Theatre Review – Obsidian Theatre & Nightwood Theatre/School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play by Jocelyn Bioh

School Girls1– photo by Cesar Ghisilieri

Photo by Cesar Ghisilieri

Among the many refreshing elements of Jocelyn Bioh’s School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, is that it features schoolgirls who happen to be black. With a little customization, these girls could be Jewish, Italian, Chinese or whatever. In other words, this play allows us to see black girls in their own specific context, but one that has universal resonance.

Bioh is a Ghanaian-American playwright based in New York, and she has given us a delicious look at teenagers in Ghana. Yes, there is a predictability about the plot – the downfall of a bully – but Bioh has thrown in enough issues, complications, conflicts and shifting group dynamics to certainly hold interest. Humour also abounds which gives the play its vivacity. School Girls may seem simplistic at times, but there is a lot of substance here. Bioh’s veiled parody of Hollywood teengirlflicks is a bonus.

The setting is an all-girl’s residential school in the mountains. Paulina (Natasha Mumba) is the leader of the clique with an obvious tendency toward cruelty. Gifty (Emerjade Simms), and her cousin Mercy (Bria McLaughlin), are her yes-women who practically speak as one. Ama (Rachel Mutombo) has her doubts about Paulina’s veracity, and is distancing herself away from the group, while Nana (Tatyana Mitchell) is the overweight misfit whom Paulina has included out of so-called kindness. Into this mix comes new girl Ericka – a pale skin, mixed-race beauty who has just arrived from the States. She turns out to be the unwitting fox in the hen house. At first, the girls seem to fall into predictable stereotypes, but as they reveal more fully their unique personal histories, their characters take on layers of depth. It is a testament to Bioh’s writing that these girls have distinct personalities that we come to know well.

Yes there are adults in the play. The hard-pressed and harried Headmistress Francis (Akosua Amo-Adem) appears to favour Paulina, which adds an element of mystery. Does she not see Paulina for the bully she is? And then there is the recruiter Eloise Amponsah (Allison Edwards-Crewe), Miss Ghana of 1966. Bioh has set her play in 1986, and in those more innocent times, the girls are fixated on being chosen from their school to take part in the Miss Ghana competition. Winning that, means going on to the Miss Global Universe contest. The very sophisticated Eloise, who happens to be an old girl with a history with Francis, has her own agenda about whom she will choose as the school’s representative.

Bioh’s inclusion of the beauty contest is insidious because of the dreams and hopes it instils in the girls, particularly the poorer ones like Paulina. We also learn that in the Ghanaian culture, lighter skin is much desired, and these teenagers use skin bleach as routine despite its negative side effects, a shocking colonial holdover/western influence.

_School Girls2 - photo by Cesar Ghisilieri

Photo by Cesar Ghisilieri

Rachel Forbes’ set is a realistic school cafeteria, while Joanna Yu’s period costumes are inspired, from her school uniforms, to the formal frocks. The contest dream sequence is a fabulous surprise. Reza Jacobs’ sound and Michelle Ramsay’s lighting are both lean but effective.

Nina Lee Aquino keeps growing as a director, and she shines here, particularly in revealing character, determining pacing, and drumming out energy. The movement of the schoolgirls through the cafeteria tables and benches is absolutely natural and in character, but Aquino is also able to crank out surprises when it comes to the beauty contest. The production is cleverly conceived.

Admittedly, I did have trouble with the African accents, which the actors pulled off like to the manner born, but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the play, although I would have loved to have heard every word. Nonetheless, the acting overall is excellent, and there is not a weak link in the cast. As the main protagonists, Mumba’s Paulina and Landgon’s Ericka provide a perfect contrast, the former a tightly coiled spring of turmoil, the latter, the perennial nice girl.

Niche companies like Obsidian (black) and Nightwood (feminist) always win when they choose plays anchored in their mandate, but that speak to the general. School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play is compelling theatre. It proves that teenage girls are the same everywhere, which, when you think about it, is a terrifying thought.

Obsidian Theatre & Nightwood Theatre/School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play by Jocelyn Bioh, directed by Nina Lee Aquino, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Mar. 5 to 24, 2019.

