My kid just went through high school and experienced the death of a teen friend by suicide, which is sadly not uncommon.
So I was keen to see actor Beth Lachance’s production of the Ottawa hit, Late Company, by Jordan Tannahill.
In this hour-long drama well-to-do parents, artist Deborah and MP Michael invite the teen who bullied their son and his less-affluent, unsophisticated parents Tamara and Bill to dinner a year after their son took his own life. Deborah and Tamara have planned the meeting as a way to find closure through written apologies.
Instead, the night flies apart before dessert and descends into secrets revealed, parental grief and fury, blame and accusations.
The raw, enraged Deborah learns secrets about her son while the seemingly positive Tamara turns into a she-bear protecting her child.
Late Company rings true with its realistic dialogue, unflinching honesty and willingness to look deeply at the complexities within homophobia, bullying and suicide. It’s funny at times, beautifully structured, intense and full of surprising twists.
This production, directed by Dorian Lang, is solid enough to deliver the script and move an audience to tears. The acting is uneven.
Particularly good are the mothers, Beth Lachance as Deborah and Deanna Graham as Tamara with Andrew Chen excellent as the teen Curtis. Chen captures his character’s apathy and dislike of adults as well as his sorrow, discomfort and fear.
The dads, played by Philip Greyson and Tim McNabb, are less emotive as dads tend to be.
The direction keeps the story moving with the occasional problem of backs being turned to the audience as actors deal with a crowded two-tiered space for dining and living areas. Lang keeps his actors present even as they don’t speak.
Tannahill was inspired by the suicide of a 15-year-old in his hometown of Ottawa in 2011 which sparked a national conversation about bullying and homophobia in schools.
The play premiered at Toronto’s SummerWorks Performance Festival in 2013 and has been produced in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Los Angeles, Chicago and London, England, in the West End.
Late Company runs in the former Company House at 2202 Gottingen St. (across the street from the Bus Stop) today (Friday, Sept. 6), 5:20 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 7, 1 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 8, 6:45 p.m. Tickets are $15 and $12.