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theatre review

Janet Porter, Bahareh Yaraghi, Andre Sills, Gordon Bolan, Ryan Hollyman and Deborah Drakeford in Moment.

Moment, a 2009 Irish play getting an intimate, in-the-round English-Canadian premiere from ARC at the Grocery, is altogether too familiar – buried family secret meets the dinner-party meltdown.

One morning, Niamh Lynch (Janet Porter) shows up the Dublin home of her mother, Teresa (Deborah Drakeford), to unexpectedly find her getting ready to host guests for supper. As it turns out, Niamh's estranged brother Nial (Ryan Hollyman) is coming for a visit with a woman in tow – and the look on Niamh's face suggests that this is a surprise and a shock.

What is the elephant in the room? Incest? Abuse? Worse? Naturally, we'll find out smack in the middle of a meal and right before intermission – and the wait for the revelation is tedious.

Deirdre Kinahan's script is carefully constructed, but exquisitely dull in its fetishistic naturalism, populated by the usual bourgeois suspects – one sib works in publishing, another is an artist, the third seems to exist only as a happily married mother of two. Any cultural specificity to the dilemma and dialogue has been diluted by director Christopher Stanton's decision to have everyone speak in Canadian accent, a choice that strips the play of colour and only serves to showcase its banality.

There are a few inspired moments in Stanton's staging, but it is overly meticulous in its boiling of kettles, cracking of eggs and spewing of vomit. (A fellow critic ended up with regurgitated soup on his shoes at an earlier performance than the one I attended; I saw the tweeted sneaks, soiled.)

Porter and Drakeford's performances are pitched too anxiously high in the early scenes – and being in such close proximity (30 seats right up close to the actors) to their shouted domestic discord gave me a headache. The ensemble features strong, subtle performances from Aviva Armour-Ostroff and Andre Sills, as well as riveting work from a riven Hollyman. But in service of what? The act of violence Nial committed as a child is too random to resonate, making the importation of this craft-heavy, art-light work feel utterly unnecessary even if the production is solidity itself.

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