ARCHIVES – PLAYS THAT OPENED IN JANUARY.2014

(5 Star Rating System)

LondonRoadCanadian Stage. LONDON ROAD (4 ½ stars). Run don’t walk to see one of the most unusual shows in town that is soon to close. The serial killer of five prostitutes in Ipswich, England, had a flat on London Road. Verbatim playwright Alecky Blythe interviewed residents of the street to capture what they went through during the investigation, arrest and trial. These conversations were then set to music by composer Adam Cork. The resulting sung monologues/dialogues are astonishing in their reality. The cast is unbelievable (all kinds of Stratford/Shaw types), gilded by director Jackie Maxwell and her Shaw Festival music director Reza Jacobs. The costumes and the set are terrific. I’m deducting marks for some impenetrable accents. Nonetheless, once again, CanStage scores big with a North American premiere. (Written by Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork, directed by Jackie Maxwell, Closes Feb. 9, Bluma Appel Theatre, www.canadianstage.com.)

Tarragon Theatre. FLESH AND OTHER FRAGMENTS OF LOVE (3 stars). Evelyne de la Chenelière is one of Quebec’s foremost playwrights, but she falters on this latest offering. The play is inspired by a novel by French writer Marie Cardinal, and dabbles in magic realism. A troubled French couple (Blair Williams and Maria del Mar) is on vacation in a remote part of Ireland, when the husband finds a dead body washed ashore on the beach. The corpse is Mary (Nicole Underhay), a medical student and single mother. Pierre and Simone begin to make up a back story for Mary influenced by their own negative experiences, while Mary herself speaks about her own life and that of Pierre and Simone. Karyn McCallum’s set and costumes are arresting, but the text itself runs out of steam. Richard Rose’s direction seems a tad on the slow side. (Written by Evelyne de la Chenelière, directed by Richard Rose, Tarragon Theatre, Jan. 7 to Feb. 16, 2014, www.tarragontheatre.com.)

Soulpepper. IDIOT’S DELIGHT (2 ½ stars). This is another one of Soulpepper’s irritating productions – good intentions that fizzle out. The very successful play, written in 1936, by Robert Sherwood, actually anticipated World War 2, and which side various countries would end up on. Sherwood also adapted his play for the MGM all-star movie featuring Clark Gable and Norma Schearer, directed by Clarence Brown. Director Albert Schultz’s version doesn’t come even close. The Soulpepper production is beset by uneven acting and insipid direction. More to the point, Raquel Duffy, in the key role of Irene cannot be heard. Doesn’t anyone at Soulpepper actually do a voice check in the theatre? Some like Dan Chameroy, and particularly Evan Buliung, rise above the fray, but there is no sense of an ensemble. The play is one where a group of people end up being marooned together (in this case, an alpine resort on the northern Italian border), and collisions of ideas happen. The recipe is here for intense interaction, but this whole production is paint by numbers. And then there is Lorenzo Savoini’s set that looks like a giant tiled washroom. Soulpepper gets a plus mark for putting this rarity on the stage, but not for the production. (Written by Robert E. Sherwood, directed by Albert Schultz, Jan. 30 to Mar. 1, 2014, www.soulpepper.ca.)

Tarragon/Theatre Smash. THE UGLY ONE (4 stars). This revival from 2011 retains the original cast and creative team, all to good advantage. German playwright Marius von Mayenburg has written a fable that deals with important issues like image, identity and perception. The plot begins with an inventor who works for a large corporation. His boss will not let him present his discovery at a convention because he’s too ugly. And so begins von Mayenburg’s twists and turns which also take on the whole obsession with plastic surgery. The acting is superb, while Ashlie Corcoran directs with both passion and humour. The play is short, sweet, and packs a wallop. (Written by Marius von Mayenburg, directed by Ashlie Corcoran, Jan. 7 to Feb. 16, 2014, www.tarragontheatre.com.

Nightwood Theatre. FREE OUTGOING (3 ½ stars). The over the top melodrama of Bollywood movies carries over into this play whose premise is that a teenage girl’s sexual encounter ends up on youtube. Indian writer Anupama Chandrasekher has set the play in the conservative city of Chennai (where she is based), and the action is relentless as the fallout spirals out of control. From the neighbours who want the family kicked out of the apartment building, to the hungry media and their feeding frenzy, the consequences are extreme for everyone involved. Anusree Roy as the mother gives another of her sterling performances. (Written by Anupama Chandrasekhar, directed by Kelly Thornton, Factory Theatre, Jan. 28 to Feb. 16, 2014, www.nightwoodtheatre.net.)

