Daniel MacIvor's new play at Tarragon is in some ways his most reserved, but it's an excellent chance to see Clare Coulter in action.
In Was Spring, Daniel MacIvor’s newest to premiere at Tarragon, Jessica Moss, Caroline Gillis, and Clare Coulter play, respectively, women named Kitty, Kath, and Kit. Their similar names are no coincidence, and while there is some initial ambiguity, it doesn’t feel like much of a spoiler to reveal that they are all playing the same character at different stages of her life. It’s sort of like Act Two of Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, although somehow gentler. The conceit is that, although they’re all the same character, Kitty, Kath, and Kit are truly different women, and their memories of the events that made up their lives can sharply contrast.
We open with Coulter—who has a long-standing relationship with Tarragon—as Kitty, and it’s mesmerizing. Her character is bitter and a bit paranoid, but with a dark sense of humour. Kitty tells us how her life has ended up: living alone in an apartment that could give Grey Gardens a run for its money and from which she is eventually removed. As Kath and Kit enter the scenario, we get filled in on the earlier details of her life: a tryst with a young man behind a barn, a strained relationship with a daughter, a tragedy that happened in the spring.
Was Spring is technically in the same cycle of plays as 2010′s Communion, which also featured a cast of three women ruminating on motherhood. But tonally, we’re more in the territory of Marion Bridge‘s understated drama, with just a touch of A Beautiful View‘s existentialism—though Was Spring doesn’t plumb the same depths. MacIvor is usually scrupulous in explaining the rules of the worlds in which his less naturalistic shows live, but in this case we never quite discover where it is that Kit/Kath/Kitty are supposed to be conversing, or why the audience, whose presence they acknowledge, happens to be there. And while the overlapping portraits of the character’s life are interesting enough, certain areas (particularly the relationship with the troubled daughter) feel a bit glossed over.
As always, MacIvor’s prose is beautiful, and he lets his ladies get off a few particularly good rants. Gillis’ Kath delivers a searing indictment of traditional gender roles that should delight any regular Jezebel readers. And Coulter alone is worth the price of admission. If you haven’t had the opportunity to see her in action, Was Spring is an excellent chance simply to watch one our country’s finest performers do her thing.