Photo: Ross Durant Photography

Wise Owl Theatre Collective

The Window Outside By Belinda Lopez

When & Where June 10 – 25, 2023; Evenings at 7:30pm, final matinee performance on Sunday 25 June @ 2pm | Presentation House Theatre, 333 Chesterfield Avenue North Vancouver

Director William B. Davis Set Designer Erin Finnerty Costume Designer Julie White Lighting Designer Adrien D Hodgson Sound Designer John Mills Cockell

Reviewer Eve Newstead

If aging is the heart of Belinda Lopez’s big-hearted play The Window Outside, then its arteries and veins are dementia, loss of self, familial obligations, choice and death. Lopez considers universal issues in the context of one ordinary family.Showing now at Vancouver’s Presentation House Theatre, her Canadian premiere production boasts a talented cast and a triumphant blend of humour and tragedy.

When Miranda (Sarah Jane Redmond) receives a frantic phone call from her sister Sharon (Liz Connors) in Australia, she flies home from New York immediately. Expecting to findparents Frank (Douglas Abel) and Evelyn (Susan Hogan) near-death, she is irked to see them in a state she considers fine. But everything is not fine. Dementia has already taken her father from this world, and her mother is following. Sharon can no longer deal with the caring duties, as well as the challenges of her own family, and declares she’s had enough; they will be going into – not a care home – assisted living.

Choosing between family duty and living your own life is an impossible decision and Lopez proffers both sides an equal voice. Redmond and Connors poignantly capture that common sisterly relationship defined by resentment but also deep, unconditional love. As real is the bond Abel and Hogan create, but this love is different; tender, steady, quiet - the real stuff of fairytales. In saying this, the characters sometimes veer into one-dimensional. Frank in particular, characterised solely via Evelyn’s mind, serves as a voice of reason, but this voice fluctuates little. Sharon’s having all three kids with problems, as well as a probably-cheating husband who doesn’t love her, is a tad overkill in representing the worn out wife, mother, woman. Much less would have still roused empathy.However, there are some saving moments of nuance – Sharon’s confession that she never felt her parents loved her as much as one another.

The play maintains a commendable pace, deftly alternating between moments of high energy and poignant introspection. Memory and nostalgia to the point of being unhealthy provide both humour and grief. Erin Finnerty’s set aligns with Lopez’s writing and William B Davis’s direction, in its meaningful everydayness. Without overdramatizing, this production gives commonplace emotions room to soar. Even more inspiring, would be to find new language to illuminate these issues. Frequently, time-worn metaphors and images are applied to these universal themes. For example: dementia being a brain fog or love feeling like home.

Aside from this, and some inconsistencies with the Australian accent, The Window Outside is a poignant, compassionate play. It reminds us that life is brief, and that’s how its meant to be. Don’t fight it, just keep moving forward.

© 2023 Eve Newstead