Nightwood Theatre – Jordi Mand’s Between the Sheets

Between the Sheets is Jordi Mand’s first full-length play. She is a definitely talent to watch. The play was developed with the help of the feminist Nightwood Theatre, and Mand’s two-hander certainly fits the company’s mandate.

The set is a Grade 3 classroom in a posh private school, realistically created by designer Kelly Wolf who also did the apt costumes. It is the end of parents’ night. Teacher Teresa (Christine Horne) is getting ready to leave when Alex’s mother Marion (Susan Coyne) arrives late. In due time the audience discovers that Teresa is having an affair with Marion’s husband Curtis.

At the heart of the encounter is each woman’s determination to make her position understood. Perhaps Mand’s greatest strength is her ability to keep the audience switching sympathies. As the conversation deepens, we keep finding out more details, which colour the arguments in favour of one woman, and then the other. The play is a carefully choreographed dance of wills. To reveal anything more would be a spoiler except to say that even enemies can find an accord. Some of the plot line may be predictable, but that in no way impedes the audience’s involvement with the women. Mand’s play does capture our interest.

How wonderful it is to have Coyne back on stage. Her Marion is a cobra waiting to strike, slowing taking aim at her victim. She is an executive businesswoman from her suit to her boots, sure of her place and her quarry. Christine Horne’s Teresa, garbed in her colourful little dress and sweater, is a delicate flower, but her vulnerability (to carry on the cobra metaphor) belies the mongoose. Teresa may be on the defensive, but she manages to make her barbs keenly felt. Marion rides a rollercoaster of emotions. Watching these actors, two of Canada’s finest, is theatrical fencing at its best.

And praise for director Kelly Thornton. The classroom is her arena, and she moves her characters like Roman gladiators in a thrust and parry that is natural and understandable. No movement is gratuitous. The action is realism write large.

Jordi Mand’s Between the Sheets, (starring Susan Coyne and Christine Horne, directed by Kelly Thornton), Nightwood Theatre, Tarragon Theatre Extra Space, Sept. 18 to Oct. 7, 2012.

Theatre Review – Bryony Lavery’s Stockholm

I had a very interesting conversation with an elderly lady after the show. It started in, where else, the washroom. She asked me how I’d enjoyed Stockholm, and I said I thought it was brilliant. She, on the other hand, hated it because she thought it was about nothing. But nothing couldn’t be further from the truth, and that is the heart of playwright Bryony Lavery’s genius – the ability to write with such grace that the dialogue dances on the surface, but hides a great depth.

Kali and Todd are a perfect modern couple. They are about to celebrate Todd’s birthday with a romantic dinner before their get-away to Stockholm, their favourite city. They both happen to suffer from Stockholm Syndrome in their relationship. They are so tied to each other in the game of master/victim, and victim/master that it has become the rot at the central core of their relationship.

Right from the start, there is tension. As Kali, Melissa-Jane Shaw gives an astonishing performance. She is a seductive siren, or so she seems. Todd (the excellent Jonathon Young), wants to cook their romantic dinner, but Kali is always throwing him curves. She demands his attention, and he always gives in. She wants sex, for example, and he complies. The rhythm of their lives is staccato because Kali is always interrupting the flow. She’s a seductive siren with an underlying motive – total control. The charismatic Shaw radiates danger as Kali, and is positively frightening as the play carries onward..

When Todd finally rebels, and they switch roles, all hell breaks out, and a terrible physical fight ensues. It turns out, however, that Todd glories in the brutal physicality, and you realize that he lives for this moment. Young reveals his inner strength slowly, a difficult process and a great feat of acting, yet it is essential for the role. Can this marriage be saved? The answer is both no and yes. They like it the way it is. Lavery’s scary epilogue, which I won’t spoil, shows the two in a moment of truth. It’s a very dark ending to a very dark play.

The text is enhanced by third person dialogue. The distance seems to help us focus into their sickness all the better because it places it in stark relief. At times, highlighted by a specific soundscape designed by Verne Good, they become “Us”, where they comment as a reality check – a further Lavery layer. Yet there is humour, albeit of the nervous kind on the part of the audience. This carefully written layered dialogue, coupled with the precision direction/choreography, makes for a very unsettling show.

