Someone is Going to Come
Written by Jon Fosse
Translated by Harry Lane
and Adam Seelig
Directed by Adam Seelig
Starring Stacie Steadman,
Dwight McFee and Michael Blake
At the Walmer Centre Theatre
Norway's Jon Fosse is one of the most produced contemporary playwrights in Europe, but the English-speaking world has been slow to catch on to his work, North America slowest of all.
While Le Monde already claims Fosse as "the 21st-century Beckett," most of our theatres seem to be content to stick with the 20th-century Beckett, thank you very much. If you come across a 21st-century Shaw or Coward though, maybe you could send him their way.
Adam Seelig, the director behind Toronto's One Little Goat, has a particular interest in Europe's modern poetic theatre, however, and he now brings us the English-Canadian premiere of Someone is Going to Come, a 1993 play of Fosse's that Seelig has newly translated with Harry Lane.
She (Stacie Steadman) and He (Dwight McFee) - like most of Fosse's characters, they are nameless - have bought an old, dilapidated house by the ocean, far away from everyone and everything. The intergenerational couple - she's 30, he's 50 - have escaped something, or at least hope they have.
"In this house we'll be together/ you and I/ alone together," says She.
"And no one's going to come," says He.
That's their repeated mantra, but, in fact, someone is going to come and both of them know it, perhaps from peeking at the title of the play.
In theatre someone always comes - Godot being the exception that proves the rule - and in this case it is the Man, a swaggering thirtysomething played with creepy charm and impeccable comic timing by Michael Blake.
The Man is the previous owner of the house, which he inherited from his grandmother, and he's dropped by to say hi. His grandmother, he notes pointedly to She, lived here all alone for many, many years after his grandfather. If She ever wants to grab a drink to learn more about that, he'd be happy to oblige.
"You really wanted him to come," pouts He, after the Man leaves (for a while). "You just say you don't want anyone to come, but really there's nothing you want more."
Someone is Going to Come, you may have figured out, is a parable about jealousy. Its characters are archetypes who speak mostly in simple, unspecific language - a style that has a certain poetic and aesthetic appeal.
When She and He recite the story of their house and their aloneness over and over, they are trying to convince themselves of it. But the more they repeat it, the more doubt sets in, until their language actually inverts in meaning. They become like an anxious person chanting "I'm fine" over and over: The more they say it, the more it signifies the opposite.
This is neat to watch unspool, but it's not always involving. While the scenes between She and the Man have a real Pinteresque tension in their mix of comedy and menace, the ones between nervous She and self-pitying He can sometimes be quite numbing. Without a clear arc behind the almost Seussian dialogue, the repetition begins to sound merely repetitive.
It doesn't help that Steadman and McFee have little chemistry and express affection awkwardly. You never think they have a chance, though the end of Fosse's play seems to suggest they do.
Surely, part of Fosse's appeal in continental Europe is the existence of a director's theatre that treats a text as a thing to play with. Seelig's production seems a touch too reverent to me, but in terms of introducing Toronto to a Fosse without jazz hands, I applaud him.
Someone is Going to Come continues until March 29.