the first thing they cut. Fight back!

About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sign up—free!—

YEAH, THIS IS ANNOYING. But my theatre newsletter is fun!

Sign up and get curated international coverage + local reviews every Thursday!