Director Kelly Straughan and choreographer Susie Burpee have come together to create physical theatre at its best. All the surfaces of designer Lindsay C. Walker’s kitchen are in play. The couple are on the ground and in the air, yet none of this seems surreal because they are anchored by the weight of both the pointed dialogue, and the sick violence of their relationship. I am also delighted that Straughan elected not to use British accents. This is a play for all times.

In the final analysis, the washroom lady didn’t look deeply enough. What she didn’t know is that my guest had relived the trauma of a former marriage during the play. That’s how realistic it was for  him. Stockholm is brilliant in its subtlety, and that is a mark of great writing. Shaw and Young are masterful in revealing the arc of their characters, and the circular nature of their relationship. Kudos to Straughan and Burpee and the rest of the creatives.

Stockholm is both a disturbing and exhilarating piece of theatre, all at the same time. It’s a don’t miss.

Stockholm by Bryony Lavery, Seventh Stage/Nightwood Theatre, (starring Melissa-Jane Shaw and Jonathon Young, directed by Kelly Straughan and choreographed by Susie Burpee), Tarragon Extra Space, May 11 to Jun. 3, 2012

 

 

Theatre Profile: An Interview with Bryony Lavery

(Note: The first part of this interview is Lavery talking about her life and times. The second part is our conversation about her play Stockholm, where we are joined by choreographer Susie Burpee.)

Acclaimed English playwright Bryony Lavery came to town to see the North American premiere of her blockbuster play Stockholm. Produced by Seventh Stage Theatre in association with Nightwood Theatre, the play runs at the Tarragon Extra Space until Jun. 3.

The prolific playwright, 65, is known for her hard-hitting themes, poetic language and many theatrical challenges. Although Lavery is a lesbian and a feminist, her plays are anchored in universal themes.

She was born a Shepherd; Lavery is her married name. In person, she is a charmer. Her intelligence and droll wit shine through. She’s a fun interview, even though we touched on dark matters.

As Lavery said in a 2002 interview with the Observer: “I’m good on grief, death, sex and anger – they are my specialist subjects. I really get them – a piece of good luck, that.”

Note: Lavery and I didn’t really touch on the controversy about her 1998 award-winning play Frozen, and the accusation of plagiarism. As she said briefly:  “It’s a dull story. It was an awful experience. I didn’t look after other people’s work.” (Here are two links for those interested in reading more about this literary scandal. The interview with the Guardian (http://bit.ly/JKPfJ5). The article from the New Yorker (http://bit.ly/L1kiyW).

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INTERVIEW WITH BRYONY LAVERY

In my research, I found there was little information on you other than you were born in Yorkshire, so why don’t we start there.

I was born near Wakefield, but I grew up in Dewsbury. It was an industrial mill town, a centre for the mungo and shoddy industries that produced heavy woollens. We were four children, two sisters and two younger brothers. I was the second oldest.

What about your parents?

My father was principal of a nurse training college. He was a clever working class boy. He spent the war in the army medical corps and then he went to university. He never spoke about the long march to Burma. He brought back a blanket that wasn’t made of wool, and that was the only thing that came home with him after the war. My mother was a stay-at-home mom.

Did the arts play a role in your family?

We were a Bohemian family. My sister played the violin before she switched to science. One brother spent time back stage in the West End, and my youngest brother was an actor and comedian, known for his impressions of famous British fish. I was the only one to make a career of it.

I know you were married before you came out.

I’m a late learner. Although I identified with the gay struggle, I never disliked sleeping with men. Paul and I met in college when I was 21. He was a teacher. We were married for ten years. I came out when I was hit by the twin torpedo heads of theatre and feminism.

I understand Paul committed suicide.

By that point he had married again. He had one child and another on the way. He was never great with money. He must have been in a terrible state. He was the last person on earth you’d think would commit suicide. It made you think about family and the decisions you make in life. About two or three years ago, I got an email from his eldest son. He wanted to meet with me so he could hear about his father.

You were an actor before you became a writer. What theatre school did you go to?

I never went to theatre school. I did an external London degree in English language and literature.

What’s an external London degree?

I was part of the baby bulge, so there were fewer university places available. I didn’t have the marks to get me into a London university, so I went to the Hendon College of Technology which is now Middlesex University. I was desperate to get away from Tewksbury.

Did you go straight into theatre?

I taught for five years. You could become a teacher with a university degree and no teacher training. I was put in front of a group of 8-year-olds and I made it up as I went along. And then my head changed and I got a job in the theatre fringe. That was when theatre truly put its icy claws into me. I switched to teaching half time, three days a week. The plan was to write on the other two days.

