Stockholm plays at Toronto’s Nightwood Theatre
Stockholm takes place in a gorgeous kitchen that seems fully functional – i.e. it has running water and a light in the fridge – but actually has more uses than one would initially expect, as its many surfaces become planes and angles that the two lithe performers, Melissa-Jane Shaw and Jonathon Young, use to twist and turn against in moments of dance.
I won’t call these “dance numbers” as this isn’t in the genre of musical theatre. Stockholm has seamlessly integrated movement that furthers the action. These scenes-with-dance are often heavily erotic, showing us depths of the couple’s sexual connection that otherwise could not be shown on stage (not without becoming very controversial, at least.)
Shaw and Young are as adept at acting as at dance. Whether they are interacting with each other or addressing the audience, they are always fiercely engaging. As the show opens, they are a totally contemptible couple for being too wealthy, too happy, and more than a bit pretentious. They are young and beautiful; they shop at Whole Foods; they own an old Toronto home that they gutted and renoed; they spend their weekend afternoons at rep cinemas watching classic Ingmar Bergman films and disparaging popular “dick flicks and chick flicks”; they moon over each other at every spare moment.
Luckily, since any sort of narrative requires a conflict, I knew this couple couldn’t stay so seemingly carefree for too long. The truly toxic nature of their relationship is foreshadowed by a few very dramatic moments, and when things come to a head it is a fantastic use of physicality, lighting and sound.
This story could be mundane if it wasn’t handled so well; instead it highlights that this situation is important to explore simply because it is so common. When I was first watching it I was a bit surprised about how much the relationship’s problems were clearly the female character’s fault, particularly as this is a production of Nightwood, Toronto’s feminist theatre. However, as it has sat with me more, the man’s complicity has sunk in and become, in a way, more reprehensible than the woman’s behaviour.
Even if the dissection of a heterosexual, mainstream, yuppie relationship doesn’t sound appealing to you, the show is still absolutely worth seeing for the tight, professional direction, choreography, tech and performances.
– Stockholm plays at Tarragon Theatre, Extra Space (30 Bridgeman Ave) until June 3, 2012
– Shows are Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00 p.m., Wednesday 1:30 pm Saturday & Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
– Tickets are $15-$30
– Tickets can be purchased by calling (416) 531.1827 or online at www.tarragontheatre.com
Photo of Melissa-Jane Shaw and Jonathon Young by Karim Romero