BWW Interviews: Chris Abraham talks SOMEONE ELSE
Someone Else is the final play in a loose trilogy written by Canadian playwright Kristen Thomson. The triology began with the award-winning I, Claudia which was a show about an adolescent girl whose parents were divorcing, and was followed by The Patient Hour about people in the last stages of their lives. Someone Else reunites Kristen with her I, Claudia director Chris Abraham as they examine the turbulent life of a middle-aged couple whose marriage is on the rocks.
The show tells the story of Cathy, a stand-up comedian in a creative slump, and her husband Peter, a doctor at a community clinic. After eighteen years of marriage they enter into therapy to try and address the problems they are experiencing both within and outside of their relationship. The play stars Thomson alongside Stratford Festival regular Tom Rooney, Damien Atkins, Bahia Watson, and Nina Taylor. The show promises to be an examination of middle age, marriage and the delicate nature of change.
BWW spoke with director Chris Abraham about bringing Someone Else to the stage, and about the unique challenges of following on the extraordinary success of I, Claudia:
Congratulations on Someone Else! Can you give us an overview about the story you are telling?
Someone Else is about a married couple, a stand-up comic and a doctor who are at a point in their marriage where they realize it isn't working. Kathy has had a successful career and finds herself suddenly in a profound creative slump and becomes depressed and deeply uncommunicative. She is desperate about what to do and how to fix it and decides to venture into couples therapy. She is enthusiastic about it while her husband reluctantly acquiesces to her demands.
That is where the play begins, with them beginning the process of couples therapy. At the beginning it appears difficult to negotiate certain conversations, and then they open a Pandora's box within their relationship. One of the primary things which keep coming up is Cathy's suspicion that Peter is having an affair, and one of the key events in the early part of the play is that Peter begins to have a relationship with one of his patients.
So in a way her suspicions are realized?
Not in the way she imagines. The context of the relationship is something I don't want to talk about now because I don't want to spoil the show, but the relationship he has with this younger patient is very different from what Cathy imagines. It does propel Peter into a very long journey away from home and ultimately back again. The meat of the play is what happens after they both confront the fact that Peter is engaged with someone else.
Overall would you say this play has a hopeful message?
I would say yes. It is a very hopeful play and I think that at the center of the play is a story about a couple who are fighting to hang onto love and each other in the context of individual crisis which challenge their hold on their own identity and each other. It's hopeful because they're both fighting for the survival of their love for each other and their marriage. It's not easy for either of them but they are trying and I personally find that hopeful.
The play is looked at as a trilogy in a manner of speaking with I, Claudia and The Patient Hour. Do you think this show could have wider appeal than the other two because it deals with an age range more immediately relatable to the average theatre goer?
I think I, Claudia had a pretty wide appeal and so did The Patient Hour. I think the power of Kristen's talent is that she is always writing about subjects that she is very close to personally, but also choosing subjects to investigate in which a large number of people have a connection to. So in the first one it was divorce and that period of adolescence where you are moving through the 'black tunnel'. Many people have been touched by the phenomenon of divorce, and I think the same is true of The Patient Hour as many of us have been touched by a period of our life where we have to deal with our parents aging. It's a very cathartic and transformative moment in life and people can relate to that.
With Someone Else there are obviously many middle aged people who could come to the theatre, but it focuses on one of the moments in life where you realize where you thought you were going and where you actually are turn out to be very different. You have to figure out who you are and where you're going and it's very painful but very necessary.
So do I think this play will resonate more or be more 'popular'? I would love if that were true but I think all three plays really resonate through human and accessible stories.
Do you feel a certain amount of pressure or expectation given the tremendous success of I, Claudia?
Well we've done so much separately and grown up a lot since our first adventure together and Kristen has never really tried to repeat what happened with I, Claudia so I don't think we're focused on expectations. She's never had the prior success of I, Claudia be front and centre in her mind. I think that's partially because of how she writes. She writes by putting on masks and improvising and generating hours and hours of material. The plays come together as an unconscious exercise and when we're making a play together we focus on that. I observe what rises to the surface.
When and Where?
January 7th to February 2nd, 2013 at The Berkeley Street Theatre
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