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Photo credit: Andrew Alexander/GCTC

So Much Theatre: Fly Me to the Moon

By Andrew Snowdon on November 6, 2012

No matter how routine your job, you never really know what you’re going to find when you go in to work.

What starts as a regular shift for Belfast home-care workers Loretta Mackie (Margo MacDonald) and Frances Shields (Mary Ellis) quickly turns into a question of scruples when their client dies on the toilet on the day his pension cheque is due to be deposited. The moral dilemma with which the protagonists of Marie Jones’s Fly Me to the Moon are faced grows deeper and deeper as the day goes on, forcing the pair to invent a more and more complicated cover-up, until the action reaches an unexpectedly sentimental conclusion—all with Mr. Davy McGee’s dead body in the next room.

Fly Me to the Moon is a well-written comedy with just enough room for social commentary. The two characters form a classic comedy pair—the dynamic between the honest but simple Loretta, and the astute but opportunistic Frances is at the root of the tension. If they didn’t have conflicting character traits, not only would there be no humour, but there would be no play at all. The fundamental driving force behind the decisions Loretta and Frances make is economic desperation. Although the specifics of their respective situations reflect the Northern Irish society in which they live, the underlying desperation is not limited to time or place and quite universal in Western society. Marie Jones has been able to express a local reality that is accessible globally, and filtered through the medium of comedy.

Despite the large, intricate set, all but a few moments of the action take place in one evenly-lit room in the centre of the stage. Yet the unoccupied third of the stage, dominated by the backdrop of row-housing and a cobblestone path created by lighting alone, never feels like wasted space.

What makes the stage seem full is a pair of energetic performances by both MacDonald and Ellis (along with a brief vocal cameo by Zach Counsil). The dialogue is natural on its own—I imagine it would work quite well as a radio play—but it’s the physical acting, the facial expressions, and the sense of timing that MacDonald and Ellis bring to their roles that makes this a performance worthy of a large stage (and a full house). The total running time of the performance is less than two hours, due in part to the appropriately rapid pacing (director John P. Kelly’s specialty). It is, however, the tension created by the urgency of the situation, and the ever-increasing financial and ethical stakes of the care workers’ dilemma that makes it seem as if no time passes at all.

Fly Me to the Moon is an excellent choice for the Great Canadian Theatre Company and for this season: it’s Irish, but not too Irish; it’s dark, but not too dark; and above all, it’s funny.

Fly Me to the Moon runs from November 1 to November 18, 2012 at the Great Canadian Theatre Company. Up-to-date showtimes and ticket prices are available at the GCTC website.