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L to R: Jon Dickey, Megan Carty. Photo: Andrew Alexander.

Theatre Review: Swedish Furniture at Arts Court Theatre—until 04.13.19



Building on the success of three Prix Rideau awards, playwright Matt Hertendy brings his latest production to the TACTICS main stage, serving up a pragmatic play about self-awareness, relationships and building an IKEA bed.

Courtney Merchand: It’s a tale of fraught young romance coming head-on with one of the biggest threats to any modern day relationship: the IKEA trip.

Megan Carty and Jon Dickey are the embodiment of a millennial couple in a lot of the worst—but truest—ways. Their cute and quirky banter wears thin as deep-rooted insecurities bubble to the surface. As our pair enters the workforce and compete for the limited number of jobs in their field, one experiences success, the other slips further into self-doubt.

Swedish Furniture is upbeat and hilarious with just a touch of the unexpected. It took something so trivial and yet so familiar—IKEA furniture—and placed it at the crux of the play. That not only became the performance’s ticking clock, but a timer placed on Megan and Jon’s relationship. Would they finish building the bed? Could they overcome the imbalance in the relationship?

“Upbeat and hilarious with just a touch of the unexpected.”

The symbolism was not lost on the audience as for the first time (likely ever) an entire room of people waited, with bated breath, to see whether an IKEA bed would be assembled or not.

It’s no surprise playwright Matt Hertendy is a three-time Prix Rideau Award winner with his ability to capture the checks and balances of modern love, juxtaposed with the most carefully composed tangents of runaway thoughts. It was truly something to behold.

Let Swedish Furniture serve as a PSA to all couples. If you’ve ever dared enter IKEA with a significant other or thought it would be “fun” to assemble furniture with someone—you’ve had this fight.

Samara Caplan & Laura Gauthier: We’ve all had that moment, three days into building our IKEA purchase with our partner, wondering why the instructions have no words and only then realizing we have already put at least three of the pieces in upside down. And why is there an extra screw?

This has been the underlying test for relationships since most of us can remember. Matt Hertendy explores the implications in his show Swedish Furniture. Members of the audience watch all the tests a relationship has in life as these become more visible through the construction of an IKEA bed, live on stage.

“Carried by the brilliant Megan Carty and Jon Dickey.”

The show is carried by the brilliant Megan Carty and Jon Dickey, each showing the immaturities and insecurities that can haunt a relationship in your twenties, and the impact which demands on life can add as you are finding your way in adulthood. A mix of comedy, drama and romance, Swedish Furniture may just make you realize that sometimes a bed is more than just a bed.

Jennifer CavanaghTwo unnamed liberal arts grads (Megan Carty and Jon Dickey) attempt to establish careers and take their relationship to the next level in a play that charts all difficulties they encounter against the supreme confidence and hilarity of spiders—legs and egg sack played to great comic success by the pair—that overlook their attempts at assembling both furniture and purpose in their lives.

Flashes forward reveal where the narrative and their relationship are heading, while flashbacks neatly fill in the narrative of their storyline. Ostensibly a play about millennials, nothing about Swedish Furniture wouldn’t resonate beyond a particular generation. Contemporary concerns such as precarious or temporary employment could have added an urgent, time-relevant aspect, yet the production works successfully without.

“Director Katie MacNeill keeps the pace and brings out a truly smashing performance from both Carty and Dickey.”

Hertendy’s writing is assured, both in the movement through time and the comical notes, which spark and maintain interest whilst providing an adept parallel layer to the narrative. Director Katie MacNeill keeps the pace and brings out a truly smashing performance from both Carty and Dickey. Carty shines and is masterful and wholly-believable through-out, however I wanted more emotional backstory from Dickey’s unnamed “He”. I feel Hertendy could have plumbed further that vein which he deftly exposes of fragile masculinity, suppressed anger, jealousy and sensitivity.

Peppered with humour and exploring a universal theme, Swedish Furniture can’t fail. Revolving around hopes, dreams, self-knowledge, love and the challenges of making a relationship work—the production is anchored and this ensemble team delivers a success. You’ll have to see it to find out if this construction holds.

Swedish Furniture is playing at Arts Court Theatre (2 Daly Ave) until April 13, 2019. Tickets cost $20–25 online or at the door. The main entrance to Arts Court is up a flight of about twenty steps. For barrier-free access, enter through the new Ottawa Art Gallery building. The OAG and Arts Court are connected by hallways.