Mar 20

The Apology is an Exhausting Soap Opera

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

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In 1816 Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein and her lover, the poet Percy Shelley, spent a summer with poet Lord Byron, John William Polidori and Mary’s sister in law, Claire Clairmont near Geneva, Switzerland. This event is the premise that inspires Darrah Teitel’s script of The Apology. The play is part of Alberta Theatre Projects Enbridge playRites Festival.

The play opens to all four characters reciting their story in unison. ‘The horror’ is a refrain in this opening speech and they speak about how the courts found them to be unfit parents. The scene then breaks and we see the two men kissing and undressing each other to wind up under the covers on the bed in the middle of the stage. The scene breaks again and the two women are having a conversation about running away.

Mary (Jamie Konchak) tells Claire (Ava Jane Markus) that she is going to go away with Percy (David Patrick Flemming) because they need their independence. Percy has also invited Claire though Mary didn’t know that, but she quickly recovers, saying she’d be delighted if Claire would join them. This conversation reveals Mary’s belief in free love, which Claire frankly describes as having the ability to have sex with everyone. Mary doesn’t really refute this but asserts that she and Percy are very serious about each other. This statement is then contrasted with the next scene that has Percy in bed with Lord George Byron (David Beazely). They revel talk and kiss and Percy invites George on his adventure with Mary.

We then find all four youngsters at George’s castle in Switzerland, where they have sex, do drugs and write poetry and prose. Generally, they try and build their own utopia, where everyone loves everyone, figuratively and literally. Then both ladies get pregnant and it starts to go downhill, with Mary in the throws of labour, saying that she hears her mother speaking to her. The baby is born, named Clara, but eventually dies because she gets sick. George wants them to return home, but Percy is against this idea as he can’t face what awaits him at home, especially since his wife Harriet, having heard of his departure with Mary, has committed suicide.

The second act find us in the present day, with the same characters. It’s four years later and Claire has given birth to a baby girl. Percy and Mary are in and out of love with each other, and there is a new character, the lawyer Tom (Graham Percy) who is in love with Mary and wants to help her. The audience watches as the the world the Romantics created for themselves falls away and reality sets in. And reality sucks.

Scott Reid’s projection design is beautiful in one instance in particular, when it’s raining outside and the design is a lovely falling of blue.

The play features some very strong performances by all of the cast members, that manages to keep the audience engaged, but it’s not enough to make up for the lack of depth and substance in Teitel’s script. The playwright wanted to explore how “within polyamory, nothing really changes when it comes to sexual politics.” And though the play brushes on feminism and involves the subject of polyamorous relationships, it doesn’t provoke any deep thoughts on the matter. The Apology is exhausting. Not only in length, (especially the first half) but also in subject matter. It’s like watching a stage adaptation of a soap opera with lots of sex and drugs but no rock and roll.

The Apology is part of Alberta Theatre Projects Enbridge playRites Festival of New Canadian Plays. Tickets and more information is available online.

Photo Credit: Trudie Lee Photography.

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