The Amaryllis takes a long time to bloom

 

 

publicity shot for The Amaryllis

(Photo of Shawn Macdonald and Amy Rutherford in The Amaryllis by Emily Cooper)

Michele Riml’s script is a screwball comedy. But director Mindy Parfitt’s production is lacking a screwball: Amy Rutherford is miscast.

The Amaryllis is about the sometimes comically fucked up relationship between adult siblings Lucy and Jeremy. Lucy is a voice artist. Jeremy is her agent. Lucy is Jeremy’s only client. And they live together.

Lucy is narcissistic and abusive, which makes her hard to like. When Jeremy reads self-help books because he wants to change his life, Lucy responds: “You really want to make something of yourself, make something of me! … If I’m happy, you’re happy. That’s always how it’s been.” When it’s Jeremy’s turn to make the selection for movie night, Lucy chooses a title and justifies her action by saying: “I picked it as if I were you picking.”

If we were watching a Lucy that was charmingly wacky, this might work; we might see her selfishness as hilariously outrageous. But wackiness isn’t Rutherford’s strong suit. In her delivery, the silly voices that Riml has written into the script fall flat.

But it’s not really Rutherford’s fault; she’s a very good actor who’s been cast in the wrong show. About halfway through the 90-minute evening, Lucy auditions for a stage role using a monologue that’s in the voice of a grieving mother. Rutherford comes to life. Out of nowhere, the monologue is moving. And, for the first time, I had a reason to pay attention to Lucy.

At about the same juncture, the whole script takes a turn towards darkness. Throughout the evening, Jeremy has been offering monologues in which he examines his cowardice. Partly because actor Shawn Macdonald opens himself so fully to Jeremy’s vulnerability, these monologues have been emotional steppingstones: they’ve drawn us through the script by giving us places to land. But, at this point, the whole text starts to sink into deeper, murkier water: the trauma of Jeremy and Lucy’s shared childhood. If the first half of the evening were working more consistently, this shift would be richer, but it’s still welcome: Riml creates an arresting blend of pop-culture absurdity and psychological torment: Jeremy and Lucy sing snippets of Jesus Christ Superstar; their parents should never have had children.

With its deep blue-grey walls, Ana Cappellutto’s set is boldly dark and it makes possible a lovely expressionistic moment that I won’t give away. But the set’s proportions are awkward and the space it creates feels vacant. With the lighting, Itai Erdal commits much more fully to magic and it works.

By the end of the evening, this production of The Amaryllis arrives at a satisfying place. I wish it didn’t take so long to get there. More ditz please.

THE AMARYLLIS By Michele Riml. Directed by Mindy Parfitt. Presented by The Search Party and the Firehall Arts Centre. At the Firehall Arts Centre on Friday, November 13. Runs until November 22. Tickets.

 

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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.

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