I read somewhere that you played Tinkerbell in Peter Pan.

I did do Tinkerbell. I wasn’t a good actor, but I wasn’t a bad clown. I started clowning with a Brazilian called de Castro who taught “how to be stupid”. I left live performance and moved into theatre administration where I’d take out a tour of six actors on £750, sleeping on people’s floors.

When did you start writing plays?

I was in my late 20s. I had written three plays at college. My first professional play was when two actors asked me to write something for them. In those days, you could actually live on what you made as a playwright – a very small living if you had low standards. I certainly didn’t know that it would become my career.

(Note: The play was Sharing, about two roommates in a derelict flat.)

What was your break-out play?

It depends. I’ve been discovered a lot.

Okay. What was the break-out play when you stayed discovered?

I’d have to say Goliath in 1997. It was my response to Beatrix Campbell’s book where she dissects the 1991 riots that happened on the housing estates all over Britain. I realized it was okay to write seriously – that I should do serious stuff. It was a one-woman show where the actor played many parts with many different accents.

(Note: Goliath: Britain’s Dangerous Places.)

I’m not familiar with her name.

Beatrix Campbell is an icon – a hard-hitting feminist lesbian journalist.  She wrote the controversial book on Princess Di. She was very generous with the Goliath material that I used verbatim in the play. In light of Frozen, it taught me, erroneously, that it was okay to use things that people write. Unfortunate in hindsight.

(Note: Diana, Princess of Wales: How Sexual Politics Shook the Monarchy.)

Why do you write on the dark side with plays about serial killers, race riots, cannibalism, Alzheimer’s Disease, fatal car crashes, and war-torn countries?

To fire a play, you need a strong flame to keep it going. I explore things that frighten us. I write about what’s the worst that can happen. I suspect that a large percentage of all the plays written are on the dark side.

You seem to have become a theatre adventurer of late.

I’m more and more interested with working with new ideas, leaving behind what I’ve learned, and opening up my head to the possibilities of what theatre can be.

Can you give me an example?

The production Kursk that I did with the sound/theatre company Sound&Fury. I got so excited about how sound works, and the wonderful army of sounds that you can create. Sound drives the production.

(Note: In 2000, the Russian submarine Kursk exploded and was trapped on the seabed. The 2009 production Kursk places the audience on an imaginary British submarine that is spying on the Russian sub. The cutting edge soundtrack recreates a virtual submarine.)

What about another example of your new directions

I’m also working with Australian director Chris Drummond. The production has an actor voicing the internal thoughts of a character, played by another actor. I’m interested in mixing the fluids, so to speak, of finding new ways of making theatre, as opposed to making plays.

Where would you say you are in your career?

I’ve had a play on Broadway, and one at the National Theatre. That’s the pinnacle. Now I can do what I like.

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IN CONVERSATION WITH PLAYWRIGHT BRYONY LAVERY AND CHOREOGRAPHER SUSIE BURPEE ABOUT THE PLAY STOCKHOLM.

Let’s get to Stockholm, a play you developed with the physical theatre company Frantic Assembly in 2007.

Co-directors Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett – I call them The Boys and they call me Ma – commissioned the play and chose the title and the main theme – the Stockholm Syndrome. I’m a fiction writer. I can’t push reality. I had to have a reason for the title, so the couple in the play have a trip planned to Stockholm.

The play has a perfect modern couple living a perfect modern life. It’s Todd’s birthday and he and Kali are planning to have a romantic dinner at home. The next day is their get-away to Stockholm. During the course of this dinner, everything starts to unravel. Isn’t the Stockholm Syndrome about a victim who forms a bond with the oppressor?  In other words, joins with the enemy? How does this figure in the play?

It’s about love and possession. In an ordinary domestic relationship, usually it’s the man who is more possessive of the woman. I flipped it with the woman seeming to be the stronger. Actually, they’re equal. Each one is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

How do you see the play as a whole?

The Boys think it’s a love story. I think it’s a horror story.

(At this point we are joined by choreographer Susie Burpee.)

The script is very poetic. Is this your usual mode of writing?

BL: I’ve been accused of being too poetic, but to me it’s cutting down language to the nuts and bolts. I’m interested in the way people use words. There’s a lot of ugly swearing in the script. The actors should have a beautiful structure to offset the raw dialogue. Elevated language allows them to better articulate these hurtful words.

