Cloudburst, Toto Too Theatre’s latest offering is a funny, profane, warm-hearted play about the enduring love between two elderly women in the dimming twilight of their lives.
An award-winning play from Nova Scotia dramatist Thom Fitzgerald, it is a touching but clear-eyed character study that focuses on a seldom-visited aspect of the gay culture—old age—and the very real crisis looming over the future of the feisty, uninhibited Stella (Maureen Quinn McGovern) and Dot, the sightless love of her life, played by Arlene Watson.
The two have lived together in Maine and now face separation, thanks to the duplicity of Dot’s granddaughter, an uncomprehending ninny in a state of persistent denial about the true nature of the relationship between the older women. The way Stella sees it, the only course of action for them is to flee for Canada where they can legally marry. So they hit the road.
Sarah Hearn’s production adroitly finds balance between the raucous humor—be warned: this is not g-rated entertainment—and the play’s warm, messy humanity. However, the structure of the play, with its succession of snapshot episodes, is cinematic in sensibility, and this poses problems in a stage production. The design contribution of David Magladry, responsible for both set and lighting, fails to ease the situation. So although scene changes are managed as efficiently as possible, they can still take too long, thereby depriving the evening of any real fluidity.
But in directing Cloudburst, Hearn still safeguards the play’s humanity, enabling her two leads to deliver rich and rewarding performances. Maureen McGovern’s abrasive, foul-mouthed Stella will definitely not be going gently into the night. She is deliciously, unrepentantly outrageous but also capable of an intense, enriching love. Meanwhile, Arlene Watson’s Dot provides a quietly serene anchor in what could otherwise be a too volatile relationship: it’s a performance that glows with an inner beauty.
Despite the best of efforts, Alianne Rozon can do little with the role of the conniving granddaughter because of writing that turns her into a cliche figure, but Tomas Chovanec has a nice turn as her policeman husband. Jason Hopkins is outstanding as Prentice, a young hitchhiker they pick up on the road, and Cathy Nobleman is genuinely moving as the boy’s ailing mom.
Cloudburst continues at the Gladstone to September 17.
This article appeared in Capital Critics’ Circle on September 8, 2018, and has been reposted with permission.
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