Gender roles and recently redefined cultural norms and definitions surrounding the acknowledgement
of, and coming to terms with, youth culture’s burgeoning sexuality in 21st century Western modelled
societies, light the fire that burns slowly, but strongly, in acclaimed playwright Oren Safdie’s triumphant
return to Montreal stage with Gratitude, a Mainline Theatre presentation running through December
Adolescent anatomical awakenings are at the heart of this poignant, as well as delicately and deliciously
controversial allegory – when Dariya, a 15 year-old young woman and private school pupil experiencing
the wonder, as well as tumult, that the onset of puberty often delivers, falls for the desirable hunk
archetype of her class, Drew. Battling with internal culturally set norms of her background, along with
hormonal urgings and the very real melodrama of teenage interactions, not to mention Drew’s end goal
of giving her what perhaps she truly desires in her heart and mind, the stage is set – literally and
figuratively – for a ripped-from-the-headlines voyage into postmodern psyche and libido for a new
generation coming of age in a perplexing, confusing, angst-filled era.
Safdie drew from personal experience crafting this all-too-common reality-stained tale, recalling his own
psychically threatening eleventh grade start at a renowned Montreal private school many moons ago,
when the boyfriend of a popular girl in his class promised that he’d leave campus feet first on the first
day, replete with bullet wounds, should he erroneously decide to show up.
Tackling the complex role of Dariya is a whirlwind of undeniable talent herself, onstage and off, Michaela Di Cesare – she a celebrated playwright AND actor – who brings equilibrium to the part of a young woman attempting to reconcile her background and strong family value enforcements with her physical coming of age and experimentation curiosity. Patrick Keeler dives full speed ahead into the role of Drew, who is at the end of the day, a more multifaceted character than just the walking eddy of unscrupulous Freudian id impulses that stereotyped pre-judgment would indicate. Add in Laurent Pitre’s sensitive, thoughtful portrayal as hopeless romantic Josh, and accomplished actor Patrick Émannuel Aballard as Ben, and you’ve got a well-rounded presentation that will make one think, examine one’s values personally – as well as those that seem pervasive in a societal context – and simply get one talking on both sides of the issue.
SafdieSafdie co-directs the provoking production as well as crafting it, along with Amy Blackmore, and Bruno Pierre.
Houle dutifully and masterfully handles both set and costume design. The play is recommended for ages 16 and over, and ironically, that age group is the one commonly and currently wrestling with those very issues and paradigms in North American societies now, though it is their parents and grandparents equally trying to make sense of it all and put it into its proper perspective. Safdie does an ingenious job of bringing the conundrum to the forefront for all generations in thought-provoking fashion.
Join the humanistic and captivating game of human, moral and ethical chess, running at the Mainline Theatre, 3997 Saint-Laurent Boulevard (H2W 1Y4), until December 2nd.
Visit mainlinetheatre.ca/en/spectacles/gratitude for more information or call the box office at (514) 849-FEST (3378).