SB: Language and rhythm are important in Bryony’s work. By adding movement, it gives the poetry of her writing its due.

Much of the text is in the third person.

BL: I used third person once before in a radio play. It was about a woman trapped in the ice. It sounded weird in the third person, implying she wasn’t there when she was. In Stockholm, Kali and Todd are presenting themselves to us. The third person voice feels shiny. It gives them a quiet confidence.

And then there’s the “Us” factor.

BL: In the first two weeks of rehearsals for the original production, there were four actors, two men and two women. I thought I was writing for four people. Then there were two, and Kali and Todd had to speak as “Us”, as well as their own individual characters. It’s the “Us” that is destroying them. It’s the airless perfection that they’re trying to achieve.  It’s the monster in the room. I put “Us” dialogue in because it felt right.  It’s a very contentious issue. A director has to find a style that works to present “Us”.

SB: In a way, “Us” is the centre of the play.

Even though the script is shocking, there is still a lot of humour.

BL: Absolutely. I want the play to get laughs. The audience has to have a steam valve, and in my case, it’s laughter. I laugh through my own pain. It’s a family trait. We’re a funny family.

There’s a strong physical theatre component in Stockholm.

BL: I know how actors use their bodies in rehearsals, but you never see that part on stage. I spent two weeks watching the Frantic Assembly actors experiment with physicality and text. It was fantastic. There’s a sweeping physical swath at the centre of the play. As The Boys said: “We’re going to choreograph the fuck out of it.”

What’s the genesis of the physicality?

SB: The way Bryony lays out the script, or makes suggestions in the stage directions, really helps me to come up with movement ideas. It’s the couple’s domestic space and they know it well. It’s physicality in response to their world. When the curtain opens, the audience is going to wonder what world they’re in, and they will get drawn into that world by the rhythm of the words.

Bryony, the stage directions you put in are very pointed.

BL: I do interfere if there is a space, and if I think that something should happen. For example, make the audience laugh. I suggest things when the bits of my mind haven’t completed the thought. I think I do it to scare the director. In Stockholm, I also included directions that Scott and Steve had worked out in order to acknowledge their contribution.

SB: The stage directions remind me of the composer Satie whose music can be played in so many different ways. Bryony’s stage directions are full of possibilities. You’re not bound to one thing. For example, the suggestion that a beautiful terrible fight should take place. Is it a fight? A dance” There are different ways it could be done. Or she makes a suggestion about unpacking groceries.

Susie, how does the continuous movement of the actors affect the direction of the play?

SB: Director Kelly Straughan and I are collaborating. It’s a happy place to be inside her point of view. I bring my vision to suit hers. It’s an interesting process. As she shapes her rhythm to the rhythm of the play, we discover more information. That means we have to go back and revisit movement to make it more sympathetic. Kelly and I made a pact. We wanted the movement sequences to fill in when words weren’t there. The spaces that Bryony talks about. The movement is saying something above or below the words. It’s the physical manifestations of a head trip. It’s aggressive  physicality punctuated by awkward pauses, or a pause for reflection. There are so many colours to their relationship. It’s a wild ride and a jammed packed hour. Happily, both actors, Melissa-Jane Shaw and Jonathon Young, are natural movers.

The set is important to Stockholm.

BL: In the original production, the designer had created a shiny desk with a lap top on it. It was really water, so when Kali’s head crashes into the desk, it looked like it was going through the wood. That’s just one example. The Swedish production was a black box.

SL: Lindsay Walker’s set is very domestic. It’s the couple’s house. There are different levels which are needed for specific movement. Movement animates the set, and animates their interior thoughts. Inanimate objects come alive. Surfaces become spaces to travel on. The movement highlights the depth of what is going on in the text. The set has a veneer. It’s not an everyday kitchen. There’s something not quite right. It has the oddity of a show home. We had to have the set in the studio right from the start so we could create on it.

BL: Kelly asked me how she should approach the play, and in retrospect, I gave her the wrong advice. I said think about the set. What I should have said was, do it how you think best.

What’s your view of the play in hindsight?

BL: I see Stockholm on a rolling run, being performed by two men, or two women, as well as a heterosexual couple. The gender doesn’t matter because it is a relationship with no air.

(Stockholm runs at the Tarragon Extra Space until Jun. 3.)