Home Classical Music Coal Mine Theatre’s Applicable Is Absorbing, Compelling… Stunning

Coal Mine Theatre’s Applicable Is Absorbing, Compelling… Stunning

Coal Mine Theatre’s Applicable Is Absorbing, Compelling… Stunning


Gray Powell and Raquel Duffy in Coal Mine Theatre's Appropriate (Photo: Dahlia Katz)
Grey Powell and Raquel Duffy in Coal Mine Theatre’s Applicable (Picture: Dahlia Katz)

Coal Mine Theatre/Applicable, written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, directed by Ted Dykstra, Coal Mine Theatre, till Oct. 21. Tickets right here.

Applicable (which means appropriate). Applicable (which means to take over).

These two completely different meanings (and pronunciations) of the identical phrase have been the flashpoint that triggered Branden Jacobs-Jenkins to jot down his 2014 eponymous play, which has turn out to be one other runaway hit for Coal Mine Theatre.

Award-winning Jacobs-Jenkins isn’t unknown to Toronto and competition audiences. The truth is, three of his sly and subversive works have been featured on playbills. The Shaw Pageant produced An Octoroon and All people, whereas Crow’s Theatre and ARC mounted Gloria. All are very completely different, however equally disturbing.

Applicable matches into the nice American literary trope of gathering dysfunctional relations collectively and letting all hell break unfastened, with nothing ever being the identical once more.

On this case, we’re assembly the Lafayette household, who’ve come to their decaying mansion to kind via their late father’s belongings for an property sale. They’re from Arkansas, which locations them within the deep south of the US, the place they have been as soon as a part of the antebellum plantation class. Probably the most outstanding factor about Applicable is that you’ve a Black playwright exploring points of racism utilizing all-White characters, which is the central theme of the play. An excellent conceit if ever there was.

The bitter, indignant, foul-mouthed, divorced Toni (Raquel Duffy in a efficiency of a lifetime), has shouldered the burden of her father’s care, and a lot of the work on the home. Her dead-pan teenage son Rhys (Mackenzie Wojcik) is one thing of a pot-addled wastrel, distant from his mom, though Toni appears to forgive him all the things.

Laid-back if nervous Brother Bo (Grey Powell) lives in New York, and has been the household’s monetary assist, however is fearful about cash. His hyper-ctive, even perhaps near-hysterical spouse Rachael (an intense Amy Lee) represents the Jewish liberal custom. Did Bo marry her out of riot in opposition to his roots? They’ve three kids, essentially the most worrying being over-keen teenage daughter Cassidy (Hannah Levinson) who craves journey of any sort. She has a wild youthful preteen brother Ainsley (Ruari Hamman).

The third sibling is the prodigal brother, a seemingly even-tempered Frank (Andy Trithardt) who has been absent from the household for a few years, having left below a cloud. He, an AA graduate, has returned along with his hippie, flower little one fiancée River (a scrumptious Alison Beckwith) with a want, below her steering, to make amends for previous sins.

Amy Lee, Raquel Duffy, Andy Trithhardt, and Gray Powell in Coal Mine Theatre's Appropriate (Photo: Dahlia Katz)
Amy Lee, Raquel Duffy, Andy Trithhardt, and Grey Powell in Coal Mine Theatre’s Applicable (Picture: Dahlia Katz)

As in all these sprawling household dramas, confrontations happen, secrets and techniques are revealed, previous hurts are hurled about, and feelings and tempers run at excessive dudgeon. However Jacobs-Jenkins has a shock in retailer, and it’s a beautiful coup de théâtre. In going via their late father’s belongings, a ebook of horrible pictures is found — and this isn’t giving something away. The photographs are of lynched Black males. That is the type of play the place, simply if you suppose issues can’t worsen, they do.

And so we come to the ninth, if invisible, character — their father, apparently an admired and fair-minded lawyer. It’s how every member of the Lafayette household, together with the kids, copes with this unnerving discover, that’s on the coronary heart of the play. Was advantageous, upstanding Daddy a racial bigot or worse? What about their slave-owning previous? It’s a home, we uncover, steeped in ghosts.

Cleverly, for this old school household format play, set designers Steve Lucas and Rebecca Morris have created a raised proscenium stage with a drawn curtain, and it really works. On Coal Mine’s finances, we’re by no means going to get the ramshackle if as soon as elegant furnishings, however the designers have given it their finest shot, and Lucas’ lighting design has some good results. Des’ree Grey’s costumes are spot on.

Applicable is lengthy, working virtually three hours, however director Ted Dykstra retains the pacing boiling and roiling alongside. Duffy’s unremitting Toni is the fulcrum, and Dykstra has properly put her entrance and centre. If she doesn’t get a Dora nomination, there isn’t any justice, however the solid is uniformly good, with a particular nod to Lee and Beckwith.

A go to with the Lafayette household is harrowing, to say the least. As a play, Applicable is absorbing, compelling, and at occasions surprising. Jacobs-Jenkins is relentless at what he throws on the viewers.


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Paula Citron
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