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My Brilliant Divorce is a quirky, relatable night at the theatre

By Jennifer Cavanagh on April 29, 2014

Divorce, so often an un-mined topic from the female perspective, is rich fodder for theatre and it was with anticipation that I headed to the Gladstone Theatre. A charming introduction from Director John P Kelly opened the evening and soon we were off on Geraldine Aron’s one-hander tale My Brilliant Divorce.

Katie Hurman features as Irish-Catholic Angela Kennedy Lipsky: middle aged, abandoned by Jewish husband Max and cycling through a roller-coaster of emotional stages over a period of several years. Not a great fan of the solo performance but here form and content merge well though the piece demanded smoother transitions between comedy and drama.

Angela’s initial elation, queue the projected fireworks, over Max’s departure for what becomes a succession of Barbie-doll girlfriends is soon tempered by the realities of middle-aged dating and loneliness. Aron’s writing provides a truthfully stark yet self-deprecatingly entertaining portrayal of mid-life single living.

The play is humorously peppered with comical calamities as Angela progressively adjusts to her new life with only the family dog Dexter by her side. Rueful anecdotes of late night calls to a “Persons Experiencing Suicidal Thoughts” (PEST) hotline, drunken misadventures with inappropriately aged and toddler-sized suitors, raging hypochondria and a riotous trip to a local sex-shoppe keep the first act moving at a sharp if slightly chaotic pace. Other than doggy Dexter – a wonderful sight gag in the 2nd act – Angela is strangely bereft of support. Acknowledging that Max, or round-head as she frostily terms him, took custody of their friends she is left with a social circle that is pathetically sparse. Phone calls – a disembodied voice that works extremely well – to her judgmental mother provide a source of grounding for the character which develops more fully and successfully following the intermission when actor and production hit their stride.

Set in London, Hurman’s North-American accent is explained away by time spent abroad, yet this production would be better off reset in NYC as the myriad of accents portrayed were at times hit and miss to the point of distraction. Some valiant and very successful intonations amused but others such as a baffling Southern drawl of daughter Vanessa only diverted my attention.
Hurman struggles at times, particularly in act 1, in the shift from drama to comedy and the former seems a more natural medium for her talents.

The successful 2nd act is brief yet better measured providing greater breadth and a pace that suits her performance. In particular, a standout scene where Hurman, bathed in the spotlight, spies a young family through a lit window and delivers a stirring speech on the superhuman resilience required to survive heartbreak. Despite peaks and valleys it’s a quirky, relatable night at the theatre.

My Brilliant Divorce, presented by SevenThirty Productions is playing at the Gladstone Theatre (910 Gladstone Ave) until May 17, 2014. Show starts at 7:30 pm from Tues-Sat, and 2pm on Sat and Sun. Tickets are $18-$34 and can be purchased here.

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