1 hours, 49 minutes, with a 20 minute intermission / Drama | Mature, language, nudity
As reviewers here at Apt613, we’re supposed to maintain a certain degree of objectivity in our reviews. Yes, theatre does generate a subjective experience, so perfect objectivity is impossible. But we are supposed to treat our subjective reactions to a production as data – data to be reported as objectively as possible.
All that said, I should warn you that I’m having great difficulty maintaining any degree of objectivity because I’ve had my socks charmed off by the two main characters, Stella (Maureen Quinn McGovern) and Dot (Arlene Watson), in Thom Fitzgerald’s award winning 2011 play Cloudburst.
Now Stella and Dot are not your typical sweet little old 70-something ladies, so they won’t charm everyone. Stella swears like a stevedore. Much of the plentiful audience laughter is generated by lines that I can’t publish here. Stella drinks as much as she can lay her hands on, and on occasion steals some of Dotty’s pain medications to produce high-test cocktails. There is nothing politically correct about Stella. When another character admonishes Stella about her continual use of the C-word, Stella replies, “C-Word? What’s that? Canadian?”
Stella is also passionately in love with, and protective of Dotty. If anyone tries to disturb Dotty’s happiness or well-being, Stella explodes with threats of violence so graphic they send the other characters reeling. (And send the audience into gales of laughter.) Stella also follows through those threats with actual physical violence. Or at least as much violence as her diminutive frame can deliver.
In her youth, Stella would have been called a Spitfire. When Tommy (Tomas Chovanec) the policeman tells her to “Calm down, Grandma!” Stella retorts, “I’m not your grandma, but I got to second base with her in second grade!”
Dotty is the more conventionally likeable character. Her warm smile brightens the stage. Dotty’s optimism pulls Stella out of the depths of pessimism. Her generous maternal frame reminds the audience of their grandmothers. But Dotty’s love for Stella runs just as deep. Behind her conventional middle-class bearing, Dotty barely hides her delight as Stella shocks the neighbours.
Said maternal frame puts Dotty at risk. As well as middle-age spread, Dotty has developed diabetic retinopathy. She can see only vague shapes and needs a white cane for balance, and to find her way around. Her weight makes her prone to falling.
Quinn McGovern and Watson quickly establish the chemistry of Stella and Dotty’s long standing (31 year) relationship right before the audience’s eyes.
Quinn McGovern and Watson quickly establish the chemistry of Stella and Dotty’s long standing (31 year) relationship right before the audience’s eyes. They banter mischievously like any old couple, but when the chips are down they hold fast to each other. More than anything else, this charmed me and sent my objectivity out the window.
Dotty is not without her faults either. She has lied to her Evangelical grand-daughter Molly (Alianne Rozon) about her lesbian relationship with Stella. This results in the central conflict of the play. Molly tricks Dolly into signing a power of attorney document. With it, Molly obtains a court order that sends Dotty to a seniors home and evicts Stella from Dot’s house.
Stella’s defence of Dotty is not just words. She breaks Dotty out of the seniors home to take Dotty north to Canada where they can be married. While the wisecracking banter continues to delight the audience, the police have issued an all points bulletin and Stella and Dotty are on the lam. On their way north, they pick up a young hitchhiker, Prentice (Jason Hopkins) to provide cover for their escape.
Yes there are holes in the plot that you could drive Stella’s truck through. How Stella and Prentice manage to cross the border with Dotty’s drugs but without Dotty strains suspension of disbelief. Can Canadian Border Services really be so lax between New Brunswick and Maine? But it does give us a window into a time when Dotty was breaking the law as a lesbian and had to be quick-witted to escape detection.
Not a show for everyone. The language is adult and raw. There is a subtle hint of full male nudity. Some Evangelicals will not appreciate Molly’s lies, greed and subterfuge. But they may appreciate Dotty’s love for her grand-daughter.
Be warned. You too may be charmed by these two dotty old dykes who steal audience hearts. Plenty of audience members fell in love with them on opening night.
Cloudburst by TotoToo Theatre Ottawa is playing at The Gladstone Theatre. Friday and Saturday September 7 to 8 at 7:30pm. Tuesday to Saturday September 11 to 15 at 7:30pm. Matinees Saturday September 8 and 15 at 2:30pm. Adult tickets are $36 (including HST). Senior tickets are $32. Student/Artist/Unwaged tickets are $20.