The quest for truth reared its sometimes ugly head last night in the Pacific Theatre / one2theatre co-production of The Busy World is Hushed, in a beautiful story of love and loss that touched my heart.
Hannah (Gina Chiarelli), an Episcopalian minister hires young Brant (Adam Bergquist) to help her translate and interpret an ancient text believed to predate the Bible. Added to the mix is Thomas (Sebastian Kroon) who has recently returned home after another of his many absences. As mother and son begin their uneasy dance together at once again being reunited, a spark ignites between the two men. While Brant at first pushes Thomas away, Brant eventually receives a nudge from an unlikely source, Hannah herself.
Caught between mother and son who continue their own search for truths in their relationship and beliefs, Brant forges his own quest, questioning the fragility of life and its/his relationship to a God that would allow terrible things to happen.
It is in these different quests that the conflict arises. Hannah’s blind faith infuriates her son as he sees it as a lie, a convenient excuse; Thomas’ own desire to find the truth of his existence is destined to tear him and his mother apart yet again; and Brant’s need for his own answers puts too much pressure on Thomas.
Chiarelli is almost perfect in her dual role, simultaneously the scholarly priest and loving mother. We watch as her external shell is gradually chipped away as the life she hopes to have with her son begins to once again materialize, and, just as quickly it is rebuilt as that reality does not true. Kroon does an equally good job as the lost boy who reinserts himself with little guilt back into the family dynamic, with a selfishness and an anger that percolates just under the surface. Indeed it was the scenes between mother and son that felt the most real, the most desperate, and the most loving. Bergquist doesn’t quite get to the same point as Chiarelli and Kroon with the more difficult role of outsider, but he does create some beautiful moments when it is just him and Kroon.
While act one was not as strong as the actors found their footing, the second half saw the relationships gel and the three played off each other with increasing believability, all rising to an incredibly powerful scene between mother and son that brought tears to my eyes.
Director Richard Wolfe has done a great job here in the awkward Pacific Theatre space, almost throwing us into the room with the trio. Wolfe has obviously taken great care to not let his actors wallow into self-pity and walks them carefully to the edge of maudlin, without ever allowing them to jump.
Set and lighting designer Michael Schaldemose pulls out all the stops in delivering a believable and well used dining room come study, piled with books in every nook with barely enough room for real life. At times the lighting was simply breathtaking as the moon or the early morning sun shone through the stain glass windows that ironically Hannah had such distaste for.
In his recent interview with me, producer and actor Adam Bergquist hoped that this show might be a catalyst to help unite the gay and religion communities. But given the amount of baggage both sides carry, it will take much more than playwright Keith Bunin’s engaging play to do so.
As a show about love and loss however, it doesn’t get much better than this.
The Busy World is Hushed
24 September – 16 October 2010
Tickets are $13-$34 available online or by calling 604.731.5518.