December 12, 2011
Reviewed by Paula Citron
Written by Tara Beagan
Directed by Michael Wheeler
Performed by Margaret Evans, Aviva Armour-Ostroff and Jeffrey Wetsch
Theatre Passe Muraille
Nov. 29 to Dec. 11, 2011
Tara Beagan’s play Jesus Chrysler focuses on the tortured relationship between two women who worked for social justice during the Great Depression – the iconic Canadian poet Dorothy Livesay, and her erstwhile lover, Eugenia Watts, called Jim by her friends.
Both would marry men in their future, but Beagan’s play is set around the mid-1930s when they are forming their agitprop theatre group based at Hart House called Theatre of Action.
The play is ambitious but flawed. Beagan concentrates on Jim, leaving the character of Dee a cipher. She also includes a vague male figure, farmer-cum-actor-cum activist Nate, to act as a foil to the women. Her language is poetic, at times running like a stream of consciousness.
Margaret Evans as Jim, Aviva Armour-Ostroff as Dee and Jeffrey Wetsch as Nate give strong performances, but playwright Beagan places too much attention to Jim’s mercurial personality rather than developing strong characters throughout.
The play does hold interest, however, because of the clash between politics and personal relationships.