Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Tarragon Theatre, Was Spring

Handout | Cylla von Tiedemann

2 out of 4 stars

Daniel MacIvor's work tends to falls into two categories: sharp-edged and stylized solo shows ( This is What Happens Next, Cul-de-Sac) and warmer, multiple-character plays with all-female casts ( A Beautiful View, Communion). The Cape Breton-born playwright's latest, however, is a mix of his two main modes.

In Was Spring, which I saw in its final preview, MacIvor introduces us to three women: elderly, mischievous Kitty; damaged, middle-aged Kath; and young, hopeful Kit.

Kitty, played slowly and slyly by a saucer-eyed Clare Coulter like an abnormally large Oriental shorthair cat, has been taken to an elder-care facility after asking a passing woman for a cigarette. When the stranger subsequently entered Kitty's apartment, which looked like a particularly depressing episode of Hoarders, the stranger alerted the proper authorities.

Story continues below advertisement

Kath, played by Caroline Gillis through gritted teeth, is a tough-as-nails woman who comes to visit Kitty and clearly doesn't much believe in respecting her elders. If she's hard on Kitty, she's harder on herself, only gradually opening up to tell her own story of a wayward daughter and a loveless marriage.

Kit, played by the charismatic if a little too contemporary newcomer Jessica Moss, shows up last and late, full of dreams (or delusions) about boys and music.

Though these three are different women, it eventually becomes apparent – through a shared love of hard candy – that they are the same woman at different ages. With the benefit – or perhaps the curse – of hindsight, the two older women tear strips off of the person they used to be.

This kind of slicing and dicing of character has been done on stage before, perhaps most notably in Michel Tremblay's fragmented 1984 masterpiece, Albertine in Five Times. (Like Tremblay, MacIvor is a gay playwright with a gift for writing about women, and a love-hate relationship with the hidebound, religious society in which he was raised.)

But Was Spring comes across as more simplistic about the process of aging – and it doesn't quite land the way it is intended. MacIvor's main mistake is to try to trick his audience into thinking Kitty, Kath and Kit are separate women at first. This means much of the play's dialogue is vague early on.

The precise details of MacIvor's theatrical set-up are hard to pin down as well. Does the action exist in Kitty's confused mind? Why do the characters occasionally speak directly to the audience?

Kimberly Purtell's nebulous set, two semi-transparent glass walls and three chairs, provides no clue. It looks like the women are in some sort of bus shelter, an impression compounded by Kitty's attempts to bum cigarettes off us.

Story continues below advertisement

Doubling as director, MacIvor could have used an outside eye for this one. The stark, dark staging shows the influence of his long-time collaborator Daniel Brooks, but there's something substantial missing from the murk. Verne Good's sound design provides intermittent blasts from the women's pasts, but in between it's only the depressing hum of the theatre lights you hear. It makes you squirm, and not in a good way.

MacIvor is too strong a writer for Was Spring to leave you entirely unaffected. He's supplied his actors with many beautiful, bittersweet lines that are poetic, but not ostentatiously so. ("They don't call shy painful for nothing," is one remark that has stuck with me and became an ache.) He's also remarkable at painting pictures of the significant places in Kit/Kath/Kitty's life – a pile of manure behind a barn where a tryst takes place, a veranda overlooking a lake, a garden sneaking through a broken window.

Ultimately, however, Was Spring comes off as a preliminary therapy session that only skims the surface. There may be three of the main character, but she still doesn't fill the stage.

Was Spring

  • Written and directed by Daniel MacIvor
  • Starring Clare Coulter, Caroline Gillis and Jessica Moss
  • At the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space in Toronto until May 6

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies