Three Viewings

Dates and Venue 5 – 21 February 2009, Tues - Sat 8pm | Presentation House, North Vancouver

Director Jay Brazeau Set Design Pam Johnson Lighting Eugene Mendelev Costume Design Drew Facey Stage Manager Sarah Pearson

Reviewer John Jane

Jeffrey Hatcher’s life-exalting dramedy, Three Viewings refers to three separate monologues that recount the final encounter between Emil, a funeral director, Mac, a jewel thief and Virginia, a dedicated though overtly naive wife and their respective deceased in the same funeral home.

In varied forms of a kind of private eulogy, the three outstanding actors reveal, one by one, the essence of their relationship with the deceased connected through time and place.

The show opens with the theatre in complete darkness to the strains of a violin. As a single spotlight lights up the face of Emil, we hear him murmur “I love you” – twice. Over the next thirty minutes, Emil mutters, croons and mumbles the same three words a couple of dozen times without it ever reaching its intended recipient Tessie, an opportunist realtor who habitually attends funerals to pursue business prospects.

Tessie ultimately goes to her final rest never knowing just how deeply she had smitten her reticent admirer. Emil’s natural reserve only allows him to act foolishly when alone, which he does to nimble comic effect in his tango moves with an imaginary partner. In his dialogue, Emil also sets up the characters of dowager Netty James and businessman Ed Carpolotti for the following monologues.

In the second monologue Mac is thief who exploits unattended corpses in funeral homes and skilfully removes their jewellery. Aside from her cynical profession, Mac has a noble streak, but when she attends her centenarian grandmother’s funeral and plans to redeem a tear-shaped dinner ring that was promised to her in childhood, she experiences a shattering epiphany.

Finally, we meet Virginia, a suburban housewife whose knowledge in her late husband’s business affairs was apparently far more lacking than she even dared think. Virginia’s story differs from the previous two in so much that it is much less maudlin and overtly emotional, yet just as touching.

Ed Carpolotti, according to everyone who knew him was a “wheeler-dealer.” At the time of his passing he owed money to his unscrupulous brother, a loan shark and a few others besides, who were now coming after his bewildered widow. But the old “wheeler-dealer” has one more trick up his sleeve.

Kevin McNulty delivers a delightfully understated performance as the lovelorn Emil. Jillian Fargey is brilliantly quirky as Mac, who gives bitter-sweet characterizations of a dour father and petulant grandmother. Suzanne Ristic shows Virginia’s vulnerability with humour and pathos.

Jay Brazeau oversees the production with a suitably light touch, allowing his actors and creative team to work their magic. The always affable actor/director made himself accessible to patrons before and after the show.

Pam Johnson’s simple set consists of a centrally located sofa bench that occasionally doubles as an open coffin, flanked by a pair of flower stands in front of neutrally toned full-length drapes. Johnson’s minimal staging helps Eugene Mendelev’s inspired lighting signal the scripts mood changes.

The smart humour and poignancy present in Hatcher’s vignettes sent some audience members home likely considering their own mortality.

© 2009 John Jane