The premise of Martha Herrera-Lasso’s new play, After, is fairly simple: four young people navigate the murky waters of love and lust, all through conversations that take place after sex. While the premise may be simple, the emotional situations explored are anything but, rife with humour, heartbreak, and devastating shades of grey.
If you like sharp, fast-paced dialogue, nuanced performances with rapid-fire timing, and recognizing the awkwardness of your own life onstage, you will not want to miss dream of passion productions and Excavation Theatre‘s co-production of After, running at the Havana Theatre until April 5.
When it comes to intimacy and matters of the heart, once the moment of passion has ended few of us are secure enough with vulnerability to simply be. Instead, we protect ourselves: we make jokes, justify, feign nonchalance, contradict ourselves or lay blame. Many relationships are not what they seem, and the biggest fools are usually the ones with the front-row seats. Herrera-Lasso’s intelligent, funny, and honest script requires performers who identify with their characters, even as they hurt others, hold tight to things they don’t want, hide from their partners and hide from themselves. Luckily for us, under the direction of Excavation Theatre’s Jessica Anne Nelson, the ensemble of four actors (dream of passion’s Stefania Indelicato, Al Miro, Jane Hancock, and Matthew McLellan) deliver tight performances that never miss a beat. Both perfectly natural and perfectly rehearsed, no gesture, line, or inflection is wasted as the performers feed off one another and carry the audience through an incredibly quick (but incredibly satisfying) 80 minutes.
What strikes me most about After is the characters’ extreme lack of self-awareness, even as they are acutely self-conscious (whether due to insecurity, like the verbally incontinent Jackie, or narcissism, like the incorrigible James). Unhinged by their moments of vulnerability, these four young people fumble towards and away from one another, wanting both the satisfaction of intimacy and the safety of independence. After the Friday-night show, we overheard another audience member saying he had been all four of the characters at one time or another, and I think this is the play’s real strength. For my part, I certainly recognized myself in two or three of the characters (I won’t give myself away by saying which characters or why) and it is this familiarity and recognition that elevates a simple (rather comedic) premise into something much more impressive and special.
After plays at the Havana Theatre (1212 Commercial Drive) until Saturday, April 5. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets. Shows are at 8:00 p.m.
Disclosure: My TC and I attended Friday night’s performance courtesy of Excavation Theatre and dream of passion productions. My content is my own.