Late Company

Michael Kopsa and Kerry Sandomirsky Credit: Tim Matheson
Michael Kopsa and Kerry Sandomirsky
Credit: Tim Matheson

At The Cultch until November 30, 2014

Posted November 22, 2014

If you’ve got teenagers in your house, they’re probably in their bedrooms using their computers and cellphones. But exactly what are they doing on those electronic gadgets? Do you know?

Late Company is written by Jordan Tannahill, a 26-year-old Canadian playwright/director/filmmaker and this year’s winner of the Governor General’s Award for Drama. Not afraid of tackling big issues, he will send you back out into the night pondering, amongst other things, being a parent.

Where, for example, is the boundary between ‘invading’ your children’s privacy and simply keeping tabs on them? Around the dinner table – assuming the family sits down together – are there conversations about what’s a ‘funny’ prank and what could potentially send another kid over the edge? Social media has added an unprecedented avenue for bullying.

Kerry Sandomirsky,Gerry Mackay, Katherine Venour, Michael Kopsa and Daniel Doheny Credit: Tim Matheson
Kerry Sandomirsky, Gerry Mackay, Katharine Venour, Michael Kopsa and Daniel Doheny
Credit: Tim Matheson

Katrina Dunn, directing for Touchstone Theatre, works with this brilliant script and a fabulous cast: Kerry Sandomirsky, Michael Kopsa, Katharine Venour, Gerry Mackay and young Daniel Doheny. Pam Johnson provides an up-market, tasteful set in a very intimate, re-configured Culture Lab.

The playwright took as his starting point the 2011 suicide of Jamie Hubley, the teenaged son of an Ottawa city councilor, but the play goes far beyond suicide to explore the possibility of forgiveness.

In the play, Debora Shaun-Hastings, a metal sculptor, and her husband Michael, a Tory MP, have invited Tamara Dermot, her husband Bill and their teenaged son Curtis to their home in the hope of finding peace and reconciliation following the suicide (in which Curtis played a part) of the Shaun-Hastings’ son Joel. The dinner party is the women’s idea; neither of the fathers thinks it will work.

Daniel Doheny and Kerry Sandomirsky Credit: Tim Matheson
Daniel Doheny and Kerry Sandomirsky
Credit: Tim Matheson

It starts badly and gets worse. Layers are stripped away. Fault lines in the marriages gape. Hypocrisy rears up. And parenting differences surface: a cuff here, an admission of absence there. And in the middle of it all, gangly Curtis sits slouched and texting on the sofa. No one gets off easy in Late Company.

Absolutely luminous, Kerry Sandomirsky turns in the performance of a lifetime as Debora. The Shaun-Hastings are upper class and Sandomirsky, elegantly dressed in grey, and with hair upswept, is the epitome of sophistication and graciousness. Debora is nervous but so contained before the Dermots arrive and so completely, utterly undone – and exposed – when they leave. Sandomirsky shows how thin the skin of civility really is. In tears through much of the last part of Late Company, she will go through this night after night. And she will take audiences with her.

Tamara and Bill Dermot are working class; Venour, as Tamara, arrives in tight pants and boots. But, devastated as Tamara is over Curtis’s part in the tragedy, she loves her son and will protect him. And there are mitigating circumstances that come to light during the evening. Venour has an almost ethereal quality about her, a cool calmness. But when her character’s son is attacked – bullied, in fact – by Debora, Venour turns into a lioness.

Late Company belongs to the mothers; the fathers are definitely less sympathetically portrayed and their grief is more private. Michael Kopsa, as the politician husband, badgers and condescends to Gerry Mackay’s hotheaded Bill who, in turn, accuses Michael of being soft. But both characters are human and come with their own fears and frailties.

Daniel Doheny, not far out of his own teen years, portrays Curtis as hunched and sulky, uncomfortable, angry and miserable. Doheny’s big moment comes at the end and it’s a killer. There will be tears on and offstage; the playwright gets the ending absolutely right.

Late Company, deftly directed by Dunn, is excruciatingly good theatre: it feels like open heart surgery. Bravos all ‘round: Touchstone Theatre, Jordan Tannahill, Kerry Sandomirsky, Katharine Venour, Michael Kopsa, Gerry Mackay and Daniel Doheny.

Kerry Sandomirsky Credit: Tim Matheson
Kerry Sandomirsky
Credit: Tim Matheson