Little One is a chilling play. The kind where the horribleness of the situation being portrayed on stage sticks with you long after the play is over. Little One leaves you turning over the play’s central question again and again: is it enough to love someone? Is love the be-all-end-all, or do we reach a point where we have to give up, even though we love someone?
Little One, at the Roxy Theatre this March, is the story of the relationship between two adopted siblings. Aaron, the “good child”, is an honor roll student and captain of the hockey team. Claire, his younger sister, came from an abusive home and as a result acts in ways that confuse and terrify her adopted family. In Little One, an adult Aaron recounts his story of growing up with Claire through a series of flashbacks interspersed with Claire (as an adult) telling the story of their neighbour’s marriage. All of this comes together in a final scene that left me thinking about the horrible things people can -and do – inflict on each other, and what I would do in that situation.
Regular collaborators Jesse Gervais and Amber Borotsik, founders of independent company Windrow Performance, played the two siblings in Little One. It was a pleasure to see Jesse and Amber in roles that were totally different than the last time I saw them together, in Northern Light Theatre’s production of 6.0 How Heap and Pebble Took on the World and Won. I thought Jesse and Amber did a fantastic job in this production, remaining completely believable while switching back and forth between the childhood and adult versions of Aaron and Claire. Through his mannerisms and his loss and regain of composure, Jesse made it very believable that the reason his character Aaron decided to become a doctor was because he had been concerned by Claire’s behaviour and disturbed by his childhood inability to help her. As Claire, I admired how Amber walked a line between inspiring fear and inspiring empathy in the audience, at times behaving like be a complete psychopath, and at other times clearly behaving simply as a child who had been traumatized. While the play is of course somber and chilling, Jesse’s subtly sarcastic way of delivering some of his lines did inject a bit of (dark) humour into an otherwise serious play.
On the production side, hats off to Cory Sincennes. Whenever I see Cory credited to a production – especially as the set designer – I look forward to seeing whatever he’s created. While more subtle than some of the other sets I’ve seen Cory design, the set of Little One actually gave me the creeps before the play had even begun. Walking into the Roxy Theatre, I felt like I was walking towards a black hole. The set is made made of glass panels that separated downstage from upstage, completely absorbing all the light on stage – so much so that I couldn’t even tell what the set actually was until the play began. Sitting in my seat, waiting for the house lights to go down and the stage lights to come up, it felt like an ominous standoff between the audience and whatever was hidden behind the shiny, impenetrable… something… spanning the entire stage. Throughout the play I continued to admire the set and how it worked so perfectly for Little One, especially in the final moments of the play, when the reason for the adult Claire’s placement behind the glass suddenly makes sense.
PS – If you like Little One, Punctuate! Theatre will be performing Hannah Moscavitch’s most celebrated play, East of Berlin, on April 4 – May 4.
– Jenna Marynowski
This review was also published on Jenna’s blog, After the House Lights.