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.